Tips to spot an elephant-friendly venue
Don’t get taken for an elephant ride on your next adventure.
In order to make elephants submit to rides and other human interactions, they are forced through a horrific training process known as "the crush." It involves physical restraints, inflicting severe pain and withholding food and water.
The cruelty does not end after the crush. When not performing or used for rides most elephants are kept on chains, unable to socialise.
This is hugely damaging to their physical and psychological well-being. By the time tourists come to ride an elephant, it may look at peace - the sad reality is that this elephant's spirit has been broken.
Tourists can ride elephants at Amber Fort in Rajasthan state, India. The elephants are forced to walk over concrete, and difficult cobbles and up a steep slope. This is not elephant-friendly.
We know most tourists simply don’t know the cruelty inflicted on elephants as it can be difficult to spot. Some venues will also market themselves as sanctuaries but don’t let them take you for a ride!
Here are our top five questions to ask. These can help you make elephant-friendly choices on your next trip:
1. Are the elephants used for entertainment?
Genuine sanctuaries do not offer rides, ‘be-a-mahout’-activities, shows or any other inappropriate public interaction. Elephant-friendly venues, operating according to best possible welfare, will not allow for any direct tourist-elephant interaction.
2. Do the elephants live in a wild or semi-wild environment?
Elephant-friendly venues aim to provide conditions for elephants to live in a wild or semi-wild environment day and night. This is important to allow for social interaction in natural groupings, adequate movement and natural foraging.
3. Is appropriate and accurate education is provided?
Elephant-friendly venues educate their visitors in an engaging way with the aim to raise awareness of the animal welfare concerns associated with keeping elephants in captivity, including their complex needs and the conservation issues surrounding taking of animals from the wild.
4. How are the elephants controlled and conditioned?
At an elephant-friendly venue elephants are handled humanely in all situations. Elephant-friendly venues use positive reinforcement whenever possible to manage elephants and to ensure the safety of tourists, caretakers and animals.
5. Does the venue captive breed the elephants?
True sanctuaries do not engage in captive breeding as this diverts valuable resources and space away from rescuing other elephants in genuine need.
At Nong Nooch Garden in Thailand, elephants are forced to entertain tourists by playing football, painting, riding tricycles, throwing darts and dancing. This is not elephant-friendly
Elephants belong in the wild. The concern is that elephant rides and shows may increasing in parts of southern Africa.
Moreover, in eastern countries like India, Thailand and Indonesia, cruel practices are well established.