A recent study by World Animal Protection found that the number of elephants used as entertainment in Thailand has grown dramatically – increasing by a third in only five years.
Fortunately, many large travel companies are banning selling tourist tickets to elephant rides, including Trip Advisor.
Still, there is a massive problem of naive tourists who are excited to meet an elephant and desperately hope for a picture of themselves riding it so they can share their experience with friends and family back home. The report suggests that 40% of tourists in Thailand expect to ride an elephant.
What these tourists do not see is that many of these tourist elephants have to endure hours of being chained up each day. Most have experienced harsh training methods such as hooks to keep them submissive. Many were taken by force from their mothers as babies so they could grow accustomed to human control.
It is scary to read that only 200 of the 3000 elephants studied had humane living conditions.
If you plan on viewing wildlife on your vacation, please do a lot of research beforehand. Elephant rides, dolphin swims, and holding tiger cubs are fun experiences for humans, but it rarely is good for the animal.
In Thailand, I can recommend the Elephant Nature Park in Chiang Mai is a wonderful way to meet elephants. You are able to pat them, feed them, and wash them. Yet, all the elephants are rescued and being well taken care of on acres of land. The elephants are able to form herds, and are never forced into human contact.