I have always been fascinated by the elephant’s power, and it’s majestic. When I was planning my first trip to Thailand, one activity that I want to do is to ride an elephant — having a photo sitting at atop of gigantic and heavy beast, waddling through the jungle and river. Just like everyone else; until I have learned the sad truth about favorite activity in Thailand.
Every day, animals are tortured in the name of entertainment and elephants are the most abused animal in terms of amusing tourist in Asia. Elephants are taken from their distraught mother at an early age to be mentally and physically broken. The process is called “Phajaan” or crushing, which is the traditional Asian torture of breaking or crushing young elephants spirit to submission. These helpless elephants are firmly chained and caged while the handlers beat them with bullocks, sticks, and deprived of sleep, food and even water until they are broken down and submit to their owner.
Once their spirit has been crushed, these elephants spend all their lives chained and serving to their owner and masters. They are forced to luge tourist on to their back, paint a picture or even perform circus-style stunts. This is the sad truth that the industry is trying to hide to the tourist. The ugly existences of these elephants have to endure for you to get a selfie on the back of the towering creature and gives you that experience.
“Elephants never forgets”.
There’s more truth to the proverb that has been exaggeratedly used. In the wild, elephants memory plays a significant role in survival. Superb memory helps them to stay alive and go beyond identifying threats. Most of the rescued elephants are going through Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD).
Elephant trekking: to ride or not to ride
The choice is up to you. Elephants rides are cruel and offer no benefits to the shrinking population of this endangered species. Most of the tourist falls to this entertainment are unaware of how they are treated. Trust me, I was one of them too, and I almost rode them!
Find safe elephant tourism activities
There are plenty of elephants activities in the country that are both safe for the elephant and ethically for you to do if ever you decide to engage in elephant tourism activities.
- Elephant Nature Park: is an elephant rescue and rehabilitation center and is the biggest park in Northern Thailand. The park offers regular day passes and volunteer opportunities to devotees to provide healing to elephants past and present lives.
- Boon Lotts Elephant Sanctuary: located in the rural village in Baan Tuek in Northern Thailand strives to rescue and protect elephants from extinction and encourages elephants to interact in their natural environment.
- Elephant Jungle Sanctuary: their mission is to promote the proper treatment to elephants and educate visitors of the problems of irresponsible tourism practices. They have five locations throughout the country and the headquarters in Chang Mai.
Ironically, tourist money drives this cruel industry. I suggest participating only in accredited sanctuaries. Please tell your friends and families about this reality behind elephant riding in Thailand and encourage them to stay away from attractions that fuel this horrific trade and tortures to elephants.