Nicola Billens

Unless you’ve got your head in the sand you’d know by now that riding on elephants is a big no no.

 

Fortunately, more and more tourists are aware of the cruelty behind elephant rides.

On the other hand, there are still many operators fooling tourists (and some travel agents) with rhetoric about elephant conservation projects, playing down the mental and physical harm that riding causes these beautiful creatures.

One such operator claims on their website that it pays close attention to the health and safety of its elephants and follows “high international safety standards”. With elephant treks still their main source of income, any visit is just encouraging the cruelty to continue and is contrary to the elephant welfare that they claim.

With that in mind, I’ve done some investigation to find two elephant projects that are above board, so you can send your clients to them knowing that the elephants are not being exploited for tourist dollars.

Here are two elephant friendly sanctuaries in Thailand:

Boon Lott’s Elephant Sanctuary

BoonLott2

With a background story that will bring tears to your eyes, Boon Lott’s Elephant Sanctuary was created by Katherine Connor, a British woman who rescued a baby elephant (Boon Lott) when his mother was sold to the illegal logging trade. Before he was two he suffered a fall which left his back legs paralysed. Determined, Katherine raised funds for an elephant sized wheelchair (pictured). The rest of Boon’s story will make you cry but today the sanctuary has grown to house 18 rescued elephants whose lives are infinitely better now that they are free from their pasts.

At Boon Lott’s Elephant Sanctuary a small number of tourists can get involved in a hands-on experience that includes gathering their food, walking with them to release sites, and scrubbing them down.

Bookings in advance are essential. Visit http://www.blesele.org/ for more information. 

Elephant Nature Park

You know a place is bound to be doing the right thing when its founder was named Asian Hero of the Year by Time magazine in 2005. Established in the 1990’s near Chang Mai, Elephant Nature Park is a rescue and rehabilitation centre that provides a natural environment for elephants and many other animals to recover from their former lives.

Single day, overnight and weekly options offer small groups the chance to feed, walk and bathe the elephants, including the Karen Elephant Experience which is changing the way the Karen tribe think about elephants. For more than 20 years, they rented out their elephants for tourist treks after they could no longer legally use them for logging work.  Through the work of Elephant Nature Park and Save Elephant Foundation, the Karen owners have agreed to stop renting their elephants to the trekking industry and now allow visitors to experience the elephants without riding them.

Click here for more information.

Do you know of any other elephant friendly operators in Thailand?