Summer holidays mean visiting a beach destination. Christmas holidays means spending it with loved ones, family and friends, and relaxing and loving life. To celebrate both together, many Aussies choose Thailand to enjoy their island beauty. While there, it's hard not to get drawn in to the allure of elephant parks. However, the majority of elephants in Thailand aren't afforded the same freedom of fun and family company, with many babies taken from their families at a very young age destined for a life of chains, abuse and isolation.
Elephant trekking, or elephant riding, has long been on the Asia traveller’s bucket list - a bit of a holiday adventure. Though what may seem like harmless fun, is actually the result of wild capture, cruel training methods and long 'working' hours. Capturing wild animals to supply zoos and elephant riding ventures is putting even more pressure on an endangered species.
The biggest misunderstanding is that elephants are “domesticated” – in fact, they are captive, wild animals. This means that all elephants must be "broken in" and controlled in order for them to work, be around humans and give rides.
Elephants endure a process called the "Pajaan" in order to be ridden, perform tricks and allow people to get close to them. Remember they are wild animals, so they are literally beaten down into submission until their spirits are broken. During this barbaric ritual, young elephants may be deprived of food and water, enclosed in a small cage and beaten.
Do your research. Many facilities masquerade as "conservation" and "rescues" - if they offer rides and show photos of chains and hooks being used, don't visit them. Elephants are also used in urban environments to perform tricks for tourists who are unaware of the depths of their suffering. They don't belong on busy, noisy streets where they suffer injuries to their feet, respiratory problems, exhaustion and even death from accidents.
On your next family holiday to Asia, make sure you NEVER ride an elephant, pay to pose for a photo with a street or beach elephant or attend elephant shows, circuses or zoos.
Head here to learn more and see which destinations we personally have visited and can recommend as kind elephant tourism that allow you and the elephants the freedom to just be.
MERRY CHRISTMAS, and remeber, always be a kind animal tourist.