35 Comments

  1. David Leonhardt
    September 23, 2018 @ 1:45 am

    Thanks for this article. It reminds me of the recent ban on calèches in Montréal. It’s sad to see them go, because they carry an air of culture and a sense of the exotic. But there really is no excuse for mistreating animals like that.

    Reply

    • dankiteski
      September 23, 2018 @ 9:48 pm

      Indeed, David. There’s absolutely no excuse for that but unfortunately, it happens around the world. That’s why I wrote this article: to generate awareness about this issue.

      Reply

  2. Janice
    September 23, 2018 @ 9:32 am

    I once rode an elephant and when looking into its eyes could sense it’s sadness. The trek they took us on led up into the mountains and I became aware of how unfair and difficult for the elephant it was. That was my first and last elephant ride.

    Reply

    • dankiteski
      September 23, 2018 @ 9:52 pm

      I understand where you’re coming from, Janice. I had a similar experience. That’s why I wrote this article.

      Reply

  3. Sinjana Ghosh
    September 25, 2018 @ 5:50 am

    I’m so happy that you wrote about it. I have been planning to write this for a long time. A lot of sanctuatires in India offer the experience of bathing elephants which I used to think is cool, but then I saw that they put chains on the animals, chains that must weigh as much as a small person- how can we call that protection? I never enterred these sanctuaries but they are listed as the top attractions in those areas on tripadvisor

    Reply

    • dankiteski
      September 26, 2018 @ 3:44 pm

      Thank you for your comment, Sinjana. There are a few real sanctuaries but in no case they allow elephant riding. Most of them fit the description you wrote, unfortunately.

      Reply

  4. david moore
    September 25, 2018 @ 9:03 am

    Thank you for this great article.
    However, with a bit of research there are places to visit where the elephants are well kept and obviously happy.
    To demonstrate the point I would like to share an extract from the new book ‘Turning Left Around the World’ – Please don’t respond with ‘he’s only trying to sell a book’. Read it, learn, then decide:

    “Our next trip was to meet the elephants of Thailand, but the venue had to be selected very carefully. Despite them being protected and their use allegedly highly regulated many are still torn from their jungle homes and forced to perform in shows or carry four people on treks in those awful wooden cradles they strap across the elephants back. And of course, it wasn’t long ago when they were being treated appallingly by the logging companies who used them to haul mostly illegal timber.

    Ignoring the many leaflets and posters of happy tourists and sad elephants offering treks, our research found an eco sanctuary about an hour out of Phuket. Run and owned by a small family, where Lia the Mum is clearly the boss, it is an open 20 acre tropical forest which is as close to the natural home as possible for the five elephants in her protection. Her elephants have either been rescued as orphans or saved from further beatings in the name of entertainment or business. They cannot be returned to the wild, so as Lia said ‘someone has to look after them, so that’s what I do’.

    One thirty year old elephant, the most friendly of the lot who we really took a liking to, was given a 50/50 chance of survival by the vet when Lia rescued her from a tourist show. Apparently, she had been hit so many times her skull had fractured, Lia nursed her for six months spending all her savings on drugs and medical fees. She is now a fit, healthy and beautiful animal and has a relationship with Lia similar to that of the soppiest dog and it’s equally soppy master. Oddly, it is petrified of dogs, spiders and snakes so Lia built her a shelter for the evenings and the wet season.

    The elephants are never chained, tethered or shackled so are free to roam the natural beauty of the forest or wash, bathe and play in the large muddy pond. Remarkably they also love people, especially if those people have bananas or sugar beet with them. That was us.

    What a glorious afternoon we spent as a family with Lia and her two families. There was no structure to it, no performance or tricks, we wandered around, the elephants wandered around and Lia stood in the middle of it all with the widest brightest beaming smile that lit up her whole face.

    We fed the elephants, petted them and enjoyed their company, as they did ours I believe. When they had their fill of fruit they simply wandered off across a bamboo bridge to the pond for a soak and a play in the muddy soup. But first a good hose down they seemed to love and joined in spraying themselves and us with their trunks. Once in the pond they waited patiently for us to join them, brush in hand to give their broad backs and vast shoulders a good old scrubbing. I’m not sure who enjoyed it the most, the elephants or us but it is a memory we will treasure and I hope, like it is said of them, never forget.

    ‘You ride elephant, yes?’ asked Lia.
    ‘We agreed not to do that,’ advised Charlotte, ‘we said it was cruel.’
    She was right of course, so I explained our views to Lia. She gave us one of her special beaming smiles and an infectious giggle.
    ‘How much you weigh?’ she asked me.
    ‘Around 12 stone.’ I said. At this the giggle turned into a near hysterical laugh.
    ‘Elephant weigh three tonnes! You think you hurt her?’she screamed. ‘Look, no cradle, no chain, no rope, no stick. If they don’t like, they go.’ Fair enough.

    I was first up, so to speak, and first down, having fallen off the elephant’s bended knee. Elliot went next and did a pretty good impression of Mowgli with his legs tucked behind her ears as she plodded around seemingly enjoying the game immensely. They were joined by Charlotte on an elephant she seemed to have created an attachment to. And, there I was watching the children parade bareback on elephants in a Thai jungle and loving every second, it almost moved me to tears. Soppy old sod.

    Reply

    • dankiteski
      September 27, 2018 @ 1:22 pm

      Hello David and thank you for your comment. There are indeed places where elephants are kept in good conditions but in no way would they allow elephant rides. A “sanctuary” that allows elephant rides or any other form of entertainment cannot be called ethical and elephant-friendly.

      Maybe they did save the elephants, maybe they just say they did to gain points with tourists that seem concerned about the issue.

      BUT

      if they keep using them for the same purpose that brought so much of pain and suffering in their life (in this case riding), even if it’s without a cradle or a chair, is still unethical.

      The elephants have been forcefully thought to take tourists for rides and of course that ‘if they don’t like it they won’t go’ because they still have memories of what might happen if they attempt such a thing.

      Elephants aren’t made for riding and yes even if you’re 30 times lighter than them this can cause back problems. Just go to the wild and try to jump on a wild elephant and see whether they will accept that.

      Elephants don’t have a smooth, round spinal disk. Instead, they have sharp bony protrusions that extend upwards from their spine. These bony protrusions and the tissue that protects them are vulnerable and no matter how big elephants are, weight and pressure can hurt them and defending such a ‘sanctuary’ is also unethical.

      Reply

  5. Lisa
    September 25, 2018 @ 6:13 pm

    I also made the same mistake when I rode an elephant years ago in Thailand. Once I saw them playing football and also painting, I had to ask myself; this is not natural! It’s a cruel process they go through, and I will never do it again.

    Reply

  6. Annick
    September 26, 2018 @ 5:47 am

    This is so sad! I’ve never ridden an elephant (nor is it on my bucket list). Your post is a good reminder that somethings are done for tourism or as tourists that we wouldn’t otherwise tolerate. Keep opening our eyes to this issue.

    Reply

    • dankiteski
      September 26, 2018 @ 3:46 pm

      Thank you for your comment Annick, I really appreciate it

      Reply

  7. Soumya Gayatri
    September 26, 2018 @ 7:10 am

    A very useful and informative article. I had no clue that the sanctuaries were also just masks. It just pains me to see some of those pictures. Thanks for sharing this. Have flipped into my Ethical Tourism board on Flipboard.

    Reply

    • dankiteski
      September 26, 2018 @ 3:46 pm

      Thank you for your comment, Soumya and for helping me spread the word 🙂

      Reply

  8. Paula
    September 26, 2018 @ 7:54 pm

    I’m glad more and more people who travel have woken up to this problem. It’s great that you brought up the fact, that not all sanctuaries are honest. That is truly sad. I have read so many stories where people justify riding the elephants by being a helper at the sanctuary. We should all try to make a difference while exploring the world and also help the locals understand that there is other ways to live.

    Reply

    • dankiteski
      September 27, 2018 @ 11:55 am

      Thank you for your comment, Paula. It indeed is sad but I hope this article will enlighten at least some people that aren’t aware of it.

      Reply

  9. Blair Villanueva
    September 27, 2018 @ 10:13 am

    If only the locals have other means of livelihood, then maybe they will finally let go of the use of elephants and other animals. This is also should be the works of their government and not only by the private sector. It should go hand-in-hand.

    Reply

  10. Daniel James
    September 27, 2018 @ 2:23 pm

    So sad to know that more than half the elephants live in terrible conditions. I don’t think I could do what you’ve done! I take my hat off to you for taking time to write and share this hard-hitting post.

    Reply

    • dankiteski
      September 29, 2018 @ 7:42 pm

      Thank you, Daniel. I really appreciate it 🙂

      Reply

  11. umiko
    September 27, 2018 @ 7:00 pm

    A great article and hopefully more and more people realized about elephants cruelty. I once saw a feature about elephants in tv and it broke my heart. I don’t even like seeing elephants in the zoo though I’m not a person against zoo. It’s just they don’t belong there. They need a big land to roam around.

    Reply

    • dankiteski
      September 29, 2018 @ 7:42 pm

      Absolutely Umiko. I hope this article helps to generate more awareness about this issue

      Reply

  12. Chris
    September 29, 2018 @ 1:55 pm

    Great article. Eventually it all comes down to our (travelers) judgement and responsibility and not about elephants only. The travel industry uses many questionable tactics.

    Reply

    • dankiteski
      September 29, 2018 @ 7:48 pm

      Absolutely, Chris. Each and every one of us has the power to make changes with our decision making 🙂 Thank you for commenting

      Reply

  13. Li Vinall
    September 30, 2018 @ 12:15 pm

    We visited an elephant sanctuary in thailand and it was just beautiful. The elephants just chilled, came and went as they wished, no-one pushed them around of forced them to come with us or anything. It made it even more magical because then you’re experience elephants as they should be!

    Reply

    • dankiteski
      October 1, 2018 @ 12:03 pm

      Indeed, there are several real sanctuaries that provide comfortable living conditions for the animals. Unfortunately, not too many

      Reply

  14. Anwesha
    September 30, 2018 @ 7:35 pm

    It is true that most of the times these elephants are subjected to inhuman conditions just for ignorant humans. It’s a hard reality that still many of us are oblivious to.

    Reply

  15. Ami Bhat
    October 1, 2018 @ 9:06 am

    I am so so glad that you put this out. It is so important that tourists recognize this and stop indulging in this activity. Hopefully that will stop the so called sanctuaries from promoting them.

    Reply

    • dankiteski
      October 1, 2018 @ 12:05 pm

      Thank you, Ami. I hope this article makes a difference too 🙂

      Reply

  16. ANITA
    October 1, 2018 @ 10:50 pm

    This is a very hot topic recently, and I am happy that you wrote about it as well as many other bloggers. People need to stop using elephans for business as well as all the other animals

    Reply

    • dankiteski
      October 3, 2018 @ 12:11 pm

      Indeed, Anita. Thank you for your comment.

      Reply

  17. Swati & Sam
    October 1, 2018 @ 11:27 pm

    It’s great that you have written about this. More and more people in this world are now realizing about the unethical treatment of animals. It is just a cruel practice, the more the number of people who boycott these places, the sooner these places will run out of business.

    Reply

    • dankiteski
      October 3, 2018 @ 12:12 pm

      Definitely, Swati. A complete boycott is the only option to put an end to this.

      Reply

  18. Shane Prather
    October 2, 2018 @ 4:17 pm

    This is so sad! I wish I would’ve know about the cruelty before riding one in Thailand. I will always read up on any animal encounters moving forward!

    Reply

    • dankiteski
      October 3, 2018 @ 12:16 pm

      As long as we learn from our mistakes and don’t repeat them, it’s fine. I did that mistake once too.

      Reply

  19. Sidhu Jetha
    October 9, 2018 @ 12:38 pm

    A great point it did. Very few travellers have seen this side of the coin. I once rode an elephant in Munnar, Kerala. In many national parks in India, elephants are used for safari. In temples, they are kept standing on burning bitumen roads to earn money from the worshippers. The cruelty shown to the animal is really heartbreaking. Nice that you have raised the point.

    Reply

    • dankiteski
      October 9, 2018 @ 5:25 pm

      Indeed, Sidhu. More travelers need to understand this before indulging in these activities.

      Reply

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