Your search for the words “elephants in Thailand” you will come across ‘elephant sanctuaries, farms, and conservation.’ If you have heard of the elephant torture and riding in Southeast Asia, then you will feel relieved that at least sanity has been restored and that people have seen the importance of preserving and conserving wildlife- elephants in this case.
One thing you should note is that elephants are synonymous with Thai culture as symbolized in different items and areas, including temples.
There are indeed several elephant sanctuaries and farms in Northern Thailand whose mandate, as posted on their websites, is to preserve, protect, and provide an avenue for people to interact and learn from the elephants. Whether all adhere to what is listed on their promotional materials and online platforms is for you to find out.
While visiting one of the sanctuaries was part of our agenda, we found it best to dig deeper about them from the tourist information offices on the ground.
As a researcher, I was keen on knowing how the tour organizers, tourists, and the locals each contribute to elephant conservation in Thailand.
Every tourist information office we visited was quick to disclaim that the tours did not include riding the elephants. Their pamphlets are boldly written, “NO RIDING ELEPHANTS.” That is warning enough to caution tourists and any other persons with the ill motive of riding elephants to refocus their thoughts and energies.
Well, the reality is different; domestication, riding, chaining, and torturing of elephants is still at large. You don’t need to visit any of the farms to uncover this. Driving or riding up the circuit through the forested areas and the hills will welcome you to the world of elephants.
You will either encounter an elephant carrying one or more humans crossing the road or several warning signs of ‘elephants crossing.’ If you wish to explore further, go inside the villages, you will come across elephants chained and tethered within a short radius. Domestication is evident.
I applaud those sanctuaries that live by their mission and vision of conserving, protecting, and preserving this animal specifies. On the contrary, I am astounded by those entities camouflaging as conservation farms, yet, they are motivated by money to cage elephants in the name of training them to carry tourists.
Elephants are wild animals belonging to the wild. Elephants are known to naturally charge as a protective mechanism for themselves, their homes, and their families.
This means, for an individual to train an elephant to the point of being ridden must have subjected it to intense traumatic situations that instill fear.
While their trunks are strong enough to push down a fully grown tree does not mean they are to be ridden.
Don’t ride elephants- what you don’t know is that they are tortured, chained, and traumatized before they learn and accustom to carry people.
Your responsibility as a tourist
What appears to promote elephant riding in the larger Southeast Asian countries is the fact that tourists and locals are willing to pay to visit the farms and to ride.
You have the responsibility as an individual to stop this by not doing the following:
- Not riding
- Not visiting camps or sanctuaries that promote riding
Let elephants stay in the jungle, not unless you are rescuing them, intending to release them back to the forest.
The elephant population in Thailand and the world is declining because of human encroachment into their habitats, hunting, and poaching for ivory.
It is upon you and me to fix this mess and let nature prosper, and planet earth will be a beautiful place for us and the future generations.