Why Elephant Riding Should Be Removed from Your Travels

Before you climb onto an elephant's back, here's the truth about what you're endorsing.


Elephant riding Photo © Annie Spratt

There might be a perceived air of romance about riding an elephant. Sitting atop its back as the giant animal slowly meanders along a white sand beach, or through rushing streams in the thick of the jungle. It’s the stuff great travel stories are made of. 

But the truth is, riding elephants should be avoided. In the US, organizations, including the Humane Society of the US and the Association of Zoos and Aquariums, are against riding elephants because of the abuse the animals undergo when they are taught to carry people, as well as safety concerns.

Awareness of the harmful nature of the practice was raised by a World Animal Protection initiative in 2014, which highlighted the cruel conditions elephants are kept in.

“The results found that the welfare standards in most elephant venues that were assessed in Southeast Asia was quite poor,” says Intrepid Group’s Responsible Business Manager, Liz Manning.

“Over the past five years, media coverage on the issue has grown and an increasing number of travel companies have followed suit in removing these experiences from their trips-raising awareness amongst their customers” she adds.

Why are people still riding elephants?

For most, it's simply a lack of awareness. If everyone saw the videos of elephants being beaten with bullhooks or electric prods, it's doubtful they would still be keen to ride one. Aside from the abuse, there are a variety of reasons people should skip riding an elephant and opt for more humane ways to experience these creatures.

Here are a few more reasons to seek out an elephant sanctuary that doesn’t offer rides or circus tricks.

The training

Phajaan, or elephant crushing, is a long-standing accepted tradition in Thai culture. This harmful training method is what elephants undergo to become part of the tourism industry. Young elephants are taken from their mothers and confined to a small place, then abused with bullhooks and bamboo sticks spiked with nails. They are also starved and deprived of sleep, in order to crush their spirits and become submissive to humans.

This is an accepted practice in Thailand, and many elephants you will see in trekking camps will have undergone this horrific process. However, this is not the only reason you should give elephant riding a miss.

Elephant health

Elephants' spines cannot support the weight of people and doing so all day can lead to permanent spinal injuries. There are further complications from having a chair (howdah) attached to their backs. This clunky contraption rubs on their backs, causing blisters that can become infected. In addition, wear and tear on the elephant’s feet after long-term trekking can cause foot infections and injuries.

Social interaction

Elephants are a lot like humans. They socialize, have families and friends, feel pain, sorrow and happiness. When they are in trekking camps, they are often not engaging with other elephants. In some camps, they live their lives essentially in solitary confinement. 

Living conditions

Baby elephants are chained to their mothers during treks, which can cause them harm, as they must keep pace with their mother as she walks. These baby elephants can't stop to rest or nurse as they must continue trekking. To keep pace, the guide (mahout) will prod the elephants with a bullhook to keep them moving. The bullhook, which elephants remember from their torture during the phajaan, can immediately strike fear in them. This fear can trigger a reaction that can not only hurt the elephants but also the riders.

After the trek, the elephants are kept chained when they aren't working. They are not fed enough or given enough water. Many travelers have reported seeing elephants swaying, pacing and bobbing their heads at trekking camps – signs of serious psychological stress.

Don't believe everything you hear

If a tour operator offers anything other than spending time with elephants, you should avoid it. If an elephant 'sanctuary' or wildlife park offers elephant riding, circuses or painting shows, you can be certain the elephants have undergone horrific abuse to get them to where they are.

While some places might market their experience as humane and claim they don’t use bullhooks, the fact that the elephants are being used for trekking means they are being harmed.

What are the alternatives?

There are still lots of places where travelers can interact with elephants ethically, according to Liz.

“From 2020, on Intrepid’s Laos trips travelers can witness elephants roaming and swimming in their natural habitat at MandaLao, the first non-riding elephant sanctuary in the country. Intrepid’s non-profit The Intrepid Foundation is also raising funds to help the organization build a new night enclosure with mahout housing.

Many of our travelers to Thailand from 2020 will visit ChiangChill, a venue that used to offer interaction with elephants but has now moved to a new model, where visitors can observe the elephants from a safe distance, watching them graze and socialize.”

The Elephant Nature Park or Boon Lott’s Elephant Sanctuary in Northern Thailand are two reputable places where human–elephant interaction won't compromise the elephant’s safety.

Then vs now

As word spreads about the horrific truth behind elephant riding, tour operators and national parks around the world are taking a stance. In Vietnam, Yok Don National Park has stopped offering elephant rides, instead encouraging travelers to simply observe elephants in their natural habitat. In Nepal, Chitwan National Park ended elephant-back tours, instead using them as walking guides through the park.

In 2016, TripAdvisor stopped promoting operators that offer elephant rides as an activity, to take a stance on the cruel treatment. In 2018, Instagram banned the ability to search hashtags related to unethical wildlife tourism, as a method of educating users about the issues. A message about protecting wildlife, with a button to 'Learn more' now appears if you try to search hashtags such as, #koalaselfie, #elephantriding, #slothselfie, and more.

More than 200 companies have removed elephant riding from their itineraries since 2014. But, according to Intrepid Travel’s Liz Manning, there’s still a lot more to be done.

“To encourage more businesses to follow suit, travelers should choose to visit places with limited or no physical interaction with the elephants. World Animal Protection has a great elephant-friendly checklist which includes venues that have the highest level of care for their elephants.”

To find out more about high-welfare elephant tourism businesses, see the World Animal Protection’s elephant-friendly checklist which includes Thailand, Cambodia, India, Nepal, Sri Lanka and Laos.

Here are a number of other wildlife experiences you should avoid on your next adventure.

*This article was originally written by Diana Edelman, who spent a week volunteering at the Elephant Nature Park in Thailand in 2010.

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  • Raymond @ Man On The Lam said

    I turned down the elephant ride on offer in Pai, Thailand for the same reasons. I took one look at that poor, lonely chained-up soul and said, "No thank-you!" <br><br>So sad how most of these majestic animals are treated...

  • jipp said

    Never liked the idea of riding on an elephant. Or any other animal.You can almost see the suffering on their faces. They should be returned to where they belong and that is jungle.

  • monica @ the travel hack said

    This is horrible. I hate to admit that I am one of the people who just wasn't aware. I was told that the elephants had been saved from torture but now I feel awful for being so naive.

  • Christy @ Technosyncratic said

    This was a very enlightening article, Diana - I had no idea how much damage/pain is inflicted upon elephants in captivity. How devastating.

  • Sebastian @ Off-The-Path.com said

    I started writing down my bucket list and haven't included riding an elephant since I read all your posts about it!!!! Instead I wrote down Volunteer at the Elephant Nature Park ;)

  • Angela @ Chasing The Unexpected said

    I've always refused to ride an elephant, it's horrible how they are treated, how they are left chained waiting for the next ride. It's definitely a practice that should be stopped.

  • Megan said

    I've already spread the word to 2 people going to Thailand, to not ride, but volunteer at a good Elephant Park and I will continue to do so!

  • Jade Johnston - OurOyster.com said

    Thank you so much for writing this - its a message that needs to get out there

  • Graham GlobalGrasshopper said

    totally agree, thank you for writing this post and helping to get the message out there...

  • Bodlagz said

    Would be nice to see more elephant sanctuaries in Thailand, the noble elephant has served Thailand well, both at work and at war. <br><br>Even worse is the plight of elephants in the cities, they are made to walk the streets by night and beg for food to pay for their keep.

  • Christopher Martin said

    Great article and message, thanks for posting this. Let's hope responsible tourism will soon take over.<br><br>

  • Natalie said

    Whilst I agree with some of this post, I think part of it is a little extreme. I mean, to me the main issue with riding elephants is that it's keeping them in captivity, and yes, the chains are quite horrific. However I cannot honestly say that I didn't laugh at the idea of a human being too much weight for an elephant. That is like the idea of me walking around with a kitten on my back and saying it was hurting me. We ride horses for goodness sakes - an elephant must be at least ten times the weight of the average horse. The bullhook thing was another point I took issue with. An elephant has a surprisingly tough skin, a bullhook doesn't do a great deal of damage to it. It would be rather like someone prodding you with a needle in the rough part of skin on the bottom of your foot - you'd feel it, but it wouldn't hurt. There are, however, a multitude of softer points on an elephant, and I am aware that some mahouts use these pressure points to train the elephants, which does seem rather unfair.<br><br>On the whole though, I think many elephants are actually pretty decently treated in comparison to other animals. Take dogs, for example. You say that elephants are social creatures, well dogs are equally social. In the wild they almost always run in packs. And yet millions of people worldwide have dogs as pets, keeping them indoors in "solitary confinement" as you termed it with the elephants. Dogs are also routinely hit in order to train them not to pee all over people's carpets and tear up everything in sight. They are also chained by the neck when they go for a walk, which I doubt they particularly enjoy any more than the elephants do. In many ways I think the mahout's relationship with their elephants is not that dissimilar to most people's relationships with their dogs. It's a whole master-servant dichotomy that no one seems to have a problem with when it happens on their own doorstep in the West, but everyone is quick to blame when it is poorer people doing it for a livelihood in the East.<br><br>

  • Heather said

    I think Patara Elephant Farm near Chiang Mai, Thailand (http://www.pataraelephantfarm.com/) offers a very balanced approach to understanding elephant health and care. Yes, a ride is part of the day, but there is no ride without education, during which the elephant handlers "size up" participants in order to match them to the most compatible elephant. Each participant must feed, health check, and thoroughly wash his or her elephant; this is no small feat - the elephant handlers literally will not let you quit until the elephant is completely free of mud and other debris.<br><br>This farm rescues elephants from local "circus-like" tourist traps; has turned elephants back into the wild; and is an active breeding center. They have never lost an elephant.<br><br>One major problem with the elephant population in Thailand is loss of habitat. With more loss of habitat, extinction looms early on the horizon for these amazing creatures. <br><br>I respect your message and think that "riding" elephants in most of the tourist traps that offer it is loathsome. But just maybe Patara knows what they're doing.

  • Ayngelina said

    I had heard rumors of problems with riding elephants so when I went to Thailand I didn't do it. I just couldn't be sure and you know what, I don't think I had any less of a vacation.<br><br>

  • Stephanie Ockerman said

    Until I read your posts about this issue, I had no clue. It is unfortunate when we do things as travelers that are not good for the environment, the local people, or the local wildlife because of simple ignorance. It is important to keep spreading the word about this.

  • Steven@hundredgoals said

    I've scratched this one off my list, thanks to your article. It's off the list!

  • jade said

    Great resource outlining what is going on and why you should reconsider... I think the first step is knowledge and knowing the difference between a good animal attraction and a bad one.

  • Pam said

    I have a response to Natalie:<br>In regards to the toughness of elephant skin - yes, it is thick, but it is incredibly sensitive and packed with nerves. Just because the elephants skin is thick doesn't mean they don't feel everything that touches it. They require frequent baths, and rolls in the mud to prevent sunburn and bug bites. If their skin is so tough and they don't feel a bullhook, why would they need to prevent bug bites? Bug bites that make them incredibly itchy. And a bug bite has far less force than a bullhook being swung by a human being. That being said, it may seem like the bullhook is not being used that forcefully by the mahout, but what we you don't see is how violently the bullhook is used during the Pajaan training that makes the elephant fearful of its use. The people doing the training are not gentle whatsoever with the bullhook and there are videos showing the Pajaan training and how violent it really is. One video I've seen, the bullhook was swung so hard that it actually stuck into the elephants forehead and the person needed to use a lot of force to remove it. Many, many elephants have lots of scarring on their foreheads from the use of bullhooks.<br>As to your other references as regards to dogs and horses....the article is not about dogs and horses. Just because we ride horses (and I'm not saying it's right or wrong) has no bearing on whether or not we should be riding elephants. And keeping dogs as pets (many people own more than one) has no relevance in the argument about elephants being social animals. None of these animals are the same.<br>Heather: I haven't visited Patara Elephant Farm but it sounds like, from what you`re saying that it`s not a bad place. Riding an elephant once in awhile can`t be overly bad for them, it`s the trekking camps that continuously ride the elephants with next to no breaks or rest time that are the criminals in this story.

  • Kim said

    Great to raise awareness. And thanks for the measured response Pam. I do agree overall that riding elephants in most places tourists frequent is not really an ethical step if you consider animal rights. I have ridden on elephants in Nepal, and I think it pays to ask Q's about how they are looked after before you ride. My situation was a little different as we used an elephant as transport through the jungle while conducting research on Rhino's. The elephants used by the conservation organisation were well cared for-feed, watered, bathed and in good health, take a look next door at other tourist focused organisations that offered elephant rides and the situation was very different. <br>In making your choice please don't forget that providing elephant rides to tourists provides an income for these very poor people, and as a tourist you have an immense amount of power when making choices about riding elephants or not. I'm not saying that because people need to eat animal rights should be compromised but If its an activity you really want to undertake, ask Q's and weigh up options, if every tourist begins to ask Q's and choose to go with the more ethical providers then the outcomes for the people and these majestic animals could be a positive.

  • Val said

    I was so dissapointed to read this article, knowing how animals, like humans love the attention shown to them. Most elephants would not be alive without tourism to bring in the money to feed them and look after them.Then there is the land on which they need for a home. The cohouts work hard, harder than most of us for a pittance.Congratulations to them for the work they do, and give them the tourist dollar.<br>I have trained horses with love, and know many who do not, and the same with the elephants, but their tough hides do withstand most done to them, and if not---any animal will rebel,like humans, and an elephant is huge with an excellent memory, and will win over a small cohout--stick or not.It could grab with it's trunk any time and throw him away. In fact they don't do this out of respect for their trainer and feeded etc. <br>Thanks to Thailand I was able to enjoy the pleasure of a most loving mother and her baby who wanted to put it's trunk up my trouser leg in play with the mother knowing how and when to step in and how far it could go.Please everyone support these few left animals and let the knowledgable cohouts do the work and not tourists.Ride an elephant before you die and tell you children to do the same to keep them on the planet.

  • Jude said

    Pam - Elephants are highly social creatures who, in the wild live with their mothers, aunties and sisters all their lives. When used for tourism they are usually alone - separated from their families and suffering because of it. (Same with Zoos and circuses) The elephants who are used for tourism are still essentially "wild" in nature despite hundreds of years of use by humans they have not domesticated. The selfishness of humans - tourists to want to "ride" an elephant needs to be addressed. There are other options to get up close and personal, ethical tourism. How can one tell if an elephant has been "broken" by the horrific abuse of the "Phajaan" therefe performs for fear of the bullhook, fears the mahout and acts in self preservation to avoid such terror and pain again or has been trained with love and treats... (and if people think training with love and treats is the norm then it is a sad fantasy that serves only to reassure those who want to take advantage of an elephant, eh?)<br><br>The bottom line for this is not about poor people trying to make a living it is HOW they are making the living at the misery and expense of these sentient, sensitive animals. 300 years ago it was the norm to treat animals as if they had no soul - the phajaan process it self admits they do, because it essentially means "to separate" to separate the spirit and will of the animal from herself... Lets come into the 21st century and treat elephants with the respect and kindness they deserve.<br><br>Natalie - It is true one human on the neck of an elephant would not cause "damage" it is the Howdah (saddle) weighing anywhere from 100 to 300 kgs with two to four people (add up hose kilos too) on the saddle positioned on the spine that is the problem.<br><br>When all is said and done - viable, sustainable alternative employment and the gradual reduction of elephants used in tourism for entertainment and "experience" is the goal.

  • Jim said

    http://isaanstyle.blogspot.com/2009/04/elephant-cruelty-in-thailand-phajaan.html<br>Here is video of the usual style of 'training' an elephant.<br>Readers may be shocked, but essential for everyone to make up their own minds.<br>As unthinking tourists years ago, we rode an elephant in Angkor Wat, Cambodia. Ours trailed the others. On getting off I looked at it's feet, one had exposed wounds to it's toes. cracked and bleeding. Yet that sad animal would have to carry on taking tourists up the hill giving it no chance to heal.<br>Since then, never again will we ride an elephant. It is tourists who keep this exploitation going.

  • Hogga said

    You're amazing D! Keep up the awesome work informing travelers!

  • Pam said

    Jude - thank you for your support - I agree with everything you say :) 100% And I know there are many others out there who also agree

  • Nomadic Samuel said

    I have seen how poorly Elephants have been treated in Thailand - and it's appalling. On the other hand, there are organizations and centres that do take good care of the elephants. I think the key is doing the proper amount of research before making an informed decision.

  • Mo said

    @Heather, re Patara Elephant Farm: breeding programs are unethical and immoral in that they are breeding in captivity for a captivity.<br><br>@Val, you're right in that tourism and the tourist dollar is essential for the wellbeing of elephants. But their wellbeing is not served in the lives they lead as working elephants, and the reasons are outlined by Diana above. Elephant Nature Park is a perfect example of elephants living elephant lives while being run as a profitable business.<br><br>If you love elephants, then love them for who they are, not what they can do for you.

  • chris said

    I was very keen and interested in your article, however, some of your arguments seem a little far fetched and unreasonable. For example, the comparison to a 50 lb pack on your back all day. That seems a little out of scale doesn't it. And the electrical prods? I was just at an elephant camp for 2 days and never once saw the the mahouts use a stick, let alone a metal prod. Finally, the elephant camp that I was in had elephants that were bought from elephant logging camps. It is only my assumption, but the tourist elephant camps perhaps offer a better life and better care to the elephants?<br><br>Nevertheless, I am most interested in what harm people riding elephants cause. Could you please offer some sort of link, article, or otherwise to show where you got your research from?<br>

  • Ana said

    It's funny that people think that because prods and such aren't used in front of tourists or outsiders, that they aren't used in training. Of course these animals are abused in private or else it would be very difficult to make a penny off of the tourists. <br>

  • Meg said

    Elephant's World, in Kanchanaburi, is a good place to go if you'd like to spend time with elephants. It's a refuge for abused and injured elephants, and they let you wash them in the river and feed them. They provide medical care and social interactions for the elephants, and they need support. A great place if you're in the area.

  • Diana Edelman said

    As the author of this article, I wanted to take a moment to respond to some of the comments questioning the story and arguing that riding an elephant is something people should do, even after reading the arguments against it.<br><br>I was never on the debate team, so I’m going to try to address certain people’s comments as best I can.<br><br>NATALIE: I admit, the backpacking comparison probably wasn’t the best way to illustrate my point about the impact people have riding on an elephants back. It came up in a conversation with an elephant advocate who explained it to me like that, and I thought it fit well. I mean, how many hours and days can one wear a heavy backpack without feeling the pain from it or having damaging to the spine? Perhaps it wasn’t the best example, but I think readers get the point. Despite this comparison, having people ride on their backs, especially with the heavy howdah, DOES damage their spine. <br><br>As for you taking issue with the bull hook, there are a large number of spots on an elephant that are extremely sensitive. Here is a link that illustrates the impact these bull hooks can do: http://www.all-creatures.org/articles/ar-bullhooks.html. And, an elephant’s skin ranges from very thin to an inch thick. The spots where the bull hook is used aren’t always going to be an inch thick. And, even then, with enough blunt force, the bull hook can most definitely penetrate it. I spent a week as a volunteer at Elephant Nature Park and saw many elephants with deep scars in their head from being bludgeoned with a bull hook. Some of the elephants still have complications from these injuries.<br><br>I disagree with your comment regarding elephants being treated pretty decently in comparison to other animals. We don’t use bull hooks on horses. We don’t jam dogs with nails. We don’t deprive them of food or water to teach them out to be domestic. These elephants go through horrific torture to break the bond between mother and baby and to learn how to become docile. I disagree that dogs should be “routinely hit” in order to train them, and I am certain there was ways of training dogs, elephants and other animals, that does not involve routine abuse. Putting a leash on a dog to go for a walk is not the same thing as chaining an elephant for their entire lives, except when they are not working. Aside from the fact that no animal should spend its life being chained, there are plenty of images you can find online that show the deep scars on elephants feet from these chains. <br><br>In regards to elephants being social creatures and comparing them to dogs – next time you are with a dog, look and see how it is treated. Does it get love and affection? Is there always a bowl of water at the ready? Does it have an owner who is quick to rub its ears and spend time with it? Does it get to run around and play fetch? A dog’s life is not solitary, nor is it void of social interaction. Plus, the dog is domesticated. It was likely born domestic. These elephants, at some point, were NOT domestic. They were wild animals that were captured from their land and put through the Phajaan, and then brought to camps and circuses. They were taken from their social environment, from their herds, and forced into a life of solo captivity.<br><br>The role of the mahout is to be the elephant’s keeper and care for them. I don’t know if I would describe it as a “master-servant dichotomy.” It’s like being the owner of any animal – I don’t and would NEVER harm animals I own. Especially when they are my livelihood.<br><br>KIM: Elephant rides do provide a source of income for mahouts, without a doubt. However, there are other ways these mahouts can make a living with their elephants. Great examples of this are at the two parks I mentioned in the article. By not riding elephants, and letting others know not to ride them, there is a chance they will get the message that people don’t support this practice. Programs like the Surin Project in the Surin Provence of Thailand works to improve the living conditions of the captive elephants by “providing economic sustainability for their owners through responsible volunteer tourism.” So, it does exist and it is an option for them to earn money.<br><br>VAL: As you were disappointed with this article, I was saddened by your response. Most elephants WOULD be alive without tourism money. They would be living in the wild. <br><br>The horse training you speak of is nothing like the training these elephants endure. <br>As I describe above, the elephants are tortured to learn tricks and the like. I am sure you don’t beat your horse with a bull hook, or stab it with sticks of bamboo stuck with nails. I am including a link below so you can see what the training looks like and perhaps see that training a horse is nothing like training an elephant.<br><br>Elephants do rebel, you are right about that. However, not all do. Whether it has to do with “respect for their trainer” and being fed, I do not know. Do you?<br>I never said riding an elephant wasn’t a nice experience, although many people I know who have ridden them have reported it being uncomfortable. There is the risk of falling off an elephant – just the other day a German woman was killed when she fell from an elephant. In addition, people have told me that they felt horrible after riding, citing the elephant’s lack of life and its physical appearance as quite troublesome. I am saddened that, despite all of the reasons above, including the abuse to these animals, you would still encourage people to ride them. Furthermore, riding them does not promise it will “keep them on the planet.” It only condemns them to a poor existence. If we want to keep elephants on this planet, we need to stop destroying their habitat, killing them for ivory, placing land mines in the jungle …<br><br>CHRIS: As I mentioned above, perhaps the backpack argument wasn’t the right comparison since I am gathering people can’t get past that to see the message about the harm it causes. <br><br>I know someone else commented on the electric prods above, but, no, you aren’t going to see anyone use prods in front of people. Would you visit an elephant attraction if you saw them being systematically abused? I know I wouldn’t. There are plenty of well-documented stories online that deal with the prods, particularly as it relates to training them outside of Thailand (like for circuses and rides in America, for example). The LA Times recently did a story, “Elephant Rides Should be a Thing of the Past,” where they pinpoint prods being used to train them. http://articles.latimes.com/2011/sep/07/opinion/la-ed-elephant-20110907. Here’s a video that shows them being used: https://secure.peta.org/site/Advocacy?cmd=display&page=UserAction&id=3629<br><br>If you were at a camp where a mahout didn’t have a bull hook or stick, GOOD! Perhaps the camp you went to isn’t one of the ones I am talking about above. Regardless of this, however, it is important to realize that these elephants have been tortured to become domestic. There is no way around that fact. They do not let mahouts strap the platforms on them, do not let tourists get on their backs, do not go for guided walks, because they enjoy it. They do it because they have been taught if they do not they will be put through inhumane and terrible pain and suffering. This is how elephants are trained, regardless of location. In Thailand, it is through the Phajaan. In America, it is with hooks and prods. The torture training is the method used around the world to teach them how to be participants in the tourism industry. Fortunately, there are places like Elephant Nature Park, which are working with mahouts to show them there are other ways to teach elephants through positive reinforcement. These elephants, however, are not at the trekking camps, etc. <br><br>I don’t think a life being forced to be entertainment at the detriment of health and well-being is a good life. Nor do I think the logging camps are a good life. They are bad, too. The best treatment for them is to be free from living a life dedicated to delighting tourists. There are other options for these elephants that still allow camps to make money -- namely those that offer the chance to spend time with elephants, feeding and bathing them, and NOT riding them, doing tricks or painting.<br><br>As for my sources, a good deal of information was gathered via conversations with elephant experts and advocates during my time in Thailand, and beyond, as well as my own first-hand experience seeing the results of a lifetime of trekking. Sadly, most travel writers report on the joys of riding an elephant and not the harm those actions cause the animal. Here are some links to where I got additional information:<br>http://ecohearth.com/eco-zine/travel-and-leisure/1675-never-ride-an-elephant.html<br>http://asianelephantstoday.com/2010/10/28/elephant-trekking/<br>http://www.loopabroad.com/sites/loopabroad.com/files/Elephant%20Nation:%20Saving%20the%20Big%20Grays.pdf<br>http://asianelephantstoday.com/2010/12/12/elephant-back-safari-in-sri-lanka/<br>http://elephantsumbrella.org/<br>And this: 2.3 WORKING OF ELEPHANTS: “Working elephants are usually observed to suffer from back sores or spinal injuries. The reason is either overloading or uneven loading on either sides of the elephant back. An elephant may also get back-injuries is its gadela(mattress) is not of proper specification or not suitably tied. An elephant may also get injuries on its legs if the knot of the rope with which the legs are tied is not correct or its hobbles are not of proper size or if some link of its chain is pointed and sharp. Gear of the logging elephant needs careful designing to avoid injuries” .http://www.elephantcare.org/manheal.htm<br><br>The bottom line is this: I understand people will disagree with this, will argue their points, but the truth of the matter is these elephants have been abused in order to delight people. Their health is sacrificed in order to let us tick off a box on a bucket list. As I mentioned above, there are other ways to get close to these animals. Riding an elephant should not be the way to spend time with them.<br><br>To see an example of the Phajaan, check out this link. Warning: It is VERY graphic. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bjGcb1_KizY&feature=player_embedded<br><br>I greatly appreciate all of the feedback from this article. I sincerely hope even those readers who are apprehensive, and still want to ride, will read this (very long) response and hopefully understand the impact our decisions have on these elephants. Spending even an afternoon with them, feeding them and bathing them, will give you great insight into how remarkable and amazing these animals are. <br><br><br><br><br><br><br>

  • Sky said

    Thank you for this post, as well as the comments. I have read through all of them. I will admit to being unaware of this and having "ride an elephant" on my Bucket List. In fact, I was looking at a summer program to Thailand with Lifeworks that included an elephant ride.<br><br>However, I have now crossed this off of my bucket list on my website and included a link to this article. I think that main reason that many people are still involved in elephant rides is because, as you said, they simply do not know. I didn't. I also agree that it is nothing like a horse or a dog - yes, sometimes they are abused but it is not an accepted practice and there are plenty of activists and rescue centers (ASPCA, anyone?) out there to fight it. Elephant abuse is on a whole new level.<br><br>Very eye-opening post.

  • Donna Hull said

    One of my travel dreams was to ride an elephant, until I experienced a ride in Thailand. It is the most depressing memory in my long list of boomer travel adventures. Thanks for writing this post. I'm bookmarking it to include as a link for the post that I will eventually write about not riding elephants.

  • AR said

    Well I have been on the fence about going to Elephant Nature PArk or Patra's. I am opposed to elephant shows, painting, tricks, etc as well as elephant and trecking. However a friend -who is an animal rights supporter- visited Patra's and loved it. She said it was different in that you only ride on the elephant's head? Is that okay? It still seems questionable to me, kimd of like swiming with dolphins. Someone please advise me!

  • dtravelsround@gmail.com said

    AR - Sitting on the head is not as bad. As for Patra's ... look into the breeding program there. Are they being bred to live in captivity? Riding on the head is better than the back.

  • Shwetha said

    Thank you so much for this story. I am on my way to Thailand and I've decided to scratch this off my list. They should really consider putting blurbs of your article in travel guides so naive backpackers get the heads up on what their tourism dollars ae supporting.

  • Stephen lake said

    I have just arrived back from Thailand and saw the plight of the elephants and how they are treated. So much so that I created a website that my very good friend Sindy is administering. We need to spread the word to bring this matter to the attention of the world. I hope the admin doesn't mind but my blog is called www.elephantsinthailand.org. I for one am passionate about ending the suffering of these great beasts.

  • Mahul Abdul Jabbari said

    pretty sure most people in the world would still ride the elephant. the assumption underlying your argument is that people in this world care enough to do something about it. that assumption is false, people think of themselves. ignorance is bliss.

  • Mahul Abdul Jabbari said

    Just another ploy by the white man to try and put down a second/third world country. 200 years ago the whole world was abusing animals, but now that you guys have technology for everyone in your countries you want us to stop. Maybe you could help a brother out instead of trying to stop a brother from earning a living. You honestly value the lives of animals above your fellow man and it is a joke. I bet you have never donated to a World Vision cause or for humanitarian aid. Haters gon' hate, Gangers gon' gang. Get over yourselves, the world is not perfect and your not making a difference.

  • Liam said

    This is an interesting topic, and is something which all travellers should consider properly if they do indeed want to ride an elephant. However, I mostly disagree with the message this blog provides and its reasons.<br><br>Most of the reasons for why I think this blog is wrong have already been discussed in other comments. And unfortunately Diana has taken their comments out of context, or not responded to them directly.<br><br>This issue comes down to two simple matters.<br><br>The Asian Elephant is an endangered species. If you want to know what it means for the International Union for Conservation of Nature to classify an animal as "endangered," it means it faces a "very high risk of extinction in the near future." For the Asian Elephant, the primary cause of this is habitat loss. The forests and grasslands simply no longer exist to support a population of elephants. It is a poor reality, but these creatures living in captivity could not live and survive in the wild. And it is also a poor reality that they cannot simply be kept alive in an elephant camp/village that does not have any money to support the elephants. It is the money of tourists which allows these animals to survive.<br><br>People have a choice as to where they are spending their money. "Good" elephant camps exist, and "bad" elephant camps exist, because both generate an income to the people running them. Travellers supporting bad, inhumane elephant camps fund their continued existence, and travellers supporting good elephant camps encourage the bad camps to lift their game. We all have a responsibility to be aware of the impact of our activities upon our world. Any one who does want to ride an elephant can do so in a humane way, by ensuring that their money is only spent at camps where the animals are treated fairly and provided sufficient food and medical treatment.<br><br>This is not a simple matter, and it is wrong to tell people they must not ride elephants. This type of industry is, infact, saving the lives of a lot of elephants (domesticated previously from logging camps), who cannot be returned to their original habitat. If you are genuinely concerned about the future existence of elephants, focus on the issues which are actually threatening them as a species.

  • Nick said

    I agree with Liam here and disagree with the overstated perspective of the author. I appreciate the attempt to make the case, but like Liam I believe what's needed is to differentiate the humane riding from inhumane. Are baby elephants abused? Sure some have been some of the time. But to generalize that this is necessarily so sounds like overstatement. The author thinks that surely all elephants have been tortured in order to achieve compliance, but he also is totally willing to grant that in the training of horses that's not required at all. To extrapolate that this abuse applies therefor to all elephant trek operations is simply painting with too broad a brush. It may well be misleading even. I won't go so far as other commenters have and attribute that to bigotry or racism, because unlike the author, I'm not an over-generalizer. There's a bigger picture to elephant tourism & riding than is being presented here.

  • gwen said

    I agree with Nick. It is an overstated perspective. But thank you for sharing your views anyway. I'm sure it has opened up our minds to thinking harder and hence, to choosing better.

  • Tiffany Rogerson said

    Me and my boyfriend are travelling to SEA shortly and he said to me he wanted to ride an elephant, we ended up arguing about whether or not it harms them as i have read really horrific stuff about what these amazing animals go through. I`m gonna show him this article so he believes me. If people knew about the suffering, i doubt most people would choose to still ride them! Will defiantly be crossing this off the list and telling people we meet along the way to do the same thing. Hopefully will get a Chance to go to the elephant nature park instead as i would much rather spend my money where people actually care about animals!. keep up the good work with informing people!

  • Daniel said

    It's a real shame that some people (Nick, Val - comments below, and others) refuse to acknowledge that it is us that put the elephants in this position in the first place. To say that the elephants wouldn't be alive without tourism ignores the fact that we have driven these animals to near extinction in the first place. If we hadn't destroyed vast swathes of their ecosystem, then they wouldn't have to rely on tourism for their existence. You might say that this is idealistic - without such development we wouldn't live in the world we live in today. Fair enough, but most of this development has taken place in a time of reduced moral consciousness/awareness about the effect we have on other creatues/environments. Myself, the author of this article and many others would like to believe that we now live in an age where issues such as how we develop, how we treat animals, ecosystems, environments etc. is as important as the development itself. So yes, elephants in Thailand may well depend on the tourist industry for survival, but that doesn't mean we can't change the situation - either directly through funding of ethical organisations, or indirectly by being more aware and deciding not to take part in activities like elephant rides. Or - as I am trying to do currently (visiting Thaliand later this month) - by doing the research and visiting ethically sound elephant camps.<br><br>In response to Nick, below (Quote: "But to generalize that this is necessarily so sounds like overstatement. The author thinks that surely all elephants have been tortured in order to achieve compliance, but he also is totally willing to grant that in the training of horses that's not required at all."). Firstly - just because you're willing to grant that it's not necessary to hurt horses in orded to train them, doesn't mean that elephants are not tortured. That's like saying that just because I treat my dog well, my neighbour doesn't watch television. The two are not mutually exclusive.<br><br>Nick's main point is that this message about the poor treatment of elephants is overgeneralisation. Have you done the research on this? Have you been around to many different elephant training camps and catalogued the treatment of the different elephants you saw there? Or have you even done the research online to see what experts have to say on the matter? No, I haven't either, but common sense dictates that cruel treatment is likely to be more common than kind - simply because of what I said earlier - previously, this is been the norm due to the prevalence of a different moral code regarding the treatment of animals. Trainers and tourists alike simply haven't cared about their suffering. <br><br>To add another link that might help to raise awareness, go to http://www.sprword.com/E.html and watch 'Earthlings'. Training of elephants is in the final third. Natalie might benefit from watching this - listen to the screams of the elephants and then tell us that the bullhook doesn't hurt. I would add that this video is very graphic and not for the faint hearted.<br><br>I'm not overly sentimental, I'm not idealistic and I understand and condone the use of animals for own own sustenance, subsistence and pleasure (ref. to sustenance/subsistence here is in regards to the link above, not the current discussion). But this doesn't have to be a purely one way relationship - there are ways to achieve some of these things that can benefit the animals as well as us. As the author suggests, we can visit elephants and spend time with them without subjecting them to torment. I think the more we discuss these issues, the more likely we are to achieve the same ends without being a party to the cruelty that currently goes along with them.

  • Ewa Narkiewicz said

    I have been working for the Prakochaban elephant foundation in Ayutthaya Thailand for over 6 years. The fact is this article is very biased and only promotes awareness of a particular agenda that is very narrow in focus and overlooks many facts.<br>As others have pointed out there are lots of good elephant riding camps that treat their elephants extremely well. (including ours)<br>People are always looking at the same videos yet where are these videos from? Who shot them, when and where? Why has this abuse not been reported to authorities? There is at least one video that goes endlessly around that was investigated by the Royal Thai police and found to be organized and paid for by an animal rights group!<br>If elephant riding is so bad how do you explain the fact that we have had 52 successful births since 2000, the majority of these from working mothers who give rides to tourists? If it was so stressful and horrible why do these elephants continually give birth to healthy calves? <br>The elephants are victims of overpopulation and "progress". <br>It is naive to believe that you are suddenly enlightened and are doing the right thing because you go to Thailand and don't ride an elephant. If only the solution was so simple! The author wants tourists to ignore all the camps that are doing the right thing. Why should those mahouts and elephants be punished? What will happen to all those mahouts and elephants if people stopped riding them?<br>It is time people stopped making mass generalizations and look and think about the elephant situation far more deeply and logically because tomorrow it will be too late.

  • David Bernazani said

    Great blog. Please include a Facebook link so I can share it there.<br> For all of you doubters and naysayers who have left comments, I have <br>been to Thailand and spoken with experts in the field of elephants. This<br>article is dead-on CORRECT, and ALL baby elephants ARE tortured for<br>the trekking industry. The best and only ethical way to experience elephants <br>there is to go to sanctuaries like the Elephant Nature Park. You don't need <br>to ride an elephant to appreciate them. Put your tourist dollars where they<br>will do the most good, and skip the trekking camps. And yes, the average big fat<br>clueless tourist is very heavy, and they and the heavy benches they sit on are very<br>bad for elephants' backs. Check it out online if you still doubt.<br><br>By the way, asking questions is a good idea, but just remember that they are tourist-savvy<br> and will tell you exactly what you want to hear. Do your homework BEFORE you go there.<br>A little research on the Internet into ethical travel will make your trip not only<br>happy and memorable, but you'll help these wonderful animals as well.

  • Scott said

    Nice blog and thanks for broaching a good topic.<br>In a perfect world it would be great for all elephants to be wild. That said, it's not practical in today's world of growing populations. Thailand's elephants prior to 1992 (when logging was officially made illegal) were mostly dragging logs and doing very heavy work.<br>I think most of your points are correct but do question the point about carrying humans being too much weight and also the one about babies being chained to their moms during treks. Don't doubt it happens but I've always just seen the baby following along.<br><br>I commend you for writing this but can you list your sources so I can investigate further?<br><br>Many thanks.

  • A.Omar said

    Food for thought:<br>Thank you all for your valued contributions to a very controversial topic, and special applause to the author!<br>My wish is that all humans should sit back, relax and close their eyes then nurture their thoughts to be ethical and rational.....it is rather unfortunate that humans are one species on this planet that constantly needs to be entertained, we have therefore over the years developed on our lives and in turn on our social behaviours to nurse and feed this aspect of our common 'defect' in personalities.....amusement at the expense of abuse to anything else!....but also in my opinion I would say 'parasitic' in certain aspects at times.<br>With all of this, we have also been gifted with the ability to think - with a bit of luck, on both sides of the fence....thankfully some of us also do so ethically! <br>My query to the rest of the world is: "...with all of the bounty gifted to us by our creator 'God', apart from our superior intelligence, the provisions of the land as well...what gives us humans the authority to rob another creature from its natural environment, which was awarded by God himself and take control of its livelihood solely to satisfy our desires?<br>Do we also treat our biological offspring in such a manner to get them to grow up moulded into our aspirations, whipping and beating them until such time they become our dreams? Corporal punishment was banned in schools +\-15yrs ago here in South Africa, why was this done?<br>....on second thoughts, rather not answer that but perhaps consider what I've mentioned in the begin, sit back and reflect on your behaviour and actions.... What does humaneness mean to you?<br>So much time and energy is wasted debating over the howdah, bullhooks, chains, wether or not the spine can support, comparisons between cats, dogs, horses,...bla bla blaaaaa, etc....we are constantly looking for loopholes to justify our actions but sadly missing the point (who are we/you to determine fate?), all life forms deserve the freedom to live the way God has provided the various ecosystems to be. We have the ability to figure out food chains in ecosystems and the effect an imbalance has towards them, but we hardly ever add ourselves in...we say we're doing good and helping out, can we not be compassionate enough to award them the space they need to live in their natural state... Let's move away from selfish behaviour and find better solutions developed with harmony and dignity towards all life forms. A happy and content person is far more functional and pro-active as opposed to one that's under stress and harassment,....apply this analogy to your work environment for understanding what I'm trying to say.<br>Having blabbered all of this, I have not ridden anything else besides a horse on a social outing  viewing game/wildlife and on private moments in the bedroom a good ol shag..lol..I should also admit that I perhaps may give this a try at least once so as to broaden my knowledge based on first hand experience...<br>Last note: Please accept my apologies to any that I may have offended in my contribution! All said was directed publicly and not necessarily to any individual. I only hope that we consider our actions and strengthen our abilities to control our selfish desires. Anyways, these were my contributions to the thread and hopefully I've broadened your thoughts....<br>Respect to all, happy and safe travels guys!!

  • Ewa Narkiewicz said

    Diana you asked me a lot of questions but answered none of mine! This is the problem with the anti riding brigade they only selectively see what supports their attitude. The elephant population is dwindling 3.5% every year in Thailand, so in 30 years time there will be no viable elephant population left. <br>You can argue all you want as A.Omar points out, but in the end over population and stress on resources is the ultimate problem and until someone figures that out elephants surviving into the near future is in peril.<br>And it is absolute false to say all elephants are tortured etc, but hey it brings in the big bucks (one place brings in 5,000 to 9,000 dollars a day!) for those who do advertise their places using such mass generalizations. <br><br>

  • Amanda said

    As an elephant trainer in one of the top zoos in North America, I find this article to be riddled with inaccuracies. The zoo I work at offers elephant rides and it is not as terrible as this article makes it out to be. The rides help keep our elephants from becoming overweight (as many do in captivity). Proper exercise for animals is just as important as proper exercise for humans. The distance the elephants walk each day is closely monitored and is comparable to the distance they would walk in the wild. Also in regards to the weight of the howdahs is not substantial, I'm a 120lbs woman and can easily carry one by myself, and we use blankets underneath the howdahs to stop it from directly rubbing the elephants skin. Also, the number of people we allow on an elephant is set and is determined according to their size, weight, and health. <br>The quote towards the end of the article where the author states "Any outfit that offers riding, circuses or paintings means they have undergone horrific abuse in order to get them to where they are. Remember, all of these elephants have suffered through the abusive and torturous crush." I found to be extremely arrogant. We have never employed abusive training methods to our elephants. The zoo I work at has also won multiple awards from the Association of Zoos and Aquariums, particularly for our work with elephants. The author states not to believe everything you hear, so I would take his advice and not believe everything you've read in this article. Just do research ahead of time and be aware of how the animals are cared for. You don't necessarily have to cross this off your bucket list.

  • roger said

    #12 Natalie, your comment is pretty ridiculous. How would you like to be beaten, confined, deprived of food/sleep and forced to carry fat people all day and night. They deprive elephants of medical care also. So get rid of your bed, food and medical insurance, you're going to be my slave. Is that ok w/ you? If not boycott elephant rides, circuses and other animal torture.

  • roger said

    comment #50 is also shortsighted. These animals have to be broken/crushed in order to take humans around. This breaking period is CRUELTY. How would you like to be deprived of everything that makes you comfortable so you can be someone's slave? Hypocrites are the only people that promote this type of animal exploitation. If you don't want it done to you, don't do it to animals. Understand? The breaking period is torture and it's done to animals that are endangered. Why is this allowed? $$$ and government turning a blind eye because we're in a recession. Most countries are looking for $$$ so they don't care about animal abuse because animals can't go to court to defend themselves.

  • roger said

    comment #38 is preposterous. Why can't you make an honest living without hurting endangered animals? Be an artist, writer, politician, designer, etc. Why do you have to make excuses for torture? Think instead of doing what you're doing. Use your mind to think outside the box. Thinking like a victim and continuing to hurt animals is cave man thinking.

  • roger said

    to comment 44, that's great that you know of good camps and promote them. we are talking about the bad ones that hurt elephants. I've seen countless vids on breaking elephants, it's really horrid and if you were an elephant you'd want people speaking out against this abuse. I am a voice for the elephants that are without medical care and forced to do slave labor for no good treatment whatsoever. Sure there are healthy calves but how many live? Enough bashing the animal rights activists, we are doing the right thing for those who are suffering. Let us help those who need help. Let us help elephants that are carrying ridiculous loads and not getting healthy food, enough water, enough rest and medical care.

  • Ewa Narkiewicz said

    I have NEVER seen any real evidence of elephants tortured in Thailand. I have only ever seen ONE video that goes endlessly around that was set up and paid for by an AR group. It was investigated by the Thai Police. <br>I would love to know which places and which elephants you are actually referring to. All of you who claim to know about this torture, please supply DATES, PLACES and NAMES of elephants and their torturers, they can be made accountable. And those that are not getting medical treatment can easily get it with one phone call. There are NGO mobile vets in Thailand that go around offering excellent medical care. So please supply some REAL details and stop bashing everyone else. <br>There are maybe about 60 elephants that belong to places that do not give rides. What do you propose to do about the other 2,400 plus elephants??? Maybe you should get a gun and shoot them all now.<br>Or do you think they if they are not making money they will suddenly find endless funds to pay for their elephants food and care in a magic box? <br>Think about it!<br>

  • Elephant Lover said

    Patara in Chiang Mai is a good place. The elephants there are happy, well fed and the ride is on their neck, as the mahouts do, so the spine is spared the weight of a platform + person. Not everyone can get into the popular parks you recommend. Boon Lotts is full up for 2 years, though ENP does allow day visitors.

  • Elephant Lover said

    @ Mahul Abdul Jabbar: I value animals above people because with 7 billion people ruining the planet and killing off all the wildlife, no BODY will be able to survive on it any more. We need less people, not more, though it does not take 7 billion to kill everything off - the big corporations of the world are doing that all too well.

  • putu gede said

    To all humans, please stop expantions, no more houses, no trip, no internet and let's stay together with animals, in the junggle. will you enjoy it after you know all of this?.... good luck.

  • AJ said

    Am I encouraging animal abuse by riding an elephant? It's an excellent question, and one I honestly had not even remotely considered when planning my upcoming trip to Thailand. But this article was so strongly slanted that I immediately looked for a more balanced point of view ... and found it in comment 50 by Amanda. <br><br>The 50 pound backpack analogy tells us everything we need to know about this author's journalistic integrity. Had it been used as hyperbole, and without mentioning a specific weight, it could possibly have been effective. Instead I'm left shaking my head, as the equivalent to me carrying 1/3 of my body weight in a backpack would be for the elephant to give a Prius a ride. With me inside. Absurd.<br><br>I will ride a majestic elephant through the jungle in November. And while I will have an experience to remember, the elephant will simply have a rather unremarkable stroll through its natural habitat. Elephant don't care. And neither do I.

  • Rhonda said

    Patara Elephant Farm, located 30 minutes from Chiang Mai, Thailand, is the exception. You spend a day with your own elephant. I was taught how to feed her by hand, then brushed and bathed her in the shallow river, followed by a 30 minute bareback ride through the forest to a deep lagoon, where the elephants submerged themselves to laze in the cool mountain water. Spending a day (8 hours) to learn about and care for these magnificent animals CAN be on your bucket list. pataraelephantfarm.com

  • Traveller said

    Just go to Elephant Nature Park and enjoy watching these wonderful creatures, learn their histories, appreciate it all. No way will you ever want to ride one. Why would you want to ride one anyway?

  • Ramya said

    To all nay-sayers:<br>I haven't read all the comments above to know if this has already been mentioned but for a more Hollywood approach to putting you off elephant rides or tricks for good, try "Water for Elephants." <br>If Reese Witherspoon's tears won't do it for you, I don't know what will.

  • tcr said

    Congrats to all those who've decided not to ride these wonderful beasts. My wife is Thai. She's seen the abuse the babies go through. One poster above mentioned their thick skin and how a bullhook wouldn't do any damage. Well. It does. Especially the way they use it.<br><br>Many other things to do in Thailand. Riding elephants should be off your list.

  • Think said

    Make up your own minds about whether you want to ride an elephant or not but at least get all the facts first.<br><br>This 'article' is just someones opinion of their own experience. It is neither right or wrong. However I do think when you're on a public platform such as this you should provide all the information to allow your readers to make an informed decision. If you don't have enough experience or comprehensive understanding of the issues involved then you are not in a position to be making such statements or giving advice.<br><br>People need to do their own research....if their research involves reading just this one 'article' then that is foolish and there is a lot of information they are missing out on.

  • dave said

    folks, any elephant that you "bond" with in your travels is going to be a trained captive elephant that is trained by means the author finds objectionable. if you agree, then don't ride, wash or feed any of them. but keep in mind that the experience for wild asian elephants is a far sight worse consisting of fractured and isolated populations throughout their se asian range. the species has been on the decline continuously since the inception of its CITES endangered status lising in the early 1970's, and may very well be extinct in many of its range nations (laos, vietnam, etc) within the next few decades. you live in the real world so face reality. these people are doing the best that they can for the elephants in their care and very soon may provide the only safe haven for this species. wild asian elephants are poisoned and shot every day by an ever widening human population that is encroaching into their habitat. i'm not blaming those people who are out there trying to survive, i'm just saying to you all again - face reality.<br><br>i say, ride them, wash them, and feed them, AND care about their plight. the best thing you can do as a concerned outsider is contribute financially to the International Elephant Foundation (International Elephant Foundation.org), an organization that devotes nearly 100% of the proceeds it receives to conservation efforts for all elephants both domestically (US) and abroad.

  • Tanapat Paton said

    Living in Thailand I can say that everything in this article is true. Riding elephant on the neck true is very different than using the steel saddle. It takes 3 people to lift this so I agree the weight on the elephants back is tremendous. This is why many trekking elephants suffer from spinal injuries. Actually the main issue here is that elephant tourism is a highly lucrative business and is causing more and more elephants being taken from the wild. Most of these animals are not born in captivity but captured from the wild. Since there are so few elephants left in the wild in Thailand they are now captured in Burma and smuggled into the country where they are given a fake microchip and paperwork. Usually the babies are taken only which involves shooting both the mother and the nanny. Sometimes they use a tranquilizer sometimes a real bullet. The babies are then put through the crush which is exactly as the article describes because I have personally witnessed this. Many babies doe in the crush particularly from tetanus from the metal hooks they are beaten with. A baby elephant should suckle for 2 years so many of them die at an early age from malnutrition because they are unable to drink the mothers milk. In fact I have seen an elephant smuggled from Burma trained in Thailand and sold to a trekking camp in less than three weeks from the time of capture. About 400000B is paid in commissions and bribes and the elephant was sold for about 900000B. That's a profit of about 500000B ($15 000). Not bad for 3 weeks work. By supporting tourist operations like trekking camps and circuses you are supporting the capture of wild elephants and the future extinction of the species in the wild. If you want to have an elephant experience in Thailand please support our national parks or visit operations like Elephant Nature Park in Chiang Mai where you can learn about elephants and experience Thai culture. Using our national symbol as a tool for profit and entertainment is a disgrace. Please be a responsible tourist in Thailand.

  • Diana Edelman said

    These comments have been very interesting to read. Once again, I would like to address the people who have questioned not only the information, but also my integrity.<br><br>First, Ewa Narkiewicz – to answer your questions:<br><br>The video I watched came from an undercover investigation from a Thai woman. The video was shot a few years ago, but I happen to know that this practice continues. The video was shot in a village in Thailand, and the practices continue in villages today. Of course the abuse was reported. In fact, the woman who released this video (yes, it was sent to PETA, but she received no financial compensation for it) was attacked by her own government and accused not only of faking the entire video, but speaking out against her country. Her life was threatened and she had to go into hiding. The video was NOT organized by PETA. It was an independent endeavor from someone who loves elephants. Also, not sure if you saw this recent post but you should read the comment below:<br><br>“Living in Thailand I can say that everything in this article is true. Riding elephant on the neck true is very different than using the steel saddle. It takes 3 people to lift this so I agree the weight on the elephants back is tremendous. This is why many trekking elephants suffer from spinal injuries. Actually the main issue here is that elephant tourism is a highly lucrative business and is causing more and more elephants being taken from the wild. Most of these animals are not born in captivity but captured from the wild. Since there are so few elephants left in the wild in Thailand they are now captured in Burma and smuggled into the country where they are given a fake microchip and paperwork. Usually the babies are taken only which involves shooting both the mother and the nanny. Sometimes they use a tranquilizer sometimes a real bullet. The babies are then put through the crush which is exactly as the article describes because I have personally witnessed this. Many babies doe in the crush particularly from tetanus from the metal hooks they are beaten with. A baby elephant should suckle for 2 years so many of them die at an early age from malnutrition because they are unable to drink the mothers milk. In fact I have seen an elephant smuggled from Burma trained in Thailand and sold to a trekking camp in less than three weeks from the time of capture. About 400000B is paid in commissions and bribes and the elephant was sold for about 900000B. That's a profit of about 500000B ($15 000). Not bad for 3 weeks work. By supporting tourist operations like trekking camps and circuses you are supporting the capture of wild elephants and the future extinction of the species in the wild. If you want to have an elephant experience in Thailand please support our national parks or visit operations like Elephant Nature Park in Chiang Mai where you can learn about elephants and experience Thai culture. Using our national symbol as a tool for profit and entertainment is a disgrace. Please be a responsible tourist in Thailand.<br><br> Tanapat Paton Oct 11, 2012 7:22 PM”<br><br>As far as 52 successful births since 2000, the majority of which came from working mothers who gave rides to tourists: I don't have an answer for you. There are successful births. Honestly, 52 elephants born over 12 years is nothing impressive. I wouldn't be surprised if they were forced bred.And, how many elephants total are you talking about in regards to how many total females there are and how many died. 52 successful births in relation to how many pregnancies and elephants?<br><br>You also mention question what will happen to mahouts and elephants if people stop riding them. Take a look around – there ARE elephant sanctuaries in Thailand and these sanctuaries do not offer rides or shows. The mahouts are employed and cared for at these places. In fact, not only are mahouts employed, so are local members of the community who have opportunities to make money from their own trade, like massage. There is a viable option for these mahouts and their elephants.<br><br>In response to Scott:<br><br>I have spent quite a bit of time in Thailand now, and every camp I have ever passed by, there have aways been the babies chained to their mothers.<br><br>In terms of my sources, scroll up about 10 or so posts. I listed links to them, as well as referenced interviews with elephant experts.<br><br>Amanda:<br><br>Thank you for sharing your story and your knowledge. While your zoo may be one of the top zoos in North America, and has won awards for its training, the article was not really geared towards zoos and their close regulations. In Thailand, as well as other countries in that part of the world, there are no standards. No one says an elephant can only walk for X amount of hours/distance a day.<br><br>I am sorry if you found this quote arrogant – "Any outfit that offers riding, circuses or paintings means they have undergone horrific abuse in order to get them to where they are. Remember, all of these elephants have suffered through the abusive and torturous crush."-- but I respectfully disagree with your statement regarding abusive training methods. I have no doubt that you or others at your zoo would torture an elephant or other animal, but I believe your statement regarding abusive training methods can be dangerous. Surely, an elephant is not plucked from the wild and able to have a howdah strapped to its back and willingly accept people on it. The truth is, any elephant that has been taken or born into captivity, does not give rides willingly. So, while the zoo may not have hurt this animal, investigations have proven that, at some point, this animal (wherever it was before your zoo), has been broken in order to entertain.<br><br>Also – while your zoo may be an exception to the rule in regards to abuse – can you address the footage that has been released showing animal caretakers in zoos stretching elephants legs with chains and electric prods to train them?<br><br>This article was never intended to discuss the pros and cons of riding an elephant. It clearly states that in the title. However, I spent a great deal of time researching this information and speaking with experts, reviewing horrific undercover footage and striving to provide accurate information. <br><br>

  • Giselle said

    I understand the desire to want to ride an elephant. Elephants are beautiful, majestic, gentle giants. They are extremely intelligent, sensitive, and loving. They remember everything that has happened to them in their lives. <br><br>I am a huge animal animal lover and I strongly believe in animal rights. I have done the research, and I have even subjected myself to certain elephant trekking camps so I could get another point of view, and my findings were extremely negative. If you choose to ride elephants, and watch the silly shows, you are indirectly responsible for the horrible training that they go through. The more people that support elephant riding, the more sweet baby elephants will have to go through the breaking process in order for you to ride them, watch them paint a picture or pop balloons with darts. It is silly.<br> I would like to think that our ideas of entertainment have evolved in the last 20-30 years.<br><br>It is difficult to re-condition ourselves to believe that animals are not here for us or our entertainment.<br>They are here for their own reasons. There is no hidden agenda here. I'm not sure what people against elephant trekking/shows would have to gain from stopping this abuse, other than freeing elephants from the unnatural burden of carrying people 12 hours a day on their backs, being poked with metal to paint a picture, or being beat with a hook because they are turning slightly to the left, rather than to the right.<br><br>If you truly love animals. let them be. Support responsible sanctuary's. Admire their beauty from a far.<br><br>There is nothing good about these elephant trekking camps. And elephants are not even comfortable to ride!!!<br><br>Save up your money, make a journey to a place that truly respects nature.<br> And save the Asian elephant.<br><br><br>

  • Sean said

    Planning a trip to Thailand and this article was unable to sway me to remove Elephant Riding from my bucket list. Perhaps a more balanced approach would have better resonated.. less generalization to EVERY animal being abused, and stating that most are... I'm certain there are elephants that are not, such as our local zoo's... promote those organizations and market them. If they don't exist, clearly there is a unique business opportunity in Thailand to provide them.<br><br>The whole too much weight argument is ridiculous and could be applied to all animals. Of course if you put too much weight on any animal, for any period of time, it is bad for the animal. The question is how much CAN this animal support, and finding organizations that abide to those rules. Do you even know how much this animal can support under healthy load, and for how long?? For example I'm pretty sure if my wife and I each get our own elephants they can hold her 135lbs and my 180lbs plus a harness.<br><br>Only in America do we attack 3rd world economies, attempting to exploit their ethical flaws. Easy for us to focus on these issues as we sit behind our iMacs, drink Starbucks, and enjoy the western trappings. Maybe this facade is just to create an illusion to hide our own deeper societal issues. We focus on animals being overworked in Thailand, while our Country supports legal killing of fetuses and death penalties for our fellow man. <br><br>

  • Diana Edelman said

    That is too bad that this was unable to sway you. The arguments are all researched and valid. While it may seem like generalizations, the sad truth is EVERY SINGLE ELEPHANT you see in the tourism industry has been abused. Whether you choose to believe this "generalization" or FACT is up to you. And, this isn't attacking just "third-world" countries. There are places all over the world that offer rides. America does, Europe does, and more and more people are urging places to stop this because of the research which has been unearthed and the cruel practices which occur to break the elephant. You don't have to agree with the it, but it is the truth. This wasn't made to attack ethical flaws. There are some places in countries that do this right, and treat the animals with respect. The weight on the back is actually a big problem. The benches alone weigh 200 pounds, then you pile people on top. Their backs were not meant for people to ride them. If someone has to ride them, they should ride them on the back of their neck or head. I have pointed to research above in the comments that discusses the weight on their backs ... take the time to read it.

  • Mindy Postoff said

    Although I could write on endlessly with how much I agree with all of these points, I will keep my comment brief.<br><br>Regardless of how elephants are treated in trekking camps today, I believe it to be selfish to only consider the present. I worry about the future, and the impending extinction of Asian elephants if the tourism industry does not change. When trekking elephants get too old or too weak to taxi around tourists, they're retired. In order for the trekking camp to remain in business, they must ensure they have enough elephants to meet the demand of tourists. Of course, this generally means obtaining elephants in one of two ways: through forced breeding programs (read: rape); or capturing from the wild. Regardless of how the new generation of trekking elephants arrive to their places of employment, the must endure the torturous domestication process to make them safe to be around tourists.<br><br>Sacrificing the act of riding an elephant today, will save the lives of elephants in the future. It's as simple as that.

  • Emma's Bucket List said

    I loved riding an elephant:<br><br>http://emmasbucketlist.com/2012/03/12/thailand-part-3-riding-an-elephant/ <br><br>But Amy, one of my commentors showed my who this is never something to add to a bucket list, zoo her Guest Post here:<br><br>http://emmasbucketlist.com/2012/05/25/why-you-might-not-want-to-ride-an-elephant-after-all/

  • Sharon said

    I travel to every country to see the animals of that country and have plans of going to Thailand in May and ride the elephants as it was on my bucket list. I am sickened by what you wrote about how they are treated. I am so happy I read this before my trip. I don't even want to go to Thailand anymore. I fight for the horses having to pull their carriages in NYC and have had arguments with people in other countries when I see the poor horses dragging their carriages and the last thing I want to do is do the same with an elephant.

  • Jocelyn Koopmann said

    All Elephants should be FREE. The babies are torn away from the mothers. Tied up & BEATEN till they have no strength left. Why? $$$$$$$ & humans don't even have any idea what happens to the poor Elephants before this stage. Walk & don't ride anything.

  • Brad Ruszala said

    Not all elephant adventures are equal.<br><br>While in Thailand this past summer, my wife and I went to a carnival-like elephant park where the operators gave us a guided ride around the grounds and wrapped up with a show that featured elephants trained to do tricks.<br><br>I was not a fan. <br><br>Later we went to Chiang Mai and took a second try at the elephant experience and were amazed at the difference. We went well outside of the city, walked across rice patties, through farms, and over bridges until we reached a remote corner where the elephants are lovingly raised and trained.<br><br>We spent a day bonding with the elephants, feeding them, eating with them, and learning the commands before we were permitted to ride them, bathe them, and feed them again.<br><br>The people who ran this farm loved the elephants in their care and we left with a connection to the people and to the magnificent beasts. <br><br>As far as the babies being ripped away from their mothers, that was not the case with our second adventure as we bore witness to mothers caring for their offspring. It was a beautiful sight and an experience I won't soon forget.

  • JustSawTheBachelorProposal said

    I took my girl horseback riding 2 years ago and she was the happiest I've ever seen. We just saw The Bachelor propose on ABC and they rode off on an elephant in Thailand (not their first time either). So I was googling where we could go for an elephant ride and found this article.<br><br>I don't believe your claim that an elephant could not support our weight without spinal damage, but the poor training conditions is believable and I won't be a patron unless I hear otherwise in the future.

  • Matthew Karsten said

    Wow. #76, just go look it up you lazy bum. You saw it on TV so it must be ok? Is that it?<br><br>It's not a claim, it's a FACT. Just like the FACT that zebras can't support the weight of a human either. Sure it looks like they should be able to, because they are the same size as a horse. But the FACT is that their spines are not strong enough. An elephant may be a big animal, but it's back is not meant to support 300+ pounds.<br> <br>LOOK. IT. UP. The author has done her research. Go do yours. She even gave you links earlier in the comments. The problem is you're all too lazy to read them. And no one refuting this stuff is providing any links to articles as she did. We just get people that work at zoos & trekking camps. Obviously they are going to have a bias opinion, they make their living letting people ride these animals. Be honest. What is best for the animal? Captive in your zoo/camp? Or left alone in the wild? <br><br>Both public national parks & private game reserves do quite well in Africa with safaris. No elephant riding required to make good money off of tourists...<br><br>And for everyone claiming "white or 1st world guilt", this park was started by a Thai woman. Thais are the ones recording the hidden camera footage of the abuse. Your racial argument makes no sense. Race has nothing to do with the treatment of animals. In fact zoos around the world, including in the US, are under fire for how they treat/confine their elephants. Don't believe me? LOOK. IT. UP. I'd LOVE for someone to share articles refuting the author's write-up. None of you have produced any.<br><br>I understand why you want to ride one. I'd love to ride one too. It would be fun. But after reading the FACTS, I've changed my mind. My entertainment is not worth the suffering these animals have to endure. You're free to do whatever you want, but trusting what you saw on TV without doing any additional research is incredibly ignorant and simple-minded. If staying uninformed helps you sleep better at night, good for you.

  • LoosenUp said

    @ #77 Matthew. <br><br>It is kind of hilarious how you totally go off on the previous commenter after he made such a simple honest comment. He even said, "...but the poor training conditions is believable and I won't be a patron unless I hear otherwise in the future." I think you may be wound up a little too tight. It makes it difficult to take your own opinion seriously. As far as producing articles to refute the author, the personal experiences of some of the other responses are probably just as good, if not better (assuming they truthful of course).<br><br>The article is very lopsided, and overstating. 50 lb backpack? Really? And once you start saying things like "EVERY SINGLE ELEPHANT", especially in uppercase...you lose the strength of your point. 'Every' and 'Always' are strong words, I would be careful not to be so ignorant of the exception. <br><br>All in all, I think the article is great in creating an awareness of the situation. Discussion is a good thing. <br><br>

  • Shane said

    ok, so apart from videos have any of you actually been to an elephant park in thailand, i see this Natlie person going on over videos she has seen?? and as horrific as that video is, i have seen videos of germans killing and tourturing people? should i assume that all germans are the same? <br><br>take a relaity pill people, do your research and go to a good elephant park and the elephants are not mistreated at all. <br><br>I spent 2 months with the elephants in chaing mai and i can assure you there were well looked after. vet checks monthly, baths three times a day, kept in herds, only riden by tourests max twice per day for 35 mins. <br><br>If you want to campaign about elephant mistreatment, be sure to point the finger at the mistreaters not everyone in thailand.

  • Maggie said

    I agree with Shane in #79 and I'm actually really envious he got to spend two whole months with elephants in Chiang Mai! I also respect that the author personally responded to individual comments here, as many writers would never bother to do that. I do think the article is a bit biased against elephant camps in general and doesn't offer a balanced focus on the few sanctuaries doing good work and treating the elephants with care and responsibility. Like other posters, I personally visited Patara Elephant Farm last year and saw none of the awful practices detailed in this article. On the contrary, at Patara the babies were nursing from their mothers and none of the elephants were chained up. The owner Pat explained to us that his goal is to get people to bond with the elephants to they will want to protect and raise awareness for these endangered creatures. For us it was a life-changing experience that made us want to advocate further for all animals, not just elephants. Bottom line: Do your homework and find a reputable elephant farm with humane practices, or better yet, just go to Patara Elephant Farm and see for yourself how eco-tourism is done correctly and just how well these majestic creatures are treated!

  • Ewa Narkiewicz said

    I guess it says it all when the author says that 52 births (actually 54 births now) is not impressive. When there are so few elephants left in Thailand, how do you expect them to survive into the future if they are not bred now? And I am yet to see an elephant forced to do anything let alone mate. How on earth do you force an erection on an elephant and get them to mate, that is just ignorant to say that. In all that time we have only had 8 miscarriages/still births, a much higher success rate than elephants in the wild. The first elephant that gave birth in 2000 has now had her fourth successful birth and given rides in between to keep her healthy and strong. Many others have had 2 or 3 births and given rides in between, but you conveniently ignore those facts. No spinal injuries but lots of healthy births how do you explain that? Also the "sancturies" you speak of are not all that great either. They also rely on tourists to make them rich here is an article written by an elephant expert who has visited more facilities, camps, "sanctuaries" than anyone else I know, who is only interested in elephant welfare and conservation. <br>http://dankoehl.blogspot.com/2011/12/elephants-suffers-in-sanctuaries-effect.html <br>There are sanctuaries that are making thousands of dollars a day, yet the number of elephants under their "care" is minimal.

  • Jeremy said

    I'm a big animal lover as many of us are, and I'm definitely going to do a lot more research on this, but for the author to say that "every elephant in captivity has been abused at some point" seems a little dramatic. I've no doubt they are abused in many parts of the world especially In Asia, but come on. It is possible to train wild animals in a humane way. Before anyone says we shouldn't be training wild animals at all, I'll note that all animals including horses, cows, birds, even your house cat and dog are descended from wild animals. As humans being of higher intelligence (or at least higher power) we have taken advantage of animals and their habitats for years. We have also made many efforts to reverse this. I'm sure at least some of the elephant farms in Thailand are of good nature to their elephants. I do urge everyone to do their own research and build their own opinions. Just as it would be naive to go to Thailand and unknowingly involve yourself in such disgusting behavior, it's equally naive to make a decision based on one persons perspective.

  • juliet said

    Thanks to this article, I removed the 2 elephant rides my travel agent added to the itinerary.

  • elephant highway said

    Thanks allot for sharing.Let's hope responsible tourism will soon take over.It is just awesome.

  • Tracy said

    What do you think about Elefantastic in Jaipur India? Your article was so awakening for me. I asked Elefantastic about how they raise their young elephants, about their breaking in process, and whether the weight of passengers was considered, and asked for general thoughts. He first responded via email asking me if I worked for Elephant Nature Park or Boon Loot's Elephant Sanctuary. When I told him no, he sent me another email basically advertising the elephant adventure, but did not address my questions. I presume that is a bad sign but just wanted to see your thoughts. Thank you!

  • Ewa Narkiewicz said

    If you still believe that the person who wrote the article has any credibility, and refuse to believe the facts such as successful elephant births to refute the anti elephant propaganda, let me use simple mathematics to prove some of information to be wrong. She states that an elephant giving rides is equivalent to a human carrying around 50 pounds (22.9 kgs approx) for 9 hours. The ratio would be 30.5% of the average human weight of 75kgs. Please also note that this is not equal equivalency (to the elephant’s advantage), as humans are bipedal and elephants are quadrupeds, making extra weight more stable, dispersed, and balanced for the elephant.<br>So if the average weight of a human is 75kgs and the average weight of a male elephant is 5000kgs relatively speaking the human weight would equal to 1.5% of the male elephants weight. The male elephant would be carrying the average human equivalent of 1.125kgs on his back.<br>With regard to the average weight of a female elephant being 2700kgs, the human weight of 75kgs would equal to 2.8% of the female elephants weight . The female elephant would be carrying the average human equivalent of 1.125kgs on his back.<br>The average weight of a woman’s handbag is between 2.35 and 10kgs!!! So believe what you want but facts and mathematics dont lie.

  • Brenda said

    wow. I can't even believe the ignorant comments on here. Just another reason i hate people sometimes. "elephants don't care. neither do i". really??? they don't care about being hit with bullhooks and being made to walk all friggen day with people on their backs. yeah ok. ignorant fvcks.

  • Real Traveler said

    This must be one of the worst and most misinformed articles I have ever read on travel. My wife and I have riden elephants bareback in Thailand and even stayed with hill tribe families who raise and train them. I can assure you that 99% of this article is absurd and untrue. I don't want to bother going into details becuse essentially the entire article is inaccurate. My only advice is to go ahead and ride elephants, but do so bareback and work with a hill tribe family. If you do that, everything is fine. It is true that there are some larger commercial groups that should be avoided, but those are easy to spot.

  • Diana Edelman said

    In response to #88. I know who you are. In fact you just commented on my personal blog, which, I must say provides some contradictory information as to what you just posted here. But, before I share that, let me say this -- I have worked with and am still working with elephants. I have traveled through SE Asia -- beyond Thailand -- and seen abuse with my own eyes. The fact of the matter is these animals are wild when they are born. They won't simply LET someone on them, they must go through a breaking in order to do so. So, even if riding an elephant bareback in a hill tribe seems more ethical, the fact of the matter is there was still abuse to get them to this point. <br><br> "... In fact, I am an unmarried researcher and I came across D's blog after spending three months with a hill tribe family that owned and raised elephants in Chiang Mai. I found this blog while searching for certain information to corroborate my findings on elephants and I came across D's absurd and completely misinformed article on why one shouldn't ride elephants. The article was so terribly and scientifically incorrect that I was motivated to learn about the author. As expected, I found a self-loathing American who is somehow enlightened by travel (which every other normal person does) and is so self-absorbed that she failed to overlook two things: her pathetic narcissism and her lack of qualifications to discuss elephants in Thailand. Of course, everyone is a self-proclaimed expert in the blogging world these days. Imagine if one had to spend 6 years earning a Ph.D. as I did. I digress. Yet, as for me, I'm busy living life too so don't worry about that. In fact, I just nailed two smoking hot hookers in Bangkok and they're asleep in my bed at the W as I check my email this morning. However, I don't feel the need to write a blog about it ..."<br>

  • Moon said

    I just love animals! And another news… I just found out that Manila Zoo has a cute elephant named Mali, and she is the only elephant in the Philippines! She has lived there for almost all of her lives, for more than 30 years. The zoo should feel like her sweet and cozy home now. But then, I read some articles in PETAAsiaPacific.com, and I noticed that Mali is in fact sad and lonely! Look at her here: https://www.facebook.com/FreeMali. She is like a prisoner, who cannot spend her days with her friends, roam in vast territories, and have delicious adequate food! She even suffers from foot problems. Why does she deserve this? :( Please Help Her!

  • Robin Peacock said

    I can add to the endorsements for Patara Elephant Farm. <br>The animals are well cared for, fed and live in a family group. They each carry one person and no saddle/seat. They do not do tricks, play football or paint. They are as normal as you can get. This is one place I would recommend to take an elephant ride in Thailand.

  • Ozmates said

    Congratulations! That’s what gaming blogs should write about more often.

  • gemma said

    Just to clarify, this article is very true about captive elephants in THAILAND. Especially with regarss to breaking which is torturous and cruel. However, I worked at an elephant sanctuary in srilanka for 9 months called the millennium elephant foundation. And sri lanka takes a different approach to "breaking" and carig for their elephants. Dont be put off by all elephant riding places, just do your research before hand! Places like MEF do so much good for sick and mistreated elephants and needs the money from the tourism to continue running. But that does not mean the care of the elephants is sacrificed in any way!

  • Alan Boch said

    Looks like conditions in Nepal are not much better...see http://right-tourism.tumblr.com/post/77799679706/get-off-that-elephant-elephant-trekking-in-nepal

  • shar said

    To all stupid ignorant people that comented that they think riding à wild animal is ok<br> it is ripped from its mother as a baby chained beaten deprived of food and water until its spirit is totally dead do your homework. Look at you tube how to control an elephant. go on elephant sanctuary site .. BLES... go on pawsweb.org.... go on elephants.com. this article is correct. True sanctuaries NEVER carry anything in their hand as the elephant knows what the bullhook is for. These creatures are so abused. The so called people need to make a living. Bullshit they are nothing more than animal abusers. Leave all wild animals in the wild ..carole Buckley is in Nepal teaching mahouts positive loving methods no chains no bullhooks no riding them<br>

  • Andrew said

    Thank you so much for your time and research into this topic and for your tolerance of the ignorant. I am ashamed to say that I have ridden on an elephant in Thailand a couple of years ago and only wished that I had seen this article back then or conducted my own research. I am now in bali with some friends who are thinking of doing it tomorrow. I will be using this article to explain to them that it is NOT a good idea and that they should pool the anticipated entrance fee together and donate it to one of the 'true' elephant sanctuaries that does not promote riding (or any other un-natural elephant behaviour) of any kind. Thank you once again diana.

  • Lorenzo said

    And while we're at it let's stop riding horses & owning dogs and cats.

  • Dannielle said

    Great piece. My visit to the elephant nature park in Chiangmai really opened my eyes. You can read about it here http://whileimyoungandskinny.com/2014/08/12/bathing-elephants-at-the-elephant-nature-park-chiang-mai/

  • Eva said

    Very sad and pesimisitc. However, I would like to add one general comment about our attitude to animals in general, which is often somehow schizofrenic. How many of us feels sorry for the poor abused elephants and at the same time enjoying nice steak or chicken for the dinner. On the one hand we care for our pets, on the other we participate in real animal holocaust. We are mostly unaware about the cruelty to animals for food. Go and make your own research. (Sorry for mistakes. English in not my mothertounge.)

  • jennifer said

    D- love your blog! I am in India and have definitely taken elephant riding off my bucket list. I will never ride an elephant now- it is logical to me that no animal in the wild would willingly let a human ride it much less a bench,etc. Isn't that true of bathing and feeding an elephant? Haven't they also been "crushed" to be around humans? On a side note, when I was in Africa I sponsored an orphaned elephant at http://www.sheldrickwildlifetrust.org/ they take in ophaned elephants that have lost ther family due to Ivory poaching at raise them for a few years and release them back into the wild. Just watching the elephants at this sanctuary brought more happiness to me than riding a "slave"

  • Robin said

    Try out the Elephant Nature Park (elephantnaturepark.org) for the best day trip, or week, in Thailand. This is a volunteer-based organization, you can volunteer for a week at a time, or just visit for the day, hang out w/elephants, bath them, feed them, get a delicious lunch. Who really needs to ride an elephant to feel "they arrived" in Thailand?! I was completely shocked to see the noticeable differences in elephant behaviors between those free to roam and those clearly abused. And the folks who really either didn't know better or didn't even notice. I have video of both elephant behaviors...it was so sad, made my heart hurt for the ones in captivity being broken down, in chains, to be used as slaves for making their owners rich.

  • Nubia Jordan said

    My husband and I were in Thailand last year and were so upset and very sad at the way the Elephants were chained and abused. Let me know if there is a place where we can send the complaints.<br>There is so much beauty in Thailand and the people were so amazing this was the only thing that was completely out of balance with the rest of the travel experience.

  • consumermonkey said

    If you disapprove of the treatment of elephants in Thailand, please go to this thread and give your views.......<br>http://www.fodors.com/community/asia/in-chiang-mai-thailand.cfm<br><br>

  • Nik said

    I checked into this article mainly because I know of all the horrors of Elephant abuse in Thailand, I know much about the traditional (and religiously linked) treatments the mahouts use to domesticate and train the elephants from birth and it has always disgusted me. That being said I am in Chiang Mai now and would love to bathe and see some elephants but I wasn't sure of any reputable and humane organizations. A friend of mine volunteered with Surin project and I would love to also volunteer but only have 1 week to spend here. So thanks for the info I will try the Elephant Nature Park and/or come back and volunteer with Surin.<br><br>I would like to add that after skimming some of the comments and arguments people have left I have to say yes and kudos to Eva- I completely agree. and I agree on a non biased point of view as I'm not a vegetarian or vegan but we overlook and mistreat so many animals on this planet. every little step counts in stopping animals from being mistreated and atricles like this help create awareness. Tigers are another big one in Thailand and that disgusts me more. lets drug up a grown wildcat so that people can take there pictures with them. gross. At least 1 species of animal or insect goes extinct every day! (if not more) and don't get me wrong I LOVE and adore animals like elephants, panda bears, polar bears, tigers but we should all be helping to protect ALL the animals of the world, sharks, spiders, bats, "scary" animals INCLUDED. This may be off topic of this article- but still. I recently read an article about a law that was put in place in Canada to protect the bears was lifted because oh it worked and the bears were repopulating so the govt lifted the ban and the hicks went out and killed them all again. Heartbreaking. watch sharkwater. that still happens.<br><br>Anyways thanks for the info, I agree with you Diana.<br>Lets do what we can to help save the animals!

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  • David said

    To say that elephants in captivity are not given enough water is stupid! Water costs nothing, in most circumstances, so why on earth would they be deprived?

  • Vi said

    Interesting article but a little over the top. I am Canadian and we have protestors banning rodeo as cruelty too. Stating the animals are abused. I know that some of these animals are treated better than a lot of people's children and putting a saddle on them and riding them is not torcher. The bond between horse and rider in many cases is incredible and trust is involved. It depends on how they were trained. Abuse, which I am against in all cases ( breaks their spirit) but many people spend countless hrs working with their horse. Gaining their trust and training them it is anything but abuse and horses luv to run. It is a sport and they seem to enjoy it. I agree some parts of rodeo ( calf roping ) the same calf over and over bothers me and their should be guidelines. I will be doing more research on how elephants are treated in Thailand as I love animals but I am skeptical of this article as some of it seems pretty over the top. I know their are abuses and it breaks my heart as to the way some animals are treated It's horrific but like I said I will do more research.

  • Nick perry said

    great article. Some of the skeptics should look up pajaan or pajaan try and find a video of what they do to these amazing animals, it horrible the western world would not accept this if they knew what was involved. I've see with my owe eyes the deformed backs from riding and the broken hips from logging and forced breeding. If u get the chance go to elephant nature park in Thailand, volunteer or go for the day tour. An easy way to see the damage that can be done to these animals If that won't sway you not much will.

  • Erin said

    Wow. Some of the ignorant comments left here are as depressing as the topic at hand. People can be so selfish . Thanks for the information!

  • Edith N. said

    Most of them coming to elephant parks or other wildlife sanctuaries are not at all aware of how these animals are trained to behave to entertain the tourists. They just wanted to have a good time. <br>People will never think that their ride can cause health problems in elephants in a long run. Even I wasn't aware of that. Anyway the article is really informative.


    How can I change my partners mind about elephant cruelty in tourism? He will not accept they are all treated in this manner. He believes there is some cruelty, but mainly elephants are well treated and not abused. Do you have any facts or figures I could have to persuade him to change his mind? He refuses to read all the comments and unlike me, is not a sentimentalist woth regard to animal welfare. Thank you.

  • Lynn A Girard said

    While I agree that there are many places in Thailand that offer elephant rides that are shady, there are also some hidden gems that are great.<br><br>My husband & I visited Patara Elephant Farm when we were in Chiang Mai on our honeymoon. The elephants are treated very well & they only open their gates to a handful of tourists a day, in fact there are more elephants than there are people.

  • ephemeral said

    Great you have wrote a piece on this topic, thank you. Definitely there is a big lack of understanding the problem among travelers I came across in SE Asia, also (if not especially) Western volunteers who think they are actually doing sth good for the local economy...

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  • Sarah Rimmer said

    On a recent visit to Mondulkiri in eastern Cambodia it was pleasing to see that there are now three elephant sanctuaries which provide an alternative to elephant riding tours. I was really impressed with the work of the locally run Mondulkiri Project elephant sanctuary. They have rented a large area of forest to protect it from logging. This forest now provides a wonderful area for their three elephants to wander around in. If you are in the area visit them to support their plans to help more elephants live at their sanctuary away from tourist rides. http://www.mondulkiriproject.org

  • Tania oliver said

    Please save Elephants from their suffering abuse neglect disrespect chains Bullhooks and mental anguish Now!

  • riya balyan said

    we should respect others emotions. hame dusro ka bhi to chochna chaiye kyoki vo bhi hamari tereh jee te h we should remember that we r enjoying for few minutes and thet r being tortured whole life

  • aditya said


  • aditya said

    nice post

  • Eric said

    This article is very misleading. It implies that all elephant trainers use inhumane methods, which simply is not true, and it's actually defamatory to imply that it is true. it's unfair stereotyping. Yes, many trainers are inhumane. In fact maybe the majority are. But it does not follow that every trainer is inhumane, or that they all use hooks and electric prods. There is a right way and a wrong way to do anything, and what you're saying here is that everyone does things the wrong way. That's false and you shouldn't be saying that.

    Instead you should be saying that because the average person has no way to know whether humane techniques have been used, unless they are prepared to invest time investigating into what methods are used, they should not consider this activity. i think you're maligning quite a lot of decent people along with those who are less honorable. In Thailand, elephants are sacred animals and most Thais would not endorse their abuse.

    To say this:

    "This is the general and accepted practice in Thailand, and the ones every elephant has undergone that is at a trekking camp or circus."

    Is not just bad writing, it's a lie. It implies that all Thai people accept these bad practices, and insinuates that *every* elephant is trained this way. In reality, while there may be some bad operators, there is also a tradition of elephant training that is much older than the tourism industry, and it predates the invention of bull hooks and electric prods, which are not part of the ancient tradition of elephant training. I have also had the privilege to meet and work with elephant trainers who do not use these cruel methods and who genuinely show love and respect to the animals they work with.

    I'm sure you wrote this with the best of intentions, but there was a better way to write it. I hope that if you're inspired to write similar articles in the future, you will invest some time to do proper research instead of relying solely on animal welfare groups as your source of information. Some of these groups are honest, but there's also a lot of corrupt charities too. They need to make people think the situation is a lot worse than it is in order to keep people sending in money.

    Want a much better reason to not ride elephants? Here it is: An elephant is a big, strong animal which can kill you easily.... possibly by accident. You shouldn't ride them because it's dangerous. And it's even more dangerous if they haven't been correctly trained using humane methods.

  • Kelly said

    I'm not sure if this was addressed in the comment section and I know that this article is older, but it could be important to add in the edit that the reason elephant spines become damaged is because of their shape. Your article was one of the first that came up in a search when I was trying to find an article discussing why you shouldn't ride elephants. I think of people knew the anatomy of the elephant was what caused them so much pain/damage then people might understand more. I saw one commenter argue that we ride horses and they are fine. Yes, horses have rounded spines. Elephant spines are comprised of vertebrae that point upwards toward their backs. It's not so much about the heaviness as it is the pure anatomy of the animal. Please consider adding this to your section of elephant health since your article is still popping up high on search engines :)

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  • Terri Ducay said

    Elephant Nature Park is not a good place for an elephant. It is very clever at hiding the real facts.

  • Casifup said

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  • Rebecca said

    It is sad to see that many of the comments are from 6 years ago, and elephant rides still are thriving in Thailand. Elephants in the wild get their love and attention and support from their family group. Any elephant who is docile while humans climb on and off its back and takes them for a ride is an elephant whose spirit has been broken. Some physically and mentally abused human children seem to be functioning in the world, too. Please - support sanctuaries, work to ban ivory trade, trophy hunting... there are many ways to show love for elephants. "Rides" are not a part of elephant welfare.

  • Terry Johnson said

    You might want to spend a little time at Maesi Elephant Camp outside of Chiang Mai. It might change your mind about riding bareback on an elephant. Here is a story about our visit there: http://funnyplumber.com/Stories/04-26-08_Mahout_Training.pdf

  • Angelina said

    I went on an elephant rude in Laos, it was at an elephant protection centre, instead of sitting on the howdah we just sit on the elephant. we got told that the wooden howdah weighs about 300kgs as well as that they have to carry the human weight. soil you ever go to a elephant protection centre and they have howdah's they aren't protecting them at all.

  • Le Passage Bureau said

    good post
    loved going through it

  • Dan Koehl said

    Diana Edelman is unfortunately not an expert on elephants, or elephants riding, even if she pretend to be, after spending a week at Lek Chailerts animal rights activists propaganda center, where Lek let people watch her +20 year old film, in order to move their hearts, and open up their wallets. Apart from that, several remarks and comments above regarding saddles and howdahs, neither reflect any expertise or personal reference, its just repeating what someone told them. Its very sad to see how easy the public swallow all lies and manipulation by the animal rights activists, without ever question their motives, their agenda, and any kind of scientific proof or evidence for their claims.

  • jirasin kaslangka said

    You might want to spend a little time at Maesi Elephant Camp outside of Chiang Mai or other camps in Thailand. It might change your mind about riding bareback on an elephant.

  • Abhi M said

    Also read What is the biggest cruelty of human beings towards other animals? here https://www.letsdiskuss.com/what-is-the-biggest-cruelty-of-human-beings-towards-other-animals

  • Chanaka Abeysinghe said

    Sorry for my ignorance...

    what about horseback riding? Is that not animal cruelty??

    What about fox 🦊 hunting on horseback? Is that not animal cruelty??

  • Rafal Kaminski said

    I support the elephant freedom from abuse. A man should not use a god creature for exploration and monetary use…

  • Lashunda Culler said


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  • Thy said

    Hi. I have witnessed elephant abuse at an elephant riding spot in Ayutthaya, Thailand. I am sick to my stomach remembering how they repeatedly hit the elephants with a bull hook to control them. Please, I hope these animals can be rescued.

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