One of the top attractions that many wish to do while visiting Thailand is to ride an elephant. These gentle giants are incredibly smart and emotional beings that are definitely worth visiting. However, there is a present threat to these endangered animals that many are not aware of.
Because tourism is a high source of profit, riding elephants at “trekking camps” are more popular than ever. Tourists just want to check it off their bucket-list; not really knowing the harm it brings to these animals. These camps overwork the elephants for long hours each day and are not properly nourished.
Although elephants are strong, especially their necks and trunks, they have a weak back and are not meant to support more than 100kg. Ironically, in the trekking camps the elephants are forced to carry a heavy seat along with several passengers on their back. This sad reality can change one’s outlook on riding an elephant, as it did for me.
Fortunately, there are places where the animals are protected, taken care of and where you can come up close and interact with them in their natural environment. I had the opportunity to volunteer at Elephants World, a non-profit organization and a sanctuary, “a retirement home” for sick, old, disabled, abused and rescued elephants.
As a volunteer, you have the chance to gather and plant food for them, prepare their meal, feed them, bathe them, and watch them interact with other elephants. At Elephant World their motto is, ‘we work for the elephants, the elephants do not work for us.’
So I encourage you to not ride an elephant, but to walk with them, to feed them, bathe them and understand these magnificent animals better.