Ethical Elephant Centres in Thailand where the word “sanctuary” is more than a marketing ploy

Animal welfare is a real concern for many travellers and in Thailand. The remedy of captive elephants is one thing which must be on everybody’s thoughts. Various elephant centres name themselves sanctuaries, however there are at present no agreed requirements, and typically the word is added as a cynical marketing ploy.

ABTA (the Association of British Travel Agents) just lately issued a directive advising in opposition to all types of contact, together with driving and bathing and solely permitting feeding where there’s a barrier.

As I uncover, are few locations adhere to those pointers.

Elephants have been a part of Thailand’s historical past and tradition for hundreds of years and have been used in warfare, transport and, till just lately, in the forestry business. In 1989, on account of environmental issues, the authorities banned all logging and all of the sudden 1000’s of animals, together with their mahouts, have been out of labor. Since they eat round 250kgs a day, at the price of £1000 a month, the solely approach of holding them alive was by way of tourism.

Elephants World

Elephant world
Elephants World. Feeding is allowed

I drive round three hours west from Bangkok to Kanchanaburi to go to Elephants World based in 2008 by a Thai vet and his spouse. They began with three and now have 22 animals right here. It’s a lovely spacious website, on the banks of the River Kwai, and the care feels good. Feeding is allowed behind a barrier from specifically constructed walkways, and driving is positively out. However, I’m stunned to see that they permit vacationers to hitch the elephants for his or her morning bathtub in the river, though numbers are saved low.

Green Elephant Sanctuary Park

Green elephant sanctuary
Green elephant sanctuary park

A flight south brings me to the island of Phuket, where centres have been established for these vacationers searching for a respite from solar and sand. It’s right here where I hear horrible tales of animals being shackled by the aspect of the street, providing rides in the noon solar. Thankfully Green Elephant Sanctuary Park doesn’t supply driving, however it does cater for giant teams.

There are 14 elephants, together with a child born right here and feeding is allowed, as is bathing. I’m involved to see a handful of animals, crowded by round 20 vacationers in a tiny pool, not least for well being and security.

Phang Nga Elephant Park

Phang Nga Hosing elephant
Phang Nga Hosing elephant

Around two hours north is Phang Nga Elephant Park, opened in 2015, which now has simply 9 elephants. It’s on the fringe of a gorgeous fertile forest, and there appears to be a robust bond between the mahouts and their costs. I get to make vitamin balls to feed the elephants straight then stroll alongside them up a tough monitor. Since teams are restricted to 18, this is a chance to actually get shut and spend time with these majestic animals. When we get again, I’m saddened to see that in addition they encourage bathing, though with a lot smaller numbers than in Phuket.

Patara Elephant Farm

Patara baby elephant
Elephant Nature Park Lek Chailert

I fly to Chang Mai, in the north, which is residence to the largest variety of home elephants in the nation. Less than an hour’s drive to the west is Patara Elephant Farm which focuses on breeding. They’ve had 44 infants born right here and the newest is solely 4 months previous. Pat, the Thai proprietor provides us a rundown about elephant healthcare and tells us about his Elephant Owner for a Day programme. It all sounds high quality till I study that you just not solely get to clean your animal in the river but in addition learn to journey on its neck and provides spoken instructions.

Elephant Nature Park

Elephant Nature park
Elephant Nature Park Lek Chailert

60 km exterior Chang Mai is Elephant Nature Park, an animal welfare delight where no contact is allowed in any respect. You view the elephants from a distance on raised walkways and it provides you the impression that you just’re seeing them in the wild. Of course, they’re confined at evening, obeying Thai regulation to stop them devastating farmland, and the males are saved separate from the females.  Interestingly the charismatic founder, Lek Chailert, is fairly blissful to work together with the animals, throwing herself dangerously amongst their legs, however there’s no doubting her dedication.

Friends of the Asian Elephant Hospital

Elephant in Lapang hospital
Elephant in Lapang hospital

Finally, I go to the Friends of the Asian Elephant Hospital in Lampang, the world’s first elephant hospital.

They deal with weak, sick and injured elephants from throughout the nation and still have a cellular clinic. I see two moms present process remedy after emergency caesareans. Their infants grew too giant in the womb, in all probability attributable to vacationers feeding them an excessive amount of fruit, and each died.

Elephant welfare in Thailand

There’s little question that Thailand takes elephant welfare critically and I meet a variety of specialists, together with researchers from Chang Mai University, at a particular convention at Lampang. There’s common settlement that it’s well-nigh not possible to launch captive elephants again in the wild, not least as a result of a lot of their pure habitat has disappeared.

I’ve been impressed with a lot of the services I’ve visited and the progress they’ve made with welfare points. There’s little question that rogue camps nonetheless exist and must be boycotted so that they exit of enterprise. However, what’s sorely missing is a listing of all the centres so vacationers could make an knowledgeable alternative.

TIP: Always ask your tour operator or journey company about welfare requirements earlier than taking one among their excursions. And, in case you’re postpone by visiting captive animals, take a journey to see a few of the 3,000 elephants in the wild. The greatest probability of recognizing them is in three of the nation’s National Parks: Khao Yai (north-east of Bangkok), Kaeng Krachan (south-west of Bangkok) and Kui Buri (south-west of Bangkok).

Fact File

FLY: Many Carriers flies direct to Bangkok after which on to Phuket and Chang Mai.

MORE INFO:  Responsible Travel has recommendation on what to contemplate in case you’re planning to go to an elephant sanctuary or park.

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