Tag Archives: Responsible tourism

Why we don’t ride elephants
(and you shouldn’t either)

At Inspired Adventures, we are constantly striving to find a voice for the voiceless, namely through working with amazing charities across the globe who have the same goal. And, who are more voiceless than the wonderful and enchanting animals that inhabit this earth alongside us?

Animal welfare is certainly close to our heart, and as a responsible and ethically minded organisation, we have recently partnered with the incredible World Animal Protection not only signing their pledge to end animal cruelty but also making a ‘Statement of Intent’ which ensures there is no captive wildlife entertainment in our adventures.

Many people who travel wish to help animals and will often seek out sanctuaries or conservations on their travels where they can make a difference to disadvantaged animals. Unfortunately, this philanthropic-minded approach has seen many ‘attractions’ open (namely in Asia and Africa) that are marketed to travellers as animal ‘conservations.’ Usually, this is not the case.

One form of animal cruelty that is abundant and that many people aren’t aware of is elephant riding. It seems like such a harmless and cultural thing to do when you visit Asia or Africa, yet every time someone takes an elephant ride, it’s providing fuel for this practice to continue.

You’re probably thinking: what’s so bad about riding an elephant? See for yourself.

The “crush” process

Truly wild elephants would never let a human ride on top of them. So in order to tame a wild elephant, from the time it’s a baby, it undergoes a gruelling “crush” process. This breaking of the spirit involves taking a young elephant (most times captured from the wild) who is then confined to a small wooden cage. Whilst in the cage, the elephant’s legs are shackled so it can’t move, and then ritually beaten with bamboo-topped nails, bloodied with bull hooks and deprived of food and water. Here, they learn basic commands too. By the end of this process, the baby elephant is known as “broken”.

A life lived in captivity

Many of the elephants are born and bred in captivity. From the time they can walk, the baby elephants are chained to the older elephants during treks, where they must keep the same pace, which can cause them serious harm. When they aren’t trekking, they are often tied up in chains and go without adequate food and water. If you’ve ever visited a trekking camp and seen the elephants swaying or bobbing their heads, it’s actually a sign of serious psychological stress.

The elephants’ health

Despite being huge animals, an elephant’s spine cannot support the weight of people. Carrying people on their backs all day often leads to permanent spinal injuries. Having large amounts of weight on their back aside, the actual chair placed on their backs cause rubbing, which in turn causes blisters which can get infected. Not to mention the wear and tear on the elephants’ feet, which can lead to long-term injuries.

Elephants have feelings too

Did you know? Elephants are a lot like us. They socialise, have families and friends and can feel emotions. They feel pain and heartache and elephants living in trekking camps don’t get that contact with other elephants they need, just as humans need social interaction. And, baby elephants being ripped away from their mothers can cause distressing psychological damage from a young age.

The issues are far from simple, but as with many things, knowledge is power. So now you know, what can you do about?

For starters, spread the word! Share this article. Let your friends and family know. Also, and this is so simple, but don’t partake in elephant riding or animal interactions that you’re unsure about. If you want to experience animals on your travels then make sure you do your research before you go. There are plenty of real conservation projects that allow you to interact with animals without harming them.

How to recognise an elephant-friendly tourist venue

  1. Elephants aren’t used for entertainment: no rides, activities, shows or any other inappropriate public display.
  2. The venue has a transparent record
  3. No captive breeding is permitted: breeding takes attention away from the important task of rescuing or caring for the elephants.
  4. No commercial trade of elephants: venues acquire elephants via confiscations, donations or as part of an alternative livelihood initiative)
  5. No aversive conditioning is used: Elephants are handled humanely in all situations.
  6. They comply with international husbandry standards
  7. The elephants live in a (semi-)wild environment: the environment allows for social interaction in natural groupings, adequate movement and natural foraging.
  8. Appropriate and accurate education is provided: venues educate their visitors with the aim of raising awareness of animal welfare concerns

Huge thanks to our friends over at World Animal Protection on the best ways to recognise an elephant-friendly tourist venue.

What can I do?

You can also sign World Animal Protections’ pledge to stop the cruelty and abuse suffered by wild animals used for entertainment.

Because demand for the animal entertainment industry is so high, these animals continue to be used and abused for profit in ever increasing numbers. Your signature will help by reducing the demand for animals in entertainment in the countries where you holiday.

We’ve done it! Inspired Adventures recently signed the pledge and a Statement of Intent to ensure there is no captive wildlife entertainment in our adventures.

Feeling inspired to make a difference for the voiceless?

Photo credits: World Animal Protection

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