If you love elephants...
Throughout Asia, elephant tourism caters to holiday makers. Often at elephants camps, the elephants and their mahouts are overworked and living conditions are poor.
Please do not ride elephants. They have been subjected to harsh training to carry a chair on their backs. Their days are long, there is no social interaction with other elephants, limited food, water, rest, they are often dehydrated, underweight, beaten if they don't want to work.
let them live free
Elephants are brutally trained to perform tricks, paint pictures, and give rides to the millions of tourists annually. Behind the scenes elephants are beaten and stabbed with hooks, nails, knives and spears to force them to obey and do the same repetitive routine each day.
When they are not working, they are chained, often dehydrated, underfed, over-worked, tired, and suffer physical and psychological trauma. Many have wounds and scars from years of abuse. They are deprived of natural behaviours and social interaction with other elephants.
beaten, trained, starved
don't go to shows
If there isn't an audience, there won't be a show.
Often at camps and zoos throughout Asia, elephants are trained to perform degrading and unnatural tricks at shows up to 3 times a day. This usually includes a game of football, basketball, throwing darts at balloons, twirling hoops in the air, balancing on front and back legs, headstands, playing musical instruments, and riding a bicycle, accompanied with deafening loud music.
Circuses deny elephants any form of natural behaviour causing mental and physical trauma.
elephants don't paint in the wild
don't buy paintings
A popular myth is that elephants love to paint, however elephants do not paint in the wild.
Captive held elephants are trained through pain inflicted force to hold a brush and memorize the same repetitive strokes to paint flowers or trees for tourists to buy. They endure months of physical training and are often beaten as punishment with a hook or nail rammed into the sensitive part of their ear if they do not obey.
Please don't buy paintings and contribute to elephant cruelty.
let elephants bathe in peace
don't swim or mud bathe with elephants
Elephants love to socialize and bathe either on their own or with other elephants. To do this, they need space to splash, roll around, submerge, and cover themselves in lovely thick mud. If people are in the water crowding around, it is not only stressful for the elephants but also prohibits an elephants' natural behaviours.
By observing elephants from a distance, you are allowing elephants to simply be elephants. Not only is this educational but you are also able to take the most stunning photos and videos.
Some projects offer a short feeding program with a limited up close interaction. This is a low impact activity if there are not large crowds of people surrounding the elephant.
If You Love Elephants...
observe from a respectful distance
natural forest environment
Choose an elephant experience where you can walk with the elephants, stand back, and observe from a respectful distance as they express natural behaviours. By giving elephants their space, they have the freedom to play, bathe, socialise and enjoy their day.
Elephants don't like loud noises, huge groups of people crowding around, or constantly being touched.
Many captive elephants have spent their entire lives working hard and they deserve to live peacefully and as close to a wild environment as possible.
What is sanctuary?
Defined as 'a place of refuge or safety', a sanctuary (ethical project, or rescue centre) should put the welfare of their elephants first, with safety for the elephants and visitors of paramount importance. This means that visitors should not be offered elephant rides, shows, bathing, mud bathing, should not be allowed to hug the elephants' trunk, sit or lie on the elephants, and there should be no loud noisy groups or crowding around the elephants.
Wild elephants live in the Asian rainforests or the plains of Africa, this is their natural home. Sanctuaries, rescue centres and ethical projects should be offering their captive elephants a life as close to the wild as possible, and your elephant experience should resemble this.
When is a sanctuary not a sanctuary?
The use of the word 'ethical' and 'sanctuary' has become popular across Asia and can be very misleading. If your elephant experience includes the following then you are not at a true sanctuary:
- Playing with baby elephants, smothering mud on an elephant, throwing buckets of water or getting in the water with the elephants - your chosen project is not putting the elephants' welfare first. These activities are only for the visitor, not for the elephant.
- If mahouts (elephant handlers) are constantly shouting, controlling the elephants very closely (often with hidden nails), or pulling their ears, then you are not at an ethical project or sanctuary.
- If the mahout tells you that it is normal for the elephants to sway their heads in a bobbing motion, that they are happy and dancing, then you are not at an ethical project or sanctuary. When elephants sway their heads or swing their legs repetitively, this is a clear indication of stressful behaviour.