Elephant friendly traveller

Be an elephant friendly traveller these Easter holidays


Throughout Thailand, Bali and other parts of Asia, elephants are exploited by the tourism industry for entertainment and profit.

Often tourists don’t realise just how cruel elephant rides or shows are, because a lot of the suffering goes-on out of sight.

If you want to see elephants on your next holiday, keep these elephant friendly travel tips in mind. Making elephant friendly decisions can not only help to end the exploitation – it can also contribute to the welfare of these sentient animals.

Don’t get taken for a ride

Despite what some venues tell you, there are no responsible elephant rides or shows. Captive elephants go through a cruel training process called ‘the crush’ – where they are physically restrained, beaten with sharp metal bullhooks, and deprived of food and water – to make them submit to human interactions.

Once their spirits have been broken, they are chained up in isolation between giving rides or performances – all deeply distressing and damaging for these intelligent, social animals.

Also stay away from seemingly innocuous activities like elephant painting and washing. Even though the contact is gentle, elephants will have been brutally trained to accept it.

See elephants in the wild

Getting up close to captive elephants cannot compare to the truly special experience of seeing elephants in wild.

World Expeditions runs a tour in support of World Animal Protection through Thailand’s national parks – home to populations of wild elephants as well as abundant other native wildlife. 

Visit a genuine sanctuary

Many elephant venues claim to be ‘sanctuaries’, but don’t take them at their word. It’s important to properly assess whether an attraction is actually elephant friendly.

Elephant friendly venues do not use elephants for entertainment or allow any tourist-elephant contact. They give elephants wild or semi-wild living conditions where they can socialise, move freely and forage. A true sanctuary rescues elephants from captivity and does not breed them. And it should educate visitors about elephant welfare and conservation.

Volunteer with a nature conservation project

Some ecotourism operators offer volunteer trips for travellers to actively contribute to elephant conservation – by planting trees to rebuild their natural habitats and monitoring their numbers and patterns, for example.

Speak out

If you visit a venue where elephants are being mistreated, record it and report it to the local authorities or a local animal welfare organisation.

And spread the word about elephant friendly travel to your friends and family. The more people who know about the cruelty involved in most elephant venues ­– and the positive travel alternatives – the less demand there will be for attractions that exploit these beautiful wild animals.

Making elephant friendly decisions can not only help to end the exploitation – it can also contribute to the welfare of these sentient animals.

More about