When you are traveling the world, you inevitably will be exposed to many new experiences. New cultures, habits of people, exotic food, and natural environments and animals like elephants, all have an impact on you when you travel. Having all these new experiences sure asks for a lot of energy, but it also gives you an adrenaline boost. Being exposed to new things all the time can even be addictive. All your senses will pick up impulses from a new environment. That’s what travel does, it mostly teaches you about the world and about yourself.
One of those things you’ll learn when you travel is how to interact with wildlife animals. It can be quite overwhelming to see an elephant from up close for the very first time in your life. Touching the thick skin of this majestic animal gives an intense feeling.
But where does the interaction need to stop, taking into account that these animals also have a right to live in their natural environment and to be treated with respect?
The main message of this article explains how not to interact with elephants on your travels and what you ethically should know about the elephant riding travel industry.
Table of contents
Like I wrote before, getting close to majestic wildlife can be quite an experience.
Elephants are beautiful and intelligent animals. Wonderful to see. I understand the reason why tourism in Asia and Africa has incorporated them as a tourist industry. But I don’t support this industry at all.
Countries like Sri Lanka, India, Thailand, Laos, Indonesia, and Cambodia all offer elephant rides for a fee. It all looks very joyful and of course, it’s a unique experience, but the downside to it is a sad truth. Behind the scenes, cruel things happen to the elephants as they experience many years of abuse and torture. The people that ‘train’ these animals first have mentally break the elephants so that they learn how to accept submissions. A good example of such a submission is people riding them.
It’s a sad thing that many travelers are unaware of the torture and mistreatment behind this industry.
The tourist industry of riding elephants
A submissive elephant is not natural. In order to make elephants listen they have to be kept scared. In the tourist industry, these elephants are stabbed with sharp spears if they don’t obey their masters.d with fear of being stabbed by the sharp spears of the elephant keepers.
They have learned in the past that they will get hurt if they don’t obey the command of the elephant keepers. Often, they become mentally sick after years of mistreatment.
The illegal capture and trade of elephants is still a global issue. Many foreign visitors in Asian and African countries dream of a ride on an elephant. People have the joy of watching the elephants do tricks and some will even pay large sums of money for it. No wonder it’s a big hit in the tourist industry.
The nature of an elephant
So yeh, we also keep dogs and cats as our submissive pets, why not an elephant? The difference between a dog, a cat, and an elephant is that the dog is either dominant or submissive in the same way like wolfs live in a pack. It’s rather in the nature of a dog that it can be taught to obey for a reward, without hurting the animal.
A cat can’t really be taught to be submissive, but people usually don’t expect cats to obey them or to do tricks for them. People commonly rather accept a cat’s nature. But because a cat is rather small, it’s possible to be dominant towards it without hurting the animal.
An elephant, in contrary, can’t be taught to be submissive without hurting it. Only by scaring it and by many years of painful torture an elephant can be taught to obey humans and to accept that they will get rewarded for their obedience.
WWF estimates that there are about 40.000-50.000 Asian elephants left. Habitat loss, illegal wildlife trade, genetic threat and illegal ivory trade are some of the reasons why the Asian elephant has become an endangered species.
Protection of their habitat and reducing the human-elephant conflict can help the animals to be saved from extinction.