Responsible travelling: Thailand and elephants sanctuaries

EN, Stories

While visiting many different countries, where we were lucky to see crocodiles, piranhas, slots, snakes, tarantulas, starfishes and a lot of other animals and wildlife. It is important to try to behave accordingly and try not to ruin their wellfare and not distrub them into their natural habitat.

In Thailand there is a big problem of exploitation of the elephants. They are being drugged, beaten and raised as a circus animals from a very young age, so they can earn money for their owners while carrying and amusing tourists from all over the world. They change the thinking of the elephant so drastically, that elephant does not know how to live freely – they need a human to tell them when to eat, when to sleep, when to walk, when to rest. Elephants are not able to understand that they feel sleepy so they should get some sleep, or that they want to have a bath, so they can go and have it right away and they do not need to wait for the tourists to wash them. When they are rescued, they are so abused, that they cannot understand how they can be free, how they are not chained, so usually they become very stressed and scared. It is a long process for the elephant to get used to not being showered by a human or not being chained. Even if they are rescued, for the first couple of months they feel more calm if they are chained and the place where to sleep is shown to them, as they cannot do it themselves anymore. It is a huge stress for them to learn how to be a wild animal again.

So how can we contribute to elephants being treated as elephants in Thailand? Raising awareness about such exploitation started to dictate the supply, so there is a new “trend” to build sanctuaries for these beautiful creatures where they are treated properly. The one we have visited, which is close to Chiang Rai, is called Elephant Valley (www.elephantvalleythailand.com). Here they rescue elephants from the previous life’s as circus animals, and try to bring them back to normal life. They try to teach them how to sleep without being chained and told, how to get a bath by themselves by getting into a small lake, how to walk wherever they want to and live freely. It is a long process to get them used to it, but they are continuously taught to be more and more free. We were able to see elephants just being elephants. We were looking at them from quite a distance, helped with giving food during breakfast and lunch. If you want, you can volunteer by helping to clean the sanctuary and prepare food for the elephants. They will need quite a lot of years to adapt and to start enjoying their free life again, but it is beautiful to see how they are happy and enjoying their elephantish life.

If you feel the same way – share this story so all the tourists be aware of the welfare of the elephants and if you decide to see them in Thailand, chose a place where your money really helps!