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This Campaign is Telling People how to Behave around Elephants

This Campaign is Telling People how to Behave around Elephants
These magnificent animals should not be kept captive for our entertainment, Photo Credit: Shutterstock

Elephant cruelty is a worrying tourism trend. A campaign wants to change the narrative around wildlife tourism, particularly elephant viewing.

Ananya Gupta
February 09 , 2021
04 Min Read

Humans like to ride on them, or use them in festivals... even bathing them is a romanticised notion present in several millions of tourists who visit Asia and Africa every year, thinking they are indulging in a cultural experience when in reality, these trends hide a far darker industry.

It is not uncommon today to find Instagram filled with posts of people posing with wild  animals kept in captivity of some kind - tigers in Phuket or with elephants bathing in sanctuaries. According to a study conducted by World Animal Protection (WAP) the increase in the trends of these endless selfies patting the elephant's trunk, taking a bath with them or washing them has consequences. This practice has led to a rise in many elephants being captured from the wild, separated from their families and groups, and kept under cruel conditions, all for some tourism-related money. 

Out of the 3,000 elephants assessed by the WAP, it was found that more than a quarter were living in severely cruel conditions, bound with chains less than 3m long and are forced to stand too close to crowded roads.

 
 
 
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A post shared by Phuket Elephant Sanctuary (@phuketelephantsanctuary)

As these trends have increased so has the industry which often takes these elephants as babies from their mothers. They are forced to undergo harsh training in poor living conditions. More than 160 travel agencies have already banned selling and promotion of such tours which involve tourists getting in direct contact with the elephants. Studies have shown that 'bathing an elephant' tops bucketlist experiences. 

Asian elephants are considered endangered by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) and yet travellers to Asia and Africa often want to indulge in the romanticism of a 'cultural experience' which involves riding and interacting with these elephants.

A group of tourists riding the elephants in Thailand

 
 
 
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A post shared by Animals Asia (@animalsasia)

A campaign by a conservation organisation called Trunk and Leaves is advocating for an ethical elephant experience. It urges tourists to think seriously about how they will interact with elephants going forward, particularly wild Asian elephants, which is the group's focus. Called Ethical Elephant Experiences, the campaign wants to "change the narrative around wildlife tourism, particularly elephant viewing."

Ethical Elephant Experiences wants to teach tourists how to behave when they're observing elephants in the wild. It offers a list of dos and don'ts that includes always remaining in your vehicle, staying at least 64 feet (20 meter) away from the animals, staying quiet, moving slowly, and never approaching from the rear. 

Read up all about it here.


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