Riding on an elephant sounds a bit exotic doesn’t it? I certainly think so. Immediately I visualize riding atop a majestic animal decked out in Southeast Asian silks and gems like some ancient Maharajah’s wife. Ok, that’s a bit far, but you get my drift. The thing is I’ve had the chance to ride atop and elephant, and not just at the zoo, and I passed. That’s right, I gave up my opportunity to – for at least a moment – sit atop one of these beautiful animals and imagine myself as some exotic Asian ruler. Why?
Because I couldn’t guarantee their safety. Yes, their safety.
The thing is, I wasn’t scared about falling off or hurting myself, I was afraid of being a part of the big tourist machine throughout Southeast Asia, the one that practices animal cruelty in the name of tourism and conservation. You see, elephants are BIG business in Southeast Asia. You can hardly get through a major city in Thailand, Laos or Cambodia without someone offering you an elephant riding tour or an elephant painting tour. And some of these tours even claim to be to conservation centers. To me, there is nothing about conservation that puts an elephant on display like a circus animal performing tricks, and carrying humans around all day for their entertainment and enjoyment. And so, offer after offer I passed on my dream. And the more I heard about the way these animals are treated in the name of tourism, the better I felt about my decision.
As we traveled around the world we saw animals of varying species being used for transportation, work and entertainment. Like the animals in a circus, we saw animals performing tricks in city squares, monkey’s chained to an owner performing for coins, larger animals hired out for transportation and in the case of Southeast Asia elephants being used for entertainment. In some cases these were wild animals domesticated for human use, in others they were animals born and bread in captivity. Sure, many of them were well fed, and in many cases beloved and well treated by their owners. However, we had heard too many first -hand stories about what happens to the elephants in Southeast Asia to be willing to take a tour. In fact, things are so out of control that elephant orphanages, rescue centers and homes for abused elephants exist in Thailand.
So what can we do?
Thankfully there are responsible organizations out there that protect these animals from abuse. One of those organizations, Save the Elephants Foundation operates in Chang Mai, Thailand. The provide safety, love and rehabilitation for elephants and open their doors to responsible tourists who want to learn about these majestic creatures without participating in tourism cruelty. Although I never took a chance at riding an elephant, I do wish I had the opportunity to visit this organization and meet the elephants they’ve saved.
Win a Trip to Thailand
The good news is – you can! We’re working with a group of travel bloggers to raise awareness about the Foundation and collect donations to support their efforts! 100% of the proceeds go to supporting the foundation. And here is the best part, every donation enters you to win a TRIP TO THAILAND worth $3300. Thanks to the support of companies like Flight Network, who is donating a $2000 flight voucher, and Where Sidewalks End, who is donating a Thailand tour for two people, you will be able to support responsible tourism in Thailand including elephants. If you win, don’t forget to send us a picture of you with the elephants your donation supports!