EVERYONE WANTS TO RIDE ELEPHANTS IN THAILAND. INCLUDING ME. THAT WAS UNTIL I DISCOVERED THE UGLY TRUTH ABOUT THIS POPULAR TOURIST ACTIVITY.
Just think how amazing it would be to sit on top of an enormous 10-foot-tall, 5-ton animal while navigating your way through a thick, deep jungle.
This is what many tourists imagine when planning a holiday to Koh Phangan, or Southeast Asia.
However, there is a dark side to the Elephant Trekking industry that many are not aware of…
There is an ancient tradition in the Thai culture called ‘Phajaan’, or otherwise known as ‘elephant crushing’. The process is named elephant crushing because it’s designed to do exactly that, crush the Elephants soul.
Baby Elephants are taken from their mothers and families in the wild. They are confined into a small space, then beaten with bullhooks and other instruments designed to inflict pain. Often, they are starved and deprived of sleep until their spirits are crushed and finally become submissive to humans.
This is standard practice in Thailand, and most of the Elephants you will see in Koh Phangan and other trekking camps have undergone this horrific suffering. If that’s not enough to persuade you to give Elephant Trekking a miss, there’s more.
When the Elephants are not working, they are kept in horrible conditions. The elephants are kept in wooden shacks – chained up where they are restricted to move. They are continuously denied water and food, left starving for many days.
In order to keep the pace going during treks, the guide (mahout) will poke the elephants with a bullhook to keep them moving. The elephants will remember this bullhook from their torture during Phajaan, which will immediately strike fear into them.
Many visitors have reported the elephant park Koh Phangan, witnessing accounts of elephants swaying, pacing, and bobbing – serious signs of psychological stress.
“Dear elephant and animal lovers, this is not the place to go. No matter how well you mean, these magnificent and intelligent creatures are not happy to take you on a ride. They are forced, chained and stressed. This tourist business has to end, help by not supporting it.” – Leanne Prins, Google Reviews.
Do Not Partake In Elephant Trekking in Koh Phangan
By partaking in Elephant Trekking on Koh Phangan or any other South East Asian country you are assisting in promoting and funding these kinds of horrific practices. If a tour guide offers you anything other than spending time with elephants, then don’t do it.
If an elephant ‘sanctuary’ is promoting any kind of riding, circuses or shows, you can be sure the elephants have been a victim of this type of abuse to get them to where they are.
Still want to see Elephants in Thailand?
If you’re still looking for a place to see elephants in Thailand, then I would recommend visiting Elephant Nature Park in Chiang Mai. Elephant Nature Park is a natural home and sanctuary for elephants and other rescue animals.
Here you will be able to observe their freedom and happiness; with no riding, they can now walk, play, swim, eat, and bathe all at their own pace.
Founded in the 1990’s, Elephant Nature Park has provided sanctuary for dozens of distressed elephants from all across Thailand.