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ethical elephant riding - is there such a thing? advice plea

england
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422 posts
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ethical elephant riding - is there such a thing? advice plea

I have been doing loads of research on this and have deduced that when looking for a trip i should look for riding on the neck (not on a seat), no use of bull hooks, and no chaining the elephants up - and of course, no stupid tricks.

I thought i had found a place which comes highly recommended on trip advisor Baan Chang, but i emailed them and they said they did use the occasional bull hook for the safety of riders.

i am really disappointed as i really wanted to do this but i guess maybe not now.

i know that there are the 2 reserves without the riding but do you think there is anywhere ethical which does the riding?

thank you

Chiang Mai, Thailand
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564 posts
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1. Re: ethical elephant riding - is there such a thing? advice plea

Depends on your definition of ethical. All camps use bull hooks, mostly for tapping and not for hooking. I suppose if you are looking for truly ethical, all the animals would be roaming free... But I suppose living a good life of not worrying about being prey and being fed consistently, and cared for by loving humans is ethical as well(hope my dogs agree.)

There is one camp that will not let you ride and will make you watch a video of some baby elephants being "broken-in" Although, it has actually happened, it seems they use the video to sensationalize it and to sell more tickets to their camp (FYI, they still use bull hooks) Its the same with dog training, there is positive reinforcement and negative reinforcement, both work, for elephants as well. Camps in Chiang Mai prefer to use positive reinforcement

That being said, you can feel pretty safe about picking any elephant camp in Chiang Mai as they are not known for any mistreatment of their animals.

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Chiang Mai
Chiang Mai
Chiang Mai Province, Thailand
Perth, Australia
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2. Re: ethical elephant riding - is there such a thing? advice plea

Hi bryan,

I've been to the Elephant Nature Park and loved it and all that they stand for there regarding the treatment of elephants in captivity. I haven't ridden an elephant, mainly because of my back problems and, like you, I wouldn't ride an elephant sitting on a seat because of the damage the weight does to its back.

Also, like you, I abhore the idea of chaining or hooks, however, I think that we might have to look at this realistically. In a perfect world, the elephants would live freely in their own habitat and never have interactions with humans. However, if we want to ride them, we are interacting with them very closely and the people who provide this experience have to do everything possible to make sure that visitors are kept safe. I don't know if there is any other option available, other than using a bull hook, for controlling an elephant should it decide to rampage with a person on its back.

Also, I believe that elephants may need to be chained at certain times for their own good. For instance, I believe a male elephant comes into 'season' - I think it is called musth (sp?) - and at this time it can be very unpredictable and sometimes dangerous, so it needs to be segregated or chained to protect itself, other elephants, and people.

Furthermore, at night some elephant camps have to chain their elephants to stop them straying into neighbouring villages and trampling their crops. This would make the elephants, and the camp, very unpopular with the villages and the goodwill of the villages is crucial to the survival of these camps.

I agree, it is a tough decision to make and I applaud you for thinking so carefully about this issue.

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Elephant Nature Park
Elephant Nature Park
9,234 Reviews
Chiang Mai, Thailand
Sydney, Australia
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112 reviews
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3. Re: ethical elephant riding - is there such a thing? advice plea

I'd agree with Susan, try the Elephant Nature Park. Apart form a great day out with the elephants, you'll learn lots and have a fantastic lunch as well. And whatever methods they are currently using in the other parks (hooks or no hooks), if the elephants are being ridden, chances are they will have spent time being broken in the most degrading and cruel way. You'll see a video about the training methods if you choose the ENP, and it is confronting, but it helps you to sort out your thoughts about any riding, shows or elephant trained activities.

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Elephant Nature Park
Elephant Nature Park
9,234 Reviews
Chiang Mai, Thailand
Bournemouth, United...
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4. Re: ethical elephant riding - is there such a thing? advice plea

Hi Bryan

Congratulations on asking the ethical question on Elephant riding which usually polarises people into each end of the spectrum.

The Thai tourism ministry (MOTS) is attempting to come up with a "standard" of elephant care within the Tourism camps. The topics covered are not ones usually contemplated like:

· Setting maximum hours for elephant work.

· Setting minimum nutritional standards for eles.

· Exposing their elephants to some veterinary care.

· Having their elephants’ legal papers available (so are not smuggling wild elephants).

· Keeping veterinary and disease records of their elephants.

· Providing insurance for guests.

· Providing insurance and healthcare for mahouts.

The list goes on but many places will fail even these basics - but they should all be questions that people ask before going to an elephant camp.

I hope tripadvisor forgive me, but due to the important nature of this I've added a link to a "blog" post by John Roberts …anantara.com/-Standards--Schmandards--/ discussing the new standards.

Ethics and Elephants is huge, diverse subject and it is probably fair to say that John Roberts has been on an "ethical journey" regarding the domesticated Thai elephant since arriving in Thailand 6 years ago. His blog posts make fascinating reading.

Regards

Mike

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Elephants At Home
Elephants At Home
232 Reviews
Chiang Mai, Thailand
Brisbane, Australia
Destination Expert
for Chiang Mai
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10,291 posts
51 reviews
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5. Re: ethical elephant riding - is there such a thing? advice plea

The Thai Elephant Home do not use baskets or have tricks or shows. It is worth having a look at their web page. They offer a variety of packages inc a 2hr package if time is short. It gets fabulous reviews here on TA. Currently rated no 3 thing to do.

Caroline.

Edited: 22 March 2013, 23:04
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Thai Elephant Home
Thai Elephant Home
836 Reviews
Mae Taeng, Thailand
Pattaya, Thailand
Destination Expert
for Pattaya, Ho Chi Minh City
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58 reviews
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6. Re: ethical elephant riding - is there such a thing? advice plea

Riding elephant not very comfy to be honest in chair or not. :D

england
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422 posts
26 reviews
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7. Re: ethical elephant riding - is there such a thing? advice plea

thank to all. what about Patara? it has great reviews? such a difficult decision.

Chiang Mai, Thailand
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564 posts
1 review
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8. Re: ethical elephant riding - is there such a thing? advice plea

Patara will allow bare back riding, the mahout will carry a bull hook, and the price is 5800B/pax. Everyone that I've ever spoke with that has been there has loved it and consider it the most amazing experience. But to be honest, I hear the same response from people that went to Baan Chang, Earth Eco, ENP, etc, etc etc.. Either way it'll be the experience of the lifetime, they will use bull hooks, and you will ride on the neck/back of the elephant(unless you go to ENP). All else being equal, i would lean towards one of the normally priced places(most elephant camps charge ~2500B for the day)

Atlanta, Georgia
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100 posts
62 reviews
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9. Re: ethical elephant riding - is there such a thing? advice plea

I have been to Patara, and I don't remember ever seeing a hook, and I knew what to look for as I had done a lot of research before hand. They would have a stick of bamboo they would tap one leg or another if the elephants were not responding to verbal commands, but that was it.

For me, the reason Patara is worth the additional cost compared to other elephant camps, is the professional photos that are taken of you during the day. The photos are professional and exquisite, and included in high resolution discs at the end of the day. I do professional photography myself at home, and was very pleased with the images. I was unable to really use my camera while riding because I was trying to not fall off, and my camera is not water proof, so I could also not use my camera while we were bathing the elephants. I am so thankful for the photographer on staff who documented the day for me. For me, the photos make Patara worth the additional cost vs other camps, but not everyone would place a high value on photos as I would.

brisbane
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541 posts
13 reviews
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10. Re: ethical elephant riding - is there such a thing? advice plea

It's all very grubby...grubby grubby grubby.

So be a part if it if you want or choose not to.

I've seen elephants chained by one leg and it was constantly rocking trying to pull away...

I will never support a monkey show or elephant riding with my tourist money and I will try to spread a counter message wherever I can...

Put your money into elephant protection in the wild and find something else to do for 'entertainment' rather than be a part of this shame. We ARE the problem. We ARE responsible.

Old Mike