Ethical eco-tourism is on the rise in Thailand in large thanks to Lek Chailert, founder of Save the Elephant Foundation and Elephant Nature Park in Chiangmai. Many tourists unknowingly choose elephant riding to fill their Thailand tour itinerary. Most (possibly all) these tourists likely don’t know the story behind how elephants come to be ridden otherwise I doubt they would choose to undertake this activity. All elephants that are ridden must be broken through a horrifying process called the “crush” or “phajaan“. Their life is then one of abject servitude, carrying tourists and often living in difficult conditions.
But there are ethical options available that offer meaningful ways to interact with elephants. You can volunteer at Elephant Nature Park, a sanctuary for elephants or at Elephant Haven in Kanchanaburi. By visiting Save the Elephant Foundation you can find many other alternatives to riding elephants. Volunteering offers light work in exchange for spending time with and around elephants in as close to a natural setting as a domesticated elephant can be. It is an amazing life-changing experience.
This video explains exactly what you will experience when you visit either ENP or Elephant Haven. Enjoy.