Elephant at a higher welfare venue - World Animal Protection - Wildlife. Not entertainers

Elephant experiences to avoid when travelling



Let's celebrate elephants while keeping in mind that thousands of them continue to suffer due to tourists supporting an industry that profits from cruelty.

Thinking of a summer getaway and adding an elephant experience to your list? We get it. Elephants are fascinating animals and the idea of visiting elephant sanctuaries to interact with these gentle giants can be very tempting.

If you're thinking about going to an elephant venue, it's important that you do your research and that you make sure to select one where elephants are treated like elephants and not pets or circus performers. Choose a venue that respects elephants for the wild creatures they are and educates visitors on their highly complex needs. 

It can be tricky to determine which venues are responsible, so we've put a list together to help you spot the red flags! 

You can also read our Real Responsible Traveller guide to find out more about ethical tourism involving animals 

🚩 Possibility to bathe and ride elephants

If bathing and riding elephants is allowed then, unfortunately, the venue isn't treating the animals responsibly. Elephants may seem happy being washed and ridden but in order to comply they have been trained cruelly. Many venues advertise their tickets with photos of people swimming, bathing, riding and taking selfies with elephants - better keep scrolling.

🚩 Shows and performances are part of the experience

If the experience includes performances and shows where elephants are restricted from moving around and behaving naturally, it's a clear indication that this is not the right place to visit.

In their natural habitat, wild elephants spend their days roaming long distances, interacting with other elephants, and finding food. It's completely inappropriate and cruel to keep them confined in small spaces and subject them to perform tricks for tourists, especially after they have been through harsh and distressing training.

🚩 Selfies and touching

Close-up selfies and touching might seem a little less intense than riding and bathing but it's still another red flag. Similarly to the above examples, the elephants would have undergone cruel and painful training to remain calm in the presence of tourists. Visitors should only watch elephants behaving naturally from a distance, where they can be undisturbed. Anything else is irresponsible and fuelling an industry that is causing a lot of suffering.

🚩 Access to baby elephants

Baby elephants are the cutest but if you can see or touch a young elephant, especially without its mother present, then the venue is absolutely not elephant-friendly. Elephant venues shouldn't engage in breeding activities, so seeing a baby elephant is already a red flag unless you are at an orphanage, where young elephants are rescued from the wild.

Dolphin pod swimming in the wild

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