Elephants in water watched by World Animal Protection staff

Elephant-friendly tourist guide


Right now, thousands of elephants around the world are suffering in the name of tourism. But it doesn’t have to be this way.

An elephant performing tricks

Trained to perform

Asian elephants may be trained, using a stick with a sharp hook, to perform tricks for crowds of tourists.

Chained elephant at Mason Elephant Park, Bali

Chained and confined

An elephant kept on a chain is likely an elephant used for rides or performances for tourists. World Animal Protection believes that wild animals should be left in the wild and not used for our entertainment.


Surrounded by crowds

After or during tourist shows, elephants can be surrounded by crowds for selfie opportunities. Being wild animals, captive elephants can be unpredictable and dangerous, especially if they're being crowded.

Elephant-friendly tourism: a simple guide

Elephants are wild animals that belong in the wild. If a venue allows you to get close enough to ride, bath or touch them, it’s because they’ve been cruelly trained.

Elephants in the wild spend their days roaming long distances, grazing and socialising with other elephants, not confined in small enclosures or forced to perform.

Baby elephants are tourist magnets, but true elephant-friendly venues shouldn’t allow breeding. You shouldn’t be seeing young elephants, except for orphanages where babies are rescued from the wild.

Being wild animals, captive elephants can be unpredictable and dangerous, especially if they're being crowded. Many tourists and mahouts are injured and killed each year. Even in elephant-friendly venues you’ll often see mahouts accompanying elephants at a distance, to keep everyone safe.

As well as responsible tourism, you can also help by raising awareness:


  • Sharing your experience and leaving reviews on popular travel information sites like TripAdvisor, and joining part of the movement to create a better future for elephants.
  • Only visit venues where you can look, not touch.
  • If the elephants in a venue are not allowed to move freely and express natural behaviour, it’s not the place for you.
  • They might be cute, but if you can see or touch a baby elephant, especially without its mum, then the venue is not elephant-friendly.
  • Elephants should always be treated with kindness and respect, and hooks shouldn’t be used unless in a real emergency.

Better for elephants. Better for tourism.

We spent several years helping one venue become truly elephant friendly.

With our support, together with support from the TUI Care Foundation, and the encouragement from some of the world’s leading travel companies, Thailand's 
ChangChill is now a place where elephants can be elephants, and tourists can have the honour of witnessing that.

What's in a name?

A venue may call itself a sanctuary, rescue centre or retirement home for elephants, but don’t assume this means it’s higher welfare. Do your research before booking and use our guide below to avoid being misled.

Here is a list of elephant venues that scored well overall during assessments in 2020. Please always look at a venue’s website and social media feed before you travel in case any policies change over time.



Boon Lott's Elephant Sanctuary 

Burm and Emily's Elephant Sanctuary

Elephant Nature Park

Following Giants

Global Vision International

Kindred Spirit Elephant Sanctuary

Mahouts Elephant Foundation

Phuket Elephant Sanctuary

Somboon Legacy Foundation


Elephant Valley Project


Association Moey

Tiger Tops Tharu lodge


Wildlife SOS - Elephant Conservation and Care Centre


Laos Elephant Conservation Center


Sri Lanka

Elephant Transit Home


Elephants giving a performance in front of a large crowd of tourists at a wildlife venue in Thailand

Elephants need your protection

Take action

Across the world, elephants are secretly abused in the name of entertainment. Your support could help give suffering elephants a safe and happy life in a peaceful forest home We want to end elephant abuse forever, and we have a plan. With trusted partners in the industry, we're working with tourist venues in Thailand to transform venues into destinations that are elephant-friendly, creating habitats for elephants to live happy and healthy lives. Your support could make such a difference.

Help end elephant's pain today
Dolphin pod swimming in the wild

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