A captive elephant is standing behind a fence while visitors are taking photographs.

Help stop elephants being chained, beaten, abused and made to perform for tourists.


Help stop elephants being chained, beaten, abused and made to perform for tourists

In holiday hotspots, thousands of elephants are being tormented, trained and exploited, all to entertain tourists for money. They’re forced to perform tricks, carry holidaymakers on their backs, or let people touch, wash and pose with them.

These wild animals should be living free in their natural habitat. But instead, baby elephants are torn from their mothers, chained up, put through a brutal training process and forced to endure a lifetime of misery as entertainers.

It’s an outrage that elephants are treated this way. But all too often, tourists simply don’t realise. They go on elephant rides or visit elephant attractions to see animals they love up close, and don’t see the brutal reality behind the scenes.

Together, we can end elephant abuse forever. By exposing the grim reality of elephant tourism and working with venue owners, travel companies and governments, we can give elephants happier, healthier lives.

Captive elephant dressed in decorations. There are two people standing next to the elephants.

Elephants need your help

Will you donate now to help end the abuse and support elephant-friendly tourism?

Donate now

Elephants in the wild

As the world’s largest land-based mammal, elephants can grow up to six metres long and weigh up to 5,000kg.

These huge creatures need space and freedom to thrive. In the wild, elephants travel long distances and spend 12-18 hours a day eating grasses, bark, roots, leaves and stems. They bathe often in water, mud and dust.

Elephants are intelligent, sensitive animals that need the company of others. In their natural habitat, they form close-knit groups with complex social structures, and can live for 70 years.

A life in captivity can never fully meet an elephant’s needs. And all too often, they’re treated appallingly. Elephants are tied up on concrete floors, fed poor diets and given no opportunity to do things they naturally would in the wild.

They spend their lives alone, doing stressful and strenuous work, and tend to die much younger.

A tourist riding an elephant that is wading through water

A lifetime of pain and suffering

Elephants are wild animals with wild instincts. It just isn’t possible to train them in a humane way to cope with the stress of performing for tourists.

Elephants in the tourist trade are forced to endure a horrific training process. Known as ‘the crush’, it’s designed to destroy elephants’ wild spirits so that holidaymakers can touch, wash or ride them without being harmed.

Young elephants are ripped from their mothers, tied up alone, starved and beaten, sometimes for weeks, until they’re terrified into submission. They then spend the rest of their lives in chains, being controlled by poles with sharp hooks.

The constant cruelty elephants suffer causes them immense suffering and trauma.

Elephant at Happy Elephant Care Valley in Thailand - Wildlife. Not entertainers - World Animal Protection

How to support elephant-friendly tourism

Owners often make claims about their welfare policies. But in reality, venues calling themselves ‘elephant sanctuaries’, ‘rescue centres’ or ‘retirement homes’ may still subject elephants to pain and abuse.

If you want to visit a genuinely elephant-friendly attraction on holiday, research them online first to check their approach to animal welfare.


Look for venues that put elephants’ needs first by:

  • giving them space to move and behave naturally
  • allowing people to look at them, but not touch

Avoid venues where:

  • you can ride, wash, bathe with or hug an elephant
  • people routinely use sharp hooks to control elephants
  • baby elephants are on show, especially without their mothers, unless it’s a genuine elephant orphanage with a rewilding programme
Tourists take a ride on an elephant in Thailand

A quick guide to elephant-friendly tourism

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

Read the guide

What we're doing to end the abuse

World Animal Protection is working with governments, travel companies and venue owners to support elephant-friendly tourism.

Our approach includes:

  • Helping tourists understand how harmful activities such as elephant rides, shows and washing can be
  • Developing higher welfare venues and supporting elephant sanctuaries where visitors can look but not touch
  • Improving conditions for elephants that are not in elephant-friendly venues
  • Supporting people whose livelihoods are dependent on elephants to find alternative sources of income as elephant attractions are phased out
  • Making sure strong animal welfare laws and a loophole-free registration process for captive elephants are enforced, so that no more wild elephants are used for entertainment

We’ve shown that observation-only elephant venues can be successful by helping two elephant camps in Thailand transform into high welfare venues.

And when tourism stopped during the COVID-19 pandemic, we helped genuine sanctuaries and high welfare venues feed and care for their elephants.

We’re determined to end elephant abuse and make sure captive elephants’ lives are worth living.

Find out more about our work with elephants:

An elephant is standing behind a fence and is reaching out to tourists with its trunk. The tourists are standing in front of the elephant taking selfies and pictures.

Elephants are not entertainers

The reality of elephant tourism

Want to see elephants on holiday? You’re not alone. But did you know that captive elephants, like many other wild animals around the world are facing a lifetime of suffering, just to entertain tourists?

Find out more
Elephants in water watched by World Animal Protection staff

Elephant-friendly tourist guide

Use our guide to find the right venue for you and for elephants

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

Find out more