Should Elephant Riding be off the Tourism Menu?

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'Stuff' reporter Laura Walters feeds an old elephant a ball of enriched sticky rice at Elephants World in Kanchanaburi. Pic: LAURA WALTERS/FAIRFAX NZ

‘Stuff’ reporter Laura Walters feeds an old elephant a ball of enriched sticky rice at Elephants World in Kanchanaburi. Pic: Laura Walters/Fairfax NZ

Tourists from Europe and western countries often had a good grasp of animal welfare issues and were careful about which businesses they supported, World Animal Protection (WAP) Thailand’s Somsak Soonthornnawaphat told Laura Walters of stuff.

However, Thailand was increasingly becoming a destination for domestic tourists and visitors from China and India, where there is less awareness of animal welfare. These tourists more frequently seek out elephant-riding attractions not knowing that some of the elephants had been taken from their mothers and endure pain on a daily basis.

As a result elephant riding and performances are still common in Thailand but steps are being taken to discourage the practice. In 2016, TripAdvisor announced it would stop selling tickets to attractions that facilitated animal cruelty. Top of the list was elephant riding.

One way to avoid being complicit in animal cruelty is to avoid animal attractions altogether but Khun Somsak said if things continued to move in the right direction that shouldn’t be necessary. WAP was working with tourism agencies like Tourism Authority of Thailand to make sure only animal-friendly attractions were recommended to travellers.

There were now more than 100 travel companies across the globe that had signed up to not promote and/or sell packages to elephant riding venues.

Full story at stuff.

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