How to Tell if an Elephant Sanctuary is Ethical
Updated: Jul 23, 2019
There are dozens of elephant sanctuaries in Chiang Mai which begs the question - which to choose?
The first and most important question you should ask is: is this place ethical?
Sadly, there are many places that describe themselves as elephant-friendly, ethical places when in fact they are mass tourist-churning traps. Below we have listed out a few ways you can spot which ones to avoid.
Avoid elephant sanctuaries that:
1. Offer elephant rides
Now, there are some places that do offer limited elephant rides daily, but the majority of legitimate ethical sanctuaries do not. This is because contrary to popular belief, elephants have very weak backs. And places that offer elephant rides usually have the animals giving lifts to people 8 hours a day. To be safe, avoid these places at all costs. There are other activities to do anyway, such as bathing and feeding :).
2. Forced the elephants to perform unnatural behaviors
If the elephants are forced to perform unnatural behaviors, including painting, juggling a ball, etc. DO NOT GO. They often train the animals intensely; starving them, beating them, and hitting them with sticks or hooks in their ear if they do not do what they are told. Please avoid and contact the local authorities if you see any mistreatment.
3. Keep the animals in small cages
Ethical elephant sanctuaries have open fields for the elephants to roam as they wish. During the day they are bathed and fed and kept in a large enclosure, but at night are free to walk around as they wish. If you see animals in tight cages with little to no moving room, that is a clear red sign to avoid at all costs.
Which one do we recommend?
Doiinthanon Elephant Park is the one we would choose in terms of ethics, quality, and fun. Book through Thailand Wow Hostel and save around 15% off versus booking off of TripAdvisor.