Admiring wildlife from afar: Thai venue pioneers elephant-friendly transition

May 29 2018

Happy Elephant Care Valley, in Chiang Mai, Thailand is about to embark on a landmark journey to become a truly elephant-friendly venue. Along with some of the world’s most influential travel companies, we’re working to push the transition forward.

This big step for elephants is all thanks to our coalition of travel industry leaders, which includes TUI Group, The Travel Corporation, Intrepid Group, G Adventures, EXO Travel, Thomas Cook Group, DER Touristik and others.

We're grateful for the generous financial support from TUI Care Foundation, which has helped us reach this significant milestone.

Elephants are wild animals that can only be tamed, not domesticated. Attractions that allow interaction between tourists and elephants use cruel, coercive methods to keep the animals under control.

But at elephant-friendly venues, elephants are kept at a safe distance, so these coercive methods are not needed.

Happy new lives

Until recently, Happy Elephant Care Valley allowed tourists to ride the elephants. This stopped when the travel industry coalition presented a business case demonstrating the rise of elephant-friendly tourism. With this transition, Happy Elephant Care Valley will also end tourists bathing and feeding of elephants as well.

The transition will see the elephants able to behave as as naturally as possible, freely roam in the valley, graze and bathe in rivers as tourists experience these wonders, standing at a safe distance.

Currently, tourists are allowed to feed, touch and interact with the elephants. The elephants are chained at night and during the day and are made to go on walks and swim at certain times for tourist entertainment. The owners and mahouts are keen to improve the lives of their animals and we are working to ensure there will be no interaction and elephants will be free to behave naturally.

Happy Elephant Care Valley hopes to relaunch as an elephant friendly venue in early 2019.

Attitudes are changing

Many venues across Thailand still offer elephant rides. If you can ride an elephant, it means the animal has suffered a cruel and intensive training process to become submissive enough to carry you.

However, a 2017 global study by research company Kantar showed that the number of people who find elephant riding acceptable dropped by 9% in just three years, (from 53% to 44%). It also showed that 80% of tourists would prefer to see elephants in their natural environment, proving elephant-friendly tourism is on the rise.

Our executive director, Josey Kitson said: “Through the support of the world’s leading travel companies we are proving that elephant-friendly venues, those without forced and dangerous interactions with wildlife, make both ethical and financial sense for camp owners.

“Happy Elephant Care Valley’s move is a huge step forward for both elephants and ethical tourists. It will provide an incredible opportunity for the growing number of tourists who want a positive experience seeing elephants behaving naturally and freely as part of a herd.”

Find out how you can avoid cruel wildlife attractions on holiday.

The transition will see the elephants able to behave as as naturally as possible, freely roam in the valley, graze and bathe in rivers as tourists experience these wonders, standing at a safe distance.

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