Following Giants: elephant riding and bathing ends at newly transitioned Thai venue
We worked with Following Giants tourist venue, Thailand, to transition from a traditional trekking camp that offers rides to tourists, to a place where elephants can be free to just be elephants.
Elephants Jahn and Chok recently had their saddles removed for the last time after giving their final ride to entertain tourists at Eco-tourism Koh Lanta – now called Following Giants.
A new life
With help from us, the elephant venue in Thailand recently transitioned from a traditional trekking camp to an observation-only model.
This change ensures that the resident elephants no longer have direct contact with humans.
Jahn and Chok already lived at the Following Giants site. When the venue transitioned, they were joined by 55-year old Sow, who worked in the logging and tourism industries for many decades.
Sow and Jahn have known each other for 30 years, having crossed paths in the logging and tourism industries. We saw the emotional moment Sow and Jahn were reunited. They interlocked their trunks, which is a sign of excitement and affection among elephants.
Watch Jahn and Chok’s emotional final ride below.
An elephant-friendly future
In its previous life – when it was called Eco-tourism Koh Lanta – Following Giants offered elephant rides, elephant bathing experiences and direct interaction with elephants.
When not giving rides, these elephants were typically chained, with no shelter from the sun or elements for hours each day.
The opening of Following Giants follows the successful re-launch of fellow Thai observation-only camp, ChangChill, in 2019. We helped ChangChill make significant changes to the way its resident elephants live.
The transition of both venues gives their elephants freedom to roam, graze and bathe, while happily socialising with each other.
Our global head of wildlife, Audrey Mealia, said: “These elephants have suffered a lifetime of misery, both in logging and the tourist entertainment industry. They have all undergone the harsh training of the crush in order for them to be safe to interact with.
“Venues like Following Giants and ChangChill are transforming the lives of these elephants allowing them to behave naturally and socialize as they would do in the wild and give them a life worth living. Visitors also get to see how elephants behave in family groups and learn more about this endangered species.
“Venues that offer tourists a chance to watch elephants in genuine sanctuaries give us hope that we can encourage the urgently-needed shift in the captive elephant tourism industry.”
Following Giants will reopen for the main tourist season from December 2019 to March 2020.
To find out more about elephant-friendly tourism, read our guide to avoiding venues that don't have elephants’ best interests at heart.