Hi! Welcome to Complete City Guides!
My name is Patrick, I'm originally from Sydney (Australia) but grew up in England (my second home) - and I love exploring cities (and writing about it!)
I work online in marketing, which gives me the opportunity to travel around the world full time.
So while I am away, I keep this blog updated with full travel info. I tend to stay in a city for a few months at a time, to really get to know it - then I write guides on it.
Thailand is famous for its elephant related tourist attractions. However many of these involve cruel training methods or cruel elephant rides. "Elephant Nature Park" in Chiang Mai is an elephant sanctuary that seems to really care about their elephants. Read on to find out about our trip to the Elephant Nature Park, and find out what we think of it and how they treat their animals
Elephant sanctuaries are common in Thailand. They all claim to rescue elephants (from cruel conditions), and allow tourists to feed them.
They often give tourists a very fun day, experiencing first hand what it is like to be close to elephants.
However, some do have a darker side...
Even just a few years ago, there were many companies offering 'elephant rides' and 'elephant circus shows'. A lot of these companies still exist, and advertise these cruel activities. But a lot of these companies realised that they can actually make more money by pretending to be an elephant sanctuary. Tourists will pay more for rescue centers, believing that the money goes towards helping elephants.
In Thailand there are lots of elephant rescue / sanctuary companies. However, if you do much research on them you will quickly find the odd few review saying things like "I stayed overnight, and saw that overnight they chain up the elephants" or "I saw the elephant handlers using sticks to control the elephants".
I did a lot of research (hours and hours and hours worth) and could not find anything bad about the Elephant Nature Park in Chiang Mai. This isn't a paid review or anything like that. There were a few other elephant companies in Chiang Mai which had very good reviews, but after reading everything I could (and all YouTube reviews) I often found a few negative comments about most of them. But the Elephant Nature Park had only 100% positive reviews.
So, we decided to book some tickets for Elephant Nature Park.
The only negative reports I found were this from 2011, from Elephant Aid International, however I only found this after I visited. It does include the phrase "They believe that an elephant must be afraid of the mahout in order to be controlled. The idea of positive reinforcement is foreign and was rejected by the majority of them. They do not use elephant hooks but employ other less obvious means to inflict pain to control the elephants. " so bear that in mind. We didn't see any cruelty when we visited..
Elephant Nature Park was founded by Lek Chailert. In 1989 Thailand banned the use of Elephants for logging, so suddenly there were a huge amount of Elephants that had been abandoned by their owners, or sold to tourist companies (for people to ride on their backs... a very cruel activity that seriously harms the animals).
Lek Chailert was a long time elephant campaigner, fighting for their rights. The park opened years ago, and is a popular tourist attraction now. It is recommended that you buy tickets a couple weeks in advance, as they often completely sell out.
I was a bit apprehensive about visiting a place like this, as I don't think animals should be used for entertainment. However these animals do seem to be living a comfortable life. If no tourists came here, there would be no money to look after the elephants, and they would live miserable lives.
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