Riding elephants & stroking adult tigers seem to be a quintessential thing to do whilst visiting this beautiful country. People queue up without a care in the world to see these tremendous & beautiful creatures up close & you can certainly see why, it appears to be an amazing experience.
there is quite a lot more than meets the eye behind these two seemingly harmless activities.
Lets start with the elephants. Despite their imposing size and tremendous strength they aren’t built to carry weight on top of their backs and in doing so can be quite painful for them. Much like horses elephants also need to be trained to allow someone to ride on them, however the training process for elephants in SouthEast Asia is much more brutal than that of horses and is normally done at a very young age.
What is even more worrying is that all of this is occurring which is probably not helping the asian elephant in its rapid decline as an EDGE species.
When Patrick & I visited the amazing Nuang waterfall II in Koh Samui, our guide was keen for us to see the elephants and ride them. Please do not misinterprate this, I do not think for one second they intend to cause pain for fun, but with the growing tourism and everyone wanting to ride or watch an elephant do tricks it is a growing way of making an income.
As you may have guessed we said no thankyou. As we clambered the rocks of the waterfall we could see the elephants below being led in a circular route, no longer than 300m, over & over again – that couldn’t be much fun even without humans sitting on their backs.
Tigers have long been one of my favourite animals, with their intricate striped coats and jewel-like eyes, so it broke my heart when I studies animal welfare at university the capturing and drugging of tigers just for a photo opportunity.
You may see litterings of pictures with tigers on social media after friends have visited beautiful places in SouthEast Asia, often heavy chains holding around the tigers necks and pupils wide due to drugs. To be fair, heavy chains would be one of the only things to hold the brute strength of a tiger.
However, if these beautiful creatures were ‘rescued’ as often stated, would it not be more humane to have a large enclosure, no human interaction, but perhaps a viewing deck. These features would certainly allow more of the five freedoms (please note, these are UK legislations) that every animal should have, to be carried out… don’t you think?
I hope this helps you make a more informed decision whether you want to ride an elephant or stroke a tiger, as I know many people are completely unaware of how they are treated.
If you are looking for an alternative as you would like to see these stunning creatures, I would suggest visiting an elephant sanctuary or a tiger conservatory where you don’t ride an elephant or interact with an adult tiger. These conservation places are raising vital funds to help stop poaching and maintain the already dwindling populations of these magnificent animals.
Sorry that this is a lot more ranty than my usual cheery travel or food posts, but it is an important issue that I feel is far too often overlooked.