Wednesday, 15 August 2018

How ethical is the elephant ‘sanctuary' you're visiting?

On the eve of World Elephant Day experts advise how to avoid cruel elephant attractions and support genuine welfare centres

Sat 11 Aug 2018 10.00 BSTLast modified on Sun 12 Aug 2018 13.07 BST

“Many parks advertise themselves as sanctuaries but they are not,” says Maria Mossman, founder of non-profit group Action for Elephants UK. “Never go to a park that advertises shows, unnatural behaviour, tricks or painting – and please, never ride an elephant.”

Mossman, who has been involved in elephant activism since 2013, and also organises global marches, says that real sanctuaries will limit contact with the elephants, with visitors observing them from a distance the majority of the time. She warns travellers to avoid anywhere offering riding or allowing bathing sessions with elephants: “In some places this means a lot of people every hour with the elephants in the water – it’s not natural for an elephant to be in the water all day with lots of people climbing all over them.”

Looking on review sites and images online before visiting elephant camps is also advised. Avoid any companies calling themselves “sanctuaries” that are using bull-hooks or chains, or lacking basic provisions of water, food and shade.

Vicki Brown, editor at Responsible Travel, says that the prevalence of riding perpetuates the industry. “It increases demand for captive elephants to be used as tourist attractions – which means more baby elephants must be captured from the wild, or sometimes bred for a life in captivity,” she says. “Captive elephants should be allowed to live as naturally as possible, so if they are forced to display unnatural behaviours – such as dancing, painting or playing football – this is being done for the tourists’ benefit, not the elephants’. Don’t visit these places.”

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