October 4, 2022

Forging a New Way in Ethical Elephant Tourism

- By Jennifer Haddow

Continue reading Forging a New Way in Ethical Elephant Tourism

I LOVE Elephants

Over the past decade I’ve spent hundreds of hours with elephants in northern Thailand.

When I first designed our Wild Women adventure tour in Thailand in 2014, I knew that I wanted to bring awareness of the plight of captive elephants and help protect these amazing and endangered species.

Back then, the biggest issue was ending elephant riding tourism in Thailand, where chairs strapped to the backs of elephants would bear well-meaning tourists for long hours every day. I worked with a group of local women who rescued a herd of elephants that had been severely abused by riding, and we brought our groups of Wild Women to visit with them, not riding at all. We were part of the pioneers in the tourism industry trying to make change, and it felt like an uphill battle.

In recent years, there is a growing movement in Thailand and with animal protection organizations calling on tourism leaders to do even better for the thousands of captive elephants in Thailand, elephants who will never be able to be free in the wild.

Forging a New Path 

Wild Women Expeditions is committed to being a leader and holding the highest possible standards for animal welfare in all of our tours.

We are evolving and helping to forge a new way for elephant tourism, aligning with World Animal Protection’s tourism model. Their model is designed to encourage best practices for animal-based tourism and wholly caters to animal welfare. Therefore, in Thailand, we are bringing our groups to a very special camp, ChangChill, to see elephants who are as close to living wild as we can find.

We want you to see elephants who are happy and healthy, and living in a natural way. So on our Thailand tours, we will watch elephants and help prepare their food. We will join a mahout on a one-hour forest hike with the elephants and hear more about their secrets and charms while learning about the history of ChangChill. On this 100% touch-free experience, we will deepen our understanding and connection to these gentle giants.

Our tours will no longer involve bathing and hugging elephants. Not because that is “bad,” but because we want to support elephant camp operators who are creating a better life for elephants, and we are following the guidance of animal welfare experts who are advocating for their care.

We know that tourism is the best option to take care of the elephant population in Thailand and we want to enjoy being around elephants with the lowest negative impact. WE CAN DO THIS.

So for the women who want to ride elephants, or dream of hugging them, I understand. And I also know that elephants deserve love and respect, which may mean giving them more space to be themselves.

I hope you will learn more about elephant conservation and join us in protecting them.

You can visit the magnificent Asian elephants of ChangChill on our Northern Thailand Active Adventure. To book and for other inquiries, please contact adventure@wildwomenexpeditions.com or call 1-888-993-1222.

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