Why you should never ride an elephant

FlipFlopGlobetrotters.com - Tripadvisor stops selling tickets for animal showsTripAdvisor announced they will be taking a stand against animal cruelty. They’re stopping the sales of tickets for wildlife shows where people can touch wild or endangered animals. As one of the world’s biggest and popular travel websites, TripAdvisor is finally taking some responsibility after pressure from animal rights groups all over the world.

As some of you may have noticed I don’t post a lot on the blog because Lisa is a way better writer than I am. We are both interested in nature and wildlife, which is one of the big reasons we love traveling so much. When I read important wildlife news online or see something on the news that gets my attention, I do want to share this with our readers though.

Big deal: Tripadvisor no longer selling tickets for animal shows!

Is it a big deal TripAdvisor is halting its sales of animal shows you might wonder? I think it is! As one of the largest travel advisory platforms,TripAdvisor has a moral obligation to show travelers the best way they can travel around our beautiful planet without destroying it. Taking animals from the wild to perform for people is something from the last century. It has no place in our world anymore. There still are some loose ends because TripAdvisor will only stop selling tickets for shows “they” think are bad for the animals. At the time of writing this, I don’t know if they will also take the ‘bad’ tours/shows of the site completely. It would be great if they stopped advertising this kind of business. Also, I hope TripAdvisor will put a spotlight on the rehabilitation centers and rescue centers, which are doing great work to help the animals that are victims of the wildlife trade.

FlipFlopGlobetrotters.com - Tripadvisor stops selling tickets for animal shows
Please think about what has been done to this poor animal, only so that you could cross ‘ride an elephant’ off your bucket list

What’s wrong with riding an elephant?

A lot of people don’t understand what is so bad about riding an elephant, they are so big and strong and can easily carry us on their backs. But the story doesn’t start with us getting on this big beautiful animal. The story starts by killing the mother of a baby elephant…

A quick rundown on how an elephant gets to be a tour elephant:

1) Poachers find a mother with her baby elephant in the forest.
2) They KILL the mother and take the baby.
3) In order to ride an elephant, you need to break its spirit.
4) They break an elephant’s spirit by torture and starvation.
5) After this and a lot more, the elephant can be transported (or smuggled) to a tourist attraction near your holiday resort, so you can ride it.

Are you still sure you want to ride that elephant?

If this short summary of how an elephant becomes your tour elephant isn’t graphic enough, take a look at this award-winning picture. It’s made by photographer Brent Lewin, who photographed this disturbing practice in Burma. Make sure to read his story about this picture.

What can you do?

If you are interested in seeing wildlife on your next holiday there are alternatives. It only takes a bit more effort. If you want to see an animal show, the absolute minimum you can do is go online and check the reviews. There really aren’t a lot of animal shows that don’t hurt the animals in one way or the other. After all, animals weren’t born to perform for us humans. So why not consider visiting an animal rescue center or rehabilitation center instead? You can still see the animals but won’t be able to ride or touch them. The experience will be different, but very much worth it. After a trip to a rehabilitation center, at least you know your money will be used to help the animals. Beware that there are many ‘rehabilitation’ centers that aren’t legit. Do your homework before you go on a trip! There are many reviews and blog posts about this topic. For instance this one about ethical animal encounters in Bali or this one about the elephants in Bali (did you know elephants aren’t even native to Bali?).

We as travelers must take our responsibility. It’s all about supply and demand.

FlipFlopGlobetrotters.com - Tripadvisor stops selling tickets for animal shows
Wouldn’t you rather see them like this? This is a herd of wild elephants we spotted while driving our motorbike on a dirt road through Somawathiya National Park near Pollonaruwa in Sri Lanka

Are there any alternatives?

If you are traveling to Thailand and you want to see elephants, a great place to visit one of the elephant rescue centers in Chang Mai province, for instance the Save Elephant Foundation. They have been doing a great job rescuing and helping elephants in need. You can find more information on their website where you can also donate or even sponsor an elephant. Also check out the links at the bottom of this article. When our online efforts start generating some income we will be sponsoring an elephant. I need to make up for the elephant ride I did when I was traveling as a teenager for the first time to Asia back in 2000. Also check out this awesome post about ethical wildlife encounters worldwide. So many ideas!

FlipFlopGlobetrotters.com - Tripadvisor stops selling tickets for animal shows
In 2004 we visited the Gibbon Rehabilitation Project near the Bang Pae Waterfall on Phuket

Don’t take that picture!

Throughout our travels we have seen many different ways of animal cruelty. The most common are the locals on busy boulevards urging you to take pictures with exotic animals. Monitor lizards or monkeys (which are heavily drugged and chained) or snakes to put around your neck. The poor animals are completely at the mercy of their captors, with no free will whatsoever. Don’t hold those animals, don’t take that picture! Please check and you will see that the animals are drugged and chained.

FlipFlopGlobetrotters.com - Tripadvisor stops selling tickets for animal shows
Please, don’t do this! Don’t take that picture! Source: http://www.gibbonproject.org

It all starts with education!

Now we have our own son we make a big effort in telling and showing him the best way to treat any animal (or human) with respect. We urge people to never forget these animals have been through hell to be in the picture with you! Think about that next time you take a picture with a cute little monkey, a lizard, a parrot or whichever other exotic animal the locals offer for you to hold. Or the next time you want to do an excursion where you can ride an elephant or pet a tiger. And teach your kids it’s not ok to treat animals this way. Hopefully our next generation will help preserve animals, instead of abusing and annihilating them.

If there is no demand there is no need for supply!

Read more

If you want to read more, check out some of these links:
Save Elephant Foundation – http://www.saveelephant.org
Gibbon Rehabilitation Project – http://www.gibbonproject.org
Wildlife Friends Foundations Thailand – https://www.wfft.org
Elephants World Kanchanaburi – http://www.elephantsworld.org
Thai Elephant Refuge – http://www.thaielephantrefuge.org
Wildlife Conservation Society – https://thailand.wcs.org

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