How to See Elephants First Hand!
Elephants are beautiful and highly intelligent creatures. They have close family ties, show empathy, and are one of the few creatures which demonstrate self-awareness. Yet the tragedy is that all too often they are kept in so-called “sanctuaries” in poor conditions and suffer terrible treatment including beatings and stabbings with bullhooks. Even in the wild, elephants do not have an easy time; they are often involved in human-animal-conflict, damaging crops and thus becoming a target for farmers. However, there are still ways to see these creatures whilst avoiding the industry which does them so much harm. Better still, there are opportunities to get involved in their conservation. Read about what goes wrong or scroll to the bottom to find our list of elephant-friendly holidays.
Avoid elephant rides!
Elephants are not domesticated creatures and before they will take part in shows for tourists, they have to go through a ‘breaking’ process where young calves are separated from their mothers and beaten or starved into submission. Research suggests that three in four elephants in captivity across Asia are living in unacceptable conditions. So why do people continue to ride them? Largely those who take part in animal tourism do so because they love animals. They do care, they simply do not know the damage they are causing.
So what can you do?
The best thing you can do is to arm yourself with knowledge and to seek out the opportunities which support the continued fair treatment of elephants. There are a number of sources online which will help you find a better way to see these animals. Truly “elephant-friendly” venues will:
- Allow elephants to move around freely and interact with each other
- Not use elephants for rides, shows, or tricks
- Limit elephant contact with visitors
- Offer education on elephant welfare
- Restrict captive breeding
More than four fifths of travelers polled have said they would prefer to see animals in the wild if given a chance and naturally this is the best option by far. After all, elephants are wild animals. Although Asian elephant numbers are declining, it is still possible to find them in the wild in parts of Sri Lanka such as Uda Walawe, Wilpattu or Minneriya National Parks.
Eco Companion offer a number of projects where you can directly help with the conservation efforts for both Asian and African elephants and see them in the wild at the same time: