POLL: Should Asia’s elephant tourism be banned?

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Businesses in Asia have often justified so-called elephant tourism by arguing that the industry benefits elephants and helps safeguard this animal. But new research shows that elephant tourism is actually rife with cruelty.

The survey, conducted by internationally recognized animal welfare group World Animal Protection, found that three out of every four elephants recorded at elephant tourism sites across Asia lived in what the group describes as”harsh” conditions.

In total, 80 percent of the3,000 elephants examined at entertainment sites in , India, Laos, Nepal, and endured sometimes squalid living conditions. Many were also used to provide rides for tourists, forced to wear poorly-fitting steel or wooden saddles and tied to very short chains when not in use.

Photo credit: Thinkstock.

Dr. Jan Schmidt-Burbach, veterinary adviser at World Animal Protection,explained:

The cruel trend of elephants used for rides and shows is growing – we want tourists to know that many of these elephants are taken from their mothers as babies, forced to endure harsh training and suffer poor living conditions throughout their life.

There is an urgent need for tourist education and regulation of wildlife tourist attractions worldwide. Venues that offer tourists a chance to watch elephants in genuine sanctuaries are beacons of hope that can encourage the urgently-needed shift in the captive elephant tourism industry.

A major issue for elephant tourism is that host countries often bill the industry as a force for conservation. The is under threat, with as few as 50,000 wild elephants remaining across the entirety of Asia — due in large part to and .

But, in reality, the elephant entertainment industry often takes baby elephants from the wild and puts them through stressful training — known to outsiders as “the crush.” In order to ensure that the massive animals can be controlled when they are older, the process usually entails developing the elephants’ fear responses and keeping them heavily tied up.

In fact, 77 percent of the captive elephants recorded in this research spend their days and nights chained up whenever they weren’t being used for shows or tourist rides. They were also forced to endure highly solitary conditions which, for social beings like elephants, goes against their most basic needs.

The research revealed that, despite what many elephant tourism businesses claim, few elephants had access to the varied diet they need to remain healthy in captivity. And few had access to proper veterinary care.

While animal tourism businesses may insist that it is in their best interest to ensure that their elephants are well cared for, the reality is that this simply isn’t the case.

And inelephant tourism in Thailand, where the industry has grown over the past ten years, remains incredibly concerning.

To give you an idea of what “elephant tourism” actually entails, UK singer and entertainer Alesha Dixon traveled to Thailand for World Animal Protection to experience an elephant show for herself. The footage she and the WAP team captured includes elephants performing balancing tricks that are not part of their natural behavior.

These scenes may be distressing, but the video also highlights the good work that WAP-associated sanctuaries are doing to help elephants in the region:

What can we do to stop elephant tourism?

In the West, we can pressure tourism agencies to stop carrying advertisements for any packages that either directly endorse elephant tourism excursions or facilitate them as part of broader holiday experiences. These efforts are especially crucial, given the direct link between Thailand’s tourism growth over the past decade and a rise in elephant tourism sites.

In terms of elephant conservation, we must urge legislators to ban this form of tourism and ensure that those who are employed by the industry can transition to work at elephant sanctuaries. After all, similar initiatives have proven to be successful in Africa. With proper funding and oversight, these efforts could help repurpose cruel tourist operations into conservation projects that actually help Asia’s enigmatic elephants.

This article was first published by Care2.com on 09 Jul 2017.

We invite you to share your opinion whether Asia’s elephant tourism should be banned? Please vote and leave your comments at the bottom of this page.

Should Asia's elephant tourism be banned?

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Editorial Comment: The purpose of this poll is to highlight important wildlife conservation issues and to encourage discussion on ways to stop . By leaving a comment and sharing this post you can help to raise awareness. Thank you for your support.


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Most definitely!!!! Stop torturing, killing and using animals for personal greed


Without a doubt! Leave ALL animals to live their lives. Stop the greed, torturing and killing

Barbara Jo Benson Pacheco

Yes and all circus that use animals and rodeos and the list goes on and on
Honor all living things


yes, Yes. YES!

Carol Dorn

Everyone We Must Make People Aware Of The Tourture That Is Involved In Training A Baby Elephant!! We Must Stop These Greedy Non-Compassionate Evil People Who Do These Things To These Poor Elephants! God Please Put A Stop To This Abuse, Please See To It That These Poor Elephants Get To A Sanctuary As Soon As Possible! Stop These Idiots!!


Yes! Absolutely ‼️. Ban it!

Susan Faith McGraw Keber

All captivity for animals either wild or marine life, should NEVER be trained to do “tricks” for profit. Brutalizing animals in any way should be considered an act of violence and punishable by jail. People must be educated from childhood. If the culture teaches this is acceptable the children will grow up to believe brutal acts of violence whether passive in training or actual violence to get an animal to acquiesce and fear humans wrath, is normal. There is nothing normal about hurting a living sentient or otherwise wild animal or marine life. It is unbelieveable to me that any… Read more »

Rena Andersch

Yes absolutely it should be banned and punished for mistreatment and neglect. Thank you for the Videos with the inside of the terrible abuse of the elephants. These people should have a proper job and stop being such parasites hooking their whole life on these poor elephants. It must be banned.

Nancy Raymond


Carol Wong


Gemini Valenzuela

Yes. Is about time.

Tara Wikramanayake

These majestic animals should not be used to perform degrading and humiliating tricks and transport humans on their backs.

Lynette Lichenstein

oh hell yeah.

Eleanor Carlton


Diana Faulkner McCoy


Susan Davis

Hell yes stop the insanity

MaryBeth Breit


Penny Pink


Kendra Courtney


Kendra Courtney


Cathy Winsor


Dieter Reger


Patricia Tucker


Tami Calliope

This beautiful and moving video is but the tip of iceberg of what Elephants kidnapped as infants and subjected to torture so that they will spend the rest of their lives walking up and down hills (unnatural for Elephants; it breaks down their feet and toes) to temples, carrying as many as 6 tourists at once on their backs, which sway and slowly break under the strain. They work non-stop for over 12 hours a day: one ride ends, another begins. At night they are chained, underfed with the wrong foods, and are kept away from one another’s comfort. These… Read more »

Martine Camus

Yes stop ! Respect animals !

Martha Hammell Mast


Carol Robinson

Yes stop using elephants xx

Theresa Kemp

All entertainment for mankind on the backs of the animals should be stopped. How can this benefit and safeguard the elephants? Similarly how can canned hunting benefit the animals?

Mankind needs to take a grip on its morals and reignite it’s conscience.

Barbara Bee Sweetman

Of course! If possible!

Wolfgang Heinrich Kiefer


Lynda Jordan


Karen Lyons Kalmenson

of course this misery should be banned.animals are not here to be used and or exploited for human gain of any kind.

all that we should “gain” from our animals brothers is the joy of their existence and the satisfaction gleaned from protecting them!

Kathy Carlin

Yes quit abusing these animals

Michele Jankelow

Absolutely! People should be more informed as to the brutal treatment of these wonderful gentle souls and what takes place behind the scenes. Shame on peoples ignorance and apathy! Absolutely heartbreaking!

Andy Merk

You can not ban tourist use of elephants, thats what feeds them! but an immediate breeding ban is neccessary to gradually reduce and eventually stop captive elephants existence

Maggie Calkins


Jean Daniels

Yes. Sanctuaries for these poor elephants – paid for by those who profited.

Lindsay Leclair


Judith Cavey

YES! The sooner the better.

Anna Maria De Cruz