This is one of my favorite photos I took while visiting Elephant Valley Project, an awesome sanctuary in Chiang Rai. And since there’s too much I have to say about it for one caption (of course) I’m going to split this one up into a few posts. So hear me out, because I know there is often confusion when it comes to seeing a photo like this...
The whole “don’t ride elephants” campaign (in my opinion) has reduced the amount of tourists that feel like it’s ok to ride an elephant on their vacations (YAY!!). However, it has also created a stigma against mahouts (the elephant caregivers) riding their elephants, one that is both incorrect and unhelpful in elephant conservation.
I know for a lot of people this can sound a bit contradicting, but there is a significant difference between an elephant being ridden by a tourist and an elephant being ridden by its mahout.
Above all else, the welfare of the elephant needs to be considered first. The main point I want you guys to take away here is that elephants being ridden by tourists are in tourist camps where the needs of the human come before the care of the animals. These elephants are often worked all day, with little food, water, or shade. They also often have huge saddles on their backs which can cause injury and are unable to flick water, mud, or plant matter onto their backs for sunscreen. On top of that, they are not given much free time to graze and socialize and express natural behaviors.
More info about how this sanctuary is different in part 2 of my ramble, coming soon 🐘✨ PS. If you haven’t read my blog post that covers a lot of the stigmas in captive elephant care, The Gray Area of Elephant Tourism, I’d really encourage you to! It’s one of my posts I’m most proud of and is such an important message to read 🐘 (link to my blog in bio)