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The reality of elephant trekking camps

By Fraser Levick 4 years ago
Categories Chiang Mai

The world has been constantly affected by the way in which our societal demands change. This concept is reflected in the animal kingdom, where the fluctuating demand for pelts, pets, or resources has meant the extinction or flourishment for different species. Unfortunately, our needs and desires have cast many of the other inhabitants of our world into a desperate battle for survival. From rhinos in Kenya, to polar bears in the Arctic Circle, to elephants in Thailand which is the primary focus of this blog.

Elephants are highly revered and are elemental in Thai culture for numerous reasons. They have been an asset of war, a tool for development, and most commonly, a source of income. Before the 1989 ban on commercial forestry, the majority of elephants were used in the logging industry. Now, our demand has resulted in an exponential rise of the employment of elephants in the tourism industry. Specifically being used in tourist camps where they are made to give rides and perform tricks such as painting, playing football, or even tightrope walking. This industry supplies Thailand with 15 billion USD of income per annum, but has resulted in the exploitation of Asian Elephants and the obstruction of their welfare.

The WSPA (World Security for the Protection of Animals) have labeled in a study that 80% of trekking/tourist camps in Thailand to be inadequate for the needs and care of elephants, and also mentions that the camps condition deteriorates the further south they are located. Some of the main problems highlighted about the inadequate care of elephants in trekking camps are the following; restricted movement due to being chained for extended periods of time, lack of sanitary care such as lack of cleaning up feaces, insufficient shelters, or lack of food, and lastly limited social interaction. This poor treatment is legally bound to the 1939 Draught Animal Act whereby the elephant is classified as livestock giving them equal rights to cattle, chicken, or pigs. As the need and demand for elephants has changed from logging to tourism, so has their treatment and thusly, so must their rights.

Currently, there is a changing mindset in Thailand concerned with the treatment of Asiatic Elephants. This movement can be helped by signing the petition GVI interns and staff created, devoted to providing Asian elephants across Thailand with new rights.