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TORONTO – Happy Elephant Care Valley in Chiang Mai, Thailand will soon find itself at the forefront of responsible tourism after transitioning into a truly elephant-friendly venue.
The move, which will end all physical interaction between tourists and elephants at the camp, was initiated by animal welfare charity World Animal Protection as part of a coalition of leaders in the travel industry, including TUI Group, The Travel Corporation (TTC), Intrepid Group, G Adventures, EXO Travel, Thomas Cook Group and others.
Thousands of captive elephants in many venues across Thailand still give rides that are the result of a cruel and intensive training process. However, a 2017 KANTAR global poll shows a significant drop of 9% (to 44%) in the number of people who find elephant riding acceptable compared to just three years ago. The poll also shows that more than 80% of tourists would prefer to see elephants in their natural environment.
The elephants at Happy Elephant Care Valley were previously from farms and riding camps. Until recently, it was possible for close interaction between tourists and the elephants at the venue, with tourists being able to ride, bathe and feed elephants. This stopped when the travel industry coalition presented a business case demonstrating the rise of elephant-friendly tourism.
After the camp’s transition, elephants will be able to behave as they would in the wild, with tourists viewing them at a safe distance.
“Through the support of the world’s leading travel companies we are proving that elephant-friendly venues, those without forced and dangerous interactions with wildlife, make both ethical and financial sense for camp owners,” said Josey Kitson, Executive Director at World Animal Protection Canada. “Happy Elephant Care Valley’s move is a huge step forward for both elephants and ethical tourists. It will provide an incredible opportunity for the growing number of tourists who want a positive experience seeing elephants behaving naturally and freely as part of a herd.”