While having your picture taken atop an elephant may seem like the perfect way to inspire vacation envy among friends, a report published by an animal rights group might make you reconsider.
Most of the 3,000 elephants kept for entertainment purposes in Asia are living in “severely inadequate conditions”, according to a recent report by World Animal Protection.
The situation is especially grave in Thailand, where the number of elephants exploited for tourist entertainment increased by 30% in five years, the report says.
When they are not being used for riding or performing in shows, the elephants are chained up day and night, the report says. They also have to endure road noise, loud music and groups of people, it adds.
“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,” says Dr Jan Schmidt-Burbach, the group’s wildlife and veterinary advisor.
“There is an urgent need for tourist education and regulation of wildlife tourist attractions worldwide,” says Schmidt-Burbach.
“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,” he adds.
Thai authorities dispute claims that the animals are mistreated. – dpa