ELEPHANT SANCTUARIES… ARE THEY REALLY AS INNOCENT AS THEY APPEAR?

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Elephant activities are really popular amongst tourists in Thailand and other Asian and African countries. How could they not be? Who doesn’t want to be up close and personal with these beautiful creatures?

But before spending your money on something unethical or cruel for the animal, PLEASE, please, please educate yourself. All that glitter isn’t gold!

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After careful research, I can confidently say that the highlight of my trip to Thailand was definitely the visit I made to the Elephant Jungle Sanctuary (EJS). It was a one of a kind experience and one that will stay in my mind forever! A trip to the EJS, or any similar ethical facility, will be the best money you’ll ever spend, I can guarantee that.

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It was a blessing that I got to share this fantastic adventure with my better half, Alex, who was so happy to do more than what was asked of him and motivate others to do so as well. He helped the volunteers clean the elephants and brushed them after their standard activities and I’m just so proud of him that I needed to share that with you!

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Elephants are majestic creatures and they’ve always fascinated me. So big and strong, so loving, intelligent and beautiful, so wild yet so family orientated. You can only imagine the pain I felt once I realized how mistreated and endangered they are because of us humans.

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We have done so much damage already. It’s either:

  • We kill them for their tusks
  • We kill them for fun (recall those “hunters”/sub-humans who pay thousands of dollars just to kill a peaceful animal for sport)
  • We kill them slowly from exhaustion by supporting the trekking business and riding them as much as possible.

And if it isn’t death, then it’s torture for life as they are beaten into submission and forced to perform in circuses for the ignorant few who still find these attractions entertaining.

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heartbreaking – you can see the sadness in her eyes

I’m proud to say I haven’t done any of the above. EVER. But if you have, or supported or participated in any other activity that involves animal cruelty, it would be a good chance for you to make it up by taking action because only us, humans, can ensure the elephants’ future.

Both the Asian and the African elephants are endangered species, your actions DO matter.

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NOW BACK TO THE SANCTUARY.

You get to see elephants in their natural habitat, the jungle – not in cages or enclosed spaces! You get to interact with them by playing, feeding, bathing and petting them. You get to observe how they behave and meet whole elephant families – mothers and daughters, sisters and brothers, grandparents with their grandchildren! Most importantly, you get to know them and connect with them on a different level! This is priceless and only an ethical sanctuary can offer you this opportunity.

They are against any kind of riding and a trip there is quite educational as well as fun. You get to learn more about these lovely creatures and what is wrong and right regarding our behavior towards them.

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SHORT DESCRIPTION OF OUR ITINERARY

We were picked up from our resort and were driven through a scenic 1hr 30min route to the EJS. While approaching the facility, we could hear some elephants honking (I guess that’s the word) and my heart started beating faster. Once we arrived, we were welcomed with bananas to feed the new mommy-phant that was in “quarantine” with her baby! SO CUTE!
The volunteers welcomed us with bottled water and a lovely introduction on what we should expect. They gave us important info (here’s the summary) and led us to the storage space where they stock watermelons, sugar canes and bananas for these large mammals. We had to help with the elephants’ meal preparations, which included slicing watermelons, peeling bananas for the baby-phants (easier to digest) and breaking the sugar canes for the strong adults.

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PINCH ME MOMENT


A small group of elephants that happened to be around at that time arrived, hungry and we started feeding them!!! Pictures, hugs and excitement from our side followed while they were mostly interested in consuming as much watermelon as possible. Major foodies, I’m telling you!
After their lunch we headed back, changed into swimsuits and, those who wanted, accompanied the elephants for a mud bath. I skipped this since it was kinda too much for me and it seemed like an activity that was enjoyed more by people and baby-phants than by the older elephants who seemed bored and not very keen for the bath.

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HOLD YOUR HORSES!

A sanctuary needs to make some money in order to continue providing the huge amount of food and pampering that the elephants need on a daily basis. If that means that occasionally some of the elephants are “forced” to take an innocent mud bath which visitors pay a fee to do– I’m ok with it. There’s no cruelty involved and the sanctuaries need to offer something that 95% of the people enjoy (and elephants too as they say here). It’s a win for the elephants and a win for the visitors and since no harm is involved, I’m OK with it.

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After the mud bath, we finished the day with a lovely homemade meal that an old Thai lady had prepared for us. Simple, yet delicious and on the house.

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I left the sanctuary feeling fulfilled, excited AF but, most importantly, I felt I had contributed my money in the best way I could as a tourist, which was to make more elephants well taken care of and happy.
So yes, an ethical Elephant Sanctuary IS the right thing to do and a great idea. And if you can’t afford a trip there yet but still want to contribute, a small online donation would be much appreciated by the crew of the EJS.

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To all the elephant lovers out there, I send you my love! :)

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