Ethical elephant experiences – your choices make a difference

    It is clear that many elephant experiences are unethical, horrifically cruel and potentially fatal. But thankfully there are many dedicated groups working to rescue these poor abused creatures and provide them with a better life. Many of these groups provide ethical tourist choices and the opportunity to get close and interact in a responsible manner with elephants.  Here are some of these tourist destinations in Asia:


    Wildlife SOS



    Elephant Nature Park

    Boon Lott’s Elephant Sanctuary (BLES)

    Burm and Emily’s Elephant Sanctuary (BEES)

    The Surin Project


    You can find out all you need to know about ethical elephant tourism here – 7 Secrets You Need To Know About Elephant Riding.

    Don’t get duped – what to look out for

    It is very encouraging that so many dedicated people are offering an ethical alternative for elephant experiences. Unfortunately there are still many elephant experiences that claim to be ethical and compassionate towards their animals, when this is nowhere near the reality. But there some telltale signs that can help to ensure that tourists make an ethical and responsible choice.

    When choosing an elephant experience, please be aware of these signs of abuse to look out for:

    1. Riding elephants, or other unnatural contact such as sitting on their heads, necks, trunks, or hanging off their ears
    2. Chained animals
    3. The use of a bullhook or any other method to inflict pain, such as nails, sticks, blades, etc.
    4. Baby elephants without their mothers
    5. Unnatural settings, such as towns and cities
    6. Adorned animals, such as ceremonial dress, paint, and masks
    7. Unnatural behaviour, such as painting, playing football, massaging, and performing tricks
    8. Coercion or aggression towards the animal if it does not perform as instructed
    9. Bobbing and weaving behaviour by the elephant – this is caused by stress due to captivity
    10. The condition of the animal, such as scars, wounds, and skeletal bones showing – or sometimes just looking in their eyes and seeing the suffering.

    As a rule of thumb, the purpose of a proper sanctuary is to ensure that elephants live a life as close as the one nature intended. If you see that the animal’s welfare is more important than pandering to tourist entertainment, you’re in the right place.



    We are continually updating our research on ethical choices in elephant tourism, so please get in touch and let us know about your experiences, good or bad. Or if you are travelling to Asia and would like advice on ethical choices please contact us on


    Here at Action for Elephants UK we are committed to raising awareness and educating people on the cruelty involved in much of the elephant tourism trade. If you would like to be involved just email us at or search Facebook for March for Elephants UK to keep up to date on our current campaigns.

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