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thursdaysd Dec 12th, 2015 08:27 AM

Update on riding elephants

Please don't.

DonTopaz Dec 12th, 2015 08:55 PM

Thanks for posting -- they are the most noble of beasts.

scdreamer Dec 13th, 2015 03:25 PM

We are taking part in a tour while we are in India next month - the elephant rides in Jaipur are scheduled for one of the days. We will pass on this. I would love to be close to an elephant, though. I know there are a few elephant refuges where tourists can visit the elephants, but have heard not all are on the up-and-up. Any ideas for something like this? Or should we just stay away from any type of elephant experience altogether? We don't want to be any part of contributing to harming these amazing animals.

thursdaysd Dec 13th, 2015 03:41 PM

A search on "sanctuary elephants india" didn't turn up much.

There's a well regarded place in northern Thailand, but I haven't heard of anywhere in India.

Maybe you can talk to the other people on your tour? I have read that carrying people is bad for the elephants, aside from the other issues with their treatment.

sartoric Dec 13th, 2015 03:58 PM

Thanks for posting this thursdaysd. In our naivety several years ago we road an elephant up to the Amber fort in Jaipur. It was not only distressing (steel hooks, open wounds) but also scary. You are very close to the walls edge, and it's 100's of meters to the ground if the elephant decides to chuck a wobbly.

We vowed to never ride an elephant again, and interestingly, when contacting a well regarded tour guide in northern Thailand, he was pleased we didn't want the elephant ride.

I think the place you're thinking of is Elephant Nature Park, near Lampang about 1 hour from Chiang Mai. The woman who runs it has received much international recognition for her work, and also has a sanctuary in Laos.

thursdaysd Dec 13th, 2015 06:05 PM

@sartoric - very likely. (I, too, once rode an elephant before I knew any better.)

@scdreamer - I checked Lonely Planet, and there is a place in/near Amber called Elefantastic that might be OK. No personal knowledge, and someone on Indiamike wasn't happy with the owner, but seems to be the only possibility in the north.

julies Dec 14th, 2015 05:41 AM

I wonder if the treatment is any different for elephants who live with their private mahouts in very rural areas and are used for tourist-oriented purposes. We've ridden on elephants twice in national parks where they are a different way to get deeper into the jungle for possible wildlife sighting--once in Corbett in India and once in Chitwan in Nepal. In both instances we saw none of the open sores and maltreatment issues, and they were only used for touristic purposes for about two hours a day.

We visited an elephant village type place, maybe a semi-sanctuary, in an untouristed area of Kerala--Guruvayur.

We also visited another place, run by the forest department, in Tamil Nadu where elephants are taken care of.

scdreamer Dec 22nd, 2015 10:47 AM

Thanks,thursdaysd! We also found this place, and the reviews on tripadvisor are almost 100% positive. I did see something on indiamike that wasn't stellar, but it appeared to be more of a conflict with the owner than a negative regarding the care of the elephants.

We've booked a day there - we will skip the elephant ride to the Amber Fort - the owner, Rahul, has been in touch with me a number of times, making sure the arrangements are all correct.

I'll check back in after we go in February. I am pretty excited about this!

thursdaysd Dec 22nd, 2015 11:00 AM

Good! Hope you have a great trip. Are you skipping the Amber Fort altogether? It is well worth seeing however you get there - I think I walked, at least part way.

scdreamer Dec 22nd, 2015 03:38 PM

No, not skipping the Amber Fort, but we will have to do it on our own, as our tour is going the same day we are going to Elefantastic. We have four days in Jaipur, with lots of free time, so we will be sure to visit the fort. We will walk up.

scdreamer Dec 23rd, 2015 07:40 AM

Not wanting to beat a dead horse (or elephant), but here is one more article which has information on tourism and elephant cruelty in India.

thursdaysd Dec 23rd, 2015 10:40 AM

Maybe you could send that link to your tour company....

zoso Dec 23rd, 2015 08:27 PM

OMG...Please do your home work....Elephants backs are rounded..not flat like a horse.
Never to be ridden.The weight breaks the back and hips.And, they still use them until they drop...Then buy another like a tractor.No all in Asia....
All about the money!For non educated Tourists with black hearts.
They undergo a horrific breaking called Phajan in Thai.
To break them they tourture them for months on end....starvation,beatings,sleep deprived,ripped away from there family groups.

A walking zombie all for your pleasure.
I work with rescued Elephants so I know this as a fact.

thursdaysd Dec 23rd, 2015 08:35 PM

Did you bother to read the rest of this thread? No one here is advocating riding them.

scdreamer Dec 27th, 2015 12:37 PM

thursdaysd - thanks for a good idea. I will forward this on to our tour company. There must be a lot of alternatives to the ride up to the fort. Hopefully the more awareness there is, the less demand for practices that endanger and are cruel to the elephants.

thursdaysd Dec 27th, 2015 02:36 PM

Lonely Planet "India", regrettably mentions riding elephants up as very popular (I should probably write a complaint to them, I have known that have an effect), but also says it's a ten minute trudge from the road, or:

“A return 4WD to the top and back costs ₹300 for five passengers, including one-hour waiting time.”

Rasputin1 Dec 27th, 2015 08:30 PM

Have to have my pennyworth here. I have travelled a lot in India and spent many years there as well as Thailand. Elephants in SE Asia are badly treated. In Rajasthan they are the worst. Elephants are not natural animals in Rajasthan. They have to walk many km each way to their digs and there is no water or food for them. In summer their feet are burnt by the hot and almost liquid road surface and they have many sores that are not treated. Don't let the smiling faces and "she'll be right" attitude of the syces fool you into thinking that everything is above board and the elephants are well treated. In India the sole purpose of animals is how to make use of them without treating them correctly. Money Money Money is what it is all about.

I am constantly telling people on TA not to take the elephant rides but there are always more to take the place of the few who do listen.

The elephant sanctuaries are in Thailand and most of the elephant camps are now also coming under scrutiny for the methods they use to get the elephants to do "tricks" for the tourists. The water markets were where the baby elephants were used - many of them dying from hunger and poor diet. The same goes for the occasional elephant you will see at night in Bangkok. They have to walk for miles to get to the city and back without sufficient food or water. Think again before you pay to have your photograph taken with the poor animal which is never going to see the benefits of the proceeds of its journey.

There is one elephant place in South India Kerela where the elephants are let loose after a day's work. Lonely Plantet is now owned by an Indian so I do not believe that any complaint will make a difference.

Better to take a car or 4 wheel drive or walk if you can, up to the Amber Fort. Treat yourself to a kulfi (traditional icecream) either almond or pistachio, when you get there. You won't want to stop at one - delicious.

crellston Dec 27th, 2015 10:46 PM

" Lonely Planet is now owned by an Indian so I do not believe that any complaint will make a difference." When did that happen? Last I heard it had been bought from the BBC by Brad Kelley through his NC2 Media empire.

Very sad to hear of the mistreatment of the elephants and agree entirely with the entreaties not to visit these places,,although with the ever increasing numbers of domestic and other Asian tourists visiting India, sadly, I doubt this will have much effect ( still, very little helps). Sad though the elephant situation is, I remain much more concerned about India's treatment of much its human female population.

scdreamer Feb 22nd, 2016 08:16 AM

Just back from our India sojourn - want to share our elephant experience.

We had reserved an afternoon at Elefantastic - just outside Jaipur. Very positive experience - it is not a "rescue," but rather a family who operates a sanctuary; they were once in the Amber Fort elephant ride trade, but for a number of years have maintained a sanctuary instead, and their elephants are like family to them.

We were introduced to Birli, a gorgeous 28 year old female they have had since her birth, and she was "ours" for the afternoon. We fed her sugar cane stalks, massaged her, took her for a long walk, and painted her with bright fluorescent paints. Hugged her a lot. It was an amazing day - and it seems that the elephants there view the tourists who come as kindly massage therapists, as they love to be rubbed on their faces, around their eyes, and under their necks. I had my duties cut out for me, as Birli would lean into me whenever I stopped with the massage. So incredibly gentle, though.

Rahul, the owner of the sanctuary, was responsive to my advance emails, arranged to have a driver pick us up and return us to our hotel, and his mother provided lunch for us in their home.

At the end of the day, we asked Rahul if we could give him some extra rupees, since this is how they support the elephants and themselves, and he declined the money, saying they thought their price was fair, and if I wished to, I should give the money to someone poor on the streets.

All in all, highly recommended.

thursdaysd Feb 22nd, 2016 08:30 AM

Thanks for reporting back. So glad you found a good alternative! Did the other people on your tour ride up to Amber?

The word is definitely spreading:

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