While I was visiting Phuket, Thailand I wanted to visit an elephant sanctuary. I knew that the practice of riding elephants was cruel, so I wanted to make sure I picked a responsible place where I could respectfully interact with elephants. After a lot of research online, I found The Elephant Jungle Sanctuary.
15 years ago there were over 100,000 elephants in Thailand alone, and likely millions worldwide. The number of elephants in Thailand has dropped to between 2,500-4,000. The main reason for this rapid decline are poaching, habitat loss and elephants dying faster due to mistreatment in the tourism industry.
The Elephant Jungle Sanctuary, will explain that, "Asian Elephants’ spines are not like horses. Their spines are designed to carry weight below, not from above. Instead of smooth, round spinal disks, elephants have sharp bony protrusions that extend upwards from their spine. These bony protrusions and the tissue protecting them are vulnerable to weight and pressure coming from above. In order for an elephant to be ridden, it needs to be put through a ritual called Phajaan." Below is a video of the procedure, warning, it is graphic.
The Elephant Jungle Sanctuary was started in late 2014, based in Chiang Mai, which is in northern Thailand. The Mission is to provide as many elephants as possible with the good health, freedom and happiness they truly deserve. They use progressive and ethically responsible approaches to elephant eco-tourism as a platform to raise awareness and educate people from Thailand and around the world. In fact, within the first few minutes of getting to the sanctuary, the immediately begin to tell you all the horrors of how some elephants are treated in Thailand. They even told you within the first few minutes that you should be prepared to hear about some of the horrors.
In the last 2 years The Elephant Jungle Sanctuary has grown from 3 to 38 elephants. Their is to lead by example, and contribute to a positive change in the perception of elephants; to witness a future where elephants are not ridden, poached, overworked, or abused, and are instead treated with care, love, and respect.
Below are some photos and descriptions of where some of their elephants are rescued from:
The whole day was a wonderful experience. You start the day feeding the elephants and then you get the opportunity to bathe with them in mud and swim around with them. You can really tell that the animals are deeply loved and cared for.
I highly recommend taking this trip if you are in the Phuket region of Thailand. Another great benefit to this location is that they have a professional photographer that takes tons of photos and provides them to you for NO CHARGE right after the trip! Not many companies will do that. You can find out more information at their website here: The Elephant Jungle Sanctuary.
Below are also some books that may interest you on the current elephant crisis.