Boon Lotts Elephant Sanctuary Thailand Zoo Review

Boon Lott’s Elephant Sanctuary, Thailand – Zoo Review

The RIGHT-tourism Zoo Review is a quick but informed guide to the quality of places where the public can see animals, including zoos, dolphinariums and other attractions.

We’ve used a range of measures, taken from information available online, to judge how well the animals at the particular zoo or animal attraction are looked after. More than just a ‘review’, the results are actually a Quality Index which will allow tourists and the attractions themselves to judge how well the attractions are performing.

Please note, the information we use is taken from what we assume to be genuine and factually correct comments from reviews, blogs and news stories. If there are factual inaccuracies, please let us know and we will make the relevant changes.

RIGHT-tourism Zoo Review Rating for: Boon Lott’s Elephant Sanctuary, Thailand

Zoo_Review_Stamp_Best_In_Class

Summary

Boon Lott’s Elephant Sanctuary (BLES) is located in northern Thailand and is one of the few places in Thailand that not only protects these magnificent beasts, but also actively rescues them. In a country that has the elephant as its national animal yet actively promotes the use of traditional “breaking” techniques on these animals, sanctuaries like this are a breath of fresh air.

BLES was started by Katherine Connor and her husband after falling in love with a baby elephant called Boon Lott (“Survivor” in Thai) on a holiday. This former marketing executive now runs this 400 acre semi-natural sanctuary virtually single-handedly. To find out more about the heart-warming history of this sanctuary please do read about Boon Lott and Katherine’s start, but be prepared that it could bring a tear to even the hardest heart.

BLES, as with other sanctuaries like the Elephant Nature Park, not only takes in and cares for the elephants, but also educates and re-trains the mahouts (elephant handlers) to offer respect and love to the animals. From the reports on the internet they seem to care very much for the elephants in their charge and are working very hard to change local and tourist perspectives of elephants in the tourist industries. The only problem I found in the sanctuary, in terms of animal welfare, was that currently they have to chain the elephants at night to prevent them leaving the boundaries of the sanctuary. This is however being changed and they have secured funding to build a chain-free corral to house the elephants at night. Unfortunately with projects that have limited money and funding some aspects of care can fall short of the desired ideal.

This is an obviously caring and loving sanctuary that strives to provide the best life they can for the elephants they have rescued. They have fields and forests that the elephants wander around and actively encourage them to form herds and breed. Their overall goal is in the setting up of a national reserve for elephants to be released and live a natural, self-sufficient life.

This sanctuary, in my humble opinion, is a worthwhile and good place to visit in Thailand. If you want to see the elephants of Asia then why would you want to support an industry that tortures and exploits these animals, when you can walk along side a gentle giant and for one or two days be part of their herd. Smile because an elephant smiles at you, not because it’s forced to do tricks for you.

Report Card

Section One: Social Media and News

This section looks at how the attraction is rated by people on key reviewing sites, and in blogs/the media. The reviews are often not concerned with animal welfare, so this section has a lower influence on the overall mark than other sections. However, it is an important measure of the way the attraction is viewed by visitors.

Number of negative TripAdvisor reviews

For the most recent 20 reviews which appear on the official TripAdvisor page for the attraction, how many mention animal welfare in a negative way. The score is worked out as a percentage (see method below).

Number of negative reviews: 1 /20

Score: 2.5 points

The only negative review indicated that the elephants are chained at night to protect them from wandering outside of the sanctuary grounds (please read the notes for news articles to get more information on this). Four reviews make no mention of welfare issues.
The rest (fifteen) all give a good indication of the love, care and attention that the elephants and other animals receive. Animals are treated for injuries and the mahouts (elephants handlers) follow them all day to keep them safe and within the grounds. This appears to be a sanctuary that does everything it can to protect and safeguard the elephants that live there.

Number of negative Google reviews

For the most recent 20 reviews which appear on the Google search page for the attraction, how many mention animal welfare in a negative way. The score is worked out as a percentage (see method below).

Number of negative reviews: 1 /20

Score: 2.5 points

No google reviews so using the information from the tripadvisor to determine scores in this section.

Number of negative news articles and blogs
For the most recent 10 independent blogs or news articles for the attraction, how many mention animal welfare in a negative way. The score is worked out as a percentage (see method below).

Number of negative mentions: 0 /10

Score: 5 points

No negative articles in either news or blogs. Everyone is very positive about the work this sanctuary does and the love and respect that they have for the animals living there. Whilst most articles concentrated on the founder, Katherine Connor, one indicated that the sanctuary has just won an award to fund them to install a chain free corral, a harmless solar powered electric fence, to enclose an area of the park and protect the elephants at night giving them a more free and natural life. Another talked of how they had received the World Veterinary Service (WVS) Animal Champions Award to fund a new vet clinic to care for the elephants, dogs and cats on site.

Total Score for Social Media and News Section:  10/10

Section Two: General Quality of Life

This section looks generally at how the animals, as a whole, appear to be treated. It is based on the internationally recognised Five Freedoms, which focus on key aspects of animal welfare including feeding, housing, health, behaviour and protection from fear/distress.

Each item is scored as either two points for a Yes, zero points for a No or one point for Possibly. (The Possibly category also includes situations where the answer would be Sometimes; or if the answer is unknown).

Absence of prolonged hunger and/or thirst

Score: Yes   2 Points

There is food in abundance and indications are that the money taken by the sanctuary are all put back into the animals and workers’ care and welfare.

Being fed an appropriate diet based on their wild diet

Score: Yes   2 Points

They are fed a mixture of bamboo and locally sourced plants as well as being given fruit and other vitamin rich extras.

Ease of movement within living quarters

Score: Yes  2 Points

This is a Yes because of the large amount of space the elephants have as their living quarters. The slight debate will be that currently (at least until the chain free corral is finished) the elephants have to be chained at night. I understand that this is not done with any malicious intent and that they are working to improve this aspect of their care, so while ideally this will end soon, the sanctuary deserves a Yes for this.

Enrichment in living quarters (eg climbing frame, toys etc)

Score: Yes   2 Points

The elephants have a right to roam the entire 400 acre site and enjoy all the natural enrichment that this affords them. They are encouraged to form herds and breed naturally within this area.

Absence of injuries or disease

Score: Yes   2 Points

Note: No reports of any injuries or illnesses. They are currently building a new veterinary clinic on site to care for them even more.

Absence of pain (eg being not being chained, or not being hit by staff)

Score: Yes   2 Points

As stated they do chain the animals at night for their protection but are working on alternatives to this. Otherwise the care given to the animals is clearly exemplary.

Ability to express natural and social behaviours in living quarters

Score: Yes   2 Points

The animals are actively encouraged to express their natural behaviours and form herds.

Good human-animal relationship with staff

Score: Yes   2 Points

The humans in the sanctuary are only there to provide help and protection to the elephants. No activities, like riding, are allowed and the elephants are given respect from the mahouts.

Absence of general fear/distress/apathy

Score: Yes   2 Points

No reports of any animals that show fear and they are not forced into any onteraction they don’t want to do.

Ability to seek privacy/refuge from humans and other animals

Score: Possibly   1 Point

Their mahouts accompany them throughout the day and keep them safe from leaving the sanctuary and watch them for any signs of illness or injury.

Total Score for General Quality of Life:  19/20

 

Section Three: Interaction with the Public

This section focusses on the way the attraction allows the public to touch, play with, photograph, feed or otherwise interact with the animals. The focus is on whether or not the interactions are causing harm or stress/discomfort to the animals, and if they could be dangerous to the public.

Each item is scored as either two points for a Yes, zero points for a No or one point for Possibly. (The Possibly category also includes situations where the answer would be Sometimes; or if the answer is unknown).

The interactions are not harmful in any way for the animal’s welfare

Score: Yes   2 Points

No detrimental interactions appear to take place.

The interactions are not harmful in any way for the public’s welfare (any previous history of dangerous incidents)

Score: Possibly   1 Points

Although no reports of injury or risk to the public is reported I believe that any attraction (they admit tourist volunteers) that brings large mammals, like elephants, and humans together has this potential. Whilst I agree that tourist income is a superb way of developing a sanctuary or reserve we must be aware of the risks that wild, feral or formerly domesticated animals can pose. That said I still support projects like this over a zoo anyday.

The animals are not forced to interact with the public – they can refuse

Score: Yes  2 Points

No animal is forced into any interaction unless it’s for a medical examination.

The public are not allowed to handle the animals and touch them

Score: No   0 Points

Volunteers are allowed to touch the elephants if the elephants let them. In a situation such as a sanctuary this can be a good thing, especially as these animals have been domesticated. There is nothing wrong with allowing human contact as long as it’s respectful, caring and not forced upon the animal.

The interactions are supervised by staff and in an educational context

Score: Yes   2 Points

Yes all interactions are supervised by staff and mahouts, but I wouldn’t agree that all interactions are for education. However this is a sanctuary, NOT a zoo and if interactions are done in a correct way then the overall experience will be an educational one. I believe that this is the case with BLES, for tourists, mahouts, locals and anyone that comes into contact with the elephants.

Total Score for Interaction with the Public:  7/10

 

Section Four: Conservation and Education

This section looks at whether or not the attraction has a focus on conservation – for example does it support animals in the wild through breeding programmes, research or donations; and education – are visitors informed about the animals so they are not simply seen as objects for human amusement/entertainment.

Each item is scored as either two points for a Yes, zero points for a No or one point for Possibly. (The Possibly category also includes situations where the answer would be Sometimes; or if the answer is unknown).

Are some of the animals part of international breeding programs?

Score: Possibly   1 Points

They actively encourage natural breeding in the reserve with an aim to repopulating the Thai forests and protected areas. However there is no indication that they are part of any “international” breeding programs. As a sanctuary this is to be expected.

Is there evidence of them having released animals into the wild?

Score: Possibly   1 Points

I have marked this as possibly as although they have not released any elephants yet, one of their primary aims is to buy and create a protected area for repopulation. This isn’t a zoo and they are doing all they can with little money, but they have big plans and grand ideas. I hope that they will see these goals come to life sooner rather than later.

Do they actively undertake scientific research into conservation/behaviour of their animals?

Score: No   0 Points

I can find no indication that there are any scientific projects at the site. I would not expect a sanctuary to be set up to scientific studies. However I would be interested to find out if they would accommodate a student team conducting a project.

Does the attraction give money to conservation or animal protection programmes?

Score: Yes   2 Points

They ARE the conservation and animal protection project. All money from visitors goes towards keeping the sanctuary running and the animals fed and healthy as well as to rescuing more elephants and taking in more dogs and cats.

Does the attraction provide educational talks or written displays to inform visitors about the animals?

Score: Yes   2 Points

Their goal is the education of tourists, locals, mahouts and all they come into contact with. No they don’t seem to provide organised talks, but they do create a informal setting where people can learn from the staff and locals and vice versa.

Total Score for Conservation and Education:  6/10

Zoo Review Final Score for Boon Lott’s Elephant Sanctuary, Thailand:  42/50

Rating: Best in Class – the welfare of the animals appears to be of a very high standard

Do you agree or disagree with this Zoo Review? Please let us know in the Comments below.
If you are from this attraction and would like to comment on this Zoo Review, we’ll be happy to publish your response. Please email info@careforthewild.com or click
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Notes

1. This report was compiled on: 9th November 2014 by Tim Reynolds. Find out more about our Zoo Review campaign here.

2. Zoo Review Final Score is given out of 50 as a sum of the four sections, then a RIGHT-tourism Zoo Review rating is awarded based on this score:

0-10: Unacceptable – the animal welfare at this attraction appears to be of a very low standard and a cause of great concern
11-20: Poor – it appears that significant improvement is needed in order to meet welfare standards
21-30: Average – the attraction scores well in some areas but improvements would be welcome
31-40: Good – Public opinion and animal welfare measures suggest that the animals here are looked after well
41-50: Best in Class – the welfare of the animals appears to be of a very high standard

3. TripAdvisor and Google scores are worked out by dividing the number of negative welfare reviews by the total (20) and multiplying by 100 to give a percentage, then giving a score out of 2.5 as follows:

0-19% negative 2.5 points
20-39% 2 points
40-59% 1.5 points
60-79% 1 point
80-89% 0.5 point
90–100% 0 points

3. News and blog scores are worked out by dividing the number of negative welfare reviews by the total (10) and multiplying by 100 to give a percentage, then giving a score out of 5 as follows:

0-19% negative 5 points
20-39% 4 points
40-59% 3 points
60-79% 2 point
80-89% 1 point
90–100% 0 points