Elephant Nature Park Zoo Review

Elephant Nature Park, 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: Elephant Nature Park

Zoo_Review_Stamp_Best_In_Class

Summary

Firstly, this is a sanctuary and NOT a zoo so if you are hoping to see many different species then this place is not for you. If, however, you want to give money to a cause that rescues and provides a home for abused elephants (and a few other animals) and tries to educate people to the plight of the Asian elephant then this could be for you.
Set in a 100 ha (250 acre) valley with areas of natural and rejuvenated rainforest, open fields and a river this park is a sanctuary to over 40 elephants, 400 dogs, many cats, 50 water buffalo and others. They principally rescue unwanted, injured or abused elephants from Thailand’s tourist and illegal logging industries and provide care, medical attention and rehabilitation to them.
They allow visitors in the park to learn about the elephants and see them in a semi-natural environment through day-trips, over-night stays and an extensive volunteer program. The elephants are allowed to form herds, explore the sanctuary and express themselves in the ways that elephants do. They are encouraged to visit the river daily to play and wash and the visitors are encouraged to join in and wash the elephants.
They have lost points in this review due to lack of scientific research, reintroduction programs and breeding for reintroduction, but once again this IS a sanctuary.
I have searched very hard for any welfare issues with this site and have only found one possible issue. There are reports that the dogs there are not treated for ticks or fleas and that they are allowed to breed uncontrollably; however further research shows that this is actually not the case – the dogs are treated for ticks etc, and all the animals are sterilised.
Overall this is a seemingly incredible place to support where you can to see “happy” elephants. If you believe that animals have the right to live a peaceful and natural (as best as can be afforded) life, free from fear or pain or distress then this would be a place to go to in Thailand.

Elephant nature park, copyright their website

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:  0/20

Score: 2.5 Points

There are a couple of neutral reviews that make no reference to the animals welfare, but the overall sentiment on Tripadvisor is that this sanctuary is nothing less than a home for elephants filled with love, respect and compassion. The closest thing to a negative review was in respect to dogs within the reserve, which they thought were not treated for fleas or neutered, but this is actually not the case.

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:  0/20

Score: 2.5 Point

As seems to be the case with Google reviews there were more neutral reviews, but once again no negative reviews in regard to welfare.

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

There are many news articles on this park and its founder, Sangduen (Lek) Chailert. All articles, be it personal blogs or news papers, are, at the least, complimentary and, at the most, glowing. ENP really does seem to be the real deal and a very impressive place.

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

Fed daily by staff volunteers and visitors.

Being fed an appropriate diet based on their wild diet

Score: Yes  2 points

Most (if not all) these animals have spent their lives in a human world and would have grown a taste for certain foods which aren’t necessarily their ‘wild’ diet. ENP appears to make allowances for this and take great care in their choice of appropriate food.

Ease of movement within living quarters

Score: Yes  2 Points

With a 100 ha (250 acres) reserve the elephants have almost complete autonomy within the grounds. Some areas (food stores, new tree plantations, etc) are protected from them.

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

Score: Yes  2 Points

Set a valley with areas of rain forest, fields and a river I believe that enrichment isn’t the appropriate term here. These elephants live as close to a natural life as can be afforded them in this reserve.

Absence of injuries or disease

Score: Yes 2 Points

There are some reports that the dogs within the compound aren’t treated for fleas and ticks. As mentioned above, this does not appear to be the case, with a clinic treating the dogs for all conditions. No other problems reported.

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

Score: Yes 2 Points

The animals here are removed from this lifestyle and given a life free from pain and restrainment. At some points the elephants are put on long chains over night to prevent them rampaging into neighbour’s crops, but this seems reasonable in the circumstances.

Ability to express natural and social behaviours in living quarters

Score: Yes  2 Points

Allowed and encouraged to form herds and perform social and natural behaviour.

Good human-animal relationship with staff

Score: Possibly  1 Point

I am dubious that visitors being allowed to help wash and pet the animals is a “good” human-animal relationship. That said, I do completely believe that compared to how they have lived prior to the park it is a marked improvement. Also, being pragmatic, a sanctuary must generate revenue and educate people and allowing a activity such as this can’t be “bad”. There are also no suggestions of any discomfort from the animals, and given that they have experienced close human contact in the past, this does not seem to be an unreasonable activity.

Absence of general fear/distress/apathy

Score: Yes 2 Points

The overwhelming word used in everything I have read about this sanctuary is “happy”. I believe that these elephants are truly liberated from fear, distress and apathy.

Ability to seek privacy/refuge from humans and other animals

Score: Yes   2 Points

No elephant is forced into human contact, and they are able to stay away from other animals if desired. Those that were severely abused prior to coming to the park and possibly dangerous to humans are identified so people will not force them into contact with humans.

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: Possibly   1 Point

Pragmatism rules here. Arguments could be made for and against whether any interaction with these animals is beneficial for them. These are rescue animals that are used to human contact (good or bad), not wild animals and as such “possibly” will always be my answer here.

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

Score: Yes   2 Points

Once again pragmatism must rule my opinion here. There IS potential from harm for all here, but if the elephants are kept happy and the staff are not complacent about disgruntled or mentally hurt elephants then I wouldn’t foresee problems.

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

Score: Yes   2 Points

As mentioned above, elephants are given the chance to stay solitary if they wish. There were also no reports of elephants being made to participate in the daily bath (humans and elephants) in the river. Also the dogs and water buffalo aren’t forced into unwanted human contact. Very much the Buddhist ideal of “let it be” is in effect here.

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

Score: Possibly   1 Point

It is encouraged that these animals have contact if wanted, but elephants are different from many other animals in their displays of altruism to other animals. These are also rescued elephants and will be used to a human contact. Staff are always present when any interaction is allowed.

The interactions are supervised by staff and in an educational context

Score: Yes    2 Points

Education of tourists, locals and mahouts (elephant handlers) is one of the most important aspects of this park and staff or fully trained volunteers are always on hand when people are visiting to educate, inform and tell stories to inspire all who visit.

Total Score for Interaction with the Public:  8/10

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 Point

The animals are allowed to breed as they want and five babies have been born in the park. These are, however, kept within the herd and currently allowed to mature there living semi-naturally. There is no evidence that elephants are moved between parks or within other breeding programs. As this is a sanctuary rather than a zoo, however, it would be unfair to penalise this attraction on this point.

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

Score: Possibly   1 Point

This is a sanctuary for animals that were formally captive. There are, at present, not programs for reintroductions to the wild. The other sanctuaries the Save Elephant Foundation co-ordinates are involved in are also not engaged in reintroduction. It would be nice to see a repopulation project in the future when SE Asian ideas and ethics have changed and allow this. Again, as this is a sanctuary rescuing injured or abused elephants, then it would be unfair to penalise them on this point.

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

Score: Yes   2 Points

The park itself concentrates on welfare, outreach and education and does appear to have any scientific goals. However the park’s non-profit organisation The Elephant Nature Foundation has goals that include research of wild and domesticated elephant numbers and use of research to provide a greater scope for the foundation and park.

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

Score: Yes   2 Points

They work closely with local peoples to restore and preserve rainforest and continue to provide a refuge for rescued elephants. They are, themselves, an animal protection program so every penny helps.

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

Score: Yes   2 Points

Education of the plight of the Asian elephant is one of the most important aspects of the park. They don’t just concentrate on visitors, but also provide education and outreach to locals and the Thai community as a whole.

Total Score for Conservation and Education: 8/10

 

Zoo Review Final Score for Elephant Nature Park :  45/50

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 here

Notes

1. This report was compiled on: 2nd 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





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