Intrepid Travel Ban on Elephant Treks
Tour company Intrepid Travel have stopped selling tours involving elephant trekking, due to the cruelty suffered by the animals. Article from Travel Weekly explaining why.
Intrepid Travel hopes agents will back a campaign against elephant rides and other animal attractions. Co-founder Geoff Manchester explained why to Ian Taylor.
Elephant rides are fun, aren’t they? Intrepid co-founder and director Geoff Manchester thought so too.
The adventure travel specialist stopped offering elephant rides this year following research into captive wildlife by World Animal Protection (WAP).
Intrepid launched a campaign urging UK holidaymakers to sign up for animal-friendly tourism this week. It is asking agents to pledge support to stop the “cruelty and abuse of wild animals” as entertainment and to encourage customers to do the same.
Manchester said: “Many travellers have ridden an elephant in Thailand or watched orca whales in marine parks without being aware how they have suffered.
“In many cases the animals are poorly treated or have been poached to fuel tourism demand.”
Elephant training ‘cruel’
WAP research focused on elephants. It found training to be “extremely cruel”, reported many activities they are made to do “physically damaging and stressful”, suggested tourism means “continued demand for elephants to be taken from the wild” and concluded: “Keeping elephants adequately in captivity is not possible.”
Manchester said: “Elephant riding was part of our programme in Thailand. We had always done elephant rides.”
But he said: “We’ve supported WAP for years. It was interested in doing research and we supported it.” When he saw the results, Manchester said: “We decided to phase out elephant rides.
“We wanted to see if there was any impact on demand. After 12 months we found no evidence of any. When we surveyed people, we found elephant riding wasn’t important. What attracted people was the itinerary.”
Intrepid took elephant rides out of most trips in 2012-13 and stopped offering them this year. Instead, it offers trips to elephant sanctuaries. Manchester said: “We feed the elephants, learn about their history, bathe them, see them fed other foods. It’s much more rewarding than a ride.”
What was the impact of dropping the rides on those who earn a living from the elephants? Manchester said: “Most places we visit handle large numbers of tourists so it’s not such an issue for them. Where we had riding as part of trekking, it was a small part of the business.”
He conceded: “If it all stopped immediately, it would be detrimental to people dependent on elephants. It will be a long-term project to change attitudes to elephant riding.” But he added: “Elephant riding is cruel – and there are activities you can do with elephants other than riding.”
Intrepid Travel also advises against swimming with dolphins and whales. Manchester said: “Everything we do, we try to do responsibly. We’re hoping the campaign will raise awareness of the issues.”
The issues are as follows:
- Asian elephants are highly endangered, with 30,000-50,000 in the wild and 15,000 in captivity.
- Those in captivity are generally poached from the wild. A captive elephant must be restrained using “a cruel and painful process to break the elephant’s will” and are “susceptible to health and behavioural problems”.
- Most elephants at venues in Thailand have been taken from the wild.
- In the wild, elephants eat 200kg of fresh food a day, moving 18-30 miles a day to find it and eating from as many as 180 plants. They form herds of up to 20 and are highly social.
- In captivity elephants are often chained and their diet is limited. They are kept isolated, have little veterinary care and little shade. Hooks and sticks are used to control them and saddles can be left on all day.
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