What NOT TO DO in Bali – PT.2 : Elephant riding

Something that a lot of people visiting Bali love to do, is riding an elephant.
Around Ubud, there are several different places where you can find this activity.
However, there are a few things to know before buying your tickets.

• The first information, that is interesting to know, is that there are normally no elephants in Bali. The few elephants that are on the island were imported from Sumatra, for only one purpose : tourism.

• Elephants are wild animals. Huge and very strong wild animals. So, how is that, that they are so kind as to accept walking around with a bunch of people on their backs, everyday, several times a day ?
Well, not only in Indonesia but also in Cambodgia, Thailand and other asian countries, baby elephants are taken away from their mother at a very young age and for several days, they live through hell. It has been shown that in a lot of places, elephants are starved for days, don’t have water either and are beaten up frequently on different areas of their bodies.
The elephant quickly learns that it must obey humans to avoid more suffering.
But the suffering isn’t really over for these noble animals, yet.
Not only are they often chained up and don’t have the space they need to evolve and to live, but they are also obligated to have several people on their backs, sometimes several times a day. If they disobey, the person in charge can just press firmly on an old wound that has not quite finished healing, to punish the elephant. It is not always noticed by tourists, that are probably too busy having a good time. Recently, in Cambodgia, an elephant fell down and died of exhaustion while tourists were riding on his back, because the touristic activity was too intense for the big animal..

• Not only is it animal abuse, but elephants also have a very delicate back and their morphology isn’t fit to carry things on their back for a long period of time.

This is not our photo.

With all of this in mind, it is hard to still want to ride on an elephant’s back, even though it can be a dream for many people. If you are really interested in seeing elephants, a better alternative would be to visit an elephant sanctuary. There are some places in Asian countries that save abused elephants and that take care of them ! It is a better way to come in contact with elephants without letting them be abused for our own selfish pleasure. However, you still have to be careful with elephant sanctuaries as well, because some of them will use this “sanctuary, safe place for elephants” image to attract tourists, while abusing the animals behind our backs. And, wether an elephant lives in a sanctuary or not, even if the animal is well-treated, an elephant lives about two times longer in liberty than in captivity.

“I still want to come in contact with elephants. What should I do?”

Some sanctuaries, of course, are still very honest places and they do their best to take care of the elephants. To be sure that the sanctuary you are going to visit is sincere, you can look up the sanctuary on the internet and look at the people’s comments about the place. Usually, even if there is only one comment that talks about animal abuse, it’s not a good sign..
When you are at the sanctuary, you can observe how the elephants act and react to humans, you can look at their bodies to see if there are some weird looking recent scars (although some elephants in these sanctuaries really have been saved from animal abuse, so they will have some scars on their bodies even though they are now well-taken care of).
Other signs that this is a good place for the elephants are : when the elephants aren’t attached and they roam freely in the jungle (they will come back for food), if they eat well, if nobody rides on their backs and if they aren’t obligated to come and see the tourists.

This is not our photo.

We know it can be hard sometimes to evaluate what seems right or not for the animals. The key is to always do our best to make sure that the animals are healthy and well taken care of.
It is our role, as travelers, to try to be aware of these type of activities. It is our role to say “No” if somebody gives us the opportunity to ride on an elephant’s back, even though it seems like a really cool activity to do.
If more and more travellers refuse to indulge in these type of activities, it will cease to exist eventually !

In the meantime, while traveling in these Asian countries, don’t forget to enjoy all the other amazing activities that you are able to do over there ! 🙂

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