Can elephants in Asia be freed into the wild?
In an ideal world all elephants would be wild. But the reality is Asian elephants have been domesticated for thousands of years, and now the wild elephant population is so endangered it’s not sustainable. The vast majority of elephants in Chiang Mai cannot be “returned to the wild,” and even if they could, there is very little habitat for them to return to. Unlike Africa, there is really no place left for Asian elephants to be completely free in Thailand. Lack of land, human-elephant conflict and poaching make it very dangerous for elephants to be in the wild. Even elephants in conservation centers and sanctuaries are not completely free. With all of these problems, it is important to create humane environments for the elephants to live in so that they are protected and do not become extinct.
One of the reasons elephant population has declined so drastically in the last 20 years is because elephants and mahouts could no longer earn a living. Mahouts couldn’t afford to care for and feed their charges, which resulted in street begging elephants and illegal, amphetamine-addicted logging elephants. Through elephant tourism, owners can provide a home and stable income for both the elephants and the Mahouts.
Is Elephant tourism is kind to elephants?
Work can actually be stimulating for elephants, and studies have shown that working elephants live longer than those in zoos. We create a unique experience where guests can learn about elephants while interacting, playing, feeding and bathing them. These are all stimulating but low stress activities for the elephants.
For domestic elephants, our friends aren’t doing too badly. They are the offspring of domesticated Thai elephants — not wild ones from Burma. The youngest were all conceived and born here which both promotes elephant conservation and indicates that they are comfortable and healthy. These elephants have elephant friends, a clean river to play and bathe in everyday, a lush bamboo forest to sleep in, and Mahouts who love them.
Tourism is also important in that it’s a big factor in governmental decisions to take strong measures to protect elephants, because it is vital to their economies. Domesticated elephants play a valuable part in education and “public relations” on behalf of their wild cousins, too. We hope that after seeing these beautiful animals up close, meeting and learning about them, and watching them interact in a loving and protective family group, you will leave a friend of the elephants for life.