Our concern over here in Krabi isn't just towards dogs and cats, it's just the only area that we are equipped to assist with. I moved to Thailand many years ago and was kind of appalled at the treatment of animals in general. There was nowhere that this was more evident than at the very popular elephant trekking parks that were all over the country at that time.
It seems like an alluring attraction you know? You get to trot around on the back of your elephant friend and see some amazing sights. It normally doesn't take very long to realize that perhaps you made a terrible mistake though. The "mahout" or trainer has a long hook that it jabs into the side of the elephant's head to get it to go where he wants it to go and when they are not being ridden, these elephants are normally kept standing in one place with a chain around its leg, all day, every day.
If that doesn't break your heart a little bit I think you have a major problem because there is a good chance you might not have a soul. Thai elephants are extremely docile, and this good nature is probably their undoing as they were quickly exploited for the sake of tourism. They would be ridden all day, beaten if they misbehave and the rest of the time they likely experience very little joy in life other than being fed pineapple shreds with they sell to the tourists to give to them. Their patience when you are holding the pineapple is amazing and heartbreaking.
Thankfully, in the past 5 years or so there has been a bit of an international outcry of support for these enslaved animals and most of the trekking parks have been forced to adapt their strategy for attracting tourists or were shut down, not by government mandate (who appears to not give a crap how the animals are treated) but by simply supply and demand. Now the country is slowly transitioning towards animal sanctuaries where the elephants are not corralled and via government land grants are given wide open spaces to roam
While these sanctuaries are definitely not perfect they are dramatically better than what the industry used to be. The idea that there is going to be a "zero contact" park where the animals are not on display to the public is economically infeasible since it is actually very expensive to feed one of these gentle giants.
It is very nice to see a global initiative that came together to shun the businesses that didn't adapt their business model to both not allow riding at all, and also to provide the animals with some semblance of freedom. This was not easy to accomplish because despite a lot of the vacations photos you will see of this country there are nearly 80 million people living here and a very limited amount of land.
These days, it is very rare to see that any sort of elephant riding being offered because it is nearly considered to be taboo. There are a few that remain but they are slowly transitioning away from this practice that anyone who is aware of how they are treated in a "riding camp" would quickly shy away from.
If you do find yourself in Thailand at any point for tourism. Please see to it that you check out the company first. You can start with a good list of ethical elephant sanctuaries HERE
If you would like to see how you can help out, or simply spread the word, please visit our website at