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Thailand Elephant Camps

Christian Haugen

There are more than 70 elephant camps in Thailand, with a majority of them in the North of the country; but sadly in all conscience, there are very few that we can recommend to you without any reservations. The number of elephant camps in Thailand exploded when the government put an end to elephant logging in 1989. While initially there was some sympathy for the unemployed mahouts and of course, the elephants; but the subsequent rise of Thailand's "elephant show-business" has largely become the province of entrepreneurs who care nothing for the welfare of the elephants. They simply seek to make money at the expense of these incredible creatures. In recent years we have learnt about the cruelty that is inflicted on these wonderful beasts by their mahouts, deep in the jungle away from prying eyes. It is there that they subjugate them, break their spirit and force them to perform their 'party tricks'. Elephant shows - which include activities such as playing football, painting pictures and performing mock battles and parades etc. - together with forcing them to endure tourists sitting on their backs for extended periods, are very painful and mentally destructive to these intelligent creatures. It’s worth mentioning here that elephants do have a strong neck which can support the weight of a small mahout. However their back is not as strong and certainly not built to carry multiple people, plus the weight of a cage for them to sit on. When not performing or working they are often fed meagre, inadequate rations and are chained or cooped up in small pens for much of their lives. Some camps are better than others, and in many places the elephants are treated with compassion and love, but the activities they have to perform are still harmful to their health and are often painful. In view of this, we only recommend camps where there are no elephant shows or carry people on their back, and the people who run them are dedicated to the conservation and welfare of these animals. Thanks GOHOBO

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