The Ethics of Elephant Trekking

Posted on: June 29th, 2014 by Lost Earth Adventures

Why Lost Earth Adventures Doesn’t Believe in Elephant Trekking

Co-Founder, Sarah Allard writes on some of the reasons why we don’t offer elephant trekking on our itineraries.

Elephant Trekking Ethics

Riding perched on the backs of these gentle giants ranks high on many traveller’s bucket lists and it wouldn’t be a trip to Asia without the experience of elephant trekking. There is certainly an air of romance to it. Slowly meandering through jungle, along sandy riverbanks and getting up close to such a large, magnificent and beautiful animal.

Unfortunately this picture of perfection isn’t quite as it seems.

The elephant trekking business in South/Southeast Asia (as well as in other regions of Asia) is thriving, inherently linked to the continued demand from tourists. The largest issue we believe is a lack of awareness by these tourists towards the issues.

Fragile Creatures

Elephants, despite their size are fragile animals, not built to carry heavy weights on their backs. Anything more than 150kg can do lasting harm to an elephant. In most circumstances where trekking is available, people up to two, ride on a chair, called a Howda attached to the elephant back, and this alone can way up to 100kg. If you account for the added weight of the participants than you can easily see the negative effects it can have.

Breaking the Spirit

Domesticated elephants or working elephants (that you might see being trained to do things such as play football or paint or entertain the crowd) were once most likely wild. There is no kind way to domesticate an elephant; the process is actually quite brutal and called “Phaajaan,” literally “breaking the spirit.”
Taming an elephant starts from birth, as young elephants are taken from their mothers. Afterwards they are trapped and chained, kept in extremely closed off enclosures and starved, deprived of sleep, proper nutrition and the right to roam until they freely accept the demands and rewards of the trainer.

An Ethical Decision, Made Easy

For Lost Earth Adventures it is a no-brainer, an easy decision. Simply we don’t condone elephant trekking, promote it or offer it on any of our tours. We never have and we never will. We pride ourselves on continuing our history of acting in a responsible manner in the UK and abroad; this is in our backbone.

You can read more about our commitment to Responsible Tourism here.

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