Elephants have a rich cultural history in Thailand, deeply intertwined with the country’s identity and religious beliefs. They have been an integral part of Thai society for centuries, playing significant roles in agriculture, transportation and warfare. Elephants have also been associated with royalty and are considered a symbol of power and good luck. Even the shape of the country of Thailand has been compared to an elephant. But how can we help these majestic creatures?
Historically, elephants were highly revered and were even featured on the national flag of Thailand until 1917. They were used in ceremonial processions and religious festivals, such as the annual Royal Ploughing Ceremony and the coronation of kings.
However, over the years, Thailand’s cultural and economic landscape has changed, resulting in numerous challenges for elephants. Increased urbanization and changes in land use have led to a loss of natural habitat for elephants. As a result, many elephants have been displaced and are now confined to smaller areas, unable to meet their natural behavioral and dietary needs.
One of the most pressing problems facing elephants in Thailand is the issue of illegal wildlife trade. The capture of elephants for entertainment purposes, such as circuses and street begging, continue to pose a significant threat to their survival. These practices are not only detrimental to the elephant population but also involve cruelty and exploitation.
Ethical sanctuaries in Thailand have emerged as a response to these challenges. These sanctuaries prioritize the well-being and conservation of elephants, providing a safe haven for rescued elephants. Ethical sanctuaries offer them a more natural environment, focusing on education by raising awareness about the plight of elephants and advocating for their protection and promoting responsible tourism practices.
These sanctuaries support elephants and their caretakers in several ways. They employ local mahouts (or elephant caretakers) who have traditionally worked with elephants for generations, ensuring that their livelihoods are sustained. The sanctuaries prioritize the well-being of the elephants, providing them with proper veterinary care, nutritious food, and opportunities for socialization and exercise. They also offer educational programs for visitors, promoting a better understanding of elephants and their conservation needs.
At Discover Corps, we work with ethical sanctuaries such as these to actively discourage activities that exploit elephants, such as riding or performing tricks. Instead, allowing elephants to live as naturally as possible, fostering an environment where elephants can exhibit their natural behaviors and social structures.
By supporting ethical sanctuaries, you can contribute to the conservation and welfare of elephants in Thailand. Visitors can observe and interact with elephants in a responsible and respectful manner, learning about their needs and the challenges they face. The revenue generated from responsible tourism helps fund the sanctuaries’ operations, including the care and conservation efforts for the elephants.
While elephants in Thailand face significant challenges, ethical sanctuaries have emerged as a positive force for their well-being and conservation and one that the Discover Corps team is truly passionate about.
If you’re looking to get involved, we have two trips that work with these sanctuaries, Thailand: The Elephant Experience and Thailand: Elephants & Islands Expedition. Contact us now to get involved!
Still want more info? Check out the video below about one of the incredible elephant sanctuaries we work with below: