Following discussions with Pro Wildlife, AIDA Cruises, TUI Germany, Hauser Exkursionen and Geograf Exkursionen announced they will introduce elephant-friendly tourism, and no longer offer elephant-back safaris and other cruel attractions involving elephants.
In Asia and increasingly in Africa, elephant calves are being captured from the wild for the lucrative tourism business. They are subjected to a brutal practice where they are chained, confined, beaten and tortured to break their spirits so they can be used for attractions such as elephant rides, dubious elephant camps and temple processions. Such mistreated elephants regularly present a deadly danger to mahouts and tourists.
In Nepal at least five elephants are smuggled across the border from India each year to be employed in the safari industry. Among them are blind, overaged and underaged elephants. They face gross abuse, and lack nutritious food, proper housing, chain free corrals and retirement facilities.
Earlier this year, the Australian tour operator Intrepid and the student travel company STA Travel had announced to stop offering elephant rides. In the Netherlands, all major tour operators have agreed to stop offering elephant rides.
“Many travel companies are proud of their sustainability policies”, said Daniela Freyer of Pro Wildlife. “But so far, animal welfare and conservation of threatened species have largely been ignored by travel providers. We welcome the fact that several companies have now agreed to refrain from offering tours that clearly involve cruelty to elephants. These companies have understood that animal-friendly offers are an important part of a sustainable travel policy,” says Freyer.
In June, Pro Wildlife approached 19 travel companies and asked them to remove elephant rides and other attractions with direct contact to captive elephants from their programs.
TUI Germany agreed to gradually delete excursions from its program in which elephants are mistreated. Hauser Exkursionen stands out among the smaller tour operators: “Hauser Exkursionen has decided to revise its portfolio and to no longer offer attractions that include feeding, riding, or observation of captive animals,” Elke Schnaus of Hauser announced.
Geograf Exkursionen, another sustainable travel organization, announced to offer only elephant-friendly projects. So far this operators had been offering tours to attractions with captive elephants in Nepal, Sri Lanka, and India.
Six other companies reported to currently review their programs. “We call on all tourism businesses to stop offering their customers elephants in chains,” says Freyer. “We will continue our talks with the travel industry,” said Freyer, “after all, responsible tourism should provide an opportunity to better protect wildlife.”
In Sri Lanka, at least 70 elephant calves have been illegally stolen from the wild and brutally tamed for use in tourism in the last seven years. TRAFFIC, estimates that from 2011 to 2013, at least 79 wild-caught elephants a majority of them from Myanmar, were smuggled into Thailand for the tourism industry. The real figure is probably much higher.