Happy Elephant Care Valley in Chiang Mai, Thailand, is set to transition to a truly elephant-friendly venue with an agreement to end all contact between tourists and the animals as demand grows for more responsible experiences.
World Animal Protection, an animal welfare charity, and a coalition of travel industry leaders pioneered the transformation at Happy Elephant Care Valley. This comes on the heels of research showing the number of people who find elephant riding acceptable dropped by 9 per cent, to 44 per cent, in just three years. Research from the 2017 KANTAR global study also proved eight out of 10 travellers prefer to see elephants in their natural environment.
Until recently, visitors to Happy Elephant Care Valley were able to closely interact with the animals, previously from farms and riding camps, by riding, bathing and feeding them. Now, with the new transition, the elephants are free to behave as they would in the wild, roaming the valley, bathing in mud, dust or water and grazing, with visitors experiencing the animals at a safe distance.
Travel industry partners leading the charge to promote elephant-friendly tourism include TUI Group, The Travel Corp., Intrepid Group, G Adventures, EXO Travel and Thomas Cook Group.
“Happy Elephant Care Valley is a groundbreaking development for both animals and tourists,” said Steve McIvor, CEO, World Animal Protection. “It will be a very real example of an attraction where tourists can see the animals behaving naturally and freely as part of the herd. It will demonstrate that elephant-friendly experiences are possible, without forcing cruel interactions with people.”
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