Khiri Travel Insider Tip – Wildlife in the Streets of Thailand
Give your clients insider information so that they can avoid the crowds, make discoveries and have a rewarding travel experience. The use of wildlife in Thai tourism is a complex issue. Unquestionably the places that illustrate this dilemma the best are the ubiquitous elephant shows and tiger temple venues. Koen Olie, Director of Product & Contracting, Khiri Travel Thailand gives a review of various points of view on this important issue.
Foreign visitors to Thailand are often overwhelmed by first impressions that can be an assault on their senses: smells, sights, tastes, sounds and even the smiles! However, be cautious about the smiling Thai when there is a “pet” involved. Often times in popular beach resorts like Phuket and Koh Samui, a smiling local person who is holding their exotic “pet” lizard, snake, or monkey and presses to take a photo may approach travelers. The photo is for sale of course and the animal in question is very possibly obtained illegally or by dubious means.
Our advice in this situation is to politely refuse the smiling-pet-handler even if the animal on initial inspection looks soooo cute. In the case of very persistent “pet photo pushers,” travelers should contact the tourist police.
Use of wildlife in Thai tourism is a very complex issue.
Unquestionably, the places that most often inspire this potent debate are the ubiquitous elephant shows and the tiger temple venues. Elephant shows are becoming less popular among Europeans, which is a positive step forward. No matter if the owners of elephant camps claim that ‘elephants enjoy painting’ this is total nonsense of course. Elephants ‘playing’ sports and performing tricks are all unnatural acts for these animals. This link points to an excellent blog that explains in eloquent detail the history and culture of Thailand’s use of domesticated elephants, and how attitudes are changing as to how these beloved beasts should be treated. Here is a – shocking – video that provides more information regarding the abuse of elephants in tourism.
Animal attractions such as the Tiger Temple in Kanchanaburi and the Tiger Kingdoms in Chiang Mai and Phuket should be avoided at all costs. The whole concept of treating tigers as cute kittens that can be petted is very uncertain at best and cruel exploitation at worst.
Instead of patronizing the questionable ethics of elephant shows or tigers on display, your travelers can opt for a visit to the Elephant Parade House or specific rescue centers like the Wildlife Friends Foundation Thailand.
Director of Products & Contracting, Khiri Travel Thailand