Guidelines for Elephant Interactions

At Khiri Travel we understand that the issue of using elephants for tourism-related purposes is a controversial topic. As such we are reviewing our position and trying to ensure that we are following ‘best practices’ and keeping up with new developments.

The use of elephants in tourism can be divided into two main categories: viewing wild elephants in their natural habitat such as in National Parks and viewing and/or interacting with captive elephants in zoos, sanctuaries, elephant camps, festivals and elephant shows. While we have no major concerns with offering experiences related to the former category, some of the experiences offered in the latter are a legitimate source of concern.

Historically, in Asia, captive elephants have been widely used in cultural and religious ceremonies, which date back thousands of years. Elephants have also been used for transport and physical labor, especially in the logging industry.

In recent years, many countries have banned or reduced logging which essentially meant that many of these working animals and their mahouts had to find alternative employment in the region’s growing tourism industry.

Therefore, Khiri Travel understands that certain locals in South East Asia rely on elephant tourism for their livelihoods. Moreover, keeping elephants comes with considerable costs. Rather than immediately stopping all elephant related experiences, Khiri Travel believes in addressing the issue in a practical manner that benefits all stakeholders.

Done right, the revenue from tourism activities relating to elephants can contribute to funding the care of elephants and conservation activities in a sustainable way. However, when the profit motive outweighs considerations of the elephant welfare, we consider this unacceptable. Irresponsible behavior by mahouts, guides, tourists, and companies that provide elephant experiences can damage elephant welfare and cause a risk to health and safety.

With this in mind, Khiri Travel aims to phase out elephant riding, and will have this activity removed from our supply chain entirely by 2017. Alternatively, we will offer elephant experiences where the animals’ welfare is paramount. Conservation and educational centers as well as camps that take care of elderly elephants without breeding purposes are good examples, and indeed are already in our offers. To this end, we support the work of the Asian Captive Elephant Working Group.

Elephant tourism welfare guidelines

When elephant interactions are offered, Khiri Travel is committed to using responsible establishments that adhere to the following guidelines:

  • Elephants should not be taken from the wild for use in captive environments.
  • All elephant experience providers should have animal specialists and veterinarians doing regular health checks.
  • Animals should have access to adequate drinking water.
  • Elephants should be fed appropriate food, especially when this encourages natural feeding behavior.
  • Enclosures used to house animals should be clean, hygienic and well maintained.
  • Elephant experience providers should keep the chaining of elephants to a minimum, i.e. only a few hours per day.
  • Positive enforcement training methods should be employed and use of the elephant’s ankus (bull-hook) should be kept to a minimum.
  • Elephants, especially young ones that are introduced to camps, should never go through cruel training rituals.
  • Elephants should not be trained to perform unnatural actions, for example, tightrope walks.
  • Where there is contact between tourists and elephants, it should only take place under supervised conditions.

Specifically, where elephant riding is offered and until it is phased out entirely from our programs, Khiri Travel is committed to using responsible establishments that adhere to the following guidelines:

  • Elephants carry a maximum of two people at a time, and preferably without a seat or platform. In other words, riding bareback or on a padded mat is preferable.
  • Use of elephants on tarmac roads should be kept to a minimum.
  • Sick, disabled, pregnant and injured animals and those in musth (bull elephants in heat) should not be used on tours.
  • There should be extended periods where animals are allowed to move and exercise freely. When elephants are not being ridden they should not have seats left on.
  • Elephants should not be ridden for more than 4 hours per day.

If you feel we have missed anything, have concerns about any experiences offered by Khiri Travel or simply would like to comment, then please don’t hesitate to contact us via the contact form below.