Melbourne-based adventure company Intrepid Travel has stopped offering elephant rides to its clients, and banned visits to venues using Asian elephants as entertainment after a three-year study concluded the animals were being treated cruelly and the industry led to an increase in elephants being poached from the wild.
The research by the charity World Society for the Protection of Animals (WSPA) investigated the welfare of captive elephants at entertainment venues in Asia. The conclusions drawn include the fact that it’s “just not possible” to keep the elephants in captivity and that the training to entertain tourists is often “extremely cruel”.
Many of the things the elephants are made to do are physically and psychologically damaging and stressful, Intrepid Travel now warns its clients. Trainers threaten them with pain to perform tasks and the elephants are often shackled and suffer from poor diets.
The company’s co-founder Geoff Manchester said the issues around animals in captivity were complex, but the move has been welcome by their travellers.
“Our focus is on educating people, and teaching local communities about animal welfare and environmental conservation. While we once included elephant rides or entertainment venue visits, we’re now working with rehabilitation and sanctuary facilities,” he said.
“We hope that the increased patronage to commendable venues like this will help encourage others to lift their standards.”
Intrepid has worked with WSPA for more than a decade and has a foundation that’s contributed $430,000 towards animal conservation. Manchester said the company was pushing for change in the industry by encouraging travellers to seek animal-friendly travel options.
Intrepid Travel has produced a guide to Asian elephant welfare, which can be downloaded here.
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