The 6 BEST Ethical Elephant Sanctuaries In Chiang Mai [2024]

Check out what the best elephant sanctuaries in Chiang Mai are during your visit to Thailand. Find out what makes an ethical elephant experience, the history of elephants in Thailand, the top elephant sanctuaries to visit, and more!


There is a crazy amount of elephant sanctuaries in Chiang Mai. Walk down any street and you will be surrounded by travel agencies showing off their popular elephant experiences.

Thailand itself has over 80 elephant camps, mostly in the North so you must choose one which is best for you, as well as the elephants involved for your Chiang Mai itinerary.

As a traveler, it can be easy to get swept up in the moment and do something you may just regret later. I remember looking back at my parent’s photos of them riding elephants in Thailand and cringing.

This was back in the early 2000s when there was, unfortunately, a lack of knowledge and understanding of responsible tourism and access to information.

When I then went on my backpacking trip to Thailand and was asked by my mother if I too would ride an elephant I said no and explained my reasons why.

Before we get into the top elephant sanctuaries in Chiang Mai, their tours, and responsible tourism I would just like to say thank you for researching this subject and taking it seriously. It is important we get the word out and encourage them to partake in an ethical experience at a Chiang Mai elephant sanctuary.


going on the jungle walk karen elephant retreat. A herd of elephants foraging through bamboo and underbrush at an elephant sanctuary in Chiang Mai, demonstrating natural elephant behaviors.
two elephants playing in a pile of bamboo
jungle walk with karen elephant retreat with An elephant lies resting on a hillside, surrounded by the lush greenery of a Chiang Mai elephant sanctuary.
its great to see these incredible creatures in their natural habitat

🚗 How I Book Cheap Transport In Thailand: 12Go Asia


Need A Quick Answer?

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Map Of The Best Ethical Elephant Sanctuary Chiang Mai

Here is a map of some of the best elephant sanctuaries worth visiting while you are in Chiang Mai.

You will see they all have ticketing offices in the main town which you can easily navigate to. If you don’t have a local sim to use Google Maps you can always get a Thailand eSIM.

However, the sanctuaries themselves will be at least an hour away where the elephants have plenty of room to roam.


1. Elephant Nature Park Chiang Mai

Elephant Nature Park is no doubt the most popular ethical elephant sanctuary Chiang Mai. It is certainly known as one of the most ethical as well. It was opened in the 1990s by founder Lek Chailert who is widely known for her conservation work with elephants.

Located 60 kilometers from Chiang Mai the property sits on a huge 250 acres giving the elephants a huge amount of land to live in.

No doubt this is the most popular and best elephant sanctuary in Chiang Mai, as well as the best elephant sanctuary in Thailand.

How To Visit: I highly recommend booking as far in advance as possible if you are planning to visit this elephant park in Chiang Mai. This is because it is widely considered the best elephant sanctuary. Seriously, I missed out on trying to book 3 weeks in advance.

They offer single-day visits for 2,500 THB per person which will involve transportation to the elephant park in Chiang Mai.

They also have an overnight elephant sanctuary stay which is 5,800 THB per person where you can wake up to the noises of elephants. If you want to stay a little longer at Elephant Nature Park they also have a 7-day program and finally a dog rescue volunteer program as well.

Feeding Elephants: YES

Bathing Elephants: NO

Riding Elephants: NO

Office Location: 1 Ratmakka Road, Phra Sing, Chiang Mai 50200, Thailand

Website: View Here

BOOK NOW


2. Elephant Freedom Project In Chiang Mai

Elephant Freedom Project is Chiang Mai is actually the first Chiang Mai ethical elephant sanctuary I visited when Elephant Nature Park was all booked out. This place is actually run by Elephant Nature Park and is one of their many projects within Northern Thailand.

This is where Elephant Nature Park works alongside the elephant owners and local communities to showcase the benefits of ethical elephant experiences and demonstrate that this is what tourists want to see these days.

Located in the Mae Wang Area of Chiang Mai Elephant Freedom Project is an excellent way to get out of the city and into the countryside. You will get the chance to spend the day with about 6 amazing elephants and have them show you their home.

The highlight for me doing this tour was doing one of the jungle hikes with the elephants. This is where their individual personalities shine. The younger elephants would climb up the hills of the small valley and slide down, they seemed so happy.

How To Visit: Because there is so much choice you do not need to book the projects Elephant Nature Park offers so far in advance like you would do if you were visiting the actual park.

You can do a single-day visit for 2,500 THB and children are half this price. Included in your booking are transportation and a vegetarian lunch.

Feeding Elephants: YES

Bathing Elephants: YES

Riding Elephants: NO

Office Location: 1 Ratmakka Road, Phra Sing, Chiang Mai 50200, Thailand

Website: View Here

BOOK NOW

A family of elephants, dust swirling around them, showcasing the natural environment of an elephant sanctuary in Chiang Mai.
a family of elephants enjoying a dust bath

🚗 How I Book Cheap Transport In Thailand: 12Go Asia


3. Into The Wild Elephant Camp

Into The Wild Elephant Camp gives high importance to the well-being of elephants as well as the Karen Community. Employing locals it gives them more opportunities.

They also give clothing and supplies to nearby local villages. For them, it is important that the elephants and locals are both respected and appreciated.

How To Visit:At Into The Wild Elephant Camp they have both full-day and half-day tour options.

Feeding Elephants: YES

Bathing Elephants: YES

Riding Elephants: NO

Office Location: 115 3 Room 1 Sri Poom Rd. Office at Hug Hostel, Chiang Mai

Website: View Here

BOOK NOW


4. Karen Elephant Retreat

Similar to The Elephant Freedom Project in Chiang Mai, The Karen Elephant Retreat is actually run by Elephant Nature Park. It is one of their many projects within Northern Thailand.

Located in the Mae Taeng Area it is less than an hour’s drive to arrive at the sanctuary in the Chiang Mai countryside. While visiting you get to make some elephant food and go for an awesome jungle walk.

It is a relatively steep climb uphill to where the bamboo is. The elephants loved throwing dust on themselves and ripping out the bamboo. Unlike the Elephant Freedom Project, we actually did 2 feeding sessions at the Karen Elephant Retreat as well.

How To Visit: Because there is so much choice you do not need to book the projects Elephant Nature Park offers so far in advance like you would do if you were visiting the actual park.

For this elephant sanctuary chiang mai ticket you will pay 2,500 THB for a one-day visit and children are half this price. Included in your booking are transportation and a vegetarian lunch.

Feeding Elephants: YES

Bathing Elephants: YES

Riding Elephants: NO

Office Location: 1 Ratmakka Road, Phra Sing, Chiang Mai 50200, Thailand

Website: View Here

BOOK NOW

A Day At The Karen Elephant Project With Elephant Nature Park In Chiang Mai

5. Happy Elephant Home

Home to rescued Chiang Mai elephants from the tourist trade they can now roam freely at Happy Elephant Home. This is another ethical Chiang Mai thailand elephant sanctuary worth visiting.

It’s easy to see the team here loves these elephants. You also get to wear traditional Karen clothing here so just be aware you will be expected to change on arrival.

How To Visit: There are a few different options to choose from when you are at Happy Elephant Home. The first is the standard full day tour which costs 2400THB. The second is a half-day tour which costs 1800THB.

Lastly, there is the overnight option for those who really want to immerse themselves in the experience at a price of 5000 THB. For an elephant sanctuary Chiang Mai price this is on the higher side, but it is an overnight experience.

Feeding Elephants: YES

Bathing Elephants: YES

Riding Elephants: NO

Location: 74/1 Kuet Chang, Mae Taeng District, Chiang Mai 50150

Website: View Here

BOOK NOW

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6. BEES – Burm & Emily’s Elephant Sanctuary

I have saved the best for last so if you’re looking for an ethical elephant sanctuary Chiang Mai you cannot do better than BEES. Founded in 2011 by Burm and Emily they have the elephant’s best interest at heart.

Emily’s trip to Thailand inspired her to open it as she saw the conditions of the elephants which were giving visitors rides and performing tricks. The goal of the sanctuary is to allow elephants to actually be elephants and have natural behaviors. As a result, there is no bathing or riding of elephants.

How To Visit: They have 3 different options for programs. The first is 7 days running Monday to Sunday. They also have an overnight stay and a 3-night stay. This is so you can get the most out of your experience with the elephants and learn about how BEES operates.

They provide plenty of educational activities and even though there is a hands-off policy with the elephants, you will be hands-on in caring for the elephants by making their food, observing their behaviors, and more.

Feeding Elephants: NO

Bathing Elephants: NO

Riding Elephants: NO

Location: 34 M1, Ban Thung Yaw, Tambon Chang Keung Chiang Mai

Website: View Here

BOOK NOW


🚗 How I Book Cheap Transport In Thailand: 12Go Asia


History Of Elephants In Thailand

Before we get what makes an ethical elephant sanctuary Chiang Mai and responsible tourism I think it is important to understand the importance of elephants in Thai history and culture. This is because it is likely quite different from what you think as a foreigner.

Elephants in Thailand during the old times were an integral part of everyday life. Exactly how horses were too many of us, they allowed transportation and heavy lifting when vehicles and machinery were not an option, they were working animals.

The presence of elephants is also a rich part of Thai culture and religion.

In 1989 the government banned logging in Thailand, an industry that heavily relied on the use of elephants. As a result over 4000 of these working animals were displaced and their mahouts were left without any income.

With increased tourism in the ’90s, the locals quickly realized the appeal of elephants to international travelers and thus the creation of elephant Chiang Mai tourism.

These travelers were more than happy to pay large amounts to interact with and ride these majestic creatures. Therefore encouraging an even greater movement into elephant tourism.

During this time in the 90s and early 2000s, the popular thing to do was watch an elephant performance or ride one. However, in the early 2010s, the opinion of travelers quickly changed as accessibility to information increased and animal rights groups gained traction.

As a result, many companies had to transition quickly to keep up with new market demands as this experience was the top spot in many travelers Thailand bucket list.

However, this doesn’t necessarily mean they are an ethical elephant sanctuary Thailand Chiang Mai, something which I will touch more on below.

For a better understanding of elephants in Thailand and Southeast Asia, I highly recommend checking out the Southeast Asia Backpackers article.

elephant jungle walk elephant freedom project. An adorable baby elephant lying in the dirt, under the protective stance of an adult elephant at a sanctuary in Chiang Mai.
a sweet baby elephant rolling down the hill for fun, its awesome to see them playing and having fun
elephant jungle walk elephant freedom project - Three elephants, including a young calf, stand close together in the shade of trees in a serene elephant sanctuary in Chiang Mai.
seeing the elephants enjoy time in their natural surroundings at the elephant freedom project in chiang mai

What Makes An Ethical Elephant Sanctuary?

First of all, there is no law in Southeast Asian countries as to what is considered a sanctuary. If there was this could restrict what camps can call themselves. Therefore nearly every elephant experience you will come across in Chiang Mai will call itself a sanctuary.

That is why it’s important for you to research the sanctuary you are thinking about before visiting or even look into a few different options before deciding. That is why I am recommending a few different options so you can consider each one and choose which one suits you best.

The definition of ethical is “relating to moral principles or the branch of knowledge dealing with these”. Relating this back to elephant experiences would ensure that the company has the elephant’s best interests at heart and provides the ultimate elephant care.

Also, they create a safe and enriched experience for both the tourist and the elephant. Balancing what is best for each animal and the tourist’s interest is certainly a difficult balancing act. Especially on a subject matter on which many people have strong opinions.

My partner visited an elephant sanctuary in Phuket, though I chose not to do it as I had already been to one in Chiang Mai recently. On his return, he told me the sayings he was taught to tell the elephant, letting it know when to open its mouth, and lift up its trunk for you to put bananas in, etc.

This is an experience that was considered ethical and had great reviews online. However, learning about the commands made me question it as you would’ve needed to train an elephant to do this.

Unfortunately, the process of training an elephant is not a nice one. It is called Phajaan, breaking an elephant spirit or the crush and it is exactly as bad as it sounds.

Often involving a young elephant as this is when they are the most impressionable resulting in them becoming submissive to humans. It is a form of torture that basically scares the elephant in hopes it will never disobey a human.

Fortunately, with elephants being bred in captivity for tourism purposes, this tradition is slowly being phased out over the years. Many young elephants these days haven’t experienced the phajaan and are instead learning behaviors from their mother.

Ultimately the most ethical elephant sanctuary will be one that provides the closest lifestyle as if the elephant was out in the wild. Yes, that may mean you may not have any physical interaction with the elephants, but it’s for a good cause.

A tranquil scene of a herd of elephants, with a small human figure in the distance, highlighting the vast spaces of Chiang Mai's elephant sanctuaries.
heading back to our elephant sanctuary in chiang mai after a jungle walk

Is Riding Elephants Ethical?

In terms of riding elephants for tourism, no it is not ethical. You should never pay for the experience of riding an elephant. Though in saying this you will find a few riding camps still operating throughout Southeast Asia.

Western tourists for the most part no longer participate in riding. However, in other cultures, they still consider it okay.

The exception when riding an elephant that could be considered ethical is if the mahout is riding it. A mahout is a dedicated career and has usually grown up alongside that elephant.

They have a special bond and sometimes the mahout will ride the elephant if this is to gain control over the elephant or simply to catch a ride over a river.


Is Bathing Elephants Ethical?

The question of whether bathing elephants is ethical is something that has been in hot debate in recent years. Experts for the most part agree that bathing elephants is an unethical practice that needs to be phased out.

Whether this is swimming in the river or giving the elephants a mud bath, these are both questionable practices.

However, there doesn’t seem to be much of this passing out within the industry. It is still widely practiced. This is likely due to the demand for it by tourists. Just like riding, if we change our mindset of what we want in the experience the industry will begin providing for it.

It is still relevantly difficult to find an elephant tour in Chiang Mai that does not offer bathing. But you can always choose to sit out of partaking in this activity while we wait for it to die out.


Are Bullhooks Ethical?

This is another hot debate between experts and tourists. Check any TripAdvisor form and everyone is complaining about the mahout carrying their bullhook. I have personally seen scathing reviews of sanctuaries because of a bullhook.

Looking from only the perspective of the tourist it can be easy to question this practice. I mean come on, they are basically carrying around a device whose main purpose is to hurt these gentle giants.

Though many experts claim this is a necessity to keep both the mahouts and guests safe. Now you do get the overzealous mahout who may just like to have a little bit too much control. This is not okay.

But, for the mahout having this device is literally a matter of life and death. No one wants a 4-tonne animal losing control. Using this on sensitive areas allows the mahout to quickly gain control over a situation that could’ve gone very bad.

Unfortunately, there was a “no hooks” policy implemented at Boon Lott Elephant Sanctuary. This is because they saw this is what tourists wanted. This resulted in the death of one of the owners when they couldn’t regain control of one of their elephants.

These deaths are actually common in “no hook” and “no ankus” Chiang Mai elephant tours.

Personally, I think a bit more conversation is needed regarding the positives and negatives of bullhooks. I believe a lot of tourists likely just see a torture device, rather than a life-saving instrument which it can be when used correctly.


What To Bring To Your Chiang Mai Elephant Sanctuary Experience

Camera: For sure a camera is a necessity when you are visiting one of the many excellent elephant sanctuaries Chiang Mai. There will be some amazing moments so be sure to have your camera out to snap some amazing pics.

It may also pay to take a spare battery and SD card! Trust me you will need them if you take as many pics as I do.

Sunscreen and Hat: The sun is hot out here in Chiang Mai so you will want to bring along some sunscreen and a hat. There will be a little bit of shade at whatever sanctuary you choose. Though if you want to be around the elephants it’s likely you will be standing out in the sun for the majority of the day.

Bathing Suit and Towel: Now I don’t recommend you partake in the bathing of elephants as it is not ethical. Remember we want the elephants to be living as close as they can to if they were in the wild.

Though if you cannot stop yourself you will need to bring along a bathing suit and towel. Bathing the elephants can be a dangerous activity as you are up quite close to the elephants in the water so keep as much distance as you can.


🚗 How I Book Cheap Transport In Thailand: 12Go Asia


FAQs About Elephant Sanctuaries In Chiang Mai

Can You See Elephants In Chiang Mai?

Of course, you can see elephants in Chiang Mai, it is one of the most popular places in Thailand for tourists to interact with these creatures.

There are many elephant sanctuaries in Chiang Mai, that rescue Asian elephants from abusive situations, such as logging, tourism, or poaching, and provide them with a safe and natural environment to live in

How Are The Elephants Treated In Chiang Mai?

There is a mixture of elephant sanctuaries in Chiang Mai, some good and some bad, aka unethical and inhumane.

Some of them exploit the elephants for entertainment and profit, forcing them to perform unnatural tricks, carry heavy loads, or endure cruel training methods.

Fortunately, there are also some ethical elephant sanctuaries in Chiang Mai that rescue and rehabilitate elephants from abusive situations.

What is the best elephant sanctuary in Thailand?

The best elephant sanctuary in Thailand is definitely Elephant Nature Park in Chiang Mai. It was established by esteemed elephant rights advocate, Saengduean Chailert, known as Lek, with a goal to provide a sanctuary and elephant rescue center. The park has been involved in dozens of rescues and sustains a natural home for this endangered species.

Where To Stay In Chiang Mai To See Elephants?

No matter where you stay in Chiang Mai you will have the opportunity to see elephants through doing a tour of an ethical sanctuary.

However, some elephant sanctuary chiang mai hotel have elephants roaming freely on their properties. These include Chai Lai Orchid, Anantara, and Tawan Riverside. 

Which Elephant Sanctuaries To Avoid In Chiang Mai?

Some unethical elephant sanctuaries in Chiang Mai that you should avoid include Thai Elephant Home, Chiang Dao Elephant Camp, Patara Elephant Farm, and Mae Sa Elephant Camp. These places do not provide adequate care and freedom for their elephants and may cause them physical and mental harm.

How Much Does It Cost To Go To An Elephant Sanctuary In Chiang Mai?

The average price of visiting an ethical elephant sanctuary in Chiang Mai is about 2,700 THB / $75.00 per person for a single-day visit. 

However, the prices may vary depending on the duration, activities, and location of the sanctuary.

Which elephant sanctuary is best to visit in Chiang Mai?

Elephant Nature Park is the most popular elephant sanctuary in Chiang Mai and is widely considered to be the most ethical as well. It was opened in the 1990s by founder Lek Chailert, who is widely known for her conservation work with elephants. The property sits on a huge 250 acres giving the elephants a huge amount of land to live.

Are the elephant sanctuaries in Chiang Mai ethical?

Not all Chiang Mai elephant sanctuaries are ethical, though there are some that are. You definitely want to do your research prior to booking. However, if you don’t have time for this Elephant Nature Park is known as the most ethical elephant sanctuary in Chiang Mai, and the most ethical elephant sanctuary Thailand as well.

Is Chai Lai Orchid actually ethical?

Chai Lai Orchid is one of the best ethical elephant sanctuaries in Chiang Mai, Thailand. They save elephants from unethical treatment and allow them to live fulfilling lives. Chai Lai also empowers Burmese refugee women who have been trafficked by donating funds through Daughters Rising.

Is Into the Wild Elephant Camp ethical?

Yes, Wild Elephant Camp is an ethical elephant camp. It was established in 2016 with a mission to provide a sustainable and safe home for retired and rescued elephants. They are allowed to roam freely and live as naturally as possible in the lush tropical jungle surrounding the camp.

elephant sanctuaries in chiang mai, two elephants grazing on leaves with a mahout sitting in the background at an elephant sanctuary in Chiang Mai, showcasing a peaceful coexistence.
two elephants grazing on leaves

Where To Stay In Chiang Mai?

You are spoiled with choices when it comes to choosing where to stay in Chiang Mai. There are countless luxury 5-star resorts, locally run guesthouses, and modern hostels. No matter your budget or the type of traveler you are there is something to fit all your needs.

On my most recent visit, I stayed at De Lanna Hotel. This is a mid-range hotel located in the heart of the Old Town. The location was fantastic and having a pool to enjoy during the afternoon heat was fantastic.

Though on the complete opposite side, I also stayed in the cheapest available hostel on my first visit. The owner was great, but the facilities were less than, and I think it’s probably a good thing it’s shut down. However, just make sure to read reviews to stay at the best hostels in Chiang Mai.

I mainly choose to stay within the confines of the Old Town when choosing where to stay in Chiang Mai. This is definitely the best location if you are staying for a short period. Though if you are thinking about living in Chiang Mai you will want to stay further afield.

The Old Town is within walking distance of many beautiful temples, excellent shopping, delicious restaurants, and the famous Sunday Night Market.

the common hostel

The Common Hostel

A modern and upscale hostel. From $13.00 per night including a fab breakfast.

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stay with hug poshtel

Stay With Hug Poshtel

A favorite with travelers. A hostel with all the amenities, from $6.00 per night.

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de lanna hotel

De Lanna Hotel

Beautiful private rooms for $25.00 per night and in the heart of the city with a pool.

BOOK NOW
vieng mantra hotel

Vieng Mantra Hotel

A walk from the city attractions, starting from $18.00 per night with an amazing pool.

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Other Things To Do In Chiang Mai

Chiang Mai is full of excellent activities and attractions to keep you busy during your stay. So buckle in to explore more than just elephants Chiang Mai.

Cooking Class: Chiang Mai is just one of those cities where you need to do a cooking class while there. This is a great way to support a local business while learning some new culinary skills.

I had such an amazing time doing my cooking class with Arom Dii. It was just myself, my partner and another couple so was a lovely relaxed experience.

Night Market: I absolutely love the night markets in Chiang Mai. It is an absolutely delicious foodie experience with great souvenir shopping. There are so many stalls here that you’ll be walking for hours and still would not have visited them all!

Temple Hopping: The Old Town in Chiang Mai is covered in gorgeous temples. A quick map search will show you just how many. Though I will just list a few favorites worth checking out while you are backpacking Chiang Mai.

These are Wat Chedi Luang, Wat Chiang Man, and Wat Phra Singh Woramahawihan. ​Doi Inthanon national park is another incredible stop that is worth the drive.


🚗 How I Book Cheap Transport In Thailand: 12Go Asia


Final Thoughts: Ethical Chiang Mai Elephant Sanctuaries

Now you know Chiang Mai is home to several elephant sanctuaries that offer ethical elephant experiences. They provide a safe haven for elephants that have been rescued from the tourism industry or other forms of exploitation.

By visiting these sanctuaries, you can learn about the history of elephants in Thailand, their behavior, and their conservation.

Some of the best elephant sanctuaries in Chiang Mai include Elephant Nature Park, Elephant Freedom Project, Into The Wild Elephant Camp, Karen Elephant Retreat, Happy Elephant Home, and BEES – Burm Emily’s Elephant Sanctuary.

It is important to choose an ethical elephant sanctuary that prioritizes the well-being of elephants over profit. By doing so, you can help promote responsible tourism and contribute to the conservation of these magnificent creatures.


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Check out what the best elephant sanctuaries in Chiang Mai are during your visit to Thailand. Find out what makes an ethical elephant experience, the history of elephants in Thailand, the top elephant sanctuaries to visit, and more!


Disclaimer: This post contains affiliate links. So, if you click on it and purchase something, I get a small percentage at no extra cost to you. As always all opinions are my own and your support is much appreciated.

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9 thoughts on “The 6 BEST Ethical Elephant Sanctuaries In Chiang Mai [2024]

  1. Avatar for Becka
    Becka says:

    Thank you for all your research and sharing it all in this article. I am heading there tomorrow and as I really want to see elephants, since I never have, I only want to support the most ethical business. I am ok not touching or interacting if it means, that’s what’s best for the elephant. I look forward to seeing them and I appreciate you.

  2. Avatar for Amy
    Amy says:

    Thank you for writing this information! We wanted to make sure we would go to an ethical elephant sanctuary and reading this has really helped!

    We will definitely be going to one of the ones you have suggested!!

  3. Avatar for Ronny
    Ronny says:

    Thank you, super helpful and informative. I’m excited to arrive next month with my girlfriend.

    I wanted to ask what your thoughts were/had heard about Chai Lai Orchid Elephant experience?

    • Avatar for Tasha Amy
      Tasha Amy says:

      Hey Ronny
      Honestly, I haven’t heard of Chai Lai Orchid before so I had to do a bit of research. I am not entirely sure I agree with their respective that bareback elephant riding is okay, though it doesn’t appear that they offer this to guests, and training elephants for human entertainment is okay. It’s awesome to see they support displaced ethnic minorities, and human trafficking and use part of their profits to stop this.
      I think its totally your choice, the only standout for me is the elephant riding, as this is something I personally will never support.
      Hopefully that allows you to make an informed decision.

    • Avatar for Tracey Walton
      Tracey Walton says:

      Hello
      Our hotel has booked us with Elephant Jungle Sanctuary , Chiang Mai tomorrow (Monday ) . It is not listed . Is it ethical ? Thank you

  4. Avatar for Jake
    Jake says:

    Hey Tasha,

    I worked with a couple mahouts in a family-owned jungle elephant sanctuary north of Chiang Mai. I know they really appreciate you bringing up, “riding is ok for mahouts” and “hooks are not inherently evil”.

    When I asked them, “what’s the one thing you’d want to tell the world?”, they responded with, “If you volunteered at a sanctuary for a week, please remember that I’ve cared for my elephant every day of my life for 15 years – having risked my life for this creature multiple times. Stop calling me evil for having my hook (I never saw them actually use it) and riding my elephant around tourists”.

    These mahouts are men and women who don’t have an education and farm rice to make ends meet – they feel like they didn’t have a voice in an increasingly globalized and english-speaking world, and they hated feeling maligned by rich Westerners who berate them after reading headlines about what’s right and what’s wrong when it comes to elephants.

    So from my Lahu buddies in northern Thailand – “Abouja!”, and thank you for using your platform to give my friends a voice.

    • Avatar for Tasha Amy
      Tasha Amy says:

      Hey Jake!
      Happy to see you found my post! That is awesome feedback, so thank you. I truly tried to write from both perspectives in the hope to educate and create a better understanding.
      Tasha Amy

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