For animal lovers, finding travel experiences that provide ethical ways of interacting with animals poses a problem. Many of the activities that were once thought to be harmless fun can actually be harmful to the animals.
A new elephant sanctuary in Thailand might offer a solution.
Phuket Elephant Sanctuary is a 30-acre park and the first shelter of its kind in the city that gives elephants that have worked in entertainment or other forms of labor the chance to retire. They can roam the grounds freely during the day and rest in large shelters at night, The Independent reported.
Several celebrities, including the band Coldplay and Aaron Paul of “Breaking Bad,” have made visits to the park, drawn in by its ethical practices.
British philanthropist and fashion executive, Louise Rogerson, started the sanctuary in 2015 after volunteering for several years with elephant projects in Thailand, according to the sanctuary’s website.
The first animals – including a 60-year-old female originally from a logging camp – arrived in August 2016, a according to The Phuket News. The sanctuary opened to visitors later that year.
“Elephants are emotional animals, they feel happiness, sadness and show love, and here we allow them to be themselves again, unafraid,” Rogerson told CNN. “What is lovely about what we’re doing here is we have had children come and watch elephants playing in water and not riding them in a show. We need the next generation to understand the importance of compassion to animals.”
Elephant lovers can visit the park and get up close to the animals to feed them. There is no riding allowed, and the tours aim to educate people about the cruelty that elephants face in many parts of the region. Half-day visits to the tour cost 3,000 baht (about $87) for adults, and 1500 baht ($44) for children.