Images of bloodied elephants being beaten have caused a lot of controversy on social media.
As animal welfare becomes more important, elephant riding has been criticized as inhumane. However, making the switch to a more animal-friendly model is not an overnight task. Bad experience
N.A., a tourist from Hanoi, visited Dak Lak on the third day of Tet (February 3rd). She had a bad experience witnessing elephants being beaten to serve tourists.
“As a young person, I want tourism activities to be healthier. Scenes of animals being stripped and overworked are really no longer appropriate,” she told Zing.
She shared that she went to Jun village on the third day of Tet. There, she saw about 3 elephants chained outside. Anyone who wants to ride elephants needs to contact the caretaker, with a fee of about 200,000-300,000 dong per ride. According to the female tourist, the caretakers use a bullhook to control the elephants. They often hit the elephants when tourists are not paying attention.
Tourists still ride elephants in Dak Lak. Photo: N.A.
On the fourth day of Tet (February 4), she continued to visit the Cau Treo tourist area in Buon Don. Here, she said there were 6 elephants outside. Every elephant has bloodstains on their body. One of them even had wounds all over its head.
“I have experienced friendly elephant tourism in Phu Quoc (Kien Giang). People can touch the elephant’s head, feed them. This is much more civilized and also provides enough experience for tourists,” N.A. said.
In an interview with a reporter, Tran Xuan Phuoc, Director of the Elephant Conservation and Wildlife Rescue Center in Dak Lak province, confirmed the information and images shared by tourists on the internet are true. The center has come to work with the tourist area. It is known that the owner of the Cau Treo tourist area has committed not to let this situation happen again. Is it easy to have animal-friendly tourism?
When reading N.A.’s story, many people shared that the traditional elephant riding tourism model should be changed to a more animal-friendly type. In fact, from December 15, 2021, the Dak Lak Provincial People’s Committee signed a cooperation agreement with the Animals Asia Foundation on converting to building an elephant-friendly tourism model. However, implementation is not an easy task.
Phuoc said the big problem lies in the funding sources for elephant farmers to convert to a tourism model. Currently, the signing is only in the initial stage. They still need time to persuade elephant farmers to commit to the conversion model as well as support funding for these parties. The plan could take 5 years and the earliest conversion could only take place from this year. elephants in dak lak 3
Yok Don National Park is one of the places that has quickly transformed into an elephant-friendly tourism model. Photo: Shipped Away.
The reporter also contacted a representative of the Yok Don National Park, where an animal-friendly tourism model is being implemented.
Accordingly, the friendly model will eliminate traditional elephant riding. Tourists will be able to observe elephants’ activities, mud baths with elephants in natural conditions. Caretakers will also be instructed to read elephant gestures, thereby understanding their emotions of happiness, sadness, and anger. Vu Duc Gioi, Deputy Director of the tourist area, said this model is civilized and suitable for modern trends as young people increasingly love animals.
In fact, before 2018, this area also organized elephant riding, but it was not exploited too much as elephants were still used to support forest patrols. Until July 2018, Yok Don National Park signed an agreement with the Animals Asia organization to end elephant riding activities.
However, it is not easy for all elephant farmers in Dak Lak to convert to such a model. According to Gioi, the story of making a living with elephants has been associated with many households for many years. If there is no support funding, they are very difficult to change, whether they want to or not.
“Managing and caring for elephants is extremely expensive. At present, their support is limited. There are families who have to focus on taking care of one elephant. Such a large asset does not generate income, so how do they live? I think the conversion will take place, but there needs to be a roadmap, they cannot be forced to implement it immediately,” Gioi said.
Regarding the issue of beating elephants, according to Gioi, this is something all caretakers have to do. The bullhook is a tool that helps caretakers train and control the elephant. Sometimes, elephants do not listen to their owners. The size of the animal is too big while humans are small. Therefore, hitting the elephant is unavoidable. In addition, the cane is also a tool for them to defend themselves when they encounter bad situations.
In fact, caretakers usually only use the cane with male elephants or those that are too aggressive and disobedient. Beating elephants still happens in reality, even in friendly tourist areas to manage them. However, the degree of beating depends on the caretaker.
“There are some elephants that do not need to use the cane. Caretakers only carry it as a precaution. We also limit the use of the cane. I think the friendly model will be better in terms of educational knowledge, conservation for both locals and tourists. However, the conversion will take time for tourists to get used to. When they attract customers, have income, the households will follow,” Gioi said. Is elephant riding bad?
According to the World Animal Protection Association, elephants may look very strong, but their backs are quite weak. The weight of the seat and the weight of the tourists cause serious damage to the elephant’s back when they continuously ride them. In addition, elephants cannot stand on two hind legs like in circus performances. This only happens when elephants have gone through harsh, cruel training.