We live in Phuket, Thailand and we are all life-long nature and animal lovers. This is a well established world-class vacation destination, but there is trouble in this paradise. The cause - it's gotten out of hand. Too many consumers are finite resources is the underlying problem.
The government is faced with a very tough job. On the one hand, the economy is driven in large part by the tourism industry. On the other hand, most of what is going on currently is not sustainable.
To say that Thailand Ecotourism does no harm to the environment would be inaccurate. Fossil fuels are used to get here and they are used to access specific destinations once our guests arrive. The food packaging for the most part here is not exactly recyclable. What can we do? We can minimize our impact by thinking about every facet of our stay.
We can make choices when shopping or eating and so on. The aim is to do as little harm as possible.
Responsible travelers, please do research first!
Most tourists don't seem to investigate what harms the area they're visiting. Did you know that prawn farms are responsible for the destruction of enormous areas of mangrove? Do you know that the mangrove forest is a key link in the ocean eco system? In fact, it is the nursery for the ocean and that many species are directly tied to this very important part of the chain of life?
What about eating seafood? We're not about to tell you not to eat seafood. But, the fishing industry is at fault for most of the coral reef destruction as well and the physical pollution of the seas and beaches. If you want to eat seafood, try eating fish that didn't come directly from the coral reefs or protected areas.
Getting photos taken with animals... please don't!
Animals are often paraded at night through touristy areas. White-bellied Sea Eagles, Iguanas (not indigenous to this continent), large Reticulated Pythons, baby elephants and other unfortunate living things are likely drugged to keep them docile so their owners can con tourists into getting their pictures taken with their "merchandise."
In the past, not so much these days, White-handed Gibbons were stuck in bars or paraded around town. The only way to get a baby gibbon is to shoot it and the mother out of the tree. If the baby survives the fall, it is doomed to a life of being hassled, taunted, and abused.
Despite being on the international endangered species list, vendors do this openly. Besides the humanitarian aspect of this trade, it is illegal under international and Thai law to have these animals. Please do not support this highly unethical and illegal trade.
The way elephants are taught to accept people riding on their back is by beating them and thus killing their spirit.
If you really care about the elephants, first make a visit to one of the few elephant centers who don't do elephant shows or treks like the Elephant Nature Park north from Chiang Mai, and only afterwards make up your own mind about doing an elephant trek or not. You can read an insightful article about elephants. In this article, it says, “...only wild elephants have any legal protection in Thailand, leaving the vast majority of Thai elephants vulnerable to abuse and neglect by their owners. .”
There's more info on the National Geographic news site. Here's another article about how elephants are tortured in Thailand. Here's a YouTube video about how elephants are often 'trained'. Warning, this is very disturbing.
Check out this powerful, meaningful, and accurate documentary on elepant abuse.
From the World Wildlife Fund: Myanmar hot spot for elephant smuggling and ivory “Females and juvenile elephants are particularly targeted to supply the demand from the tourism industry in Thailand, where they are put to work in elephant trekking centres,” said Shepherd. “Our research found evidence of corruption allowing the illicit smuggling of ivory and elephants to take place.”
This information is not meant to sound like Thais are exceptionally cruel to all animals. Intentional cruelty to animals is a sure indication of sociopathic behavior no matter what the race or nationality of the perpetrator.
I don't have all the answers, but what I do know is the method used in Thailand (perhaps not by everyone) to 'train' the elephants is beating them, sleep deprevation and other nasty acts. From what I've personally witnessed, this appears to be used in Phuket at least. From what I read online, this appears to be the method most often applied.
What would happen if no one rides them?
Well, they could be retired to one of the parks/operations that simply take care of them and don't exploit them for $$. From what I've heard, Thai Elephant Conservation Center in Lampang, does a good job of taking care of the animals.
Some could be released back into the wild. "In a bid to reverse the precipitous decline of elephants in the wild, Thailand's Queen Sirikit has encouraged an experiment to release some from the royal household. The results could be significant for other parts of the world with plummeting elephant populations, writes Leyla Alyanak." from satyamag.com
From the Bangkok Post: "Theerachon added that Ayutthaya's Wang Chang elephant camp and Pattaya's Suan Nong Nuch park have offered to buy elephants and hire their mahouts, while the Elephant Reintroduction Foundation has said it will pay Bt500,000 [to] Bt1 million for any elephant whose mahout can not afford to keep it."
Click here to read about the animal cruelty at the Tiger Temple in Kanchanaburi.
Our goal is to educate and change hearts. We don't do this by force or preaching. We do it simply by showing you the wonders that exist in this still amazing tropical holiday destination.
You will feel the pulse of the natural world as you paddle through the timeless beauty of Phang Nga Bay, the islands of Phang Nga Bay, Phang Nga Province, and Khao Sok National Park. Though these are popular vacation destinations, we can show you each place without the crowds... that's our specialty.