Can You Ride African Elephants?




Riding elephants has become a wildly popular tourist activity in Asia, but animal activists argue it is an act of cruelty since these creatures were not intended for such treatment.

Many sanctuaries in Asia have taken in former entertainment elephants and are doing their best to make them feel at home again. But they still have a long way to go.

What is an elephant?

An elephant is a large herbivorous mammal that roams throughout sub-Saharan Africa and South Asia. It plays an essential role as an ecosystem engineer by digging up dry riverbeds and creating watering holes for other animals to drink from.

These enormous creatures are easily identified by their long legs, long trunks, thick skin, rounded ears and ivory tusks. Additionally, they possess long, flexible noses as well as wrinkly skin that traps moisture.

Elephant trunks, or proboscises, are one of the most versatile and dexterous organs in mammals. Consisting of up to 40,000 muscles, they enable an elephant to perform essential functions like breathing, drinking, picking up objects with its trunk or trunk-end, trumpeting warnings or greeting others.

Baby elephants begin to master trunk control around two months old. This remarkable skill requires a lot of practice, but most elephants can stand on their own within two days after learning this amazing trick.

Why do elephants do tricks?

Elephants are social animals who form strong social networks with other elephants in herds. When times of drought, family units will move far to find food and water; they also display grief when one member of their herd passes away.

Elephants communicate with other herd members by stomping their feet, which creates vibrations in the ground that other elephants can feel. They use these sounds to let others know when they’re safe and when not.

These messages can range from small chirping noises in their throats to trumpeting so deep it’s unaudible by humans. They may even urinate or defecate to express their emotions and identity.

The trunk of an elephant’s trunk is a powerful weapon, featuring two fingerlike extensions at its tip that make it easy to grasp objects such as berries or grasses. Elephants also use this trait to hold onto tree branches and pull them down towards their mouths or pull up large clusters of greenery.

How do elephants get trained?

Elephants are frequently employed in circuses and zoos as part of animal displays. Unfortunately, these establishments often don’t have the time or desire for gentle training methods; instead they use harsher techniques to teach elephants tricks and interact with visitors.

For instance, when elephants are trained to paint tourist souvenirs, their mahouts often embed nails into the elephant’s trunk in order for them to change direction of their brushstroke. This practice has left both physically scarred and emotionally damaged the elephants.

Elephant chaining is another common technique. When a baby elephant is tied to chains or ropes, the rope burns into their skin as they struggle against it.

Additionally, failing to obey their mahout can cause them to internalize that if they don’t obey, they’ll suffer in pain. This can lead to a lifetime of fear and anxiety for them. In order to break this cycle, mahouts must be taught how to use positive reinforcement when training an elephant.

Are elephant rides ethical?

Elephants are a majestic and powerful animal. They also possess great intelligence, as well as deep familial bonds.

Unfortunately, many tourist elephant rides are cruel and exploitative. It is often the case that calves are taken from their mothers and kept apart, then repeatedly beat until they become broken and willing to submit to human control.

Once employed, these animals must endure long days in tropical heat carrying wooden chairs with humans strapped to them for miles at a time. This can cause exhaustion, sores and arthritis in the long run.

Unfortunately, Intrepid Travel stopped offering elephant rides in 2014.