Ok touching wild animals, riding elephants, is just some of the most sought after experiences for backpackers, travellers, etc. To countries like, Thailand, Cambodia, Vietnam. The reason I’m just saying these countries is because, they are the ones I have personally visited & have experienced, therefore, I can comment.
After taking part in the majority of them I can honestly say I would never do it again. Why ? I will outline a few experiences below.
I will never forget my visit to the bridge over the river Kwai, which, included elephant trekking. It was a beautiful day on the drive from Bangkok to the bridge, which always makes everything seem so much better. When we finally arrived in the town, after about a 5 minute walk, there was a baby leopard it was adorable, I just wanted to hold it but was obviously a bit sceptical at first. So I watched a while of how things were done. First I noticed the chain around its neck then, the handler kept using swift hand movement to control through fear & constantly feeding it bottles of milk when tourists were holding it, to for control reasons obviously. I will never forget the next part, the woman who went instead of me sat down, the cat did not want to play anymore it clearly had enough it was clear from its growling. Regardless, it didn’t stop the handler trying to make money. He forced the cat onto the woman’s lap, it was ok for a second then it locked onto her leg in a gentle way telling the horrible people to stop what they were doing to it. Luckily enough, the woman was super calm which kept the cat calm, resulting in, it letting go followed by a smack of a stick, by the handler. Furthermore, he holds up the bottle & says to me, do you still want to go. I couldn’t believe it “ I actually looked in a total confused state & said no it’s clearly obvious he’s had enough” he laughed & said no-no he is fine. It’s because of people like him, doing things like that, which get poor innocent animals killed, because they were protecting themselves from people like him. To top it off it was a baby, clealy, they stole it from it’s mother, horrible.
After the ordeal, the tour carried on to the elephant trekking & I was already pissed off at what I had witnessed so wasn’t really up for it. We arrived at the place, there were some elephants in the water around us they looked happy I began to think, ok not so bad snap out of it. Then, when we got up on the podium to get on the elephant I remember thinking, I don’t want to do this the elephants looked so sick but, they had already started moving. There was a little girl no more than 10 leading the way, the elephant was being slightly disobedient so she jabbed a big steel stick in the elephants eye to control the poor thing, I was horrified. (Not her fault she is doing what she is being though from older people that was a taught exactly the same.) It lasted all of 20 mins the whole time I just wanted to get off & see was the elephant ok. When we got back to base they wouldn’t answer anything I asked, I remember feeding the elephants some bananas, the poor things were exhausted their faces & everything were sunken. To say it was horrible is an understatement.
Then there is the other side of it all, if they really knew how cruel they were being, would they still do it ? They live in countries full of corrupt governments that leave them no option’s, so the people have to do what they can, just to survive.
In Cambodia the human trafficking rates are appalling because people have to do what they can to survive while wealthier & educated people pay for sex with babies, disgusting. Read my blog in relation to trafficking A SHORT STORY ABOUT CAMBODIA
So really, when you think about it, it really is up to the tourist to not support this type of entertainment because after all, we are the ones keeping it in business !!! I always hear people say ohh but come on everyone else is doing it, so what, be different say no. Thinking like that is using denial to make ourselves feel better about what we are doing, I say this because, it’s exactly how I was thinking until I did it even though deep down I knew it was wrong & still did it. I denied myself the reality of it until I had the experience of it & felt the guilt instead.