5 ethical elephant parks in Thailand

Get up close and personal with friendly beasts in parks where their humane treatment is a priority.

Going to Thailand without seeing the elephants is like visiting Paris and skipping the Eiffel Tower. With the rampant mistreatment of captive and wild elephants in the country, though, tourists face a moral dilemma. 

Until recently, the options for tourists to interact with elephants in ethically managed environments were few.  Happily, though, Thailand now boasts a number of refuges that not only provide humane treatment for rescued elephants, but also sustainable jobs for the mahouts (elephant tenders).

Now, what constitutes humane treatment is debated — some warn against riding elephants altogether, and there are plenty of ways to interact with the animals without riding them. Baan Chang Elephant Park takes the middle road in offering bareback rides where mahouts carefully divvy up the load to lighten the burden.  Also variable from park to park is the use of chains and bullhooks, a long hooked tool used to train and control the elephants.  Armed with the right information, you'll be able to have an unforgettable experience guided by your own moral lights.

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