ELEPHANT TOURISM MYTHS DISPELLED

As you decide what kind of elephant experience you want to have, you'll hear opinions from all over.

I have to be clear: I'm not an expert on the subject. My knowledge is limited to what I've read on the topic, as well as the insights I've gleaned from my own experience at Chai Lai Orchid.

With that very important caveat in mind, let me dispel a few common elephant myths for you.

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Myth #1: Elephant tourism is irresponsible, so it's better to avoid elephant camps entirely.

There was a point during my trip planning when I questioned whether it was a good idea to see the elephants. Selfishly, I was dying to interact and see them. But I wondered if I was contributing to a negative cycle of abuse.

Myth #2: Riding elephants is harmful to them, so you should find an elephant camp that prohibits riding.

Riding elephants is not inherently bad. Some camps place chairs on the elephants' backs for you to sit in -- these

Myth #3: Ethical elephant camps do not use chains.

The use of chains is not unequivocally bad. Sorry, folks—it's just not that simple.

Chains can serve many positive purposes. They also keep elephants from raiding nearby farmland, which can be devastating to farmers' livelihood.

Camps that keep their elephants on 5' chains all day long aren't good. But to say that the use of chains is entirely unethical is untrue.

Elephants can weigh between 2-7 tons (that's up to 14,000 lbs). And while mahouts are trained to control the elephants, they're still wild animals.

Myth #4: Elephants doing tricks is bad for them. 

The use of chains is not unequivocally bad. Sorry, folks—it's just not that simple.

Myth #5: Ethical elephant camps do not use chains.

Chains are a responsible part of elephant tourism. Elephants can weigh between 2-7 tons (that's up to 14,000 lbs). And while mahouts are trained to control the elephants.