Elephants in Chang Mai

Is the Elephant Day, (day 11 of our journey in January, 2018) a visit to an elephant sanctuary or an elephant camp? If the latter, could Tauck be convinced to working with the a sanctuary for the good of elephants, and the protection of their wild environment, rather than an organization that promotes their captivity and requires cruel training to amuse visitors and grow the economy?

Are alternatives available for those who don't want to visit an "elephant camp"?


  • I am copying the text of an email received from Tauck regarding the issue I wrote about above. I think they answer this question to my satisfaction.

    Dear Mr. Camp,

    I am very pleased to be able to provide the following information.

    Before a decision was made to include the Elephant Camp in Chiang Mai our product team researched and interviewed many camps before choosing the Chiang Mai Elephant Camp. We wanted to be sure that the elephants were treated in a humane and gentle manner. The elephant camp in Chiang Mai is more of a sanctuary than camp. The elephants at this sanctuary were brought there because their mothers were killed and subsequently the baby elephants needed care. Each elephant has a specific person assigned to them to provide food and care called a “mahout”. The “mahout” has an elephant from the time they are babies and actually lives with the elephant until they are fully grown.

    We realize that there are other camps in Thailand and other areas that treat the elephants poorly and in a manner that is repugnant to all of us but I do want to assure that we chose very carefully when we decided to include Chiang Mai in our itinerary.

    Kind regards,

    Tracy Goncalves

    Guest Services| Tauck
    p: 203-899-6500| f: 203-899-6600 | www.tauck.com
  • Mr. Camp, We were in Chiang Mai last year through another very reputable tour operator and we had your concern as well. We believe the camp we went to was similar to what Tauck describes. The mahouts had lived with their elephants for over ten years and the mahouts live full-time in the camp. We did not see any evidence of any "cruel training to amuse visitors". With that said, we did learn that while the female elephants are allowed to roam in the jungle at night with bells on, the males are secured in camp at night as it is unsafe for the males to roam as unlawful killing for their tusks still exists. We love animals and I am not trying to open a very difficult area to discuss, however after going we were pleased that they secure the males at night to protect them. Our day with the elephants and the mahouts was an experience of a lifetime.
  • Do you feel that way about horses? Or oxen, mules, etc. being used as draft animals? How about pet shops? Zoos? You do realize that without tourist dollars, this camp/sanctuary would probably not exist and the infant and juvenile animals they have rescued would be left to? "But too many folks have remarked that the best part of the entire tour was an hour long "elephant ride"." Everyone has their opinion and you can exercise yours by taking or not taking this tour (or excursion). See where I'm going with this? Maybe political discussions should take place on another website or forum (PETA?).
  • How boring this forum would be if the only comments that made it were about whether to wear a sports coat or not. I have learned about many things on this forum or it has prompted me to do some research on the subject.
    When we went on our tour of India, the tour guide told us the elephants that were to take us to a palace in Jaipur were deprived of water and not too well treated, we had the option to ride jeeps instead, which we took but others didn't
    I take my grandchildren to the zoo so they can get excited about wildlife in general, even though not kept in ideal conditions, I believe it brings an awareness of animals and a promise from grandma to take them on an African Safari when they are older. My grandson and I spent a lovely half hour this morning reading about turtles in Costa Rica and watching Marine iguanas swimming and eating in the sea. I told him how i had watched them sneeze out the salt from the special glands in their noses and how funny they look doing it. He delights when we see even an ant, so he certainly gains from us.
    Tauck say they did their research carefully, after discussion we can all chose, it's hardly political.
  • edited September 2017
    British wrote:
    Tauck say they did their research carefully, after discussion we can all chose, it's hardly political.

    Well, um, yes it is political when a first-time poster, who has not taken the trip and seen first hand how the elephants are cared for, makes a value judgement statement like "But too many folks have remarked . . .", especially in view of Tauck's reply. What is wrong with the activity, what is wrong with saying it was the highlight of a person's tour, and by what criteria are they basing the statement, "too many?"

    Some folks were equally awed by "Walking with Lions" on the B,SA,Z trip itinerary not that many years ago. After a few posts with links to substantiated reports about the motives of the companies involved and their overall acquisition and handling of the lions (they really weren't being prepared for release) and possibly a private letter or two, Tauck removed that activity from the itinerary, and rightly so. But that was different. Hotels and local tourist companies in the Victoria Falls area no longer offer that activity (or at least don't publicize it), however that hasn't stopped a few from offering a "Walking with Cheetahs" experience. It may be different, I can't say.

    There are folks who feel zoos, aquariums, etc. and all form of keeping animals in captivity are wrong (and oh my gosh what about hog and chicken farms, and veal (yikes)?!?!?) regardless of the positive impacts. What about the meerkat experience, will that be next? And shall we cancel the Galapagos tours- heavens, we don't want to over-expose the sea lions, iguanas, birds, etc. to humans! Again, this IS political and should not be part of the forums. Yes, I too, get tired of the never ending, "what should I wear", questions.
  • edited October 2017
    Although I’ve travelled extensively with and without Tauck, I’ve never had much opportunity to participate in Tauck’s travel forum until semi-retirement. I must tell you as a first time poster, I was mortified by the way you went on & on & on in response to my single paragraph composed of about four sentences. So mortified, that I deleted both my original post & my heated response to you. And, I reported both of your posts regarding my post as “abusive”. But after several weeks of consideration, I am now gowing to respond as Tauck has not removed your B.S.
    In reviewing this topic on the Forum, I found numerous pages of previous comments from folks who shared similar concerns & conversations, but none who were lambasted the way you came at me. Being concerned about animal rights isn’t political, it’s about being humane and nothing more. Do you understand that when you type in bold upper case, you’re yelling? Equally, ?!?!?! is offensive? Comments like “see where I'm going with this” are confrontational? I think you do. You phrased the following as questions, but they were really more innuendos, drawing conclusions about me with very limited information. Let me address them now for clarity.
    Riding an elephant for personal enjoyment & the use of draft animals in third world cultures are completely different subjects. I think pet shops & puppy mills should be outlawed. I have been an active member of the San Diego Zoological Society for more than 40 years (mind you, they don’t make the animals dance, nor can you ride them). I donate and strongly believe in the work being done by zoo’s to preserve the gene pool in order to prevent the extinction of endangered species. I don’t eat baby things, Lamb & Veal are off limits. I don’t buy anything that’s been factory farmed & hubby hates what I now spend, but I’ve even found a semi-humane local dairy. You didn’t ask, but I’ll share that Foie Gras should be illegal. Meerkats, really? I’ve also been to the Galapagos with Tauck and loved it, but you should know they have a serious “no touch” policy. You can’t experience it without the escort of a Galapagan Naturalist, and they are so protective of their archipelago that they only issue 150k permits for entry a year. So yes, they worry about their sea lions, iguanas & booby birds. Aquarium’s, I helped petition to end the Orca shows at Seaworld. I am very aware that tourism dollars can help deflect the need for local poaching and encourage conservation, but I’m perfectly happy with a photo-op, and the sheer majesty of being close to them. I don’t think these gentle giants should be exploited for my enjoyment, so I had every right to explore the details of the excursion through the travel forum. Think that covers your questions.
    I never suggested it was wrong for travelers to share their experience, nor did I chastise anyone for participating in it. I was merely concerned about the nature of the excursion as it relates to my moral fiber and was trying to find out more about it.
    So as I said in my original post, I will go and draw my own conclusions. And if & when someone asks, I’ll share my opinion of the experience. And I sincerely hope if you choose to participate in further conversations with me, you’ll find a way to temper the exchange to a less punitive format. Thank you.
  • edited October 2017
    Wow Barrie D. I do not think you should have removed your post. I have run into negative comments from others on the forum in the past, but I have never removed my posts because generally people have misunderstood how I have written. I stand for what I had said and in the spirit I meant it, not want people thought I meant. I am not defending Alan in this case, but Tauck would have contacted him if it was thought inappropriate. I do hope that Alan will continue to post because he is one of the most helpful people who posts on the forum and someone I would enjoy touring with. I have a feeling he was concerned that if a certain number of people make complaints about the animal type activities then Tauck night remove it from the itinerary and that would disappoint those who would like the opportunity to partake. People on your side of the fence could just chose to not take the activity like we chose on the elephants in India. We have already lost a valuable regular forum participant in the past, and I would hate Alan to disappear. I was bullied in the past here, but I am stronger than that, as part of the Tauck rules, we have to agree to disagree. Please post your impression of the tour when you return, I see you have been making some contributions on the forum today, all are valuable.
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