|Elephant Trekking on Phuket|
Take a Ride and Help an Elephant
This is the only work these great creatures now have and domesticated elephants in Thailand do need to work for a living
Take an elephant ride in Phuket and help an elephant earn his living, for in Thailand elephants do have to work to eat well. There are many choices in elephant rides on Phuket, and anyone who rents their own car and drives along the beautiful west coast will soon come across many roadside elephant camps offering forest rides.
Sad to say, most Thai elephants are now out of work, and their quality of life is low. Many elephants roam the streets of Bangkok or provincial towns, their mahouts selling lucky charms and rides while begging for food.
There are now an estimated 2,000 plus domesticated elephants left in Thailand – down from 20,000 a century ago, while perhaps only hundreds remain in the wild, the sad, fractured remainder of a national herd of an estimated 100,000 a century ago.
Elephants were formerly employed in the forest logging industry, being used to haul heavy logs out of the forest to roads where trucks could load them. Then, in 1989, Thailand banned virtually all logging of its fast dwindling forests, throwing most elephants and their mahouts out of work. Hundreds descended upon the cities and tourist destinations seeking work and food. The elephant influx into Phuket over the past ten years has brought up to 300 of the great beast to the island, many now in those roadside camps waiting for passing tourists to stop.
Do take a ride. Clinging to your howdah as the elephant negotiates steep slopes, with amazing agility and sure-footedness, is an unforgettable experience. But do choose carefully, for you can make a real difference in elephants’ lives. Not all elephant keepers treat their beasts well. The Phuket-based Elephant Help volunteer group was set up to help monitor the health of elephants on the island, and offer treatment when their owners could not. They have found many mistreated animals here. The visitor can make some simple judgements, and support only those operators who seem to be taking good care of their elephants. If the animals are chained in the sun with little shade, do not give your support. If the animals appear thin and bony, find another camp where they appear better kept.
Some of the most interesting places to take an elephant ride include the camp at Kalim, just north of Patong’s main beach, and on top of the mountain south of Kata, where there are two camps. The first is just before, the second at the bottom of the hill after the high lookout point beyond Kata. These two take visitors into more interesting, off-the-beaten-track routes.