Recently, there has been a lot of talk about which elephant sanctuaries are truly ethical, and what that really means for the animal and community.
At Journeys of Girls, we have always supported ethical and responsible tourism, especially when it comes to biodiversity and conservation.
Due to this, we have decided to extensively research elephant sanctuaries from around the world and have come up with a list of 7 that engage in responsible care and tourism. Others do exist, but for the purpose of this blog post, these were chosen to be highlighted.
Elephant Valley Project
Date Founded: 2006
Location: Mondulkiri, Cambodia
The Elephant Valley Project in Cambodia is the country's 1st and premier elephant sanctuary. It wants to set an example for how to look after and treat the elephants. It gives elephants their independence, natural behaviour, and dignity. The Project also provides valuable information about why they do not allow riding or swimming with the elephants. Currently, they have protected over 300,000 ha of forest and 1,500 of those are for the elephants themselves.
Elephant Valley Project Thailand
Date Founded: 2019
Location: Chiang Rai, Thailand
Cost: 53-66 USD (half/full day visit) http://www.elephantvalleys.com/
The Elephant Valley Project Thailand is the sister sanctuary of the one in Cambodia, just opening this year to the public. It also provides an overnight homestay. During your trip there, you shadow the elephants as they engage in their daily activities, allowing for them to roam freely and be themselves. Your payment goes towards conversation efforts and taking care of the elephants.
Elephant Nature Park
Date Founded: 1990s
Location: Chiang Mai, Thailand
Cost: 83-192 USD (half/full day visit) https://www.elephantnaturepark.org/
The Elephant Nature Park located in Chiang Mai provides sanctuary for elephants and other rare species such as the buffalo. The organization tries to also maintain the cultural integrity of the local communities. They are against bathing with the animals as this causes unnecessary stress for the elephants. To visit this sanctuary, you can come a half or full day, or can even volunteer for longer periods of time.
Phuket Elephant Sanctuary
Date Founded: 2016
Location: Phuket, Thailand
Cost: 99 USD (half day visit) https://www.phuketelephantsanctuary.org/en/
The Phuket Elephant Sanctuary is the 1st and only ethical sanctuary in all of Phuket. The elephants roam, bathe, and socialize freely. The sanctuary offers a home for over tired elephants that suffered in the logging and tourism industries. It doesn't offer riding or bathing services for visitors due to ethical reasons. Please make sure to check if the logo is the same when booking your trip because there are several unethical organizations pretending to be them.
The Surin Project
Date Founded: 2009
Location: Baan Tha Klang, Surin, Thailand
Cost: Volunteer to have accommodation & meals https://surinproject.org/
The Surin Project, founded in 2009, provides volunteer opportunities for those looking to stay between 1 to 8 weeks on site. It is a longer-term experience than the other options listed in this blog post. Run by the Save Elephant Foundation (SEF), the Surin Project allows elephants to roam free and behave naturally. Volunteers can plant food and build shelter for the animals while there.
Boon Lott's Elephant Sanctuary
Date Founded: 2004
Location: Baan Na Ton Jan, Sukhothai, Thailand
Cost: 198 USD/night, must stay over https://www.blesele.org/index2.php
Boon Lott's Elephant Sanctuary is named after a baby elephant that passed away with the same name, meaning "survivor" in Thai. The mission as a visitor here is to simply observe the elephants be elephants. The elephants live in a self-sustaining environment, and the visitor numbers are kept to a minimum to benefit the animals and people.
David Sheldrick Wildlife Trust
Date Founded: 1977
Location: Nairobi National Park, Kenya
Cost: 7 USD minimum donation https://www.sheldrickwildlifetrust.org/
The Sheldrick Wildlife Trust operates the most successful orphan elephant rescue and rehabilitation program in the world. The organization works to combat poaching, to ensure a safe guard for the natural environment, and improve community awareness. You can visit the elephant orphanage in Nairobi National Park to see the amazing work that they do with the animals.
When asked if you know of any ethical elephant sanctuaries, any of these on the list are valid. If any of these become unethical at any time, they will be taken down.
Thank you for reading!