Elephant Riding

Elephant riding has long been an item on travellers’ To Do lists, but more and more it has come to light in recent years the true impact of this on the elephants themselves. After careful consideration, Exodus has decided to remove all elephant riding from all our holidays.

We are listed on the World Animal Protection’s list of Elephant Friendly Tour Operators

Why Have We Stopped Elephant Riding?

Whilst elephant riding may seem at first incredibly appealing, the brutal reality is in fact very upsetting. Many tourists, once they learn more about the practice, quickly change their minds.

The reason elephant riding is different to, for example, horse riding, is that the elephant remains a wild animal and is never truly domesticated. Even the process to train an elephant is known as ‘the crush’ which aims to break the animals’ spirit through food deprivation, physical restraint and often intense physical harm. Contrary to popular belief, most of the animals are poached from the wild and then trained, but even when the animals are born into captivity this painful process to crush the elephant has to take place. 

Elephants Sivuti, Botswana

How Did We Reach Our Decision?

As early as 2012 Exodus began to seriously investigate the issue of elephant riding on our global adventures, working with a number of different organisations. Whilst some companies simply blanket banned elephant riding entirely, we took a slower, more nuanced approach to better understand the impact of the decision – how would this affect the communities who relied on elephants for their livelihoods? What would happen to the animals if that business suddenly vanished overnight, and they no longer earned their keep? Exploitation is a complicated problem, and we didn’t want to create new issues by acting without considering the consequences. 

We didn’t just work alone to reach a decision. We worked in close collaboration with World Animal Protection and responsibletravel.com to properly research elephant riding across the whole industry, not just our own holidays. By joining forces with other organisations we were able to get a much deeper understanding of the complex economic and moral issues at work, and reach a consensus that went beyond our own operations.

We began sustainably phasing out elephant riding in 2012. The last place we stopped elephant rides was Chitwan National Park, Nepal. Much of the income generated by tourists to this park goes towards conservation of several endangered species, of which Bengal tigers and Indian rhinos are just two. We feel confident now that by replacing the elephant safaris we once offered with jeep and boat alternatives, we can continue to support the conservation efforts without the practice of riding elephants. 

Your Response

The response we received was heart-warming. We found many of our travellers approved of the decision, appreciated the considered approach we took and our ‘zero tolerance’ approach to animal cruelty in all of our operations. In fact, we find that many of our clients cite our responsible conduct as a reason why they travel with us time and time again. 

Elephant watching

What Are The Alternatives? How Can You See Elephants In A Responsible Way?

There are still plenty of ways to interact with these mighty creatures. Seeing happy, wild elephants is surprisingly easy, given their endangered status and the prolific of poachers. African elephants can be spotted on the plains of the Masai Mara, the banks of the mighty Zambezi River, or on foot in the Okavango Delta. Head to the cracked earth of Etosha National Park to see desert elephants in Namibia.

In certain destinations we support initiatives to help elephants, such as Udawalawe’s Elephant Transit Home in Sri Lanka, where orphaned baby elephants are reared and released back into the wild. It’s been carefully vetted and you’ll be able to watch as the park rangers feed the baby elephants. You can still see these magnificent creatures, without causing any harm.

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