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New Guidebook Examines Asian Elephant Tourism for World Elephant Day

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Jeremy Scott Foster 4To raise awareness surrounding the issues in Asia’s elephant tourism, Horizon Travel Press is releasing a new travel guide on Aug 12, World Elephant Day, calling tourists to think before they ride.

A lineup of conservation experts, non-profit advocates, and industry professionals have contributed essays to the guidebook, with the aim of highlighting the issues in elephant tourism, particularly in Thailand.

The guidebook’s premise is Asian elephants’ endangerment as a species, a large portion of which live in captivity and rely on income for their care. Tourism supports thousands of captive elephants, yet their welfare runs the full spectrum from very poor to excellent.

Editor Cynthia Ord, a writer and advocate for responsible tourism, urges travelers to think beyond elephant riding when it comes to welfare. “Some elephant trekking camps hold high standards and use humane practices like very short rides.

“Meanwhile, some so-called ‘sanctuaries’ forbid riding but rate badly on overall living conditions for both elephants and their keepers.”

FAE3-(Intrepid)Guidebook contributors reveal the most common dilemmas for captive elephants in tourism — a shortage of space to roam, and a breaking up of the herd’s strong social bonds.

Research is scarce and opinions run strong in the complex world of Asian elephant tourism. With the guidebook at hand, travelers are in a better position to understand the situation and do their homework about their choice of elephant tour.

The book’s message is to go ahead and support elephants in tourism, but carefully. “Simply turning our backs on an elephant camp or an activity is not going to achieve improved standards of welfare for the elephants,” says Hayley Lynagh, an auditor of animals in tourism at Global Spirit.

“A loss in business from tourists is more likely to cause hardship and result in less of an ability to provide the care that these animals need.”

Among suggestions for a more positive experience are volunteering with elephants and walking with them in a more hands-off, semi-wild setting.

The guidebook is produced by Horizon Travel Press and supported by Intrepid Travel, which has taken leadership on elephant welfare in tourism.

Michael Edwards, UK managing director of Intrepid Travel, said: “At Intrepid we are proud to have led the way by scrapping elephant rides from our trips more than two years ago, and we’ve had a fantastic response from our travellers.

It is available for download in e-book format at

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