Elephants deserve to chill in the
wild—and now they can, at ChangChill
In 2017, we committed to helping a Thai elephant
venue, called Happy Elephant Valley at the time, to transition to a completely
elephant-friendly camp. We demonstrated a growing demand for observation only
elephant-friendly tourism and told them we were ready to support venues that
put the needs of elephants at their heart. With help from some leading travel
companies, and the incredible dedication of the venue, we are extremely proud
to share that ChangChill is now open!
We know that elephant riding is the world's cruellest
type of wildlife attraction. Elephants are taken from their mothers when babies
and forced through a horrific training process known as ‘the crush’ in order to
make them submit to elephant rides and other human interactions. This terrible
process involves physical restraints, inflicting severe pain and withholding
food and water. By the end of it all, the elephant’s spirit has been broken
down, and they are reminded constantly of human dominance by their trainers and
the bullhooks used.
ChangChill is different. ChangChill, meaning “relaxed
elephants” in Thai, represents the future of wildlife tourism.
Because of this incredible transition, the six
resident female elephants now have the freedom to roam the valley, graze, and
bathe in the river, mud and dust, while socializing with each other. They will
no longer be forced to spend their days giving rides to, or being bathed by,
expectant tourists. They will not be isolated or chained up, but able to move
freely and at their own pace.
Thousands of elephants still live in unacceptable,
captive conditions in Thailand and elsewhere. They endure harsh training
regimes to become submissive enough to carry tourists on their back and perform
tricks. But the story of ChangChill proves that there is a better way to
experience wildlife tourism: a way that is not cruel, prevents animal
suffering, and helps keep wild animals in the wild where they belong. We hope
that this is just the first of many elephant camps in Thailand, and beyond, to
move from elephant riding to an observation-only elephant venue.
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