Rickshaw Travel has made it their mission to stand up for elephants by replacing all elephant riding excursions with ethical elephant experiences.
The team at Rickshaw believes travel can be a huge social and environmental benefit to the destinations they work with and they aim to maximise the benefit of tourism whilst minimising the impact, and working as sustainably as possible. This drive towards providing meaningful and sustainable travel experiences sits hand-in-hand with the need to ensure all the wildlife excursions Rickshaw chooses to feature are done so responsibly and prioritise the welfare of the animals. Under the guidance of its own dedicated team of Meaningful Travel Warriors focused solely on sustainability and acting responsibly, Rickshaw Travel has removed all elephant riding excursions from their programme and has introduced a new animal welfare policy that will extend to all trips.
Hannah Hesford, one of Rickshaw Travel ’ s Warriors said: “ We really felt it was time to talk about the elephant in the room. The issues around elephant riding is one that has bothered us for a long time and it became a major goal for us to ensure all the elephant experiences we offer are ethical. We no longer offer riding in any of our trips. Instead we offer just a handful of elephant experiences in Asia which not only prioritise elephant welfare above anything else, but we also strive to support local communities and enable travellers to see these gentle creatures in a more respectful and natural environment. No riding. No harnesses. ”
The following carefully chosen ethical elephant experiences have elephant welfare at their heart, promoting both a natural environment for elephants and helping local communities with it.
Experiencing Elephants the Rickshaw Way:
Elephant Encounters in Chiang Mai , Thailand
In Thailand, Rickshaw Travel has introduced the option to visit the Elephant Nature Park in Chiang Mai. At the Elephant Nature Park, visitors can enjoy seeing the elephants in a more natural environment, with no riding whatsoever. The Park ’ s mission is to promote sustainable elephant-friendly tourism by rescuing and caring for elephants that have previously been mistreated in camps and circuses. The park is home to more than 35 elephants and travellers can walk with them, watch them play and even give them a bath.
As part of Rickshaw Travel’s mission they have also chosen to support Save Elephant Foundation as a local project in Thailand. This project is dedicated to caring for and rehabilitating elephants in Thailand and the Elephant Nature Park is one of its ventures. This means that as well as having the opportunity to visit the park during the new trip, holidaymakers can also choose to make a one off contribution to the project when booking, with all donations going towards feeding the elephant herd a healthy diet, providing the best veterinary care for their rehabilitation and constructing chain-free enclosures so the herd can roam free 24 hours a day.
This 3-day bite-size trip costs from £ 188 per person (based on two sharing) and includes 2 night ’ s accommodation with breakfast and excursion to the elephant nature park with guide, lunch and return transfers.
Visit The Elephant Transit Home in Sri Lanka
Rickshaw Travel has chosen to offer trips to the Elephant Transit Home because they believe it ensures elephant welfare is a priority and it is a more responsible alternative to the popular Pinnawala Elephant Orphanage. Despite it s popularity there is some uncertainty surrounding animal welfare at Pinnawala so Rickshaw Travel stands by their decision not to offer elephant experiences there. Instead Rickshaw can arrange visits to the Elephant Transit Home in Udawalawe which is en route to Yala National Park and is a fantastic place to observe elephants living as a herd, from the respectful distance of a viewing platform. The Elephant Transit Home provides a humane alternative to taking abandoned animals into permanent captivity, with the aim of returning them back into the wild when they are ready.
A visit to the Elephant Transit Home is included in Rickshaw Travel ’ s bite-size trip: The Wild Heart of Yala National Park . The 2-day bite-size trip costs from £ 178 per person and includes 1 night ’ s accommodation (based on two sharing) with breakfast, jeep safaris with guide and national park entrance fee.
Supporting elephants & communities in Indonesia
During Rickshaw Travel ’ s bite-size trip “ Deep into the Jungle ” travellers can venture into the raw, remote Sumatran jungle where elephants roam the rivers and the trees chatter with monkeys. The untamed heart of Sumatra is packed with monkeys, exotic birds and giant rafflesia flowers. Guests will stay in a rustic bungalow on the banks of the Kualsa Buluh River, accessible only by boat, and feel a million miles away from the modern world. Rickshaw Travel are thrilled to say they don ’ t offer elephant riding in Sumatra but instead on this trip guests can now treat the elephants to a jolly good scrub down in the river. Even better, by offering this new elephant experience Rickshaw Travel are supporting the local community with a grassroots project that actively hires ex-loggers and trains them up as guides.
Although Rickshaw Travel can ’ t guarantee that travellers won ’ t see elephant riding during their travels in Indonesia, they ’ re confident about the elephant experience they offer in Tangkahan. This is not just because it supports many elephants that have been saved from illegal industries, but also because the proceeds raised here are used to benefit the local community itself and their patrol against illegal logging.
The 3-day bite-size trip costs from £ 225 per person and includes 2 night ’ s accommodation (based on two sharing) with breakfast, jeep transfer, elephant washing experience and onward travel.
With Rickshaw Travel holidaymakers can choose from a series of short ‘ bite-size ’ trip options and combine them to create their ideal adventure or select a ready-made itinerary that works for them in their chosen destination. A minimum of three trips are required to create an itinerary.
The Elephant in the Room
Elephant riding is a complex issue. Getting up close to these creatures is, for many travellers, a bucket-list experience that they ’ ve always dreamed of doing. Not because they wish to exploit elephants but because – generally speaking – they love elephants. However, the sad truth is that the back-story and often cruel treatment of each elephant in captivity is usually overlooked by the tourists who come and go.
According to World Animal Protection there is no global regulation regarding how wild animals are used in tourism so the big challenge is to transform the tourism industry so it becomes part of the solution to end cruelty to wildlife.
Alyx Elliot, Head of UK Campaigns at World Animal Protection said: “ We are delighted that Rickshaw Travel has committed to stop selling elephant rides and has removed them from their programme worldwide. It ’ s clear that thousands of tourists are visiting wildlife attractions, unaware of the abuse wild animals ’ face behind the scenes. We need to stop the demand for elephant rides and shows by exposing the hidden suffering behind wildlife attractions. If you can ride a wild animal, then you can be sure it is cruel. ”
Rickshaw Travel has been working with World Animal Protection to refine and implement a new wildlife policy that will extend throughout its entire programme. To find out more information on Rickshaw Travel ’ s wildlife welfare policy and drive towards a brighter future for elephants visit here
Vicky Knight, Senior manager at Rickshaw Travel said: “ We ’ re really proud of the changes we ’ ve made to our elephant trips in 2015-16 and we hope that in sharing our own story, we can inspire others to make better decisions for elephants too. We want to be part of a positive change; to show travellers that it can be just as, if not more rewarding to walk beside an elephant than ride atop it. Although it is sadly inevitable that travellers will see captive elephants at some point during their time in Asia; be it in a temple in India or on a trek in Nepal, we believe that as a travel company, it ’ s so important that we continue to grow, learn and lead in the best practices to protect wildlife across the globe so that one day we can travel to experience wildlife the way nature intended; in the wild. ”
To find out more about Rickshaw Travel ’ s projects and on-going developments and to see the full range of trips and itineraries visit: www.rickshawtravel.co.uk