Vietnamese national park launches ethical elephant tours

Yok Don park bans elephants rides and encourages visitors to watch the animals in their natural habitat

Visitors to Vietnam‘s largest nature reserve, Yok Don National Park, will no longer be able to ride through the forest on elephants.

Activists say the elephants had to carry travellers for 9 hours each day without proper access to water — Shutterstock Vietnamese national park launches ethical elephant tours
Activists say the elephants had to carry travellers for 9 hours each day without proper access to water — Shutterstock

After calls from animal rights activists to stop the exploitation, the park has now banned elephant rides. Instead, tourists will have the opportunity to observe the elephants roaming freely around the park.

Previously the animals in Yok Don lived in similar condition as in various other institutions in the country. The elephants were chained up for extended periods of time and carrying tourists in heavy baskets.

Sometimes, they were carrying travellers for 9 hours each day without proper access to water.

The park, located near the Cambodian border in southern Vietnam, cooperated with Animal Asia and agreed to put the exploitative practice to an end.

The new agreement, signed in July, allows new tours to be launched that will offer the Yok Don’s visitors to witness the elephants in their natural habitat. The tours should be operated until April 2023 and the park hopes it will provide even more resources for the elephant owners than the rides themselves.

The new tours will give tourists the option to see elephants in their natural habitat — Shutterstock Vietnamese national park launches ethical elephant tours
The new tours will give tourists the option to see elephants in their natural habitat — Shutterstock

“This project has entirely changed the lives of the elephants at the park and it also provides a much better experience for the tourists,” said Dionne Slagter, Animals Asia’s animal welfare manager.

“Exploitation has been replaced with respect, and if successful it’s a model we could see spread across the country.

“They all look so much healthier and are increasingly confident in how far they roam.”

Voices against animal exploitation have been rising in various places around the world.

Recently, the Greek island of Santorini has limited the weight local donkeys can bear on their back, meaning that overweight tourists will be banned from the iconic attraction.