Sanctuary Ethos

When you visit EVT you can be assured that your trip will not harm the elephants and that your money will go to benefit elephant welfare and conservation efforts. Both of our elephant sanctuaries practice some of the highest ethical animal welfare and care standards in South East Asia.

  • Where we Stand

    One of the key motivations for bringing our Cambodian model to Thailand and developing this sanctuary for elephants is to set an example of how to look after and treat elephants to other small camp owners. From the organic elephant food, the cheap and affordable fencing to the way we handle our elephants and work with our staff is all orientated at putting the elephants best interests first but in a way that is easily copied. Our hope is that by helping to lead the way in Elephant Tourism other elephants can benefit.

    Key to this is an ethos that is driven by allowing the elephants to take the lead in their daily activities and therefore to lead a more natural life. Working towards giving the elephants back their independence, natural behavior and dignity is not easy and depends on the support and co-operation of our visitors.

    Our goal is to simply let the elephants just be elephants in a stress free natural habitat.

    Finding out how to actually achieve this has played a major part in how we do what we do at both of our elephant sanctuaries. The process has been a real journey, but this is how we arrived at developing our elephants’ routine, treatment and the program with which our volunteers and visitors interact with elephants in a responsible way, down to a fine art.

    From a visitor’s point of view this implies that putting the elephants first also means that we don’t do many of the activities that you can find elsewhere  (swimming, riding, cuddling and kissing elephants) and in turn we feel that this difference has come to define why we are an actual sanctuary for captive elephants. An elephant is after all, a wild animal, and should be treated as such in every respect.

    Just because a tourism company has the words “project”, “sanctuary”, or “community” does not necessarily mean they are actually doing any good for the elephants, forest, or local people. However here at the EVT we consider ourselves the real advocates for the Asian elephant in everything we do as we work hard to lead by example in setting up locations that show people openly how to look after elephants and invest in their future.

    We hope this shows 100% in our work and we are certain that you will see this when you come for a visit.

  • Elephant Riding

    This is not something we offer at EVT. Popular across much of Asia, riding elephants is a relatively easy and legal way for an elephant owner to earn an income. It is important to remember that if you don’t have a lot of land on which to graze an elephant it can be an expensive creature to care for.

    Done correctly, for example bareback without the big basket, it does not harm the elephant.

    Done incorrectly, and that normally means excessively, it can be one of the worst methods of working an elephant, which unfortunately is the case for most elephants working this way at the moment. Prior to us starting this elephant sanctuary we spent 3.5 years researching where to build our next Elephant Valley and unfortunately we saw far more places that were bad for elephants than good.

    An elephant sanctuary is a place where an elephant gets the chance to live a more natural existence, they are after all wild animals and we have no place for such an activity.

    When we started the EVP in Cambodia, for the first 6 months, we actually rode the elephants bareback when they went to graze, but soon found that it is far more interesting to actually observe the elephant being an elephant. Needless to say it is also better for the elephant as they can freely dust or throw mud on themselves.

    Would You Ride a Panda?

    Strangely, it is also odd to think that it is ‘OK’ to ride an elephant that is so rare and not acceptable to ride another animal of equivalent endangered status such as a panda, tiger, giraffe or hippo. Activities such as riding go hand in hand with painting, dancing, and any other sort of practice that keep elephants in unnatural living conditions.

  • Swimming with Elephants

    Also popular with visitors throughout South East Asia is “bathing” with elephants.

    Many people while on an elephant trek are invited to strip down to bikinis/shorts and jump in a river or pool and ‘swim with an elephant’. Apart from the fact that this is culturally insensitive to the local population (as they are quite conservative in comparison to our western ways and rarely show much skin or body shape), this is also inherently unnatural for an elephant and has no place in a true elephant sanctuary.

    For example, you would never be invited to go and swim with wild elephants in a river, so why would you jump into a river with a captive elephant? The elephants would never choose for visitors to join them; they prefer to lie down, kick around and enjoy themselves. But when carrying people or having a group of visitors surround them in the water they are forced to stay still and it becomes just another performance.

    This may be “fun” for tourists it is just not fun let alone good for an elephant. 

    Also, swimming with elephants is NOT SAFE for various reasons. Asian elephants can weigh three to four tons and can move through water far quicker than a human. There are also serious concerns about the transmission of tropical infections, both from and to humans such as tuberculosis. Even more likely is the very real risk of bacterial infections being passed to tourists due to the urine and fecal matter in the water used by elephants.

    The video below comes from an elephant camp in Chaing Mai, Thailand. which allows the washing of elephants and was not filmed at the EVT. We only allow our experienced and qualified mahouts to do this activity and not our valued customers.

  • So what can you do at Elephant Valley?

    Simply put : YOU can experience the elephants being REAL elephants.

    Our elephants “job” is actually to be an elephant, they don’t have to work to earn their keep. They spend their days relaxing, playing, grazing on grass, drinking water, breaking down trees and bamboo and covering themselves in mud. Their lives are now as close to that of a wild elephant as we can make possible.

    Our four elephants used to work in the timber industry pulling and pushing heavy logs and in their spare time giving rides to a tourists in the dry season. While they are here with us, this is not happening and they have the opportunity for some serious rest and rehabilitation.

    On your tour you will learn about this fascinating and intricate process and experience this major positive change they are undergoing and help contribute to making their way of life a better one.

    By visiting the EVT you can help to support our effort to allow these elephants to have a 2nd chance of being an elephant again.