Elephant tourism

IMG_3145 (1)
“Elephant tourism in Thailand.” Acrylics on an 11″x14″ gallery wrap canvas.

Before I moved to Suphanburi, Thailand to teach EFL in October 2012, I attended the week long orientation with CIEE (the study/teach abroad program I went through). Part of the orientation included riding an elephant.

In Minnesota, the largest wild creature you’ll encounter is probably a moose or caribou if you venture north enough. And they will certainly not let you ride them.

It was awesome and terrifying.

I have mixed feelings about it. I am confident that if I travel back to Thailand I will not support the elephant tourism industry, and perhaps visit a reputable elephant rescue organization.

But I don’t regret riding the elephant.

It reminded me that the world is big and full of beauty. And to have a healthy respect for the wild things in it.

Especially the ones that can crush you.





  1. I completely agree with you. It is difficult subject. There is loads of people fighting against supporting animal tourism. I am not sure if these people were actually in non touristic places where there is poverty and kids have nothing to eat. I think that is a bigger problem to solve. In some places animal tourism is actually source of money what let’s them survive. You have lived in Thailand, what do you think?

    1. lisamaemeyer

      Hi! Thanks for your comment. Yes, tourism is a big part of Thailand’s economy. I imagine animal tourism is not such an issue for people who are living in poverty in non-touristic places. If people have little to eat themselves, I doubt they can afford to house and feed a healthy elephant.

      I’m not in a position to say what we should or should not do. But I would encourage someone to try to spend their money responsibly while traveling. There are ways to hang out with elephants in Thailand without supporting unsavory animal living conditions. There are a few elephant rescue and conservation organizations where you can spend the day with elephants (which I think sounds way cooler than a 30-minute ride!).

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