Last update: May 3, 2018
The entry fees for Elephant Parks
The Elephant parks and sanctuaries have a wide range of entry fees. Most of the parks have a hotel pick-up and transport included, and the typical cost of an ethical park starts at about 2500 baht for a one day visit. Some ethical parks are more expensive; up to 5000 or 6000 baht for a full day. You don't have to go for one of the large, popular parks; the smaller sanctuaries can be a more intimate experience, and sometimes cheaper as well.
Ethical elephant parks cost more.
Minimum and maximum entry fee for day tours to all types of elephant parks.
The strange fact is that the popular parks are not the cheaper ones as one would expect; many of the smaller sanctuaries are cheaper than the big name parks.
Whether you want to go to a Mahout Park, a sanctuary, a rescue park, a Karen tribe supported park; it's all up to you. If you put in the effort of doing some research before deciding where to go, you will not be disappointed and your money will be well spent and go to a good cause.
New Elephant Parks in Myanmar.
For hundreds of years elephants helped extract teak and hardwoods from Burmese jungles that even modern machinery cannot penetrate. The new Government of Myanmar has set a temporary national logging ban in 2016 and a 10-year logging ban in the Pegu Yoma region. It is good news for Myanmars nature and forests but a major problem for the 5500 captive elephants.
Myanma Timber Enterprise (MTE) is planning to develop Elephant Conservation-Based
Tourism; and it has so far opened 18 elephant camps across the country, with some 205 elephants. They plan to develop elephant camps for 3000 "unemployed" elephants. The admission fee for foreigner to the elephant parks is is 20.000 Kyats which is only 15 US dollars, which is obviously a steal compared to elephant parks in Thailand.
One of the older ethical parks for retired timber logging elephants, already opened in 2011, is Green Hill Valley camp near Kalaw (www.ghvelephant.com)
Elephant health - Weaving.
Let's start off with the mental health of elephants; which must have an influence on their physical health. One of the signs of their mental health is very obvious for anyone to see; some elephants display a rocking, swaying motion: Weaving. Animals in the wild are active day and night looking for food and water; in captivity they get bored and start a monotonous movement like pacing or swinging their head. Lions, tigers and large cats in cages behave the same: they start pacing back and forth in their small cages to vent energy and frustration. Asian zoos are quite backward and usually have very small cages for animals; for example the Yogyakarta zoo has a tiger in a space the size of a garage. The poor tiger stuck in there hasn't even the space to pace up and down. If you are an animal lover you should probably avoid visiting Asian zoos.
Weaving is a type of movement caused by boredom and frustration. Once a bored elephant starts "weaving" it is difficult and usually impossible to stop this behavior. Elephant parks should create enough space and activities to give their elephants a meaningful life. Let's be straight here, they are not going back to the wild or to logging trees, there is hardly any wilderness left in Thailand and no trees to cut or move; those times are long gone.
A large, majestic bull elephant.
The future for Asian elephants.
The Asian elephant may be going the way of the tiger: there are globally more tigers in captivity than in the wild. In Thailand the captive elephant population is 3500 to 4000; the number of wild elephants is between 3000 and 3700. In the 1800s there were still around 100.000 elephants in Thailand!
In Southeast Asia the majority of elephants are captive and used for logging or tourism parks and camps. For example in Laos less than 1300 wild elephants remain. Whether we like it or not, the future of Asian elephants may be for a large part in elephant conservation camps with some kind of entertainment for tourists; and an occupation or activity for elephants as well.
Elephant population in SE-asia.
In Vietnam the captive elephant population has declined over the past 25 year from about 600 in 1980 to 165 today. Because wild elephants are so close to total extinction; the government of Vietnam has started a National Elephant Action Plan. In Cambodia the estimate of the wild population is between 400-600 elephants.
Burma’s wild elephant numbers have dropped dramatically over the past 50 years and appear to still be in decline. Here elephants are still used for logging; the Myanmar Timber Enterprise (MTE) employs around 4000 elephants. The new semi-democratic government of Myanmar has set a temporary national logging ban in 2016 and a 10-year logging ban in the Pegu Yoma region. It is good news for Myanmar's nature and forests but a major problem for the 5500 captive elephants.
In 2004 the Smithsonian convened a workshop of elephant experts in Myanmar; their conclusion was that possibly less than 2000 elephants remain in the wild. (Smithsonian Conservation Biology Institute report: http://nationalzoo.si.edu/SCBI )
In Myanmar the Myanma Timber Enterprise is converting logging camps to elephant camps for tourists. Thirteen government-owned timber production stations across the country have become elephant camps in 2017. The entrance fee is 1000 kyats (About 0.75 US dollars) for a local visitor and 20.000 kyats (About 15 US dollars) for a foreigner. www.irrawaddy.com
There's not just bad news, mistreatment was far more prevalent in the logging industry than in touristic elephant parks. In Thailand many tourists are prepared to pay more for the rescue and conservation parks. The larger parks let elephants roam around or trek, and ENP is now building an enclosure to keep elephants at night without chains.
Elephant crossing. In Chiang Mai elephants have always right-of-way.
Facts, Facts and more Elephant Facts.
Here are some links to scientific reports and factual information on elephant health and rehabilitation. This is not promotion from elephant parks but research by independent organizations. The Wikipedia information is done by volunteers and can be quite subjective.
Mae Taeng elephant clinic.
This clinic is run by MaeTaeng elephant park.
Reports and statistics on elephant health and welfare.
Reports from elephant parks.
Blogs, news and information on elephants
Tripadvisor reviews of parks.
An elephant by a Chiang Mai artist.
Any comments or improvements? Please mail me at : bytelife AT gmail.com
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DISCLAIMER: No responsibility is taken for the accuracy and reliability of the information provided. I am not connected to any elephant park or organization.
All foto's and text Copyright © 2017 Rolf Schierbeek