It’s a reality that travel is now an accessible commodity to much of the population.
We’ve the freedom to travel to the locations that stir our sense of wanderlust, but do we have the foresight to ensure our trip doesn’t have a negative impact on the local area?
I recently spoke to some of travel’s top bloggers and asked them “What does sustainable travel mean to you?”
Their responses were varied but all agreed that being mindful of where we spend tourism dollars was vital if we are to protect the resources of this beautiful planet on which we live.
Ethical Travel Makes All The Difference
Can you imagine how it would feel if your very soul was stripped of everything that made you the person you are?
How would you feel if the motivation for such a brutal act was the pursuit of attracting tourism dollars to your community? Is cruelty and exploitation something you can justify?
For Asian elephants in Thailand this process of abuse is the wretched reality of their existence.
Captured as infants or born into captivity the elephants of Thailand’s tourism industry suffer immeasurably. There’s really no other way to describe it. The light within their heart is extinguished during an abhorrent process of abuse which domesticates the animal and renders it a cordial servant.
Once highly regarded and reserved for use in warfare and farming, elephants have long been the subject of human exploitation. Yet, it is evident that the respect which was once shown to these beautiful creatures is no longer displayed by their captors.
Dating back thousands of years the inception of elephant domestication was at a time when the estimated population was hundreds of thousands. Sadly we now live in a world where the possibility of extinction is not just a notion but an imminent possibility.
Education Is The Key To Understanding
Now more than ever it is vital that we are all mindful of where our travel fund is headed when we spend on our credit cards and hand over cash abroad.
Those who ride atop an elephant’s back are effectively voting with their dollars in favour of domestication. While it may be deemed a quintessential Thailand experience, are you really prepared to contribute to this repugnant cycle of abuse?
Having learnt of the horrific nature of domestication I must also tell you that the act of riding an elephant causes further distress and injury.
For over 8 hours each day these animals carry weights over and above their capability which results in painful sores and irreversible injury to their spines.
The thought is harrowing but unless we can educate those visiting the region of the detriment the activity causes, sadly the practise will likely continue.
Save Elephant Foundation
For the elephants of Thailand there is hope.
Lek Chalert, founder of the Save Elephant Foundation is working tirelessly to pick up the pieces of a local industry devoid of ethics by rescuing captive and abused animals. Based in Chaing Mai the foundation manages the Elephant Nature Park, a positive place where elephants are brought to recover from the mental and physical wounds they’ve received while in captivity.
Today I’d like to ask for your support on their behalf.
While Lek and her team continue to support those animals already rescued from the darkness of elephant tourism, their facility is at capacity and they are unable to offer sanctuary to any more.
Having seen first-hand the impact unethical tourism has had on Asia’s elephant population a team of travel bloggers have come together in support of Lek and her foundation.
The Travel Blogging Calendar
Creating a digital Travel Blogging Calendar the bloggers are offering those who donate the chance to win a trip to Thailand to visit the Elephant Nature Park.
With 100% of all funds raised going straight to the charity, this is a project which packs punch. The bloggers and their partners are offering one lucky winner USD$2,000 towards return flights to Thailand, and an 8 day, 7 night tour for two including transport, hotels, city tours and a visit to the Save Elephant Foundation.
While those who donate will be entered into the prize draw, they will also be granted access to an exclusive weekly blog packed full of rousing travel articles and inspiration covering religious festivals, holidays and celebrations taking place across the globe.
If your plans for 2014 involve travel then I implore you to be considered in your choice of itinerary. However in the meantime, I invite you to donate to the Save Elephant Foundation and travel the world with the team of the Travel Blogging Calendar.
– All images in this post used with the permission of Jeremy Foster