Samui Elephant Sanctuary’s responsible tourism
Samui Elephant Sanctuary (SES) is getting animal welfare right, something that has been recognized in the recent Responsible Thailand Awards.
Taking out the top award in the category of Animal Welfare for its work rescuing and rehabilitating elephants in Thailand, the SES was the first ethical elephant sanctuary on the island of Koh Samui in southern Thailand. It is successfully freeing elephants from a lifetime of abuse, and at the same time, pioneering ethical eco-tourism on the island.
Since opening in January 2018, its owners have worked tirelessly to raise awareness of the plight of the Asian elephant to local and international markets.
The wild elephant population in Thailand has dwindled rapidly and is estimated today to be between 1500-3000, with some estimates as low as 1000. At the beginning of the 20th century, over 100,000 elephants are estimated to have roamed free in Thailand. The alarming demise is due to loss of habitat and poaching.
Lek is at the forefront of ethical elephant tourism in Thailand and throughout Asia, which is seeing a growing demand for elephant camps to transition from elephant riding to a sanctuary model, as promoted by Save Elephant Foundation & Asian Elephant Project’s ‘Saddle Off’ programs.
A recent report revealed that 40 percent of tourists from the top 10 countries visiting Thailand were planning to do an elephant ride, which translates to a demand for around 12.8 million elephant rides in the country. However, more travellers are becoming aware of ‘ethical elephant tourism’ and avoiding such practices like elephant riding and other performances such as dancing, painting, playing football and balancing acts.
Visitors to Samui Elephant Sanctuary have the unique experience of observing elephants in an environment where they are respected, allowed to form herds, and interact naturally without fear of punishment. The well-being of the elephants is paramount, and the income provided by visitors supports the ongoing mission to improve the lives of elephants throughout Asia through the Save Elephant Foundation.
Presented by His Excellency Mr. Pipat Ratchakitprakan, Thailand’s Minister of Tourism and Sports at World Travel Market in London, the same award was won by Elephant Nature Park in 2018, which is a ‘sister’ sanctuary in Chiang Mai, highlighting the growing movement to save elephants from the trekking industry.
The ‘Responsible Thailand’ Awards are run by Wanderlust Travel Media on behalf of the Tourism Authority of Thailand (TAT) and are intended to bring attention to and encourage Thailand’s dedication to the conservation of its natural and cultural resources, as well as support sustainable tourism development with consideration to the impact on our planet.