Ethical Animal Experiences Thailand

Why we don’t ride elephants or take selfies with tigers and what you can do to help Thailand’s animals instead of being part of the problem. Recognizing the ethical concerns surrounding these practices is the first step toward fostering positive change and bolstering responsible tourism.

The Dark Side of Animal Attractions and Shows

We hate to be the bearer of bad news but nearly all animal experiences in Thailand are generally problematic. Sometimes it can be hard to tell if a practice is harmful or exploitative, so let us clear some things up. 


Behind the flashy façade of animal shows lies a distressing reality. Birds, reptiles, and mammals are subjected to unnatural and stressful performances for the entertainment of tourists. From macaws forced to ride bicycles, orangutans forced into a boxing ring, and bears compelled to dance, these spectacles exploit animals' natural behaviors for profit, disregarding their physical and psychological well-being.


They are wild animals. If you are able to pet them, feed them, bathe them, or ride them, they have been through hellish training to force them into compliance. Riding elephants is completely unacceptable. The heavy seats, the sheer number of riders, and long hours every day, can lead to long-term physical damage to the elephants' spines. They were not bred for riding like horses, even if they look big and strong, their spines bend and break over time and they are in pain. 


There are very few genuine elephant sanctuaries in Thailand. Many places which mistreat their elephants have rebranded in recent years to appeal to more responsible travelers. You will find dozens of pamphlets advertising an elephant experience with “no riding” and “no bullhooks” proudly emblazoned on the front. But in reality, these same places still offer riding in a different part of their park and sometimes under a different company name. 


Seen your favorite celebrity snuggling a baby tiger cub or posing with a huge male tiger daddy? That baby has been illegally bred under terrible conditions, and that grown tiger has been sedated into oblivion. It is not cool or brave to pose for drugged tiger selfies. Tigers used for photo sessions are subjected to stressful conditions that can have severe consequences for their mental and physical well-being.


NEVER visit a Tiger Temple Thailand. 

There are currently no ethical Tiger experiences in Thailand. Learn more here. 

The Thailand Slow Loris & Other Cuties

The endearing slow loris, a nocturnal primate with large, round eyes, often falls victim to the illegal wildlife trade, exploited for photo opportunities. Many have their teeth cruelly removed to prevent bites, a painful and debilitating process that often leads to infection and death. Many mammals, such as gibbons, and exotic felines, have their infants forcibly taken and illegally smuggled across borders to serve as props for tourist snapshots for tips. 


Instead of paying a guy on the beach for a selfie with a gibbon, visit The Gibbon Rehabilitation Project in Phuket

Choosing Ethical Alternatives

There are ethical alternatives that allow travelers to connect with Thailand's wildlife responsibly. Support reputable sanctuaries and rescue centers that prioritize the well-being of animals. You can visit them to support the cause or ask them about Thailand elephant volunteer programs. 

Links to Ethical Elephant Sanctuaries Thailand: 

Wildlife Friends Foundation Thailand near Hua Hin - 2.5 hours from Bangkok

Elephant Nature Park in Chiang Mai 

Phuket Elephant Sanctuary 

Boon Lott’s Elephant Sanctuary in Sukhothai 

Elephant Haven in Kanchanaburi

The Surin Project

Volunteer in Thailand With Cats & Dogs

Travelers can also contribute to the well-being of Thailand's stray animals. Support local animal welfare organizations by donating, volunteering, or even adopting. You can even get free meals and accommodation on a stunning island if you help out! 


Volunteer in Bangkok Links:

Rescue P.A.W.S Website 

Soi Dog Website 

WVS Thailand Website


As responsible wildlife tourism advocates, it is our collective responsibility to prioritize ethical animal experiences and reject activities that exploit wildlife.

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