Happy Elephant Care Valley in Chiang Mai, Thailand is about to embark on an agreement with World Animal Protection to transition into a more elephant-friendly venue. This move will end all contact between tourists and elephants at the camp to meet the growing demand for responsible elephant experiences. The transition will take place throughout 2018. At this stage, Happy elephant Care Valley estimates the transition will be done by end of the year, ready for a re-opening by the end of 2018 or the start of 2019.
The transformation of the venue is pioneered by animal welfare charity World Animal Protection as part of a coalition of leaders in the travel industry, including TUI Group, The Travel Corporation, Intrepid Group, G Adventures, EXO Travel, Thomas Cook Group, and others.
The elephants at Happy Elephant Care Valley were previously from farms and riding camps, and until recently it was possible for close interaction between tourists and the elephants, with tourists being able to ride, bathe and feed elephants at the venue. This stopped when the travel industry coalition presented a business case demonstrating the rise of elephant-friendly tourism. The transition will see the elephants free to behave as they would in the wild; free to roam the valley, bathing in mud, dust, water or grazing; as tourists experience the elephants from a safe distance.
A 2017 KANTAR global study showed the number of people who find elephant riding acceptable has dropped by 9 percent (from 53 to 44 percent) in just three years. The research also showed that 80 percent of tourists would prefer to see elephants in their natural environment, showing that elephant-friendly tourism is on the rise.