One of the United Kingdom's adventure travel companies has announced a total ban on elephant riding trips across the world. Tour firm Explore has said that it has removed elephant riding from all of its trip itineraries.
Elephants often sustain back injuries when tourists ride on them. Sometimes young elephants are forcibly separated from their mothers to serve the needs of tourism. Explore's move calls for an end to all such human-inflicted sufferings of elephants.
"Elephant rides cause damage and deformities to their spines and this activity encourages illegal elephant poaching of young elephants being taken from their mothers," the company said.
Elephants are also ill-treated by mahout communities who own the animals and train them to behave in a certain way. Poor treatment of elephants is often due to a lack of knowledge and education amongst the communities who make their living by offering elephant rides.
Explore said the company will work to support education of mahouts on how to offer alternative experiences to travellers, such as elephant safaris in the wild.
"We have spent time deliberating the matter and given a lot of thought to the consequences for the local communities and people who make their living by offering elephant rides," John Telfer, product director at Explore said. "We will also continue to look at ways we can safely take our customers to see these creatures in their natural environment," he added.
Kenya-based wildlife conservation organisation, The David Sheldrick Wildlife Trust, applauded the agency's decision. "Elephants are not a domesticated species and preparing them for a life of service to tourists is a long and often horrific process," it said in a statement.
"We are encouraged to hear this news and actively urge others to follow suit," it added. "Following the tragic news of a Scottish tourist killed by an elephant in Thailand, new reports have revealed the extent to which animal abuse exists in tourism around the world."