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The ugly side of Thailand’s elephant tourism


Tourism brochures for Thailand showcase its stunning beaches with clear blue waters; colorful carts of fresh fruits at outdoor markets; and elephants meandering through the jungle with excited visitors on their backs. But it turns out there’s a dark side to these elephant rides.

Thailand is one of 13 countries in Asia that trades Asian elephants—most from bordering Myanmar—to fuel its tourism market. And a recent report found widespread abuses in the industry.

TRAFFIC, a wildlife trade group governed by the World Wide Fund (WWF) and International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN), released the results of an investigation into 108 elephant tourism camps, hotels, and government facilities they examined between 2011 to 2013. They found around 80 of the elephants in those facilities that they said were illegally captured for the tourism industry. And of those whose origins are identifiable, nine out of 10 were from Myanmar. Estimates put the number of elephants at tourist camps in Thailand at 1,688.

Last century…

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