Why Bathing With Elephants is
Not Always A Good Idea
Of course it looks like fun. Yes, some elephants do enjoy the experience.
But it is worth taking a moment to think about what goes on every day. Day in, Day out. And to put this in the context of the historical activities people have been using elephants for.
Elephants truly enjoy bathing in water and taking a mudbath. But it is not natural for them to do it with people they don't know up close and/or touching them.
If the elephant is required to bathe with people - the caretaker handler (kwan chang/mahout) has to maintain control over the animal for people's safety and to get the elephant to do what the tourists want. Many elephants are conscientious about people and will be careful about rolling over onto them or accidentally hurting them... but that means the elephant needs to be alert and cautious about its behavior. It can't do what it wants to do.
Do you really think being forced to do the same thing everyday is enjoyable? Elephants are intelligent emotional beings. Just like us, sometimes they're having a bad day. But if bathing with elephants is part of the scheduled activity - they will be coerced into following orders. This can be very stressful.
Relieving stress is one of the primary purposes of real elephant sanctuaries.
Elephants can't relax and act naturally if they are pressured to do things just to entertain tourists. It is a joy to see them behave normally, swim and frolic. Everybody smiles when watching elephants have fun. Being with them in a natural environment is a special experience.
Join the fun by watching them, not touching them.