Kids in elephant riding hotspot call for an end to tourism rides

09 May 2019


Vietnamese school children paint images of a more humane future without elephant rides, circuses or trinkets made from elephant parts.

The town of Buon Don is synonymous in Vietnam for the centuries old practice of keeping and riding elephants.

While in the past, captured elephants were used for logging, in recent years, they have become a mainstay of the tourism industry with most forced to give rides to tourists.

Many have parts of their body removed – such as tails and tusks – to be sold as souvenirs, while captive elephants elsewhere in the country are abused in circuses.

READ MORE: The Truth About Elephant Riding


But as awareness of the welfare needs of elephants increases, schoolchildren in the region are calling for change.

Hundreds of children sent painted images to Animals Asia as part of a “Happy Elephants” art competition calling for a better life for captive and wild elephants


Animals Asia Animal Welfare Director, Dave Neale said:

“Nobody can doubt the depth of feeling toward elephants in Buon Don village, but it is imperative that people also understand their welfare needs so that our obsession with these incredible animals doesn’t cause them harm.

“These schoolchildren are now in no doubt that elephants need the forest. They need to roam, to be social, to be free in order to live happy, healthy lives.”

7In 2015, the elephant tourism industry made headlines in Vietnam when a number of animals died of exhaustion due to overwork.

Dak Lak province, home to Buon Don village, is famed for its elephant tourism and is believed to contain around 40 captive elephants.

According to recent data from the Vietnam Administration of Forestry, Vietnam’s wild elephant population is believed to have fallen to between 100 and 150, a figure conservationists say is not viable to ensure their survival, while 88 individuals live in captivity, mostly providing rides for tourists in Dak Lak.

The rapid decline in wild numbers, from around 2,000 in 1990 to around 100 today, is largely due to loss of habitat as forests are cleared for logging and agriculture.

Historically, wild capture for domestication in the tourism industry and poaching for ivory have been exacerbating factors, although poaching has ceased in recent years.

Vietnam is taking emergency steps to conserve the country’s remaining wild populations by establishing the Elephant Conservation Centre, where Animals Asia provides animal management and welfare advice.

Animals Asia has also launched the country’s first ethical elephant tourism initiative where former riding elephants are retired to a national park where tourists can observe them behaving naturally in the forest.