In South East Asia elephants are a huge draw for tourists. In places like Thailand, people arrive excited to ride the largest land mammals on earth – unaware that what they’re doing is part of a cruel, unnatural practice that requires the animals to work long, hard days. What if there was a way to keep the elephants as a staple part of the South East Asian tourism industry – but in a role that was satisfying for both humans AND the elephants? The Chai Lai Orchid shows us that there is.
In Northern Thailand, nestled in the mountains of Chiang Mai, you will find The Chai Lai Orchid. This is a beautiful tourist attraction dedicated to “sustainable tourism”, “kindness to elephants”, and to helping “at risk women take the first step to get out of poverty and see a future of hope.”
Currently there are 11 elephants at The Chai Lai Orchid. Four are babies and all “work” each day to earn their food and board. That being said, their “work” is more like a trip to the spa! Instead of dressing the elephants up in heavy metal chairs, and strapping tourists to their backs, the staff at the Orchid offers tourists a one of a kind experience that involves bathing, kissing and feeding the elephants. The mantra is all about respectful observation and interaction vs. exploitation – and they LOVE it! (“They” being both the elephants and the tourists).
Look at all these happy faces!
Unfortunately, The Chai Lai Orchid is not a permanent home for the elephants. When the babies get older they will be returned to their “owner” who will subject them to a life of bull hooks, heavy metal chairs and painful tusk removal.
We can help The Chai Lai Orchid and help set the standard for sustainable tourism by supporting their Crowdrise Campaign – Dollars for Dee Dee and Friends (Dee Dee is one of the adorable baby elephants on site). With the money, the Orchid will be able to rent (and ultimately buy off) the elephants from their current owner and show the world that animal centric tourism can be both kind AND profitable.
If you aren’t in a position to donate to the campaign – no problem. Here are a few alternatives:
Raise Awareness: Tell your friends and family about the campaign and use the hashtag #DontLetDeeDeeDown on social media.
Take the Trip of a Lifetime: Visit Thailand and stay at The Chai Lai Orchid. There are adorable bungalows on site for very reasonable rates.
By Bailey Schroeder, Founder + CEO of ResQwalk