How to Be a Responsible Eco Tourist

When planning a visit to a zoo, nature park, or sanctuary in the US, look for GFAS and/or AZA certifications and accreditations to ensure you’re supporting facilities that demonstrate exemplary animal care and welfare.

The Elephant Sanctuary is one of two sanctuaries for elephants in North America accredited by the Global Federation of Animal Sanctuaries (GFAS) and the only facility to be dually recognized by GFAS and the Association of Zoos and Aquariums (AZA).

There are a number of pseudo-sanctuaries and roadside zoos across the country and around the globe that tout conservation efforts but in actuality do very little to ensure or promote the welfare of animals. A good rule of thumb is to read one- and two-star reviews on online review sites such as Google, Yelp, TripAdvisor, and Facebook, which often include animal welfare concerns cited by visitors.

When traveling abroad, we encourage people to seek experiences that offer observation-only of elephants engaging in natural behaviors in natural environments, where they can socialize and roam.

"A true elephant-friendly venue is purely observational for visitors, where the safety of visitors and wellbeing of elephants is not affected by the need to constantly control the animals. The elephants would be managed in humane ways through the mahout [elephant Caregiver] who allows a maximum of freedom or through advanced ‘protected contact’ techniques." – Dr. Jan Schmidt-Burbach, World Animal Protection’s Senior Wildlife and Veterinary Advisor

By supporting facilities that encourage observation-only of wildlife, you help to reduce the demand for elephant rides and river bathing and promote a culture of enhanced elephant welfare.

Recommended Reading

Taken for a Ride
A report on the conditions for elephants used in tourism in Asia authored by Dr. Jan Schmidt-Burbach for World Animal Protection.

Be Elephant Aware and Show You Care
An infographic to help travelers identify truly elephant-friendly venues.

The Uphill Battle to End Elephant Rides in Asia
A feature article about elephant rides in Asia.

How to do wildlife tourism right
National Geographic's guidelines for ethical animal encounters.

The hidden cost of wildlife tourism
National Geographic's 2019 investigation into wildlife tourism.

Why Activists Say You Shouldn't Ride Elephants on Vacation
Feature article in Teen Vogue.

Pledge to Travel Responsibly

There are several ways you can contribute to our mission—and the mission of those all over the world working to develop solutions to the crisis facing elephants and ensure their survival.


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