As this month ends, one other thing will end with it – elephant back riding in Botswana.
Botswana, which has the largest herd of elephants in Africa, has directed the Abu Camp, the only facility which allows for elephant back riding in Botswana to put an end to the service.
The ban on elephant back riding comes as a result of a new government policy led by the Environment Minister, TK Khama which has the aim of improving the welfare of elephants.
In the past, Asian elephants were trained to be ridden as working animals, however, recently conservationists have frowned upon it on the basis that elephants are a lot like humans; they socialise, have families and friends, feel pain, sorrow, happiness and more.
African elephant rides began in Zimbabwe in the late 1990s and it wasn’t long before other safaris in southern Africa picked up on it. According to Traveller 24, there are now 39 commercial elephant venues, holding around 215 captive elephants in southern Africa, with 25% of these venues offering elephant back riding, another 7% forcing elephants to do tricks for tourists.
According to World Animal Protection, most tourists who go elephant riding do it for fun, unaware of the physical and psychological pain it costs the animals.
“They will not be told that baby elephants are cruelly taken from their mothers, and their spirits harshly broken for training to give rides and perform tricks for tourists.
“This includes chaining and close confinement, loneliness, tight restraint with ropes or chains and isolation from other elephants and deprivation of food and water. Severe pain is often inflicted with pointed metal bullhooks, wooden battens, and whips.
“The cruelty elephants endure during breaking stays with them throughout their lives and can leave them suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder. And after breaking there is no end to their suffering.”