To clarify, we do not book or promote any CAPTIVE elephant activities or any activities involving any captive wild animals. We are interested in organizing activities for our guests that allow them to experience the true jungle as well as authentic cultural and social activities of the Indonesian people. We do not support wild animals in captivity for any purpose. We believe that anyone coming to experience wild jungle should appreciate the unpredictability of wildlife as opposed to animals that have been caged, chained or beaten and who spend their lives as tourist entertainment rather than living free. If you want to see elephants, we suggest you book a trek of longer duration to give you a chance to possibly see them in the wild (unfortunately however, their numbers are critically endangered and sightings are extremely rare.) If you are interested in visiting a zoo, we are not the company that will be able to assist you. The most common request we receive in this regard is for visits to Tangkahan to bathe and/or ride the elephants. We have never supported elephant riding and you can find plenty of information online as to why elephant riding should never be acceptable.
Until about 3 years ago, we did book elephant bathing as part of our Tangkahan trips. At the time the bathing seemed like a nice way to interact with elephants, it seemed to be a nice part of their day and something they really enjoyed. However, even then, our feeling about the situation for the elephants was not overly positive, but our hope was that the tourist draw would mean more funds to provide better care for the elephants. Then, the elephant permit costs went up quite substantially. Again, we assumed the huge increase in permit fees being collected would go to the elephants, at least in part. However, since that time, we have seen no improvements for the elephants' living conditions. In fact we have only seen things that make us more concerned.
The elephants do not have a safe enclosure. So, when they are not serving visitors, (which is all day except for baths 2 times a day, or when trekking), they are chained to palm oil trees where they are left to stand in one place for hours on end. Their food variety has gone from exciting varieties of fruits to mere palm leaves which would not be their normal choice. And worse than that is evidence of scars from the bullhooks and chains. The bathing experience has gone from something that seemed respectful at one time, to a photo-op circus, often as a result of requests by the tourists themselves. The elephants now have to pose unnaturally for photos. The mahouts want to keep the tourists happy and concern for the elephants' welfare seems to come second. The elephants continue to be bred and over the last few years, 3 babies have died suddenly, that we know of. Nothing about their lives is wild or natural anymore.
Before we completely stopped participating in this, we contemplated whether it was the right thing to do. Their situation was not ideal but without money coming in from the permits, their care would decrease. However, as things seem to only worsen for the elephants, we no longer promote the bathing either. The last few groups of guests of ours that did go for the bathing came back sad and upset because they love elephants and were hurt to see the conditions of these beautiful animals.
You may see photos posted by other companies with the elephants now posing like they are in a circus. Our opinion is that it is not a good situation and in good conscience we cannot promote these activities. We hope guests will put elephants' needs above their own desire to be close to them. The cost to the elephants is unacceptable. Thank you for your understanding.