Wednesday, 21 December 2011

Elephants and Tourism #2

In my last post, I wrote about my discomfort in watching elephants perform in a staged environment, and shouted the praises of tourism ventures that showcase elephants' natural abilities to entertain, just by being themselves.

I do want to clarify, however, that I was not questioning the standard of care given to the animals at FantaSea or any other elephant show or camp. It was very apparent from watching the elephants in the FantaSea show that they were happy, well-adjusted and pampered animals, who did not appear stressed by their starring role.

Below is a statement provided by the management of FantaSea explaining the level of care given to their animals, which I think is worth sharing with my readers.

"Phuket FantaSea is committed to providing quality products and services to our guests, a fact that I hope is evident to you during your visit. The same also applies to the way we operate our business and manage our human and animal resources. Animals are regarded as our 'superstars' and treated with respect as one of our colleagues. Our elephants enjoy one of the best facilities offered in the country, if not in Asia. Each of our elephants is cared for by over 3 dedicated mahouts 24 hours a day, a costly yet necessary practice for us to keep our standard of animal care. During day time, the elephants are taken daily to the FantaSea-owned jungle next to our premises where they can roam freely (guarded by the mahouts) and at night, they stay in a spacious holding area (each having its own quarter) that boasts a huge common exercise ground, CCTV security system, shower area, a pool, clinic with full time vets, and other facilities. The food we serve our elephants is always of good human-consumable quality and mostly grown and harvested in our own farm or bought from respectable suppliers. It is also not known to most guests that we own many times more elephants than needed in the show, which means our elephants enjoy rest, day-offs and sick leaves and are not the least 'overworked' in any way.

The same standard of practice also extends to all animals, big or small. The tigers are well cared for and fed with high quality meat and supplements. We intentionally keep our tigers naturally thin and healthy, and not 'cuddly' and obese as most human guests think tigers should be. The display area where guests see the tigers is just a temporary 'play and snacks area' for the tigers. They are moved here each day to swim and play and have snacks (which are introduced into the display area via several trap doors). After 3 hours, they will be moved to their actual holding area which is a much bigger place, with a common area and a pool. As for your concern on the camera flashlights, please be assured that they do not cause harm to the tigers in any way. (With the lighting inside the tiger area and through the thick acrylic separating the tiger and human area, the flash lights actually lose its intensity and do not cause any harm). "
I personally find this information very reassuring, particularly in regards to the tigers.
The bottom line for animal lovers visiting Thailand is to consider your choices carefully in regards to wildlife-based tourism. Keep an open mind, taking into account the complex situation regarding the place of animals in an urbanised environment. Seek out operators who provide their animals with love, respect and quality care. And spread the word about those who are doing a great job as caretakers of the precious creatures inhabiting this planet.

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