At MandaLao Elephant Sanctuary & Tours, visitors can walk with elephants, feed and splash them – but they can’t ride these retired work animals, whose back-breaking days of hefting heavy logs and howdahs full of tourists are over
As India celebrates the Ganpati festival which honors the elephant-headed god, Ganesha, it's a stark reminder that 15,000 Asian elephants, nearly one in three Asian elephants live in captivity. Without question elephants are highly intelligent, highly emotional, long-living animals that need the support of their herd to survive. When locals stole these poor creatures from their natural habitat, for labor or tourism, it raised a number of ethical and practical challenges for their future.
The Asian elephant once roamed from the Tigris and Euphrates rivers in western Asia as far east as China's Yangtze River. No longer. Now a highly endangered species, it has been eliminated from western Asia completely, from substantial parts of the Indian subcontinent and Southeast Asia, and almost entirely from China. Exceedingly adaptable in diet and behavior, elephants can survive anywhere from grasslands to rain forests, but they must migrate across large areas to find water and suitable food at different times of the year.