For many people, riding on the back of an elephant in Thailand is the ultimate bucket list experience. Historically, elephants were used for work and war in Thailand. Spiritually, elephants are portrayed as sacred animals in the practice of Buddhism. And culturally, elephants symbolize good luck, prosperity and endurance.
The elephant is the largest land mammal on our planet. They are secretive, and keep their distance from other animals. Most of the day is spent eating and drinking about 150 litres of water daily.
There was over 100,000 elephants in Thailand at the start of the previous century. Today there are only 3,000-4,000 elepheants left in Thailand amidst a global population that has been estimated as low as 30,000.
Fortunately, there are a small but growing number of elephant refuge centres in Thailand that are employing more sustainable methods to keep tourists, elephants and their mahouts happy.