Observe World Elephant Day and National Thai Elephant Day by learning more about the plight of the planet’s largest land mammal. Plus, when is National Elephant Day?
World Elephant Day creates awareness for African and Asian elephants
Dusk settled over the Tanzania savannah as we drove away from Ngorongoro Conservation Area. The road back to Lyamungo would be long. “Oh, I hope I can stay awake,” I said to the driver wiping the dust from my glasses. The day behind us had been filled with the excitement of seeing a pride of lions laying in the shade of our safari vehicle, herds of elephants gathering in wadis and a tower of giraffes watching us outside the Ngorongoro crater. As we approached a small town, I could see the silhouette of a giant billboard just ahead, off the side of the tarmac. It was shaped like an elephant. “Must be advertising the turn-off for a safari camp,” I thought to myself. And then it moved.
The huge billboard was not a wayside road sign at all, but a living, breathing elephant. That was the moment that I came to realize how human-elephant conflict could be a problem in the zones like these where society meets nature. As humans encroach on the elephants’ habitat, the planet’s largest mammal can be viewed as a traffic hazard, or nuisance when it comes to destroying gardens and farmland. Fortunately, in Tanzania, areas like Ngorongoro and Lake Manyara National Park have been preserved for African elephant habitat. But in other places, elephants have been poisoned in retaliation for eating crops.
Reasons to take part in World Elephant Day or National Thai Elephant Day
That’s just one of the reasons to take part in World Elephant Day on August 12 or National Thai Elephant Day in March. By participating in World Elephant Day, you can help spread information about conserving and protecting one of our favorite animals from the threats they face.
Table of Contents
Dangers to African and Asian elephants across the globe
Dangers to both African and Asian elephants include:
- The escalation of poaching,
- habitat loss,
- human-elephant conflict and
- mistreatment in captivity.
When is National Elephant Day?
National Elephant Day is celebrated in Thailand on March 13.
World Elephant Day, August 12, is a time when various elephant conservation organizations from around the world and elephant lovers like me, take time to share information about goals and the status of the earth’s largest land mammals.
Elephant conservation organizations currently focus on:
- improving enforcement policies to prevent illegal poaching and trade of ivory,
- conserving elephant habitats,
- better treatment for captive elephants and,
- when appropriate, reintroducing captive elephants into natural, protected sanctuaries.
The status of elephants on our planet
A short rundown of the status of elephants on our planet includes:
- According to World Elephant Day, “in the past 50 years, the Asian elephant range has shrunk by over 70%.”
- Over 281 African elephants have died in Botswana since March 2020, and the cause is still unidentified. National Geographic has reported on the mysterious elephant deaths.
- The African elephant is the planet’s largest land animal, and the second-largest land animal is, you guessed it, the Asian elephant. There are two subspecies of African elephants, the forest elephant and the savannah elephant. A 2020 study reveals that “the population of the [forest elephant] species is 40 to 80% smaller than previously thought.”
- An international ban on the ivory trade was issued in 1989 by CITES (the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species). Yet despite the ban, legal trade still exists in many countries, including Japan, and “the black market continues to do a brisk business,” reports World Elephant Day.
What can we do?
As travelers of the world, we can be aware of ethical approaches to wildlife tourism. We can commit to:
- experiencing elephants in non-exploitive and sustainable environments
- encountering elephants where the animals can thrive under care and protection
- expressing our concern, sharing our knowledge and supporting solutions for the better care of both captive and wild elephants.
When I traveled to Kerala, India, I wasn’t so aware of responsible animal viewing as I am today. I visited an elephant orphanage without getting background information about its practices. Why would I do that?
Drinya T. Kenyon of World Animal Protection advises that many humane elephant sanctuaries don’t allow breeding, and so do not have young elephants. Perhaps the elephant orphanage in Kerala really did rescue orphans, or maybe they were breeding elephants and using the darling babies as tourist bait. I don’t know. What I do know is that some families make their livelihood from elephants in Kerela. I also saw baby elephants tied to posts, not able to roam in their natural environments.
Seek out experiences using ethical approaches to wildlife tourism
I met Drinya in Thailand at Chang Chill, where travelers do view elephants in their natural environment. Chang Chill is a new elephant sanctuary, which is partnering with World Animal Protection to ensure that elephants are protected and healthy. In an innovative, animal-focused tourism model rolled out at Chang Chill, elephants’ feeding and sleeping schedules uninterrupted by visitors. Drinya and the organization she represents recommends that we:
- Visit elephant venues where you can look, but not touch.
- Avoid places that advertise elephant performances.
- Elephant-friendly venues don’t allow breeding, so don’t be drawn by opportunities to take pictures with baby elephants.
- Make sure that elephants and people are safe. The organization reports, “many tourists and mahouts are injured and killed each year.”
How to celebrate World Elephant Day
We can celebrate World Elephant Day and Thai National Elephant Day by signing the World Elephant Day pledge found here.
I pledge to support a world that protects elephants, wildlife and their habitat.
Other things that we can do:
- Host your own World Elephant Day and watch When Elephants Were Young, a feature film about the plight of Asian elephants was released in theatres on August 12, 2016, for World Elephant Day. Buy the DVD of this fantastic story on Amazon now.
- Share your favorite elephant stories, photos and books with us below.
- Post a photo of yourself holding the reasons you love elephants and share it on social media with the hashtag #Worldelephantday.
- Write a blog post about elephants (That’s what I did here, so you can share it with your friends and family using the social media share buttons below) or share on World Elephant Day’s Facebook site.
I was honored to talk about ethical approaches to wildlife viewing during my interview with Big Blend Radio. Listen in below:
History of World Elephant Day
The inaugural World Elephant Day was launched On August 12, 2012, to bring attention to the “urgent plight” of African and Asian elephants. “The elephant is loved, revered and respected by people and cultures around the world, yet we balance on the brink of seeing the last of this magnificent creature,” revealed the organization.
National Thai Elephant Day or Chang Thai Day
Elephants are considered the national animal of Thailand, and until WWII, the national flag displayed an elephant. In 1998, the Thai government declared March 13 to be Thai National Elephant Day or Chang Thai Day (Thai: วันช้างไทย.) Thailand celebrates Chang Thai Day to
- Demonstrate the significance of elephants to Thailand
- exhibit how Thai culture depends on elephants, and
- promote awareness about protecting and conserving the Thai elephant population and elephant habitats.
I hope that my story here revealed some ethical approaches to wildlife tourism that you haven’t thought about previously. Perhaps its broadened your understanding of the part we play as travelers.
We may not be traveling right now, but I believe bucket list travel such as African safaris and excursions to Thailand and the other 13 countries where Asian elephant range will become popular as COVID loosens its grasp. Please let me know what you think in the comments below.
As is common in the travel industry, UNSTOPPABLE Stacey was provided with accommodations, meals, and other compensation while in Thailand. While it has not influenced this story, the Arizona travel writer believes in full disclosure of all potential conflicts of interest.
In addition, this blog, UNSTOPPABLE Stacey Travel, contains affiliate links. If you make a purchase through these links, Stacey earns a commission at no extra cost to you. These commissions help reduce the costs of keeping this travel blog active.
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