Why Bathing with Elephants is Unhygienic and Unethical

Do you want to make interactions with elephants a key part of your trip to Thailand? 

Whether you’re visiting Phuket or any other destination across the country, there are several important things you must keep in mind when planning your adventure.

First and foremost, take the time to seek out ethical elephant activities in Phuket or any other location you’re visiting. 

Doing so ensures you’re supporting companies that prioritise the health and well-being of rescued elephants — just like we do at the Phuket Nature Elephant Reserve.

Our elephant experiences in Phuket do not include unethical and unhygienic practices such as bathing these incredible creatures. 

Keep scrolling down to find out why this is an activity you absolutely must avoid.

If you have any questions for our team about our activities and experiences, please feel free to get in touch.

Woman patting elephant

Is Bathing with Elephants Unethical?

Yes, bathing with elephants is an unethical activity. But it’s understandable why the typical visitor to Thailand may not know this.

In the wild, elephants love to bathe in rivers, streams, ponds, and muddy wallows. 

Rolling around, splashing water, submerging their bodies, and covering themselves with mud is a natural behaviour. What’s more, they like peace and quiet when doing so.

While you may think that bathing with an elephant ticks these boxes, this isn’t true. This activity is simply cruelty against these animals re-packaged and re-branded.

Elephant in Jungle Phuket

“Sanctuaries” and parks that prioritise profits over their elephants don’t allow their animals the freedom to move.

A mahout (handler) controls the elephants with intimidating methods to ensure they stand still or lie down. This means they can’t leave the water when they want to.

This is a perpetuation of the incredibly cruel “crushing” process that makes young elephants submissive to humans.

We looked at elephant crushing in a previous blog, Should I Ride Elephants in Thailand?

In short, enforced bathing forces elephants to continually face, and hide, a lifetime of trauma.

Unethical parks and sanctuaries also want as many customers as possible.

It’s likely, then, that excited people will crowd around the elephants, throwing mud and buckets of water at them. This only further compounds the stress the elephants feel.

Put simply, if a bathing experience changes an elephant’s natural behaviour and causes visible signs of distress (swaying, rocking, head-bobbing), it is unethical.

Read our recommendations for the best places to see elephants in Thailand and ensure your itinerary only includes ethical, cruelty-free sanctuaries. 

Elephant in Jungle

Is Bathing with Elephants Unhygienic?

Yes, this same process of elephant bathing is also incredibly unhygienic. As such, it’s harmful to you and the elephant.

When made to stay in the water for prolonged periods, elephants will eventually urinate and defecate in it.

It’s also likely that the habitats receive very little, if any, cleaning.

By entering this environment, you significantly increase the likelihood of becoming seriously ill or catching an eye infection.

What’s more, in wet and slippery conditions, you may also fall. Of course, this can cause an injury in its own right.

But with a stressed, three-tonne elephant nearby, this is something you very much want to avoid!

Elephants themselves also carry diseases, parasites, and bacteria harmful to humans. These can spread to you via the close physical contact involved in the bathing process.

All things considered, elephants do not want to be bathed by humans, and humans shouldn’t bathe elephants.

For further reading about ethical issues surrounding elephants, read another of our previous blogs, Is Being in Captivity Unhealthy for Elephants?

Elephant in hydrotherapy pool

Join Us for Ethical and Hygienic Elephant Activities in Phuket!

At the Phuket Nature Elephant Reserve, we value the health, safety, and well-being of our elephants. We also want you to have the best possible experience on your visit too!

For this reason, we absolutely do not offer elephant bathing.

You can still get close to our rescued elephants, but everything happens on their terms. We never force any unnatural behaviour. Our activities focus on care.

For example, our Half-Day Elephant Care Adventure provides unforgettable interactions with these majestic animals with a clear conscience.

After exercising, our elephants cool down in a specially designed Hydrotherapy Pool. Here, they have all the space they need to swim and splash around as they please.

Our Mud and Sand Spas then allow the elephants to cover themselves with mud. This protects their skin against insects and the sun.

For many of our guests, watching our elephants rolling around in the mud and having the time of their lives is a true highlight.

We also have an Elephant Shower Platform where you can help to clean and wash the elephants after they’ve had enough fun in the mud.

However, for the reasons outlined above, we do not allow you to get wet with them.

Elephant mud spa

Check Out Our Elephant Experiences in Phuket

By supporting the Phuket Nature Elephant Reserve, you help in the fight against animal cruelty.

Browse our range of elephant activities in Phuket to see how you can create memories you’ll never forget — or regret.

For more information about our experiences or any other aspect of the work we do, please don’t hesitate to contact us.

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