Don't be fooled by the name, a venue may call itself a sanctuary, rescue centre or retirement home for elephants, but don't assume this means it's offering them higher welfare. Look before you book and make sure the venue you visit really has the best interest of elephants at its heart.
Elephants are wild animals that belong in the wild. If they're allowing you close enough to ride, bathe with or touch them, it's because they've been cruelly trained. Interaction with an elephant for you is the result of fear and pain for them. Be elephant aware and only visit venues where you can look but not touch.
Elephants in the wild spend their days roaming long distances, grazing and socialising with other elephants. If elephants in the venue you are thinking of visiting are not allowed to freely move and express natural behaviour, it's not the place for you.Be elephant aware and go elsewhere.
Baby elephants are tourist magnets, but true elephant friendly venues shouldn't allow breeding, so you shouldn't be seeing young elephants, except for orphanages where baby elephants are rescued from the wild. They may be cute, but if you can see or touch a baby elephant, especially without its mum, be elephant aware and go elsewhere.
Being wild animals, captive elephants can be unpredictable and dangerous, resulting in tourists and mahouts being injured and killed each year. Even in elephant friendly venues you'll often see mahouts accompanying elephants, at a distance, to keep elephants and visitors safe. Elephants should always be treated with kindness and respect, and hooks never used unless in a real emergency.
As a tourist you have the power to make change for wild animals. Always look before you book and ensure you're visiting a genuine venue that allows elephants to be elephants, while educating visitors on their complex needs. Share your experience, leave reviews on sites like TripAdvisor, and be part of the movement to create a better future for elephants.