Elephant venues leading Asia’s tourism industry towards a high-welfare future are facing collapse due to the coronavirus crisis, and today World Animal Protection has launched an urgent appeal to help over 150 elephants.

The appeal aims to provide eleven struggling, elephant-friendly venues in Thailand, Nepal, Cambodia and Laos with food, medicine and venue running costs in the short term.

Audrey Mealia, Global Head of Wildlife at World Animal Protection said:

“As the world is in lockdown and the tourism industry dries up, wild animals – that should never have been in captivity in the first place – could suffer most, left abandoned, neglected and starving,” she said.

“It would be heart-breaking to accept that this global crisis could sacrifice the new-found freedom these elephants are experiencing at these high-welfare venues.”

“These are challenging times, but our work to protect wild animals never stops. Wild animals should not be the forgotten victims of this pandemic.”

Caring for captive elephants is a giant task as they can require about 10% of their body weight in food every day – that’s up to 400kg of grass, leaves, fruits and vegetables that need to be paid for and transported.

“While this is an extremely uncertain time for captive elephants in Asia, it also provides an opportunity for the tourism industry to rebuild responsibly post-pandemic.”

World Animal Protection has previously supported the transition of venues including ChangChill and Following Giants in Thailand to become high welfare and elephant friendly – representing the potential for future responsible tourism.

The organisation is focused on keeping wild animals in the wild where they belong, and shifting traveller demand towards animal-friendly experiences, such as observation-only elephant venues, and calling for better legislation surrounding animals used for entertainment.

“Now is the time for the tourism industry to take responsibility and clean up its act to end the exploitation of wild animals forever,” Ms Mealia said.

Find out more here: www.worldanimalprotection.org.nz/keepthemwild