If you only have the time to go to one Elephant Sanctuary, pop up the road and go to the Millennium Elephant Foundation instead (or Elephant Bath as many of the local guides call it).
Initial good impressions formed by the entrance area, efficient entrance staff, with 2000 rupee charge and clean toilets quickly disintegrated into nothing more than a disorganised and slightly distressing event. I am not an over zealous animal lover but to I was truly disgusted.
Whilst it was amazing to see the array of elephants, especially the babies, there was no explanation as to what was going on in the various parts of the orphanage, tips were constantly demanded by the handlers with other seemingly, non-staff members taking cameras from customers to take pictures of them with the elephants and they too also demanding money. The handlers were inconsistent with the elephants, with shouting and use of ankhs /stick, one minute encouraging them to get closer to people for the obligatory photo opp and then hurriedly moving the elephants away again, more shouting, more stick .
Particularly distressing were elephants chained to a fence with no shade opportunities near them and an old elephant chained up tightly, interestingly I didn't see him when they were all moved to the river.
At the river we chose to stand at street level, to avoid the other tourist scam of getting you into one of the hotels to pay for an overpriced drink and it was amazing to see them go past and watch them in the river but again it was disorganised. There were signs everywhere saying “do not to feed the elephants”, whilst staff members seemingly encouraged people to do exactly that by buying bananas from the street hawkers.
These elephants maybe in an orphanage but I didn't feel that their care and treatment was a priority. An amazing opportunity to inform and educate a huge amount of people has been totally lost.
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