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If riding an elephant was on your bucket list, here's why you might change your mind.

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Intrepid Travel

If you traveled to Thailand, Vietnam, or India five years ago, chances are you were offered an elephant ride.

For many travelers, the opportunity to perch atop an eight-foot, 6,000-pound animal while slowly lumbering through a lush rainforest was at the very top of a bucket list.

It’s a different story if you’re looking for an elephant ride in 2016. Many tour companies, led by Intrepid Travel, are banning the popular activity from their tours.


But why?

Well, to understand that, you first might want to understand a few things about elephants and what making them "ridable" entails.

Studies have indicated that like us, elephants are empathetic creatures — they help each other in distress, grieve for their dead, and feel emotions.

A 2013 study conducted on Asian elephants found that they comforted each other both physically and verbally in times of distress, making small noises while simultaneously stroking each other with their trunks in a show of empathy that's similar to chimpanzees.

Thailand elephant sanctuary. All images via Intrepid Travel.

African elephants will also scatter the bones of their dead. And some scientists even think that elephants cry real tears.While scientists aren't 100% certain, there is research that suggests that elephant tears are associated with grief and loss.

There are even case studies that show elephants performing acts of altruism and heroism for other elephants. In a famous study in 2006, researchers observed elephants' behavior toward a dying matriarch (who they dubbed Eleanor) and found that one elephant tried to rescue the dying elephant. When Eleanor did die, elephant families from miles around came to pay their respects.

Because elephants are such intelligent and emotional animals, it can be easy to believe they enjoy performing for and interacting with humans, like many domestic animals do. But that's not the case.

Elephants are wild animals, not domestic ones like dogs and cats. They're complex social animals that have to endure severe trauma to be ridden.

Baby elephants in Chiang Mai, Thailand.

In order to get them to carry people on their backs, paint pictures, or play with soccer balls, young elephants need to be broken, a process that's often referred to as "the crush" in places like Thailand.

A centuries-old practice that's been handed down throughout generations, "the crush" or "phajaan" as it's called in Thai literally means the process of breaking a young elephant's spirit. When the elephants are young, they're stripped from their mothers, tightly bound, beaten with long sharp spikes, and cruelly deprived of food and water.

If all of this sounds terrible, know that there's some good news. The tide is finally turning on elephant rides.

Tourism companies across the board are making the ethical choice to not put elephant rides on the menu. More than 100 travel agencies, led by Intrepid Travel, have pledged to remove elephant rides, including shows with elephants, from their itineraries.

Thailand Elephant Sanctuary.

PETA has been pretty vocal about the treatment of elephants and started reaching out to travel companies about it in the last few years. After PETA initially reached out to Intrepid Travel, the travel company wanted to know more. So, they lent support to the research of captive elephant venues conducted by World Animal Protection.

It turns out that the demand for elephant rides had also caused a dramatic increase in elephant poaching — specifically in places like Southeast Asia where elephants were already endangered. And, the research found that only 3% of elephant tourism offerings in Southeast Asiatreated elephants humanely.

Because of this, Intrepid Travel decided to change their rules and also teach fellow travelers to be mindful of attractions, like elephant rides, that actively exploit animals. They also run a not-for-profit, The Intrepid Foundation, that lets tourists contribute to the company's efforts to help improve animal welfare, stop human trafficking, and eradicate poverty — all while exploring the world.

There are many ways to appreciate the beauty and majesty of elephants in a humane setting.

Thailand Elephant Sanctuary.

If you still want to make sure you can catch a glimpse of your favorite tusked friends, there are a host of other organizations that rescue and rehabilitate elephants. Instead of riding an elephant, try visiting Thailand's Elephant Nature Park or donating to the friends of the Asian Elephant hospital — the first hospital to provide an elephant with a prosthetic leg.

Greenwashing (making something look sustainable and ethical when it really isn't) can be common when tourists and elephants are involved, so if you're unsure about an activity, it can be helpful to check watchdog organizations (like PETA or Traffic) that are closely monitoring animal tourism.

When companies pave the way for ethical travel by making sure that all animals are loved and respected along the way, everybody wins.

Nature

Pennsylvania home is the entrance to a cave that’s been closed for 70 years

You can only access the cave from the basement of the home and it’s open for business.

This Pennsylvania home is the entrance to a cave.

Have you ever seen something in a movie or online and thought, "That's totally fake," only to find out it's absolutely a real thing? That's sort of how this house in Pennsylvania comes across. It just seems too fantastical to be real, and yet somehow it actually exists.

The home sits between Greencastle and Mercersburg, Pennsylvania, and houses a pretty unique public secret. There's a cave in the basement. Not a man cave or a basement that makes you feel like you're in a cave, but an actual cave that you can't get to unless you go through the house.

Turns out the cave was discovered in the 1830s on the land of John Coffey, according to Uncovering PA, but the story of how it was found is unclear. People would climb down into the cave to explore occasionally until the land was leased about 100 years later and a small structure was built over the cave opening.

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A couple celebrates while packing their home.

One of the topics that we like to highlight on Upworthy is people who are redefining what it means to be in a relationship. Recently, we’ve shared the stories of platonic life partners, moms who work together as part of a “mommune” and a polyamorous family with four equally-committed parents.

A growing number of people are reevaluating traditional relationships and entering lifestyles that work for them instead of trying to fit into preexisting roles. It makes sense because the more lifestyle options that are available, the greater chance we have to be happy.

A recent trend in unconventional relationships is married couples "living apart together," or LATs as they are known among mental health professionals.

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Professional tidier Marie Kondo says she's 'kind of given up' after having three kids

Hearing Kondo say, 'My home is messy,' is sparking joy for moms everywhere.

Marie Kondo playing with her daughters.

Marie Kondo's book, "The Life-Changing Art of Tidying Up," has repeatedly made huge waves around the world since it came out in 2010. From eliminating anything that didn't "spark joy" from your house to folding clothes into tiny rectangles and storing them vertically, the KonMari method of maintaining an organized home hit the mark for millions of people. The success of her book even led to two Netflix series.

It also sparked backlash from parents who insisted that keeping a tidy home with children was not so simple. It's one thing to get rid of an old sweater that no longer brings you joy. It's entirely another to toss an old, empty cereal box that sparks zero joy for you, but that your 2-year-old is inexplicably attached to.

To be fair, Kondo never forced her way into anyone's home and made them organize it her way. But also to be fair, she didn't have kids when she wrote her best-selling book on keeping a tidy home. The reality is that keeping a home organized and tidy with children living in it is a whole other ballgame, as Kondo has discovered now that she has three kids of her own.

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Pop Culture

YouTube star MrBeast sponsors 1,000 people's cataract surgery to help them see again

"I had never heard of MrBeast so I almost hung up. But gratefully did not hang up."

YouTube star sponsors 1,000 people's cataract surgery

Blindness touches people's lives around the world and YouTube star Jimmy Donaldson, more popularly known as MrBeast, is trying to do something about it. Donaldson made it his mission to help 1,000 people regain their eyesight with the help of Dr. Jeff Levenson, an ophthalmologist and surgeon in Jacksonville, Florida.

Levenson has been operating a program called "Gift of Sight" for over 20 years. The program provides free cataract surgery to uninsured people who are legally blind for free, so long as they meet certain criteria. Levenson had never heard of Donaldson, and he almost hung up on him when the YouTube star called to ask about a partnership.

"I had never heard of MrBeast so I almost hung up. But gratefully did not hang up," Levenson told CNN.

After figuring out that Donaldson was indeed a real person who wanted to help others, the duo called around the Jacksonville area to determine the people who needed help the most. They got their list of clients from free clinics and homeless shelters, which covered the United States portion of the surgeries.

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A parenting influencer who goes by the name @ellethevirgo on TikTok has shared a brilliant hack that can turn a simple box of Cheerios into a fun sensory sand experience. The great part is that the sand is edible, so you don’t have to worry if your child puts some in their mouth, which they will inevitably do.

The recipe for Cheerios sensory sand is pretty simple:

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Gaël Monfils makes tennis a must-see.

Tennis isn't always the most entertaining sport to watch, especially if you're not particularly interested in seeing a ball get slapped across a net at 1,000,000 mph approximately 17,000 times. You could probably get whiplash or eye strain if you focused too hard on it. While some people love the sport, others need a little more than grunts and sneaker sounds to capture their attention.

If you're in the group of people who need to be entertained, look no further than Gaël Monfils, a professional French tennis player that has earned the nickname, "The Entertainer." Monfils turned pro in 2004 and has multiple championship matches under his belt, and yet he still takes the time to be...extra while playing.

In a compilation video uploaded to TikTok, we see the 36-year-old tennis player dancing after hitting the ball across the net just out of his opponent's reach. But of course, he also doesn't hit the ball like your average player, either. In one part of the video, Monfils jumps up extremely high and bicycle kicks as he hits the ball with his tongue hanging out of his mouth.

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