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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.

All images provided by Bombas

We can all be part of the giving movement

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We all know that small acts of kindness can turn into something big, but does that apply to something as small as a pair of socks?

Yes, it turns out. More than you might think.

A fresh pair of socks is a simple comfort easily taken for granted for most, but for individuals experiencing homelessness—they are a rare commodity. Currently, more than 500,000 people in the U.S. are experiencing homelessness on any given night. Being unstably housed—whether that’s couch surfing, living on the streets, or somewhere in between—often means rarely taking your shoes off, walking for most if not all of the day, and having little access to laundry facilities. And since shelters are not able to provide pre-worn socks due to hygienic reasons, that very basic need is still not met, even if some help is provided. That’s why socks are the #1 most requested clothing item in shelters.

homelessness, bombasSocks are a simple comfort not everyone has access to

When the founders of Bombas, Dave Heath and Randy Goldberg, discovered this problem, they decided to be part of the solution. Using a One Purchased = One Donated business model, Bombas helps provide not only durable, high-quality socks, but also t-shirts and underwear (the top three most requested clothing items in shelters) to those in need nationwide. These meticulously designed donation products include added features intended to offer comfort, quality, and dignity to those experiencing homelessness.

Over the years, Bombas' mission has grown into an enormous movement, with more than 75 million items donated to date and a focus on providing support and visibility to the organizations and people that empower these donations. These are the incredible individuals who are doing the hard work to support those experiencing —or at risk of—homelessness in their communities every day.

Folks like Shirley Raines, creator of Beauty 2 The Streetz. Every Saturday, Raines and her team help those experiencing homelessness on Skid Row in Los Angeles “feel human” with free makeovers, haircuts, food, gift bags and (thanks to Bombas) fresh socks. 500 pairs, every week.

beauty 2 the streetz, skid row laRaines is out there helping people feel their beautiful best

Or Director of Step Forward David Pinson in Cincinnati, Ohio, who offers Bombas donations to those trying to recover from addiction. Launched in 2009, the Step Forward program encourages participation in community walking/running events in order to build confidence and discipline—two major keys to successful rehabilitation. For each marathon, runners are outfitted with special shirts, shoes—and yes, socks—to help make their goals more achievable.

step forward, helping homelessness, homeless non profitsRunning helps instill a sense of confidence and discipline—two key components of successful recovery

Help even reaches the Front Street Clinic of Juneau, Alaska, where Casey Ploof, APRN, and David Norris, RN give out free healthcare to those experiencing homelessness. Because it rains nearly 200 days a year there, it can be very common for people to get trench foot—a very serious condition that, when left untreated, can require amputation. Casey and Dave can help treat trench foot, but without fresh, clean socks, the condition returns. Luckily, their supply is abundant thanks to Bombas. As Casey shared, “people will walk across town and then walk from the valley just to come here to get more socks.”

step forward clinic, step forward alaska, homelessness alaskaWelcome to wild, beautiful and wet Alaska!

The Bombas Impact Report provides details on Bombas’s mission and is full of similar inspiring stories that show how the biggest acts of kindness can come from even the smallest packages. Since its inception in 2013, the company has built a network of over 3,500 Giving Partners in all 50 states, including shelters, nonprofits and community organizations dedicated to supporting our neighbors who are experiencing- or at risk- of homelessness.

Their success has proven that, yes, a simple pair of socks can be a helping hand, an important conversation starter and a link to humanity.

You can also be a part of the solution. Learn more and find the complete Bombas Impact Report by clicking here.

via UNSW

This article originally appeared on 07.10.21


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