Elephants have been highly-regarded and used by Thai royalty. As symbols representing familial-warmth and majestic strength, these gentle creatures are quite intelligent and capable perform intricate tasks. They also feel and show a wide variety of emotions. In herds, they often cooperate and look after one another. Historically, they were abused in laborious working-conditions, such as teak-logging in Northern Thailand. Elephants outwardly display their grief and sadness. Normally, Asian elephants have large ivory tusks; however, due to poaching, at least 20,000 elephants are hunted for their tusks. Consequently, the tusk-growing gene has been passed down less and less. Currently, only 4-5% of all Asian elephants can grow ivory tusks.
China has put a stop to their commercial ivory industry from 2017. Since then, it has been illegal to buy or sell ivory in any physical or online markets. In addition, importing and exporting ivory to China is also prohibited. Even with these restrictions, many travelers still get caught carrying ivory and ruining their vacations.
With the Chinese Golden Week just around the corner, the perfect gift doesn’t have to be ivory. Wandering the night markets in Thailand, there are eye-catching souvenirs all around you: your loved ones don’t need any ivory. This year, Anurak eco-lodges have joined WWF to share their tips for choosing eco-friendly and heartfelt gifts that won’t trigger any alarms with customs. In Thailand, we recommend that guests do not ride on elephants. Elephants used for these tourist activities often get very few breaks, and after decades for carrying people on their backs: many elephants develop spinal problems.
There are so many great souvenirs compared ivory. Our local suppliers, many whose family members were previously poachers, have stopped hunting these majestic animals and are committed to protecting wildlife as well. They recommend buying local handicrafts and supporting the local economy instead of ivory goods. Here are some great gifts ideas that are both sustainable and beautiful. Find these in many of the popular markets throughout Asia:
Coconut Shell Lanterns
Coconuts are commonly used for cooking in Southeast Asia, but their tough-outer shells can be carved into other things. In Thailand’s open-air markets, you can find these shells transformed into bowls, vases, and exquisite lanterns.
Luang Prabang in Laos is home to many artists, many of whom use local tree pulp and flowers to create delicate, decorative flower paper prints. Because of its translucent quality, flower paper is most commonly used to make lampshades.
From all of us at Anurak, we hope you enjoy your travels during the mid-autumn period and make sustainable choices along the way. If you like to go on our ethical Elephant experience, get in touch with us at Anurak Community Lodge.