If you’ve been following us for a while or ever visited an Elephant sanctuary you might be familiar with Elephant baths. Basically this means an Elephant is put in a river and is being washed and scrubbed. But while in Sri Lanka it made me wonder: is this actually necessary? Wild Elephants aren’t washed and scrubbed either right? Loads of tourists would ask me the same questions while I was there. Through questioning the organization and closely observing everything that was going on there for a month I can now answer some of these questions confidently and I would like to share them with you today!
Why are captive elephants washed?
The main reason is that the Mahouts (caretakers) of the Elephants care a lot about having a clean Elephant. A clean elephant to them represents their skill and the fact that they are able to take good care of them.
Are Elephant baths necessary?
Clearly Elephants in the wild aren’t washed either. However wild elephants do bath themselves. On top of that it is important that Elephants have clean feet so they don’t get foot rot, a common disease amongst captive Elephants. I’d say the scrubbing isn’t really necessary but the bathing makes sense.
Do they enjoy it?
Unfortunately I wasn’t able to ask the Elephants themselves… But while observing them most Elephants genuinely seemed to enjoy it. Especially on warmer days it was really nice for them to cool down. “My” Elephant, Kandula, often times even fell asleep during his bath. And based of the video I’ve put here (most) Elephants really enjoy water!
However sometimes some of the Elephants didn’t really feel like it and protested by not laying down right away when they were being asked. Eventually they would have to do it anyway because their caretaker made them. This is clearly unnatural behavior and illustrates why Elephants shouldn’t be kept captive in the first place.
How are they washed?
They lay down in the river and are being scrubbed with a piece of coconut shell.
I hope this cleared up some things you might be wondering about Elephant baths! Personally I think Elephant bathing is clearly not necessary and also unnatural, like so many things are unnatural with captive elephants. However it doesn’t seem to be extremely damaging. It is also a much more preferred touristic thing to do with an Elephant than a ride. The best advice I can give you if you ever visit captive Elephants is to be critical, ask a lot of questions and observe what is happening. If you have more questions about this please comment below and support us through shopping our Elephant poo paper products!