3 Chinese companies stop elephant entertainment programs

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An elephant kicks a ball during an elephant football competition at the 13th Elephant Festival in Sauraha, a tourism hub in southwest Nepal's Chitwan district, Dec. 28, 2016. (File photo/Xinhua)

Three Chinese tourism agencies have announced that they will stop offering elephant-riding services to tourists in overseas destinations to reduce harm to the animal.

Beijing-based Caissa Touristic said it will no longer help tourists ride elephants or watch elephant performances in South Asia, including in India, Sri Lanka and Nepal, starting from November.

Caissa also plans to further expand the ban on elephant entertainment programs in the future, according to its Assistant President Ge Mu.

Ge said about 100,000 tourists choose to ride elephants or watch shows each year, accounting for 40 percent of tourism activities in Southeast Asia.

Online tourism websites fxtrip.com and zanadu.com also pledged to ensure "elephant-friendly" programs to tourists, The Paper reported.

Fxtrip.com previously included elephant programs in all six of its routes to Thailand, where the monthly visitors from China it organizes number in the thousands.

Zheng Yu, a wildlife campaign manager at World Animal Protection, said the three agencies are the first to make such promises in China.

Zhao Zhonghua, country director at World Animal Protection, said elephants "suffer from multiple forms of torture" due to rigorous training.

A report by World Animal Protection in July said the number of elephants used for entertainment activities in Thailand has risen from 1,688 to 2,198, up 30 percent.

More than 160 tourism companies in the world have answered the call to stop offering elephant entertainment programs to tourists.

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