South Africa’s Department of Tourism should know better. While the rest of the world – even the country’s main tourism body – decries the practice of elephant riding, the government department has listed it as one of the top six things to do in Mpumalanga. The province is even (perhaps erroneously) advertising elephant rides inside Kruger Park.

elephant back ride riding south africa
Elephant-back riders in Mpumalanga. Photo: Twitter.

“Extremely disappointing to see @Tourism_gov_za promote elephant back riding as 1 of 6 things to do in #Mpumalanga, considering that the @satsa_sa guidelines are VERY clear on such activities involving captive wildlife,” tweeted Louise de Waal.

Mpumalanga has launched a campaign for Tourism Month under which it listed six must-do’s, and one of them is an “elephant sanctuary” in Hazyview publicised alongisde a photograph of tourists on elephant-back. At the same time the Mpumalanga tourism website lists under its Adventure list, “Elephant Back Safari. See the Kruger National Park on one of the Big Five, not only are they the biggest land animals but they are also one of the cleverest and they will remember you long after you have left.”

Recently international groups, including AirBnB, have refused to promote businesses that include animal interactions.

The South African tourism body SATSA in October released a list of voluntary rules for animal interactions in order to try stop walking with lions, petting of lion cubs and riding elephants. It would not promote any activity where wild animals were “used as selfie props.”

The elephant sanctuary listed in the publicity does not advertise rides on its website, and a query to the company had not been answered at publication.