Three major Chinese travel agencies have pledged to stop offering elephant rides and shows over animal welfare concerns, a first in China according to one organization.
CAISSA Touristic, Zannadu and Faxian Trip are the first agencies in China to phase out elephant tourism from their offerings, Zheng Yu, an employee with World Animal Protection told thepaper.cn.
Zheng said the Chinese agencies join more than 160 travel agencies worldwide committed to keeping elephant-based entertainment off their itineraries.
Most of the activities are offered to tourists in South Asia, in countries including India, Sir Lanka and Nepal, thepaper.cn reported on Thursday.
About 100,000 visitors choose CAISSA Touristic to experience elephants rides every year, said Ge Mu, the company's deputy CEO.
Faxian Trip has already stopped offering such trips, while the other agencies expect to phase them out by November.
Expert said the trips, which often include elephant-back rides and shows involving trained pachyderms, come at a devastating price.
"Elephants undergo cruel training for the amusement of visitors," Zhao Zhonghua, Chief Representative of Society for the Protection of Animals (WSPA) China told thepaper.cn.
While such elephant performances may be profitable, they might encourage hunting and further abuse of the species, Zhao said.
Over 2,190 elephants in Thailand were the victims of amusement activities in 2016, a 30 percent increase from 2010, according to a WSPA report in July.
Most spectators enjoy wild animal performances out of their love for animals but have no idea how much pain the performances inflict on the creatures, a WSPA survey found in 2015.