Riding elephants is one of the most popular tourist activities in many Asian countries. When we think about Thailand or India I’m sure one of the first things that come to mind is in fact riding an elephant, it’s a bucket list item for many and oh, think how many likes that picture would get you on instagram right?! Well, actually, think again! The reality behind this activity is dark, heartbreaking and just downright wrong and once you’ll get to know it no amount of insta-likes will convince you to jump on an elephant’s back!
An elephant is not naturally predisposed to have a human climb on his back and then be ridden into the jungle. They need to be tamed for that and the process they have to go through is torturous.
THE “CRUSH” PROCESS
The wild baby elephant is taken and separated from the mother (which can bring heavy psychological damage to both the animal as they have a high emotional intelligence) then he is caged and the process to ‘brake his spirits’ begins. This process is called “crushing” (the name alone says it all!).
The elephant’s legs are chained to the cage so he can’t move, he’s left with no food or water and repetedly beaten into submission (usually with a stick with a pointy metal hook) until he ‘brakes’ and responds to the mahout commands. From that day on the little elephant becomes a work slave.
THE DAMAGES OF RIDES
Feet injuries – At the beginning the baby elephants have to walk on trecks tight to the older elephants at a speed that is not natural for them and causes demages and sometime permanent injuries to their feet.
Back Injuries – An Elephant is not meant to carry the weight of humans on its back, though they are huge that doesn’t mean the extra weight is good for them.
Infections – Most rides are ‘chair rides’ which means a chair is put on the Elephant’s back to sit the passengers. This chairs hurts the poor elephant, causing him blisters that lead to serious infections.
WHAT CAN BE DONE TO STOP THIS
if you rode an elephant in the past and you weren’t aware of everything you just read please don’t feel bad. Many people are not aware of this issue, I wasn’t up until very recently. But now that you know here are a few things you can do to help stopping this kind of animal abuse.
Don’t contibute – Don’t ride elephants! Never! Ever! Ever, ever ,ever! Capish?!
Spread awareness – tell everyone about what you just read. Tell your friends, your family, write it on FB, make a story on instagram, tweet it, say it in any way you can!
Research places that are ethical and rescue elephants – there are some good organizations and sanctuaries out there, not many but they exist. There are a ton of places that present themselves as ethical but then abuse or mistreat the animals. Just be careful and do a ton of research prior (read as many reviews as possible, talk to people that have been there).
Report abusers – You have a voice, use it! If you came across a place that abused elephants write a review stating that on Tripadvisor. Write a blog post if you have a blog. Don’t underestimate the power of the internet!
OTHER THINGS TO KNOW
Unethical animal tourism doesn’t just involve elephants but unfortunately spreads across many other species. You should definitely avoid taking selfies with sedated tigers in Thailand or lions in Africa, or watching performing dolphins, or paying attention to snake charmers and dancing monkeys in Morocco and India.
You got the point, didn’t ya?! Don’t be a complice in animal abuse!