Call for action: Wildlife

Nov 11, 2014

The Truth Behind Elephant Rides in Thailand

The Truth Behind Elephant Rides in Thailand

Throughout Thailand, there are countless elephant tourist parks and camps. The vast majority of these camps are commercial enterprises, making huge amounts of money from tourists keen to have their photos taken with elephant calves, bathing with the elephants or riding them, or watching them paint. Some elephants are used in performances, dressed up and forced to perform unnatural, painful and demeaning tricks.

The sad and devastating reality is that this tourist-driven demand is fuelling a huge and unsustainable illegal trade in baby elephants. Recent reports indicate that at least 50-100 calves and young females are removed from their forest homes in Burma every year and are illegally traded to supply tourist camps in Thailand. It is estimated that for every calf smuggled across Burma's border into Thailand, up to five adult elephants, including the calf's mother and other protective family members, are killed.

The forests of Burma are one of the last strongholds for the endangered Asian elephants, second only to India. But this trade in baby elephants is decimating this population- estimated at just 5,000 individuals, this population could be wiped out or damaged beyond repair within ten years.

Once stolen from their mothers and families- a highly traumatic experience- baby elephants are forced to endure the most profound cruelty- a brutal ritual called "phajaan", employed to break the elephant's spirit and to install fear of humans.

Video from World Animal Protection can be seen here:

During this process, which lasts for days, the calves are tied up, with no food and water, and beaten relentlessly, often using primitive instruments such as bamboo sticks with metal nails embedded in the ends. The phajaan process only ends once it is believed that the elephant's spirit has been banished. Many calves die from their injuries or from stress, starvation or the sheer heartbreak of seeing their family killed in front of their eyes. Those who survive are smuggled across the Burmese border into Thailand, to tourist elephant parks and camps. Beaten, starved and tortured to break their spirit, the elephants are now ready to perform for tourists. Many of them will be chained to a surrogate mother in an attempt to suggest they have been bred in captivity.

This trade is illegal and in contravention to the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Fauna and Flora (CITES), of which both Burma and Thailand are members.

Please see the letter sent from the AfA to Dr. Theerapat Prayurasiddhi concerning this issue here.

The feature documentary - 'An Elephant Never Forgets' can be seen below. Joe Keogh, a comedian from Manchester, offers a great deal of insight into the living and working conditions of the many elephants used and abused in the tourism industry. Please note that some footage is distressing.

 

Take Action

Every captive elephant you see in Thailand- with the exception of those still living in the wild and born in protected sanctuaries- has endured Phajaan. You can help end this cruelty.

Please don't pay for the elephants' misery...

  • NEVER go on elephant rides
  • NEVER visit attractions with elephant shows or performances
  • NEVER stay in resorts or hotels that have captive elephants
  • 
NEVER use tour operators that book elephant rides or tours to elephant camps

Please sign the AfA's petition calling on the Thai government to take action against this cruelty.

I express my deep concern with regards to the illegal trade in elephant calves from Burma into Thailand to supply tourist parks and camps. This ongoing trade represents both serious conservation and animal welfare concerns.

I was deeply saddened to learn that at least 50-100 elephant calves and young females are removed from their forest homes in Burma every year and are illegally traded to supply tourist camps in Thailand, and that many more are killed in the process. This trade in elephants is decimating Asian elephant populations, and is in contravention to national laws and the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Fauna and Flora (CITES), of which both Thailand and Burma are members.

I was devastated to hear of the 'phajaan' ritual used to break the sprit of the captured elephant calves, where for days the calves are tied up, with no food and water, and beaten relentlessly.

I urge you to ensure adequate enforcement of existing laws and regulations prohibiting this brutal trade, to strengthen and review laws, and to confiscate illegally wild-caught elephants in collaboration with Thailand's animal protection and wildlife rescue and rehabilitation organisations.

Signatures: 6833

Other related AfA Calls to Action:

Sign up to the Asia for Animals Action Team

We need your help to improve the lives of all animals worldwide. Please sign up to become a member of our Asia for Animals Action team to receive email alerts on the latest action that we need you to participate in.