In Indonesia, a woman was trampled to death when an elephant used for rides snapped. One of the two endangered Sumatran elephants used for treks at a tourist spot in Java suddenly charged the woman, who was snapping pictures at the time and died from severe injuries.
The two elephants were taken to the reservoir just a month before in a bid to rake in more money from experience-seeking tourists. Before their miserable lives as trekking elephants, they languished in a zoo in the neighboring town. The extreme stress of captivity on elephants is undeniable, and the years of confinement, abuse, and exploitation drive many to insanity or their breaking point.
— Asian Correspondent (@AsCorrespondent) May 11, 2016
Before allowing people to climb onto their backs, elephants must be emotionally and mentally broken. Southeast Asia is rife with elephant camps where the barbaric phajaan ritual is used to break baby elephants’ spirits and force them to submit to humans. Phajaan literally means “breaking the love between” (referring to the love between a baby elephant and his or her mother). In these training camps, still-nursing baby elephants are dragged from their mothers, bound with ropes and steel cables, and immobilized in wooden cages. They are beaten mercilessly for days while being deprived of food, water, and sleep.
Once their spirits have been crushed, elephants are routinely beaten with bullhooks, denied adequate food and water, and pushed beyond the point of exhaustion. Many don’t survive these barbaric conditions.
It’s little wonder that so many elephants—intelligent and self-aware animals—reach their breaking point. A Scottish tourist was killed after he was thrown from an elephant and gored during a trek in Thailand; a Thai mahout (handler) was killed while three tourists were riding an elephant; two mahouts were killed within three days in Phuket, Thailand (a tourist hot spot); and a woman was killed after she fell off the back of an elephant during a trek in Krabi, Thailand. The list goes on and on.
What You Can Do
Tourists’ purchase of elephant rides is what drives this abusive industry. Please, if you’re traveling to Indonesia, Thailand, or anywhere else elephant rides are offered, refuse to support this cruelty.
Support organizations such as Boon Lott’s Elephant Sanctuary in Thailand, where former captive elephants are rehabilitated and cared for the way they deserve.
Click the images below to find out more about elephants used for entertainment.