Update: On April 13, not long after the footage was released, the elephant’s back legs reportedly snapped while he was doing a trick. His legs were broken for three days before he was taken to a hospital, according to Moving Animals, the campaigners who filmed the footage. While he was receiving treatment, it was discovered that he “had an infection that resulted in constant diarrhea, which caused other health complications, including the fact that his body was not absorbing nutrients as it should, which made him very weak,” reported a veterinarian. He died a week later on April 20.
Anyone who books an excursion involving captive elephants bears some of the responsibility for the merciless cycle of abuse that they endure.
Original post published on April 16, 2019:
Sickening footage exposes that workers at Phuket Zoo in Thailand beat elephants with bullhooks—metal rods with a sharp hook on one end—to force them to “dance” and perform other meaningless tricks for visitors.
The footage, captured by Moving Animals, shows a skeletal baby elephant, nicknamed Dumbo, being forced to shake her head to music with two other elephants. She is also seen lifting her foot. In addition, a worker was filmed striking an elephant with a bullhook to force him to continue to “perform.”
Moving Animals also saw that Dumbo was forced to “play” a harmonica and that other elephants were made to hit a cymbal with a drumstick. These animals are compelled to perform up to three times a day for the zoo’s shows.
Dumbo and the Other Elephants’ Case Is Heartbreaking—but Not Unique
It’s standard practice to beat, whip, and shock wild animals into submission in order to coerce them to perform confusing tricks. They spend their lives in chains and cages, at the expense of their physical and mental well-being. Thailand is the world’s largest promoter of elephant camps where the barbaric phajaan (or “breaking the love between,” referring to the love between elephant calves and their mothers) ritual is used to break baby elephants’ spirits and force them to submit to humans. It’s not uncommon in these training camps for still-nursing baby elephants to be dragged from their mothers, bound with ropes and steel cables, and immobilized inside wooden cages. They’re beaten mercilessly and gouged with nails for days at a time. These ritualized training sessions leave the animals badly injured and traumatized. Some don’t survive.
What You Can Do
Elephant captivity and abuse will end when humans stop buying tickets to attractions that use these animals. So please, don’t give zoos, circuses, or elephant-ride attractions your financial support. And tell travel companies that are still offering excursions involving captive elephants to get out of the cruelty business.