The Truth About Elephant Tourism
Only a few days into our week at Elephant Nature Park, Cody and I were chosen amongst a few other volunteers to care for a newborn baby elephant that had been abandoned by his mother.
Because his mother had rejected him, he was not receiving mothers milk which meant no anti-bodies. We tried so hard to get him strong and healthy.
There was an animal doctor from India caring for him, as well as vet students, a committed group of longtime employees, and of course Lek, who gave him so much love and positive energy as well.
We tried everything to keep him strong and healthy.
We fed him a colostrum formula, massaged him, fanned mosquitos and flies away, used a towel to gently simulate his mothers tail and trunk, made sure he had a blanket under his head as he clumsily swayed back and forth to sleep and finally dropped like a ton of bricks.
Someone was always by his side while he was sleeping to keep him warm, stroke him, and comfort him when his sleep was disturbed.
He was bottle fed, his umbilical chord cleaned daily, eyedrops were administered for his one damaged eye caused by his owners having to drag him away so his mother wouldn’t stomp him to death after being born.
We grew quite attached to baby boy, bottle feeding him, letting him suckle on our thigh, watching him learn how to use his sweet little trunk to pick things up, and falling asleep with him under a mosquito net.
Once our volunteer time at the park was over, we headed back into town missing baby very much. But how quickly things change.
The next day we were asked to return to the park for 3 months to be full-time caretakers for the baby. Cody and I were ecstatic that we were chosen and so honoured.
We rushed back to the park, settled into our new place for our 3 month stay, said hello to a few people, and then headed out to see baby ele. His health was teetering back and forth from weak to strong. No one could predict his future.
I spent 8 hours with him that day from 4pm to midnight, bottle feeding him, giving him his space to explore, cuddling with him before he fell asleep, and making sure he was safe when it was time for him to sleep.
Cody also spent time with him from midnight to 8am.
The next day his little body could not fight any longer, he fell into a coma and passed away.
We spent some time with him to say goodbye, and the day after we were invited to his burial that ended with a beautiful Buddhist ceremony.
All of this suffering and heartache could have been prevented if elephants were truly protected and respected, and the breaking of elephants was outlawed.
Baby ele would have been accepted and loved by his mother and they would be living out their natural lives in the jungle.
But instead, his mother was badly beaten and tortured into submission so she could be used and exploited.
Elephants are so extremely sensitive. They are emotional beings that form strong family units, only to be torn apart to be used for illegal logging, elephant trekking and entertainment.
They are often drugged so they can work non stop.
While working they can badly injure themselves and damage their feet, but are numb from being drugged. By the time the injury is noticed, It is usually too late to save the injured foot or leg.
Mahouts are then left with a drug addicted, disabled elephant that is no longer of use to them.
Elephants have incredible memories and go over the same torture and abuse in their minds repeatedly, and become traumatized.
This happened to baby ele’s grandmother, as well as his mother. It is believed that they both gave birth and killed their babies due to psychological issues and trauma.
Baby ele was saved before his mother could kill her 3rd baby, but he had a very slim chance of making it without his mother.
We hope that with this story it will help people to open their eyes to what really happens and what will continue to happen to these beautiful animals if people continue to support elephant trekking and shows.
Your money funds the torture of elephants, and is continuing the cycle of abuse.
Elephants do not paint or perform high wire acts in nature. They are forced to perform, and are beaten into submission if they misbehave.
Please boycott all types of animal entertainment.
Contrary to what you may have heard, animals do not enjoy performing in shows for humans.
How beautiful would it be if all elephants could live out their lives naturally and freely?
If you would like to experience the true nature of the elephant responsibly and in close proximity, please visit and support the Elephant Nature Park in Chiang Mai province, Thailand, Boon Lot’s Elephant Santuary in Suko thai, Thailand, David Sheldrick Wildlife Trust in Nairobi, Kenya, or any other reputable wildlife reserves, and sanctuaries.
Do your research, be responsible, and protect those who can’t protect themselves.
If you would like more information about “Phajjan” (elephant breaking) check out these links.
Warning. Images are graphic.
“Think occasionally of the suffering, of which you spare yourself the sight”