Warning: Distressing Content
Tourists are being urged to stop riding elephants in Thailand after horrifying photos show the animals being injured for ‘entertainment.’
The heartbreaking images, shared on Twitter, are thought to be from Phuket, one of the most popular holiday spots for western tourists.
Elephants can be seen with blood dripping down their heads as their keepers hit them with sharp metal hooks, over and over.
Another devastating picture shows scars on the back of the animal’s head from old wounds.
You can stop inhumanity tortured on elephants by stop riding an elephant! pic.twitter.com/oYtPd0wXzI
— abang da balik (@faizalghazaly) April 12, 2019
The images were originally posted to Twitter by a user named Abang Da Balik in April of this year, but have since gone viral again, drawing comment from officials in Thailand.
Hundreds of thousands of western tourists travel to Thailand each year, many of them drawn to attractions where they can ride elephants, feed them and watch them perform tricks. However, tourists are being urged not to ride the animals and not to support the businesses who offer these kinds of services.
A spokesperson for the Tourism Authority of Thailand told Yahoo news:
Please don’t ride the elephants and don’t support this business.
We never support tourists riding the elephants.
The World Animal Protection says around 3,000 elephants are currently being used for entertainment all over Asia, with 77 per cent being treated inhumanely.
However, Thailand is working hard to eliminate animal cruelty in the country, according to Dr Patrapol Maneeorn, a Wildlife Veterinarian of the Department of National Parks, Wildlife and Plant Conservation.
In a statement he said:
What we are doing is collaborating with different organisations and sectors in Thailand to reduce and hopefully eliminate animal cruelty as much as possible.
At present, there are 3,500 wild elephants and 4,500 domesticated elephants living in the country, although wild elephants are protected under national law, their domesticated counterparts are seen as working animals.
Dr Maneeorn says Thai government agencies have attempted various methods to eradicate animal abuse, including ‘policy-making, supporting research on wildlife, rehabilitating injured animals, and eradicating the illegal wild animal trade.’
He’s urging tourists to help eradicate the cruelty by boycotting attractions which exploit elephants for entertainment purposes.
Dr Maneeorn continued:
Travel businesses and individual tourists can help government agencies by boycotting businesses that do not take good care of animals.
The process of turning taming elephants is said to be as horrific as the treatment they’re subjected to through their ‘work.’
Many of the animals in captivity, Dr Maneeorn says, are beaten with bull hooks and other sharp objects in a bid to make them behave, only for the abuse to continue while they’re in captivity.
Some animals develop a behaviour where they sway their head from side to side, often misunderstood as a playful tendency, the movement actually is a coping mechanism for isolated elephants.
Elephants are heartbreakingly taken from their mothers as calves before being forced to endure a lifetime of abuse.
However, some sanctuaries in the country are fighting to prevent the mistreatment of animals. At Elephant Valley, the animals can roam as they please and are only fed by humans once a day, opposed to other captive elephants who are constantly being forced to perform for tourists.
Here’s to continuing the fight against the vile and inhumane treatment of domesticated elephants.
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Emma Rosemurgey is an NCTJ trained Journalist who started her career by producing The Royal Rosemurgey newspaper in 2004, which kept her family up to date with the goings on of her sleepy north east village. She graduated from the University of Central Lancashire in Preston and started her career in regional newspapers before joining Tyla (formerly Pretty 52) in 2017, and progressing onto UNILAD in 2019.