Why tourists should avoid elephant rides and elephant shows

7 Aug

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Source: Save the Asian Elephants

Populations of Asian elephants have fallen from an estimated one million in the late 19th Century to scarcely 40,000 today. 30,000 of these exist in the wild (of which 60% in India) and around 10,000 are captive. This decline is mainly due to poaching for ivory, capture of wild elephants for use in tourist attractions and temples and loss of elephants’ natural habitat caused by expanding human activities. The Asian elephant is classified as ‘Endangered’ by the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species.

Capture from the wild often entails slaughtering the mothers and other herd members who attempt to protect their young. The captured juveniles are then ‘tamed’ by a process known as “Pajan”. The elephants are forced into a pen and tied with ropes to prevent them moving. They are deprived of water, food and sleep. They are beaten with rods, chains and bull-hooks (a rod with sharp metal hooks at the striking end) and stabbed with knives and nails, often in front of their distressed mothers. The practice is designed to break their spirits and make them submissive to their owners for use in the tourism industry for activities such as elephant rides, elephant painting, etc. Many die from the brutality of the process. Many elephants are also deliberately blinded in one eye,either by gouging with a stick or by beating on the part of the head which causes blindness. This is supposedly to stop elephants being scared by traffic, and of course also to break their spirit.

The welfare of captured elephants is often poor. Many are chained for long periods so that they have very limited movement. In some cases the chains have spikes that can lead to severe wounds. Many are kept in isolation with few opportunities for normal social interaction; often there is insufficient shade, little or no veterinary care and inadequate, unhealthy diets. Injured and unfit elephants, including blind ones, are sometimes forced to work.

During festivals elephants may be forced to stand for hours in the heat without any protection from the sun. Often all four legs are shackled. The elephants have to endure the noise of firecrackers, ceremonial drumming and the loud noise of the crowd. There are many authoritative reports of elephants in Temples suffering severe cruelty.

Save the Asian Elephants (STAE) believe that most tourists are completely unaware that the elephants with which they are interacting have undergone such brutal treatment and that most people would not want to perpetuate this suffering if they were aware of it. STAE’s mission is to raise global awareness of this abuse in the hope that tourists and tourism companies will co-operate in this mission to eradicate the abuse – tourists by avoiding such venues and tourism companies by ceasing to offer such venues. That way, the venues will close and abused elephants will be released into sanctuaries to live out their days in peace.

What you can do

1. If you are visiting India, Thailand or other countries in South East Asia, please avoid all elephant venues which involve elephant interaction, and instead visit only “genuine” elephant sanctuaries or wildlife reserves where there is no such inter-action, many of which contain elephants rescued from such cruelty. (Please see http://www.stae.org for a list of “genuine” sanctuaries).

2. Please spread the message as far and wide as you can.

3. Please report to STAE any abuses you discover on your travels.

Save the Asian Elephants is a not for profit association of prominent professionals, experts and campaigners that informs public opinion on the brutal capture, beating, poaching and abuse for festivals and tourism of these wondrous but beleaguered creatures and the plunder of their habitat; and exerts influence on governments, politicians and the tourist industry to adopt solutions it advances.

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