One-Year-Old Elephant Calf Tied to Its Mother Collapses With Exhaustion While Giving Rides to Tourists

One-Year-Old Elephant Calf Tied to Its Mother Collapses With Exhaustion While Giving Rides to Tourists
Stock image of a baby elephant with his mother. (Gallivant01/Pixabay)
Venus Upadhayaya

A year-old elephant calf collapsed with exhaustion while being tied to its mother who was giving rides to tourists in Pattaya, Thailand last week.

The calf was tied to its mother’s neck with a rope and the incident was reported by a tourist taking rides on the mother, reported the Daily Mail.
Thailand has a centuries-old culture of domesticating elephants. There were around 100,000 captive elephants in the country in the early 20th century, according to Eco-Business.
The Royal Thai Embassy in Washington said that currently there are 3,500 domesticated elephants and roughly 3,340 wild elephants in 69 wildlife sanctuaries and national parks across the country.

The incident involving the 1-year-old calf happened at the Nong Nooch Tropical Gardens in eastern Thailand.

A video clip and pictures shared on Daily Mail show the little elephant walking on a tar road by his mother’s side, tied to her neck.

Daily Mail quotes a tourist who refused to be named: “There are many more baby elephants tied with their mother walking around with tourists at their backs enjoying under the heat of the sun while these elephants are suffering.”

The tourist, a Filipino migrant worker who works as a teacher in Myanmar, was on a holiday with friends in Pattaya. “This one baby elephant was so exhausted, and you can see the mother comforting and encouraging her to stand,” the tourist said.

She said she feels concerned for the gentle giants and wants to make sure they are taken care of.

A spokesperson of the Nong Nooch Tropical Gardens told Daily Mail that the elephant was not tired or mistreated.

“All of the elephants are healthy and treated very well. If there is a problem they are treated by vets. All of the babies here are healthy,” the spokesperson said.

Giving Rides is a Nightmare for Elephants

Riding an elephant might be an enjoyable trip for tourists but for the animal, it’s a nightmare, according to Dodo.

“Tourists may think activities like riding an elephant do no harm,” Dr. Jan Schmidt-Burbach, senior wildlife and veterinary adviser at World Animal Protection told The Dodo.

“But the brutal truth is that breaking these animals’ spirits to the point that they allow humans to interact with them involves cruelty at every turn,” he said.

The Dodo referred to a graphic video aired on National Geography in 2002 that explained how an animal’s spirit is deliberately crushed through training and is conditioned to serve the tourist.

“The elephants give rides and perform tricks without harming people only because they’ve been ‘broken’ as babies and taught to fear the bullhook,” said an investigation on National Geographic.

Poachers capture wild elephants in various ways—one method called the “pit trap” has an elephant herd pushed into a corridor where a pit is dug. This is done using a domesticated elephant.

Usually, a calf falls into the pit and the poachers use automatic weapons to kills the adults and capture the young ones. The body parts of killed adults are sold for profit.

The market value of a baby elephant is $33,000, according to the Dodo. “One of the main threats to elephants in their main remaining habitat blocks in Thailand is ... the illegal captures for the trade in live elephants,” Simon Hedges, co-chair of the IUCN/SSC Asian Elephant Specialist Group told the Dodo.

Since capturing and training elephants for tourism purposes involves such illegal and cruel processes, wildlife activists say it is an ethical question to enjoy their rides.

“When you see a captive wild animal on your holiday, you often can’t see the cruelty,” said Schmidt-Burbach.

“It’s hidden from view. And it’s important to remember that a captive wild animal in the entertainment industry can never truly experience a life free from suffering and cruelty.”

Venus Upadhayaya reports on India, China, and the Global South. Her traditional area of expertise is in Indian and South Asian geopolitics. Community media, sustainable development, and leadership remain her other areas of interest.
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