It is incredibly difficult to see an elephant and not be in sheer awe by their presence. From their size to their intelligence and grace, these animals seem to defy all preconceived notions of how they should be. But regardless of all we know about elephants and admire about them, we still subject them to unthinkable cruelty for the sake of our entertainment. Seeing elephants in zoos and circuses is fairly common in the U.S., but getting the chance to ride an elephant through a jungle is much more rare. For this reason, tourist attractions that tout elephant trekking adventures are extremely popular across Thailand, Vietnam, and other parts of Asia. However, behind the wonder of getting to ride on an elephants back is a whole lot of cruelty.

Elephants used in the trekking industry are typically torn from their mothers at a young age and sold to mahouts (elephant trainers). Once in the care of the mahout, the elephants need to be “broken” by way of fear, pain, and starvation, to render them submissive to their captors. After all, having an elephant run off with paying customers on its back wouldn’t be great for business. After enduring this process, the babies are trained and then sent to live a life of endless suffering. All they will know in their lives is the constant weight and pain of having people on their back, something elephants were not designed for, and they will rarely see proper care, nutrition, or even a break from the sweltering heat. All because of our own desire for “exotic” entertainment.

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Soa Noi was one such elephant. She spent her entire life in chains in a Thai trekking camp. Deprived of her basic needs, Soa Noi was worn down and so thin her ribs could be seen. Thankfully, Boon Lott’s Elephant Sanctuary (BLES) was alerted to this elephant’s condition and arranged for her rescue!

Soa Noi was rescued after BLES saved another elephant from the same owner. Once their former captors saw how well the other elephant was fairing at the sanctuary, they agreed to retire Soa Noi as well. 

Here she is leaving the camp for the very last time. 

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Poor Soa Noi was skin and bones, but BLES had plenty of snacks on hand for the 30 hour journey back to the sanctuary. 

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The BLES team wrapped her up in a blanket to keep her warm in the evening. 

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Here she is entering her new life at the sanctuary! 

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Certainly a meal fit for a queen! We can only image all the many others that are sure to follow.

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A huge thank you to the team who made this incredible rescue possible! Remember, we can all help elephants like Soa Noi by avoiding elephant trekking camps and any other tourism attraction that features captive animals. Share this article and encourage others to do the same!

To learn more about BLES, check out their website, here. 

All image source: BLES/Facebook

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