Elephants are known for being highly intelligent and complex social creatures. Sadly, they are also known for being the target of violent poaching because of their strong white tusks. However, the ivory trade is not the only practice harming our planet’s pachyderms. The tourism industry, particularly the elephant trekking industry, is also playing a major role in the abuse, torture and often death of young captive elephants.
When tourists see captive elephants, they all too often view the animal as a pet who wants people to ride on its back, and they forget to think about where the elephant came from. Elephants are not domesticated animals; they are captive wild animals. Animal domestication happens over several generations, and an animal cannot become domesticated within its lifetime. Therefore, captive elephants still maintain many of the natural instincts and behaviors of life in the wild.
To force elephants to behave in unnatural ways that reap a profit, elephant trainers (called mahouts) perform unbelievable acts of cruelty on these animals and call the practice Phajaan. Phajaan involves trapping captured baby elephants in wooden crates, shackling their legs and necks, and stabbing them with sharp bull hooks. This abuse goes on for many years until the baby elephant’s spirit is crushed and submits to orders. Many elephants do not even survive the brutality of this period.
According to a petition on Care2, the trauma inflicted on elephants during phajaan has led many of these intelligent animals to commit suicide or infanticide, meaning the mother kills her baby in order to save it from a condemned life of torture.
Despite all this, the tourism industry is still collecting large profits from elephant trekking and other elephant tourist attractions. Two leading tourism organizations, TripAdvisor and Lonely Planet, have continued to promote elephant trekking. To help put an end to this, please sign this petition and spread the word within your network!
Image Source: Somchai Siriwanarangson/Shutterstock