Riding an elephant may seem like the epitome of adventure and harmony with nature. Sadly, it couldn’t be more opposite.
While elephants are naturally gentle and docile creatures, they are not naturally conditioned to happily carry people on their backs. Elephants have evolved over millions of years to thrive in their wild habitat amongst other elephants … working to entertain humans wasn’t exactly part of that evolution. Because of this, in order for elephants to submit to the will of humans who use them for tourism, they need to undergo a brutal “breaking process.”
Behind the scenes of popular elephant riding attractions, the animals are chained and robbed of any social contact with other elephants. They are frequently beaten and deprived of food, water or rest until they lose all will to fight back.
Life for an elephant in captivity is far different to one living in the wild, where they will trek up to the thirty miles a day and form strong bonds with other elephants. The good news is you have the power to stop this cruelty. And it all starts with saying no to elephant rides.
Elephant Rides at Southwick’s Zoo
Right now, in Massachusetts’ Southwick’s Zoo, elephants are being forced to give rides for hours on end in the scorching hot heat for the duration of the summer. These elephants are being exhibited through the well-known elephant exploiter, Have Trunk Will Travel (HTWT).
But the heat isn’t the only problem – it gets worse. Trainers working with HTWT have been caught using bullhooks to jab elephants on their worn out feet, legs, and mouths, leaving them screaming in pain. One trainer was even seen stabbing a bullhook into a baby elephant’s mouth. The fact is, using terror tactics is the only way trainers can control these large animals and force them to let people sit on their backs for hours every day.
These rides don’t just threaten elephants, but people too.
The Dangers of Elephant Rides
There really is no telling if or when elephants will respond aggressively to the hard treatments trainers inflict on them. Like with killer whales in captivity, elephants are so enormous, even a small misstep can be fatal.
Can you imagine how it would feel to be on the back of an elephant when they suddenly decide to bolt? That’s what happened to one woman, in Florida, back in 1992. She and five children were riding an 8,000-pound Asian elephant when the elephant decided to run. Apart from a few injured spectators, nobody got seriously harmed, and the riders managed to get down without being trampled. Police shot the elephant, called both Janet and Kelly, and she survived for the first firing of bullets. To kill her, it took ammunition meant for shooting through armored vehicles. It was a true tragedy that no child should witness.
In 2006, at a traveling zoo in Massachusetts, another incident occurred as a result of elephant rides. An elephant bumped into two men who were placing children on her back, leaving one man with a broken arm.
Three years later, in Indiana, an elephant giving rides at a circus unexpectedly became scared, causing a mobile stairway to collapse, leaving several children with injuries.
Elephants are highly intelligent and emotional beings and when pushed to their limit, they will react just as a person under great stress will. The reality is that these creatures don’t belong as tourism props and no matter how hard we may try to make them conform, we can never truly stifle their wild spirit.
Speak Up to End this Cruel Treatment and be a Voice for Elephants
Elephants need you to speak up for them. Do you think they want to spend hours every day giving rides with the sun scorching their bodies, day in and day out? Do you think they enjoy spending the rest of their hours, chained up, lonely and in agony from the endless beatings and concrete floors on which they live in captivity? Of course not!
If you want to help elephants, the first most effective thing you can do is to never ride an elephant. Tell your friends and family members about the cruelty behind these rides and urge them to steer clear of them. If you want to see elephants, visit a professional elephant sanctuary, where elephants live in a natural environment.
You can also sign this letter urging Southwick’s Zoo officials to put a stop to these cruel and dangerous elephant rides ASAP!
Lead image source: Flickr