When an elephant named Golf, killed a tourist at an elephant trekking camp in Koh Samaui, Thailand last month, it was a major wake-up call that these exotic animal parks aren’t the harmless tourist destinations travelers assume they are. In fact, these places not only pose a serious threat to people but to elephants also.
Elephant trekking is a popular attraction for tourists, but the sad truth is that the elephants forced to perform in these settings are routinely abused and mistreated, forced to perform on cue through pain and fear. While the recent tragedy shook the public, these instances happen far more frequently than is widely known. According to an investigation by the Daily Mail, at least seven people have been killed by elephants at wildlife parks in the Thailand – in the past year alone. The fact is, elephants are highly intelligent and emotional animals and when they are continually subjected to abuse and stress, as they are working for hours on end with little to no break, they become frustrated. Elephants weren’t made to carry heavy tourists, perform tricks or paint – and when pushed to their limit, around people, it can be incredibly dangerous for all parties involved – which, unfortunately, was the case with Golf the elephant.
According to reports, Golf has a large hole gouged into his left ear so he can more easily be led by handlers. Sadly, not only has Island Safari Park, the location of the latest tragedy reopened its elephant trekking business, putting more tourists and elephants at risk, but it has left Golf, shackled and tormented. In video footage shot during the Daily Mail’s investigation, the elephant is seen chained to a tree, thrusting his head continually back and forth, in a clear sign of mental distress.
“That systematic rocking and rolling of the shoulders and head is a sign of deep psychological disturbance exhibited by elephants in captivity,” Duncan McNair, founder and CEO of Save the Asian Elephants told the Daily Mail. It is a sign of real, deep upset and psychological malfunction.”
Golf’s future doesn’t look any better either. When asked if Golf will return to work, employees of the park gave mixed answers to the reporter, suggesting that he might be sold to another park to become a trekking elephant all over again. According to the investigation, trekking elephants sell for up to $60,000 in Thailand and unwanted animals are often switched to different parks and put back to work because of their high value.
Golf’s story is an example of why we should NEVER support elephant tourism. The only reason these animals have been put into these miserable circumstances is because there are enough people willing to pay to participate in these attractions. If you want to help elephants, pledge to stay away from any tourist attraction that holds wild animals in captivity. Share this article with your friends and help share Golf’s story!