Elephants are, by nature, highly social and intelligent beings. In the wild, they live in close-knit matriarchal herds, headed by the oldest female, and comprised of her daughters and their calves. Adult males live in separate “bachelor” groups. They have repeatedly shown themselves to be extremely sensitive to their environment and capable of deep emotion – they mourn when a loved one dies and know how to distinguish between humans who wish to harm them and humans who are safe.

In Africa, elephants are tragically threatened by extinction because of the illegal ivory trade. It is estimated that one African elephant loses their life to a poacher every fifteen minutes and 35,000 total are killed every year.

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Asian elephants, meanwhile, suffer rampant abuse in Thailand’s elephant tourism industry. Torn from their mothers at an early age, forced to endure training processes that break their spirits and render them docile, and repeatedly injured with nails or other sharp devices if they fail to perform a trick to their handlers’ satisfaction, elephants who are trapped in these situations  suffer a life that is nothing short of miserable.

This single heartbreaking photo depicts exactly what life for captive baby elephants is like.

This Single Photo Exposes the Full Horror and Tragedy Behind Elephant Captivity

 

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The chain around this one-year-old baby’s foot immediately marks him out as a captive elephant. However, it is the expression of obvious despair in his eyes that stands out as the photograph’s dominant feature. For any animal lover viewing this picture, it is impossible not to empathize with the beautiful elephant, and wish to do whatever we can to help him.

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His name is Raja, and his story was truly tragic. He was torn away from his mother when he was only a few months old and was chained to a tree in a Sumatran village. Villagers claimed that their crops were damaged by his family, and unbelievably decided to hold him prisoner in retaliation. In spite of concerted efforts by animal rights advocates to have him freed, Raja soon died under these deplorable conditions.

Elephants DC said, “We know there was an advocacy group trying to help, but Raja was too malnourished and broken hearted … it was little, too late. We will nerve forget.”

While nothing can now be done for this beautiful baby, Elephants DC and other groups are determined to fight for the freedom of all other captive elephants.

For more information on the cruel elephant captivity industry, and how you can avoid supporting it, read up on some of the posts below:

Image source: Elephants DC/Facebook