For many Brits who vacation in Thailand, the highlight of the trip is seeing the baby elephants. Tourists can find a number of camps where they can have photos taken while riding or bathing the elephants or watching them paint.
But the industry’s popularity is driving a brutal underground trade that kidnaps baby elephants from the wild in Burma and beats, tortures and starves them in order to break their spirits to prepare them for tourism.
Elephant Family says for every stolen calf, as many as five adult and adolescent elephants are killed. The demand is now so great, that if this keeps up Asian elephants in Burma could be wiped out within 10 years.
Instead of asking tourists to boycott the camps, which would cause the elephants to suffer, EF is asking people to view their documentary on baby elephant smuggling and donate to help them work with Thailand to stop this deadly, cruel practice.
Tell Thailand to work to keep baby elephants in the wild where they belong.
We, the undersigned, implore the Thai Government stop this cruel smuggling and brutal treatment of baby elephants.
Elephant Family reports that the Asian elephant has lost up to 90% of its population in the past century. Most attention has been paid to the plight of the African elephant and problems with ivory poaching, while the Asian elephant is facing extinction, with one Asian elephant remaining for every 20 African.
The group says that despite claims to the contrary, “illegal and brutal cross-border trade” of wild Asian elephants “continues to thrive,” and entire elephant families “are routinely being rounded up and the adults shot dead so that babies can be dragged back to Thailand illegally.”
EF partnered with Ecologist Film Unit in association with Link TV to create a film documenting elephants undergoing what is known as the “dreaded phajaan, a cruel, spirit-breaking ritual where the baby calves will be tied up, with no food and water, and beaten relentlessly for days on end.” Often the calves don’t survive this torture, experts told EF.
Those that do are smuggled into Thailand and then often chained to a surrogate mother to try to make it look like the baby was bred in captivity. Survivors of this breaking-in process are valuable - worth over 14,000 - 20,000 lbs -- and with over 2000 elephants employed, “there are strong incentives for the trade.”
As a remedy, EF is urging the Thai government to “review its laws and make it more difficult for wild-caught calves to be so easily absorbed into the captive population” They also ask for better regulation of existing laws and “much tighter border controls between Burma and Thailand,” along with strict penalties for all “involved in the trade, including corrupt government officials…”
EF is not asking tourists to boycott the camps because they rely on tourism to feed and care for the elephants, and presently it’s not clear which camps are using smuggled elephants. But the government can do something to change this.
The Thai government needs to step in and work with Elephant Family to bring this smuggling and cruelty to an end.
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