Asian elephants are an endangered species. Experts believe there are now less than 2000 wild elephants living in Thailand. The population is declining at a rapid rate due to loss of habitat.
Illegal capture and trade for use in the tourism industry is also a big problem.
This industry thrives because foreign visitors all want to ride elephants, or watch them do tricks, paying good money for the privilege.
But the fact is that wild elephants need to be tamed before they can be ridden. Except the taming process in Southeast Asia is not the same as with a wild horse. It’s much more brutal, and is accomplished when the elephants are very young.
Wild elephants won’t let humans ride on top of them. So in order to tame a wild elephant, it is tortured as a baby to completely break its spirit. The process is called Phajaan, or “the crush”.
It involves ripping baby elephants away from their mothers and confining them in a very small space, like a cage or hole in the ground where they’re unable to move.
The baby elephants are then beaten into submission with clubs, pierced with sharp bull-hooks, and simultaneously starved and deprived of sleep for many days.
Did you know that riding elephants can actually cause serious long-term harm too? Their spines are not made to support the weight of humans. I know it’s hard to believe given their size, but Zebras are the same way.