This adorable baby elephant romping, splashing and rolling playfully in the waves in Phuket, Thailand, is a guaranteed day-brightener. Hopefully, the rest of the story is just as bright.
Wild elephants are virtually extinct in Thailand, and elsewhere, and these days most of them are used as tourist attractions for elephant trekking. While there is nothing inherently immoral about this treat, the conditions and treatment of these magnificent beauties is often bleak, cruel and beyond immoral.
From Phuket Guide (the ‘ph’ is not pronounced the way it is in English; it’s an aspirated ‘p’ sound, though it is more fun to say it with an English twist):
In late 1994, 'Siam Safari Nature Tours' pioneered the concept offering visitors to the island an opportunity to ride on an elephant on their property in the hills overlooking Chalong Bay.
As the number of new elephant camps increase so do the reports of overworked and abused elephants.
Informed visitors who demand humane treatment for the elephants may be the last best chance to save many of these majestic creatures.
The unpleasant reality is the natural habitat of the Asian Elephant has diminished to the point that only an estimated 2,000 survive in the wild.
Traditionally domesticated elephants were used as transport, and in the logging industry moving cut timber. All logging was officially banned in Thailand in 1989.
The dismal reality that elephants and humans share
Elephants that had been employed to move logs in the forest became unemployed, that is why they can now be seen in Bangkok and tourist areas literally 'begging' for a living.
It costs approximately US$500 per month to feed and care for an elephant in captivity. In the modern world elephants have an almost human-like problem of needing to be gainfully employed in order to survive.
With the survival of these majestic and highly intelligent creatures increasingly in doubt it is more important than ever for visitors to understand they have the power to make a positive difference.
Informed visitors to Thailand can support the humane treatment of these gracious beasts by carefully selecting the elephant camp they visit. As with any high growth industry 'elephant trekking' is subject to abuse.
Elephant love story
Many years ago, a friend went on a photography safari in Africa. The van-load of about ten people were told by their guide that they were likely to see certain animals, but probably not an elephant.
They came upon an elephant herd near a watering hole and were overjoyed as they all popped their heads up through the open-roofed vehicle and took photo after photo. The guide was amazed that the elephants stayed.
My friend told me that one by one, each person's eyes filled with tears and the quiet among them became loud and clear as the clicking of the cameras stopped. For several minutes, all the elephants looked directly at the van load of people looking at them, mesmerized and almost all of them sobbing at that point.
As the elephants began to leave, the group exchanged notes to understand what had happened. Each person reported the exact same experience: the elephants somehow communicated to the people that, "If this is all you want from us we will stay with you."
Tears at the circus not from the clown
Any zoo or circus visit with my daughter was always a challenging decision (stick to my moral guns or let my kid have a day at the zoo) and traumatic event that usually left me in tears.
The Shriner’s Circus comes to Klamath Falls every spring and after several emotional visits I now let my daughter’s father take her because the memory of looking that elephant eye to eye as I let my daughter be lifted up on its back can still bring me to tears as I write this – it’s just not right what we do to these beautiful creatures and others.
There is no reference in this sweet video from Yahoo (the YouTube video is a different elephant) of the circumstances surrounding this baby elephant’s day at the beach and personally, I don’t want to know the rest of the story. I just pray there is a special place beyond this world where animal abusers are sent to be with the animals they abused for eternal hell and damnation.
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