An elephant never forgets

‘I rode an elephant once overseas in Bali, and would never recommend it. That was a long time ago.’ – Tess

‘In Thailand I rode an elephant and immediately regretted it after finding out about elephant welfare at a rehabilitation nature park.’ – Megan

I think if more people were aware then less people would do it, but it's all about exposure and it's not a widely discussed issue. Therefore, most people are unaware of it (the abuse elephants suffer).’ – Paul


Riding elephants overseas has been a tourist attraction for decades. People travel from far and wide to sit atop an elephant’s back and go for a stroll, take a few selfies, and walk away after a joyous experience. If only it were the same for the elephant.         

In recent years, the extent of elephant mistreatment in countries like Thailand, Bali and Cambodia has come to light. The abuse elephants suffer so tourists can go for a ride has been deemed appalling by animal rights agencies. It’s animal abuse.

Members of the public, both overseas and here in Australia, are becoming more aware and educated about the sufferings of elephants in the entertainment industry. Animal lovers are using the popularity of social media to make their voices even louder. The ability to take videos on phones of elephants being abused by handlers and send it to organisations like PETA* has helped expose the terrible reality of the life of an elephant whose sole purpose in life is to bring in the big bucks for the tourism industry.       

Some of the mistreated elephants are born in captivity. Others are stolen from the wild. Disturbingly, all elephants must be emotionally and mentally broken before people can ride them. This abuse involves domination techniques from handlers to force elephants into submission and to keep them forever fearful. Handlers bash the elephants with bull hooks, even the babies who have been kidnapped from their mothers, and the elephants are kept chained up when not in use for tourists. They torture them physically and mentally, for elephants are very intelligent creatures.

 Videos captured by international watchdog organisation TRAFFIC show the pain and torment elephants experience. If you still still want to ride an elephant, watch this video.

Unfortunately, elephant abuse in the tourism trade is surprisingly not a well-known issue; it’s not as exposed, discussed, and prevented as it should be. Many people are simply unaware, uninformed, or under the impression elephant riding is no different to riding a horse.

 ‘If the elephants have care, shelter, food and no abuse, it (riding) can be okay. If not, then they (the sanctuary/orphanage) should face closure.’ – Jason. So how can one be sure an elephant camp or sanctuary is actually legitimately benefiting elephants?                                                         
Expert Vagabondstates, ‘The taming of an elephant in Southeast Asia is not the same as with a wild horse.’ Laura Weyman-Jones of PETA Australia says, ‘Doing research before you travel is essential in order to avoid supporting the animal-entertainment industry. For people who care about elephants and want to support rescue efforts, sanctuaries can be an appealing alternative to a zoo. However, many inhumane breeding facilities now market their animal prisons as “sanctuaries” or “rescues”. For the sake of the elephant, it’s probably best to simply not ride them, no matter how well looked after and cared for they appear to be. You can never be certain of what really goes on behind the scenes with the handlers and elephants, so the right, ethical thing to do is stay away. It should be an easy choice. Missing out on sitting atop an elephant’s back is really no big deal for us, but for the elephant it could mean the world of difference. Elephants are beautiful creatures who will remember the trauma and abuse for the rest of their lives. Do you really want to be apart of that life-long suffering?


Ways to take action against elephant abuse:

·  Do NOT ride elephants

·  Join organisations like PETA and its affiliates in lobbying travel companies and third-party       websites that support the unethical industries

·  Report any signs of abuse, even if you’re unsure

·  Campaign against elephant abuse via social media—the more voices, the better


*PETA: People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals

** 2014 TRAFFIC report                                                                  

Mia Beverley Francisco