First: Reflecting on my own participation in the suffering of Animals, and learning to identify the meaning and acts of what constitutes animal exploitation (blatant and subtle).

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Asia » Thailand » North-West Thailand » Chiang Mai
December 22nd 2007
Published: December 25th 2007
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Interacting with a BabyInteracting with a BabyInteracting with a Baby

While this was still at one of the elephant camps, isn't this more of a quality experience than seeing a whole bunch of elephants doing tricks? I think so. I believe that tourists would still pay to visit elephants even without them needing to perform for us, especially if tourists were able to interact with them or just see them enjoying their lives.
The following pictures will speak for themselves. It is difficult for me not to see these photos with new eyes, even though I very much enjoyed my past experiences with the elephants, and sharing this special time with my husband and step-daughter. But now... there is little I can say to express my sadness for the many elephants I saw, ones that performed for my pleasure and money. At what emotional and physical toll did learning these tricks cost these beautiful elephants? How much time did they spend in chains, being poked or hit by the metal tool of their mahout? It is my hope that I will portray a thought-provoking glimpse into the life of elephants that earn their keep through performing or giving elephant rides to tourists. I was often told by the staff at the different elephant camps I visited in Thailand, as well as in Nepal and Bali, that this is the best life that can be given to a domesticated elephant in Asia. I will explore and challenge this premise through the following entries, just as I was inspired on an emotional and heart-felt level to reflect on my own contribution to the suffering of the
Elephant were once used for loggingElephant were once used for loggingElephant were once used for logging

In Elephant Camps, they demonstrate this skill for tourists. An elephant is strong in their pulling power, the concern is how the mahout (elephant caregiver) uses his metal tool (ankur) on the elephant. It is also of concern on how the harnesses rub on the elephant that can contribute to skin abrasions.
animals. I will share what I have been learning about the life of elephants and other animals living in captivity, gradually introducing information about the growing number of sanctuaries that can offer a better quality of life for the animals that bless our planet.

Also please refer to my website @

Additional photos below
Photos: 12, Displayed: 12


Bowing ElephantsBowing Elephants
Bowing Elephants

For training purposes, an elephant learning how to respond to some commands is helpful especially when administering health care. However, generally scenes like these are for show and the elephants have little choice but to submit to their mahouts commands.
Sitting ElephantsSitting Elephants
Sitting Elephants

This is again for the tourist, and is quite unnatural for elephants. It looks cute, but how much painful discipline did these elephants need to go through to learn this?
Headstands... UnnecessaryHeadstands... Unnecessary
Headstands... Unnecessary

I recall seeing one little elephant being encouraged to do the headstand trick, but her balance wasn't very good. She looked cute trying, but it was also evident that she was being pressured into performing. This was not her idea of a good time, and why should it be?
Nice trick, but...Nice trick, but...
Nice trick, but...

Again, why is this considered good entertainment? The elephants camps are doing this for the tourists, because we continue to come and support them. There are other ways to enjoy elephants, by just being in their company.
Skipping ElephantSkipping Elephant
Skipping Elephant

Running on three legs, then with two. Imagine the training this young elephant had to go through, and notice the metal ankur close in hand.
Basketball PlayerBasketball Player
Basketball Player

Again, this is a nice trick but not necessary to come to enjoy elephants. I am sure the elephants would much rather be relaxing near a stream and enjoying the company of one another.
Playing SoccerPlaying Soccer
Playing Soccer

Despite the enjoyment that we may project upon the elephants that are kicking the ball, the stress of having to perform on command can be taxing. Elephants have sweat glands that will run fluid down the sides of their faces... whether excited or stressed, this is often a sign they are not relaxed.
Elephant Riding in the RiverElephant Riding in the River
Elephant Riding in the River

Elephant riding has been a traditional activity in many countries for ions of time. Some animal activist feel any elephant riding is abusive, and I have some leaning in this direction more recently. The issues to be aware of is that elephants do not have strong backs, they are vulnerable for skin wounds and abrasions from the heavy carriages that are placed on them, and often too many tourists are loaded on the elephant's back. It is to be aware of the potential experience of the elephant who is providing this service.
A scarred forehead of an elephantA scarred forehead of an elephant
A scarred forehead of an elephant

The metal tool that the mahout carries can easily be considered a weapon when not used properly. An ankur in the hands of a frustrated mahout is not a good day for the elephant. Some wildlife protection groups are trying to introduce a bamboo ankur that would be less likely to scar or inflict unnecessary suffering to the elephant. However, if the elephant was not expected to perform and do tricks for us, the ankur would be greatly unnecessary.
Some Basic Needs of an ElephantSome Basic Needs of an Elephant
Some Basic Needs of an Elephant

A few signs of a well-kept and happy elephant: 1. Having plenty of time to relax without the confines of chains and needing to perform; 2. Having ample time in or around the water; 3. Having good access to food; and 4. Being able to freely socialize with other elephants.

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