I hesitated to write this article already, because I’m quick to get involved, and it is hard to deal with such a topic without judging or giving the impression of forbidding, which with Nils, we don’t want to do
I had made a first version of this article, just after returning from a stroll in Ayutthaya in Thailand where we witnessed the elephant abuse live, but the anger and the sadness were much too present to make an article that didn’t have a revolutionary connotation.
A few months have gone by since, and even though my feelings have not changed, I have regained control over them, and I’m now able to write something that is more informative than moralizing.
Why will not we ever ride on an elephant ?
Our experience :
First and foremost, you should know that this does not only concern Thailand, but elephant rides in general. Our experience took place in Ayutthaya, but unfortunately it’s not a singularity of this country.
I had already seen reports before we even began our nomadic life on the sad reality behind these elephant rides, and I had spoken to Nils who shared my opinion.
However, knowing and seeing are two different things. And nothing could have prepared us for that. As we walk quietly, we come across an elephant group marching in single file and carrying several tourists on their backs. They pass very near us, and we have never seen so little life in the eyes of a living being. It’s simple, there is nothing any more, one would have just said a horde of zombies repeating mechanically the gestures that are asked to them.
We decide to follow them, a little hypnotized by these immense creatures, so imposing and beautiful. We finally arrive at the place of embarkation, so to speak, where we can see the elephants waiting for the next wave of tourists to wear.
An elephant in its natural habitat passes almost all day drinking and eating, not forgetting that they are covered with dust and mud to protect themselves from the sun's rays. But there they can’t. Most elephants are thirsty and have only a barrel of water to refresh. They are left tied under a stifling heat and it is easy to understand in view of their behavior that they are completely neurotic.
All elephants have injuries mark (which are mostly hidden clothing to tourists).
After a while, we find ourselves very close to one of them, who stretches its trunk towards us, its empty look breaking our hearts. We share a caress, and it doesn’t let go. We would love to give it something to drink or eat, but we have nothing. All we can do is give it the most love possible during this exchange.
Nils films everything from the beginning, we are sickened and I feel the tears coming to my eyes. I am as angry as I am sad, and as if that were not enough, a cry of pain can be heard, a few feet away, a "trainer" begins to beat his elephant for free. Completely stunned, Nils continues to film and even approaches.
We end up being spotted, and they see our ride. They begin to scream and make great gestures towards us. We exchanged a glance between us and we quickly run as if nothing had happened. The truth is that we had to sow them in the streets of the city, because they followed us to surely try to get us to delete our video. In case of doubt, we don’t return to our guesthouse right away.
As we walk, Nils tries to console me as best he can, but he also has a big heart. I don’t understand how this can still exist, how tourists, people can not see this. Nils thinks most are ignoring the truth while others don’t care. My anger and sadness blinded me, I still do not understand how one can ignore that. Today everything is done by internet, I saw many articles only on Facebook that talked about it.
Now, I tell myself that we must continue to talk about it, to spread, to share. Even if you don’t endorse it, people who want to practice this must do so in full knowledge of the facts. Even today, I feel helpless in the face of this situation, but it has all the more strengthened my conviction in organizations that fight against it every day !
We hesitated a long time to add the video we filmed to this article, and then we decided not to. Already for not maintaining this sort of fascination for drama and tragedy. And then if after this article you go snooping on the net, you will see enough to sicken you for life. We don’t want this to be a video that provides evidence of what is being advanced or who decides to make your decision.
How to fight against this ?
I don’t know if it's only because of that, but if it goes on, it's that it's worth a lot of money . Elephant rides are among the most economically successful activities for the countries that offer them. So it's our actions that matter to us , and whether or not we want to participate in that. Here are some alternatives to fight responsibly against this :
- By getting information . Traveling always requires a minimum of information regardless of the activity chosen especially when it affects wildlife. We are lucky to live in a connected era, or a video can become viral quickly and reach millions of people.
- Talk around you. We agree this is not the most enjoyable conversation around a dinner. But if you know someone who goes to a country likely to offer elephant rides, don’t hesitate to tell them about it.
- Choose an alternative. Organizations offer meetings with elephants, no question of mounting them, just feeding them, washing them, sharing a moment with them.
- Visiting the animal in its natural habitat, including nature, reserves and national parks that protect species within them. Often seeing a wild animal in its element reminds us that they are not circus animals or for our fun.
Moreover, this also applies to these attractions where you are offered to approach, and even caress tigers. These poor animals are completely drugged to make them "docile". It is quite obvious that such a predator would not allow itself to be manipulated so easily if not ... And that remains the most "soft" part of the story.
For more information :
This torture is called the phajaan, which consists in torturing the animal from an early age. Torture that continues throughout the rest of their lives to maintain this constant fear of man. No complicity is created, it is not training, but torture and only fear is born.
If you peel a little the net you will see that some elephants "crack" and end up racing during a ride killing the people they carry.