In recent years, the demand for baby Elephants for the tourist industry has grown across Thailand. One of the key destinations where this industry has exploded is Phuket.
Over the past few months we have been sent many upsetting photos and videos from tourists concerned about the conditions these babies are being kept in. I have also seen photos and videos that are now very prominent on the internet of “happy babies” on Thailand’s beaches.
We decided to come down and research the situation for ourselves. What we have found has been so very upsetting and a harsh reality of just what a huge mountain lies ahead in trying to change this situation. We have seen so many babies, some as young as 17 months old, chained on extremely short chains. They already hold wounds and scars from harsh training, the more tricks they can do the more money they earn for their owners.
Every one we found was alone, away from Mum and even any other Elephants, living with their owners sometimes chained on concrete outside the owners house.
We witnessed a baby being forced into the sea to amuse tourists. He was clearly lonely and scared. The sea was very rough and a red flag showed how dangerous the under current was that day. No tourists in this dangerous sea! BUT a little baby Elephant has to risk his life and struggle against the huge waves to entertain them. No hook visible so they see no wrong in this. They don’t see the cleverly hidden nail constantly being pushed into his ear to make him perform for them. His little head covered in nail marks and wounds.
Research takes time to put together; when we spoke to tourists they complained that there was no alternative for them here to be able to spend time with Elephants without all the tricks and cruelty.
My children have been so brave this week, they both stood and watched a baby performing in a show, dancing to Gangham style with tears streaming down their faces, but they knew we had to video this.
We are working with truly inspirational people and are now in long discussions on how we can begin to change this situation. Working together we can make a positive change little by little, one small step at a time.