13 February 2017
Recent reports in the Daily Mail have yet again highlighted the risks of close interactions with captive elephants.
The short video appears to show an unnamed female tourist, thrown into the air by a large captive elephant whilst taking part in a ‘bathing’ activity at an elephant facility in Thailand (believed to be the Patara Elephant Farm in Chiang Mai). Thankfully, serious injury, in this instance, was apparently avoided, but it could have been a lot worse. There have been many incidents of tourist injury and fatalities caused by captive elephants. Last year, a Scottish tourist was killed in Thailand when the elephant he was riding went berserk, trampling and goring him to death.
“Elephants should never be regarded as ‘a gentle creature’; in fact these animals are highly unpredictable and can be very dangerous”, expressed Daniel Turner, Associate Director of Tourism at the Born Free Foundation. “Regardless of whether the elephant is free-roaming in the wild, apparently ‘tamed’, or held in captivity, these animals must be respected as wild animals and direct contact between the public and elephants must be prevented. Travel companies that continue to permit their guests to undertake such activities are not only placing people at risk of injury, or worse, but also risk jeopardising their reputation within the travel sector.” Turner continued, “Thankfully public opinion is changing and it is no longer acceptable by many to ride elephants, but the same implications to animal welfare and public safety apply for the involvement of elephants in other hands-on activities; still commonly offered by travel companies.”
The Born Free Foundation advocates an end to the involvement of captive elephants in tourism activities and encourages the travel sector to end such practices.