Shocking pictures and footage have emerged of elephants apparently being punctured with sharp objects by cruel handlers forcing them to perform all in the name of 'entertainment' at a zoo in Indonesia.
The barbaric behaviour, which also sees the animals being taunted and punched, has been documented by Born Free and environmental photojournalist Aaron Gekoski.
Distressing images appear to show bloody stab wounds on the trunks of the elephants, and handlers pulling at their tails as they try to control the huge mammals in front of excited crowds.
The shocking abuse was uncovered at the Taman Safari in the city of Bogor, West Java, Indonesia - despite the zoo being a member of WAZA (the World Associations of Zoos and Aquariums), which claims to require its members to treat all animals in their collections with the utmost care.
And the savage handling of the elephants is being exposed as part of Born Free’s ongoing work which encourages people to report any suffering and abusive behaviour towards captive animals they witness locally or while travelling abroad.
Dr Chris Draper, Head of Animal Welfare & Captivity at Born Free, said: "Born Free has been concerned about the activities at Taman Safari in Bogor, Indonesia, for some time, as a result of numerous complaints from tourists and members of the public visiting the zoo.
"The direct abuse of elephants reported is completely unacceptable and must be investigated by the relevant authorities.
"It is shocking that this zoo is listed as a member of WAZA - the World Associations of Zoos and Aquariums - which claims to represent ‘leading’, ‘high standard’ zoos across the world, andapparently requires its members to ‘ensure that all animals in their care are treated with the utmost care and their welfare should be paramount all times'. These assurances begin to sound pretty meaningless in light of the reported abuse and exploitation of elephants in shows and rides at one of their member zoos."
Aaron, 38, added: "Every day the elephants perform in shows which involve elaborate reconstructions of human and elephant conflict caused by the palm oil industry.
"After a show when we were there, the elephants became boisterous. A handler was seen to punch one on its trunks and pull its tail in order to control it.
"On closer inspection, it appeared the handler was concealing a sharp object in his hand, which caused multiple puncture wounds on the elephant's trunk.
"After checking out the other elephants, they also had similar wounds.
"Security saw us documenting what was happening and asked us to put our cameras away.
"The images have not been seen by many people, but I think they will be shocked.
"Elephants are much loved, intelligent and sentient beings that should not be ridden, touched or used in shows.
"They’re not here for our entertainment! And they most definitely should not be controlled using such violent means.
"Elephants have some of the most finely tuned senses in the animal kingdom, so Taman Safari, Bogor, would be a very stressful environment for them with lots of people, small areas, loud music, flashing lights.
"It’s about as unsuitable a habit for elephants that one could imagine."
Born Free is asking people to express their shock and concern to the Indonesian Government calling for this abuse to be brought to an end. Please contact The Ministry of Forestry at:
Her Excellence Dr. Siti Nurbaya Bakar
The Ministry of Forestry Republic of Indonesia
Wanabakti Mangala Building Block I lt. 3
Jln. Gatot Subroto - Senayan