Riding Elephants in Asia – Breaking the spirit

I personally have ridden an elephant in Thailand last year, which was honestly one of the most exciting experiences of my life. However, at this point I was not aware of the torture that baby elephants are put through in order for this to happen. They are captured, and snatched from their mothers to be beaten with clubs, and bull-hooks, and starved for days. This is all for our selfish or oblivious enjoyment. Since being home I have been told about how elephants are tortured into submission, and today I thought that I would look into it further and widen my knowledge.

After seeing footage of what baby elephants are put through I had to write a post on this, to raise awareness to fellow travelers of the world.

This footage is thanks to photographer Brent Lewin.

As a tourist it is unlikely that you will ever witness a baby elephant being tortured, but if an elephant is doing a trick for you such as painting you a picture, or letting you ride on its back then it has probably gone through this form of torture shown above. It is called ‘Breaking the Spirit’, which as you can see is as depressing and cruel as it sounds.

As exciting as it was for me to ride on a huge elephants back, and as much as I love having an amazing picture of me and my two younger siblings riding it, I would not have rode on that elephant if I knew the torture it went through,

When I was in Cambodia, I visited an animal sanctuary, where they rescued ill animals and nursed them better until they were ready to be released back into the wild. During my visit here I visited some elephants, and positive reinforcement training was demonstrated for us on them. This was demonstrated on a three-footed elephant that has lost a foot in the wild. They had made a handmade elephant foot that they changed regularly and they had trained the elephant to let the keepers change their foot using positive reinforcement, which basically involved giving the elephant food every time it lifted its leg. Although, this type of training is extremely rare in Asia, and if you are hoping to gain some exciting elephant experiences whilst travelling there, then make absolutely sure that positive reinforcement has been used.

Please comment and help me create a larger awareness of this to fellow travelers.

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