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NGO hits out at Thailand for captive breeding of elephants for tourism

PHOTO: World Animal Protection

An international animal welfare organisation is criticising Thailand for the captive breeding of elephants for use as tourist attractions.

Nick Stewart, Global Campaigns Director with World Animal Protection, says there are around 2,798 captive elephants in the kingdom, generating between 20,000 and 27,000 baht each a year, from tourism activities such as trekking and activities like bathing and feeding.

Between 2010 and 2020, Thailand’s captive elephant population increased by 134%. The price of a single elephant, 1.7 million baht, is also seen as a poaching and cross-border smuggling incentive.

Disturbing footage obtained by WAP between 2018 and 2020 shows Thai mahouts carrying out the training process known as Phajaan. This involves the use of chains, ropes, sticks, nails and bull-hooks to “break” the elephant’s spirit and ultimately lead to total submission and domestication.

This submission is what enables the use of elephants in tourist interactions such as feeding, bathing and riding, in addition to circus acts such as elephants painting and dancing.

Stewart says the cruelty endured by elephants that undergo such training has a long-lasting impact.

“The abuse is so bad that some researchers have suggested that many Thai elephants suffer from post-traumatic stress disorder.”

Stewart doesn’t blame the mahouts, but rather Thailand’s tourism industry as a whole, which he says has created the demand for elephants to be used for bathing, riding, and other activities.

Now, WAP is calling on the Thai government to implement a ban on the captive breeding of elephants and to encourage the transition to cruelty-free attractions that can still employ the mahouts and make the most of their knowledge and experience.

“It all comes back to this idea that animals born in captivity can be exploited more easily. We need to end this exploitation of wild animals whether it’s legal or illegal.”

WAP estimates that worldwide, around 5.5 billion wild animals from 487 species are being held captive in cruel conditions, including elephants, bears, and lions.

“These are long-lived, intelligent animals that are farmed or bred in captivity for arguably the most frivolous of industries: the wildlife entertainment industry.”

SOURCE: Nation Thailand

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