Over the few months, more news about ivory trade in South East Asia has made headlines, as elephants are cruelly treated and exploited for their tusks. The elephant population is threatened both by the illegal ivory trade as well as the capturing and trading of elephants for the tourist industry.
Elephants are a large part of Thailand’s tourist attractions. People from all over the world visit Thailand to go on trekking tours on elephants. Riding an animal as big and beautiful as that is imaginably an amazing experience. I myself have always wanted to ride an elephant. What tourists often do not realize is the horrific conditions these elephants are held in and the cruel manner in which they have been captured and transported from Myanmar, also known as Burma. One elephant ride might threaten the whole existence of elephants in South East Asia. What tourists fail to realize is that these beautiful animals are also wild animals, nonetheless. In order for the elephants to be ridden, they first and foremost need to be tamed.
Taming elephants has become a cruel process in South East Asia. Since tourists prefer younger elephants, they are caught at a very young age and held captive under horrific conditions. They capture the wild elephants by using domesticated ones to lead them into pit traps. The older elephants are shot, and the younger ones held in these pits and beaten until they submit and are tamed. They are then smuggled across the border from Myanmar to Thailand, where they are used to entertain in the tourist industry.
There have been efforts to improve the laws at the border and against the illegal elephant trade. Nonetheless, the illegal activities are still going on. There have been cases where elephants were seized, but the guilty were not prosecuted for their actions.
I think it is important to further raise awareness about the illegal elephant trade. Myanmar’s elephant population is at great risk of extinction. Before tourists travel to Thailand they must be made aware of the horrific conditions these elephants were captured and tamed under.
There are sancturaries within Thailand that have rescued abused elephants from these horrible situations; some places offer visitation. When researching a trip to Thailand, make sure to visit a rescue center for elephants, rather than further adding to the problem of the elephant trade in South East Asia.