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Tourism and Animals

Street Begging Elephants

(Imágen de Eleaid

Historically, elephants were used mainly in the timber industry, ironically, helping to destroy the habitat they need to survive. After the ban on logging, most of these elephants have ended up being used for the tourism industry or have had to make a living by begging in the streets of large cities like Bangkok, Thailand. Seeing a chance to monetize these activities, people have begun to capture animals for this purpose, preferably baby elephants.

Street begging elephants and their mahouts (elephant handlers) wander the crowded city streets in tourist areas from 6pm until midnight selling bags of sugarcane, pineapple and bananas which tourists then feed to the elephant. Street begging reduces an elephant’s life expectancy by at least 50%.
This is a terrible life for an elephant, listed below are reasons why:

  • The crowded and dirty city streets have numerous dangers so elephants get sick or are involved in horrible car accidents.
  • Elephants require thousands of pounds of fresh vegetables and clean water daily which is not found in the inner cities.
  • Loud music, crowds of people, fear, stress, disorientation, beatings and drugging lead elephants to physical and mental breakdowns. Elephants have been known to rampage in order to escape.
  • Elephants get sick from breathing exhaust fumes.
  • The hot and hard pavement is incredibly painful for the elephants sensitive feet. Their feet need extra attention in captivity. The feet of many of the elephants used for begging are severely affected. See the case of Sombo, an elephant rescued by Elephant Asia Rescue and Survival Foundation from the streets of Phnom Penh.
  • These wild animals are often managed through abusive, pain inflicted training techniques. The most common method used, the Pajaan, is about "breaking the spirit" of the animals to keep them in a state of submission due to fear. More information on this aberrant technique here.
  • Most mahouts are not trained nor do they have sufficient expertise in handling these animals.
  • During the day, these animals are often kept in poor conditions and without proper shelter from the sun. The mahouts and their elephants live under a bypass on the outskirts of the city during the day and walk several miles on the hot roads into the city to work.

The Thai government banned elephants from city streets in 2009 but mahouts still risk hefty fines and bring their elephants to the city Please call the police in your area if you see a street begging elephant. Various organizations such as Wildlife Friends of Thailand, and EARS campaign to put a ban on the use of these magnificent creatures as instruments for begging.

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