The Shocking Truth About The Asian Elephant Tourist Industry

by Jessica Murray

Staring at the TV I can feel the anger rising inside of me as the news report unfolds.

This is the story that no doubt many of you have heard about since it was first reported yesterday.

A man was killed by an elephant in Thailand whilst his daughter watched.

Having studied journalism I know all of the tricks of the trade and how, although it never seems like it, media corporations will spin the story whichever way that want to make you form a specific view on the report.

Of course it is very sad that a man has lost his life and my heart goes out to his family and friends, but make no mistake that this was not the act of a rogue elephant with no respect but the intention of killing a tourist.

So here’s how the Asian elephant tourist industry works:

– As a baby in the tourist industry the aim is to break their young spirit, which even has a specific term ‘Phajaan‘ or ‘the crush’. This involves prying the calves away from their mothers and pushing them into a tiny cage where they cannot move. He is then beaten with a metal bull hook, terrorised and starved over the next few days, so that he literally has no good spirit left to fight for his life anymore and will obey orders when he is part of the tourist industry.

– As the market value for a baby Asian elephant is about $35,000, some are simply captured from the wild. This process is called the ‘pit trap‘ whereby a herd of domestic elephants will push wild elephants into a corridor where a pit has been dug out in the ground. However, as this resulted in high deaths of the elephants, it proved easier to shoot the older elephants that were protecting their young, of which the body parts were then sold for yet more profit, and the babies then snatched.



– Remember that it is very true that an elephant never forgets. So as if a life of torture and pain that is ahead of these elephants wasn’t enough, they have the horrifying images of their mothers being shot to keep them awake at night too.

– Contrary to what you may believe, elephant’s bodies are not capable of sustaining the weight of humans on their back day in day out, let-alone those huge unnecessary chairs that they strap onto the elephants just to make the humans more comfortable.

– Throughout the elephant’s lives in this gruelling industry, they are hit with bull hooks and abused daily to keep them in line when performing for tourists.


– The elephant in question from yesterday’s report was hit with the iron-spike, like all of the elephants are.

– The mahout (elephant handler) reportedly got off the elephant to take a photo of the tourist and his daughter when the elephant attacked the mahout and threw the tourists off its back.

– Notice how the elephant attacked its handler first, surely the one human that it should love more than anyone else, if he had ever received any love or respect in return.

– Elephants are extremely intelligent creatures. If you give them the respect that all animals deserve, they will always give you respect back. They are not cruel or malicious or vindictive, they are gentle and spiritual and kind. If they are left to live their rightful and deserving life in the wild that is.

– I believe that this outburst was nothing more than an explosion of many years of suppressed anger, hurt, sadness and longing for an end. Wouldn’t you feel the same if you had been captured, watched your family being shot dead, squashed into a tiny cage, starved, beaten and forced to perform seven days a week with, quite literally, back-breaking work?

– When these elephants have been in this industry for many years they eventually die way before their time from severe exhaustion from this horrific working life.

– Once again it is the people’s desire to ride an elephant that keeps this despicable industry running, causing more baby elephants to be captured from the wild and their families killed, so please think again when you travel to these places.

Have you still got riding an elephant on your bucket list?


About The Author

Jess Murray is a wildlife filmmaker and conservation blogger, having recently returned from studying wildlife and conservation in South Africa, she is now striving to spread awareness about the truth behind faux conservation facilities throughout the world. You can follow Jess on Facebook Here

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According To Jess

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