The illegal elephant trade is surging in Thailand, propelled by the tourism and entertainment industries. At the center of it all is the horrifying Surin Elephant Festival.
As One Green Planet reports, the elephants are often separated from their mothers at a young age, subjected to cruel training procedures, and taught to fear their handlers.
The annual Surin Elephant Festival was originally established in 1960 to celebrate the cultural bonds between the people of Surin and local elephants, but has turned to a spectacle of abuse and cruelty. A series of photographs taken by Elephants Asia Rescue and Survival (EARS) Foundation revealed the full extent of the suffering that elephants are forced to endure in order to generate profit for their handlers.
As poverty and a lack of alternative employment opportunities have driven many to the exploitation of elephants, this event serves as both a venue for the sale of illegally poached wild elephants, and a major tourist attraction, One Green Planet reports. Once captured, these gregarious animals are confined, beaten, deprived of sleep and food, and ultimately “broken” for a lifetime of labor. As many as 300 elephants per year shuffle through the festival grounds.
Worst of all, Surin’s elephant trafficking hinges upon the illegal capture and sale of babies, torn from their mothers in the wild during the vitally important infancy period.
Elephant labor is pivotal to the Thai economy, making a blanket prohibition virtually impossible. Economically and environmentally viable alternatives for the elephants and their handlers (“mahouts”) can provide one solution.
Join us in asking the Thai government to phase out the elephant entertainment industry by:
- Prohibiting the sale and trade of baby elephants at the Surin Elephant Festival, and
- Funding the maintenance and expansion of Elephant Nature Park, a nonprofit that creates sanctuaries in which elephants roam freely and their mahouts earn a living wage.
Compliance with each of these requests would not only create a real, long-term alternative to elephant exploitation, but also significantly slow the pace of trafficking in Thailand.
Even when elephants are saved from exploitative situations, turning them loose in the wild is not an option — there simply isn’t enough habitat left for their basic survival. It is Elephant Nature Park’s mission to give domesticated elephants a life worth living by preserving habitat, increasing public awareness of humane treatment practices, and keeping their mahouts employed — a winning scenario all around.
You can help save elephants in Thailand while supporting Elephant Nature Park’s great work! Click below and demand the Surin Provincial Governor outlaw the sale of elephants at the Surin festival and expand the Elephant Nature Park!
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