How Many More People Must Die Before Cruel Elephant Rides Are Banned?
The only way to force elephants to give rides or perform tricks is through violence and domination. Mahouts (handlers) subject elephants to a life of exhausting work, beatings with weapons, other forms of violence, untreated injuries, malnourishment, dehydration, and routine chaining. So it should come as no surprise that these abused animals sometimes lash out at their handlers or other humans in frustration or self-defence. Both tourists and elephants themselves have sustained injuries and even been killed in accidents caused by cruel elephant “attractions”.
Take a look below at our timeline of recent incidents, and learn how you can help stop this cruelty, for the sake of elephants and humans alike.
In India, a handler who was attempting to wash an elephant slipped over as he was preparing to strike the animal with a stick and was crushed to death when the elephant sat on him.
A man was crushed to death by an elephant after he beat it with a stick while washing it https://t.co/3yZv0PDMuj
— The Sun (@TheSun) March 6, 2019
Two Italian tourists were thrown from an elephant’s back in Thailand. One was gored by the animal’s tusk, and the other sustained a broken leg. According to reports, the elephant’s handler was also injured and has been charged with a reckless act causing serious injury.
ร่วมกู้ชีพภูงา รับ นทท. 2 ราย ช้างสะบัดตกหลังช้างและโดนช้างเสียบ ไส้ทะลัก 1 ราย อีกราย ขาหัก ส่วนควาญช้าง เจ็บหลังเล็กน้อยพิกัดสองแพรก นำส่ง รพ.พังงา#หน่วยกู้ภัยวัดเก่าเจริญธรรม
In India, a captive elephant named Thechikottukavu Ramachandran panicked and began to run when he was forced to take part in a housewarming party. Two elderly guests were trampled and killed during the chaos that ensued, and nine others were injured. This nearly blind elephant has reportedly killed at least 10 other people, including multiple handlers, since 1988, yet he’s still being used for entertainment.
When a young woman tried to take a photo with Phan Thong, a captive elephant used in a county-fair parade in Thailand, he wrapped his trunk around her leg. In the video below, the elephant – who appears startled and agitated – can be seen running through a market with the woman clinging to his tusk. Another person can be seen riding on his back during the entire incident.
A 9-year-old elephant named Karthik – who has spent his entire life in captivity – trampled a handler, seriously injuring him, at Dubare Elephant Camp in India. Two people reportedly died last year during similar incidents that he was involved in, and the facility still allows tourists to bathe captive elephants.
— Delcianna J. Winders (@DelciannaW) January 14, 2019
A male elephant named Hope killed a handler at Elephant Nature Park in Thailand. Although the facility doesn’t allow people to ride or bathe elephants, it does allow tourists to touch, feed, and interact with them. There’s simply no safe way for tourists to touch, play with, or get up close to elephants.
Elephants are not ours to ride, but that didn’t stop one Canadian tourist from mounting Plai Benz – a 16-year-old male elephant held captive at a camp in Thailand. The woman fell to the ground after he reportedly shook his body. He then panicked and allegedly pushed on her leg with his trunk and “crushed” it.
Canadian tourist injured after she falls from elephant ride https://t.co/0UK9EiNOgM
— Delcianna J. Winders (@DelciannaW) November 11, 2018
An elephant handler in Zimbabwe was trampled to death by a captive elephant. Forty-year-old Joram Ndlovu and his two colleagues had herded a group of elephants to a spot for grazing – and when the men tried to herd the group back to the stables for “interaction activities”, one of the animals charged. The elephant was reportedly euthanised by Zimbabwe Parks and Wildlife Management Authority rangers.
A 12-year-old captive female elephant named Masini trampled her handler to death, according to reports. The incident took place at a temple in India “in full view of shocked devotees”. The animal allegedly crushed the 42-year-old handler, stamping on and trampling him. According to one person, someone pulled hair from the elephant’s tail during a worship ceremony, causing her to panic and lash out, which made onlookers flee.
Another trampling death, deliberate & horrific & not a shock. Life of beatings, chains, total lose of freedom the cause. Again. Never be silent about slavery. https://t.co/1ixeEaijX4 pic.twitter.com/LZ65GGFKsQ
— Ingrid Newkirk (@IngridNewkirk) May 29, 2018
Three horrific incidents took place in India:
- When a 35-year-old woman reached out to touch a captive, tied-up elephant during a temple festival, the animal snapped and attacked her, trampling her to death.
- An elephant gored his handler to death during “an annual nercha (offering) festival”. This was the second time the elephant had killed a handler.
- An elephant forced to give a ride to a priest snapped in the midst of a crowded festival. In the video below, the animal can be seen surrounded by a throng of chanting people before getting spooked and running off with the priest on his back. At least 12 people, including the priest and the elephant’s handler, were injured.
Elephants are intelligent, self-aware animals who belong in their natural environment – not under the control of humans who use weapons to torment and “punish” them. Those held captive at tourist attractions – even ones that are deceptively called “orphanages” or “refuges” – are subjected to heartbreaking physical and psychological abuse in order to force them to give rides, perform tricks, and tolerate direct contact with the public. It’s little wonder that so many lash out.
These are just a few recent examples of the many injuries and deaths caused by exploiting elephants for tourism, and they all serve as tragic reminders that elephants – and other animals – are not ours to use and exploit.
What You Can Do
- Please, never ride an elephant or any other animal at a tourist attraction. Everyone who pays to ride an elephant or who books an excursion involving captive animals is responsible for perpetuating this cycle of abuse. When you book a trip abroad, ask your tour company and hotel whether they promote such activities. If they do, explain why they should stop.
- All animals are living, feeling beings who would never choose to entertain the public, and they suffer when forced to do so. Please urge the Indian Minister of Tourism to put an end to inhumane elephant rides: