The Truth behind Elephant Exploitation and How you can Help

Elephant exploitation is rife in Asia. On our first visit to Thailand we were sat on the beach when an elephant with his mahout came up to us, and asked if we wanted to feed the elephant bamboo shoots. We did and then watched as the elephant passed the empty bag to the mahout. The elephant then turned around, had a flashing light attached to his tail, and we all watched them walk away thinking how cute it was.

It wasn’t until after, that we started thinking how could a wild animal be trained to do that. After some research we discovered the shocking truth about elephant exploitation, this is when we heard about the crush.

elephant exploitation

Our first encounter of elephant exploitation

The Crush

‘The Crush’ of Phajaan as it is known means “to divorce the baby elephant from its spirit” or to ”split the will” of a baby elephant.  It is done so that they are submissive to humans for the lucrative entertainment of tourists in tourist parks.

The reality is that baby elephants are taken from the wild, with the adult elephants around the baby killed. A minimum of 2 wild elephants will die as a result of one elephant being taken for the tourism industry. The elephants are tortured until it is so fearful of its human captors that it will do anything to avoid being hurt again.

Baby elephants are kept in small crates, their front and back legs bound with ropes in order for their limbs to be stretched. They are repeatedly beaten and the helpless baby elephants will be constantly yelled and screamed at. They are stabbed, burned and beaten, as well as starved of food and deprived of water. Bull hooks will be used to stab the animal’s head, slash the skin and tug the ears.

Elephant exploitation comes in many forms from elephant riding, elephant painting, and performing in circuses. These elephants have sustained many injuries whilst in captivity including broken limbs and blindness due to the brights lights they are forced to perform in. They have shredded or torn ears from their tissue being ripped and pulled away during the training process and constant beatings. They also often have scars on their foreheads from deep lacerations caused by the bull hooks.

Elephant exploitation

Example of damaged ears

We were so shocked and disappointed that we had unwittingly played a part in this elephant exploitation and wanted to find out what we could do to help, this is when we found out about the Elephant Nature Park.

Our Visit to the Elephant Nature Park

The elephant nature park is a sanctuary and rescue centre that cares for the elephants that have been abused. Volunteers and visitors are encouraged to spend time here to help fund the park and be educated.

elephant exploitation

Elephant nature park

Pick up was prompt from our hotel in Chang Mai The Centara Khum Phaya Resort and Spa. We were travelling with friends and family, 7 in total and we had our own personal guide Jan for the day who was so informative and fun.

elephant exploitation

Our guide Jan

On the way to the park Jan explained the history and purpose of the park and we were shown a video. The video showed the effects of the Crush on the elephants, the purpose of the park and the work it was doing to protect this species.

We arrived at the park and our first stop of the day was elephant feeding. Jan explained that elephants eat 25% of their weight per day, we were given a large trug of watermelons and this was just a little snack! The feeding involved a great deal of slobber and amusement.

Next stop was an area where the stories of the elephants before and after were told. It was upsetting to see the state of the elephants when they arrived at the park but so up lifting to see how how time at the park had helped to heal them.

elephant exploitation

Education board

The elephants come with both physical and psychological problems. Daily dressing of wounds are a challenge but all done with positive reinforcements in the form of food and gentle handling by the mahouts.

elephant exploitation

Elephant recovering from a leg injury

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Deformed leg

We passed several herds, with Jan explaining their backgrounds and behaviours before we stopped for lunch.

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Paul enjoying lunch

It was wonderful understanding the history and then seeing how happy the elephants were in this environment. This particular elephant was having a great time having a good scratch against a tree.

While we were watching the elephant scratching, the herd with the baby came past us, we then followed them to their feeding area.

elephant exploitation

The baby, the herd and us (we are on the left!)

The whole herd were keeping an eye on the baby and everytime she wandered she would be ushered back to safety. The family behaviours were so human like, it was incredible to watch.

elephant exploatation

Feeding time

To end the day we were taken to the river. Here we were able to clean the elephant by throwing water over her, she was happily munching on watermelon as we covered her in water. We all managed to get soaked, and had a wonderful experience.

Visiting the Elephant Nature Park today has been one of the best days, to get so close to these magnificent creatures was just amazing. The stories behind each elephant who have been abused, some blinded, and mentally tortured was very moving. We would definitely recommend a visit to this park.

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This is what its all about a happy elephant

So here is how you can help – share this with your friends, on facebook, twitter, pinterest and any other social media that you use. We are trying to highlight this issue and how all of us, as tourists can help reduce this elephant exploitation.

If there is little demand for performing/trekking elephants, then the demand for such savage training techniques will hopefully die out. So before you ride an elephant, watch it paint or go to the circus please think again, tourists need to be educated so that they can chose to spend time with these magnificent creatures in environments where they are cared for and not abused, such as the Elephant Nature Park.

For more information do visit the Elephant Nature Parks website here and their Facebook page here.

Thanks for reading!


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