Tuesday, 19 July 2016

From the elephants perspective | SAY NO TO ELEPHANT TREKKING

I remember when I was young, elephants were always so fascinating to me. My parents took me to zoos, and I enjoyed seeing the elephants, they were my favourite animal to see there. I didn't know about elephants being rode until I saw films where they were riding elephants. I thought it would be really cool to ride an elephant, how would I have known any better as a young child?

Fast forward 10 years, and I now strive to raise awareness for the cruelties involved in elephant rides. People feel that when they travel to SE Asia, riding an elephant is part of the experience, its something they "have" to do. Elephants are beautiful, strong, intelligent, emotional creatures. They are family orientated and have strong bonds with their young, they travel in herds and are very protective over each other. They sound a lot like humans, we are protective over our families and have strong bonds with our young, so imagine how you'd feel, if one day your baby was torn away from you, and you never saw her again..

Today was a great day, me and my family went for a long walk through the jungle, I watched my baby Seline playing with her cousin George. I love seeing the children getting on so well and having fun, they are so precious. Me and my sister Belinda always make sure they are safe, we stay with them at all times, we wouldn't want them getting hurt, oh, even thinking about my baby Seline getting hurt brings a tear to my eye. My baby is my world.. Hold on, what is that noise? I can hear footsteps.. it sounds like, is that.. humans? why are they in my home? what do they want? I can't find Seline! Seline! where are you baby! come to me Seline, I'm right here! .. I can hear you Seline! why are you crying, oh no! my baby! O.. OUCH! What is that sharp stabbing pain in my side? I.. I.. I'm falling asl..

Mummy, mummy where are you! I'm scared! These strange humans are taking me away, they are hurting me mummy, I don't like it, mummy I need you, they are really hurting me, they have tied my feet together, they are dragging me through mud, I'm frightened. Where am I? I don't like this, I can't move, why is there bamboo surrounding me so tightly? Am I going to die? OUCH, what is that? I'm.. I'm being beaten with a sharp object, it really hurts, its cutting my skin, I'm bleeding! Oh someone help me please, mummy please help me! Where are you?

This beating has been happening for so long, how long has it been? hours? days? I don't know, I'm exhausted, I'm bleeding, everything hurts, I am so hungry, I need water.. I wish my mummy was here, how long am I going to survive? I can't do this for much longer.. I just.. I want to die.

Today I was in the street, and strange humans kept coming near me, they wanted to take photos. I didn't like it, I didn't like the flash photography, it hurt my eyes. My feet were so sore from the concrete floors, I was so hungry.. I'm so tired, I wonder how my mummy is. I miss my mummy and my family, I'm so alone. I don't like the humans, they aren't nice to me like my mummy is, they hurt me, and they force me to work when I haven't had enough rest, its not fair.

I was in a truck for hours today, it was dark, I was alone and I didn't have much food. It looks like I've been moved to a new job, finally, I see other elephants! Maybe they know where my mummy is, maybe they can help me get back to her. Hello! I'm Seline, do you know where my mummy is? can you help me find her? please help me find my mummy!

You will never see your mummy again kid, this is it. This is our destiny, the humans will make you work until you drop dead. There's no going back, I'm sorry Seline, you just have to put on a fake smile and make the humans happy, or they'll hurt you, and I'm sure you've already been hurt enough, all you've gotta do is let them tie the bench to you, and then 2 humans will sit in there and you walk them through the jungle, its tough work, kid. The straps sometimes rub, can you see the scars on my back? I think I have fresh wounds, I can feel the blood seaping. You'll probably get sick, and its going to be really hard, but you have to do it, or they will hurt you real bad. I want you to stay strong for me Seline, you're still young, you still have your sight. I lost my sight when my mahout stabbed me in the eye for not obeying orders, he asked me to get down low to secure the bench, but I didn't, so he stabbed me. I should've known better.

Oh no.. I'm.. I'm here forever, there's nothing I can do now. All I wanted was to be with my mummy, I guess its time to let go now, goodbye mummy, I love you so much, you will always be in my heart. I miss you. 

Baby elephants are torn away from their mothers in the wild, tethered and dragged to a small crate made out of bamboo, where they are kept for days sometimes even weeks. They are deprived of food and water and they are aggressively shouted at. They are frightened, they cry out and they try hard to escape the tiny confined crate, but they cannot escape, they have ropes tied around their back and front legs in order to stretch them, causing pain. They are also stabbed and burned, and beaten with bull hooks. This is known as the phajaan (elephant crushing), a Thai tradition. The mahouts put the elephants through this torture until they have had their spirits broken, and will no longer fight back, they lose the will to live. They become so exhausted and so afraid, that they give up and obey the orders given, to avoid being harmed.

The elephants are then sold into tourism, this includes: elephant trekking, street begging, painting and circuses. The elephants are treated no better in these circumstances, there will still be food deprivation and use of bull hooks, they are forced to perform unnatural behaviours, which can be dangerous for them. Elephant tourism is dangerous for elephants and humans alike, there have been multiple stories in the news about tourists being killed in elephant trekking "accidents" but think about the stories that don't make it to the news. Unfortunately, there are some places that call themselves sanctuaries, but they still make the elephants perform unnaturally. Things to look out for are bull hooks, or any kind of tools that might be used in secret.
 
However, there are some real sanctuaries which really do care for the elephants and make sure they are free and well looked after. My recommendation is Elephant Nature Park in Chiang Mai. There are lots of volunteering opportunities there, and it is home to not just elephants, but cats, dogs, water buffalo, horses and more. When you spend a week, or even a day with these beautiful creatures you will have fun, learn so much, and you'll make new friends. It is a much better experience than any of the other elephant tourist attractions, which don't last long, and you don't really get to know the elephants like you would at ENP. 

My time at ENP was life changing. I am returning there next week and I couldn't be more excited. Keep an eye out for updates on my instagram and for new posts.

Me and Kabu, an elephant rescued from illegal logging.
 For more information on The Phajaan and ENP: 
Elephant Crushing Video
Thailand Elephants
Lek Chailert (founder of ENP) follow her page for ENP updates
ENP official facebook page

If you have any questions about my experience at ENP, feel free to comment below or send me an email.

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