Spicy food, smiling people, beautiful wide beaches and shimmering temples, that's probably the standard image that you will find in any brochure advertising holidays in Thailand. But often you will also find pictures of western tourists sitting on the back of some elephants on the way to an exciting jungle tour waving to the camera, happy and carefree. A nice excursion with the mates from the hostel. And look how well the elephant behaves, listens to every word of its that equestrian, stands still for minutes, posing for your pictures and ah, look how happy he seems!
No. Let's be honest guys. Behind the quiet and obedient behavior of the elephants stands not the joy of carrying tourists around all day, but more the desperate devotion to years of hard penalties, forced drug sessions and bloody blows. Due to the high competition elephant tracking tours that are cheap offered almost everywhere in Thailand, the consequence of this is little money for the care of elephants. Narrow, small cages, hardly any food and hours of waiting for the next "client", that's the sad life thousands of elephants in Thailand are forced into. Check this VIDEO for more information about the elephant's treatment in their captivity, but be warned, some very intense pictures are shown.
This ongoing abuse of the elephants leads to the background story of these pictures. The elephant shown is called "Grandma Kammool", which refers to her high age of 55 years. She spent years of cruel imprisonment for different tracking tour providers and later in a Zoo in Ko Phangan, where she finally was rescued and transferred to the Elephant conservation in Khaoyai, where she can now spend her last years in peace. Unfortunately, these elephant rescue stations still receive too little media publicity and donations. On one hand, because the elephant riding business is a heavy money-making industry and many locals live from it. But on the other one, also because there are still millions of western tourists coming to Thailand and insist on an elephant tour as part of their "Thailand experience". Many probably because they have no knowledge of the cruel background, but others, some I have even talked to, insist on it only out of pure ignorance or recklessness. So please inform yourself about elephant riding when you plan to travel to Thailand. Please don't be an a** and don't ride elephants, just because everybody is telling you it's a must-do here!