I have recently returned from a trip to Thailand where my partner, James, and I decided to volunteer on an Elephant Sanctuary for a week. We knew that the treatment of elephants, in order to train them for “tourist entertainment” wasn’t particularly positive, but what we learnt on our experience was far more harrowing than I imagined, and it’s not something that I want to keep quiet about!
Shortly after returning from our travels a Scottish tourist was killed whilst riding an elephant in Koh Samui. This highlights the dangers for the tourists, and also should bring to the forefront the horrific treatment that these beautiful, intelligent and emotional animals are put through! It therefore is hardly surprising when an elephant kicks off because of mistreatment.
Phajaan is an abusive treatment that is used for the domestication of elephants! And when I say abusive, this makes it sounds rather tame! It actually equates to torture! A 6 day ritual is carried out to baby elephants so that it ‘crushes’ its spirit to the point of submission! The ritual consists of locking the baby up in a wood and metal contraption, where they are chained, beaten, tortured, stabbed, sleep deprived and heckled. The baby elephant will not even recognise it’s mother once this ritual is complete. And that’s if it even survives, because many will go mad, or even kill their Mahouts during the process. Their trunks have to be bound, because otherwise the elephant can attempt to commit suicide rather than be put through the torture in order to be made an elephant slave for ignorant humans! Sometimes the mothers are even made to watch this horrific ritual!
This is no word of a lie, and please Google it if you’re not sure. There is plenty on this subject!
Lek Chailert is the founder of Elephant Nature Park in the Chiang Mai Province of Thailand, which is where we spent our week volunteering. Known as the Elephant Whisperer, she is an amazing woman whose vision is to ensure the protection of elephants and to ensure that they receive lots of love and builds up trust with them. She rescues elephants from abuse and puts them in natural surroundings, ensures that they are treated with great care, fed well so that they rebuild their strength. Because they are social animals they adopt other elephants in the park and build adoptive families. It’s beautiful!
The only way to stop this terrible treatment of elephants is to make tourists going to these countries aware of this process. All the time there is demand for riding elephants, watching them perform in a circus or petting them in the street, all the time this will continue to be a ritual! Even buying Teakwood should be avoided because this is logged by elephants (even though there are laws against it) who live worse lives than those who are ridden by tourists.
I therefore wanted to share this with you in the hope that it will make a difference to you and so that you can pass this on. The more people who are made aware of this the better and stop this once and for all! If you do want to go and see elephants up close, then please only go to The Elephant Nature Park. Even other parks who claim that elephants are in their ‘natural environments’, or parks with ‘no riding’ STILL USE HOOKS and abuse to control their elephants. And why wouldn’t they? These elephants are so mentally messed up and disconnected from their trainers that they could snap at any second. If any of them disobey, even more horrors are bestowed upon them…and the torture doesn’t end with the Phajaan. The lives they live are unbearable to understand or witness.
Knowledge is power……please use it!
Here’s a link where you can find out more http://kimpluscraig.com/2014/01/10/phajaan-breaking-the-spirit/
And here are some of my images taken at the Elephant Nature Park…………