Elephants Forced to Walk Across Steel Tightropes

Story here. It’s that bastard Safari World again, on the edge of Bangkok. A rather notorious and hateful place, they also force orangutans to kick-box.

They were also involved in a scandal a few short years ago in which DNA evidence showed many if not most or even all of their orangutans were actually wild ones trafficked illegally from Indonesia. More on that here. As I recall, the appropriate bribes werre eventually paid to the usual officials, and the whole thing eventually hushed up. Seriously, if you ever come to Thailand, please do not patronize Safari World.

On the other hand, please do visit legitimate elephant camps like Elephant Stay in Ayutthaya province, about an hour and a half north of Bangkok. This is where many retired elephants end up, and it’s a good life for them. But they’re not all old, as there was another birth just this past Wednesday amid the recent flooding, as you can see from the newsletter.

Is this really that much worse than elephants being trained to do anything else? The tightropes are pretty low to the ground. I’m not really seeing what is so bad about this, unless the training for the elephants involves physically hurting them until they walk across the cable or something like that.

I can get behind criticisms of animal cruelty but this just doesn’t seem that bad.

The article says:

How does that not cut the elephants’ feet fatally?

I do think it much worse than other tricks like teaching them to paint. (Not sure exactly how it works but have been told it involves taking advantage of the elephant’s natural trunk swing.) And, say, elephant polo, which I’ve played myself and seen how the elephants seem to enjoy it, although I doubt that can be classified as a “trick” per se. They get to run around and, as per World Elephant Polo Association guidelines, are not allowed to play two games in a row or more than two games a day. (A game consists of two 10-minute chukkers with a 15-minute interval between them.) Afterward they’re taken off for a shower and a nice rubdown. They have these big outdoor showers, and those are some happy elephants playing underneath the water.

Few things if any that are associated with Safari World can be good. Those guys are slime and just bribe their way out of any scrutiny. I’ve not heard of this tightrope trick from anyone else.

It is a problem, though, what to do with unemployed pachyderms. The government does not provide nearly as much support as it could or should. I remember when the logging ban was introduced, and IIRC, it was 22 years ago this month, in the wake of some serious mudslides in the South in November 1988. Countless tons of stacked logs washed down the mountains with the mud amid torrential rains and wiped out whole villages. So no more logging, which had gotten out of hand anyway. So what to do? I disapprove of the mahouts bringing their elephants into the city to beg but understand why they often have to resort to it. It’s illegal, and all sorts of measures have been proposed to prevent it, but nothing much seems to work for long. I’ve not seen any in the city for a while though, not since they started imposing some heavy fines on the mahouts, but again, what are they supposed to do? It’s quite a problem.

I thought I would tack this onto this thread rather than start a new one. There is a very heartbreaking photo of a baby elephant being tortured in Burma before smuggled illegally into Thailand. It’s not a pretty sight at all, so I’m breaking the link:

http://photoblog.msnbc.msn.com/_news/2011/03/03/6180772-baby-elephant-tortured-into-submission-before-illegal-smuggling-from-burma-to-thailand

Elephants like these are the ones who end up doing the circus tricks. There are many legitimate elephant agencies and camps, they’re not all like this. A couple are mentioned by the photographer in that link. I mentioned Elephant Stay above. There is also the well-known Friends of the Asian Elephant, for which I started a Marketplace thread thread asking for donations. But unfortunately, activities like in the photo have not been stamped out everywhere, although I’m not sure how much of it takes place on this side of the border. Doing that in Burma is usually no problem at all.