Elephants are the national animal of Thailand. They are often seen paraded around for the entertainment of tourists and locals alike and although they are much loved, there is a dark side to the use of elephants as Tourist attractions. Often these beloved animals are mistreated and demeaned by their handlers and are usually kept in very poor living conditions.
The ramifications of these cruel conditions recently became more apparent in the International spotlight. On Wednesday this week, three Chinese tourists were going for an elephant ride through the jungle in Chiang Mai, when the animal beneath them suddenly went berserk, killing its rider and then storming off into the depths of the Jungle. The Chinese family, two parents and their young child, were rescued later on when the elephant was found. The handlers led him back to camp, with the tourists still on top, and then managed to calm him down. The tourists were unharmed but an indelible scar was left on their vacation.
It was said that the Mahout (Elephant keeper) was not familiar enough with the elephant and that the elephant had not taken a liking to his new rider. Elephant rides are very popular in Thailand but many animal rights groups have criticized such ventures, stating that they are too cruel to continue. This incident in Chiang Mai has once again put the spotlight on an animal rights issue that is obviously of great concern. Hopefully the one positive thing to come out of it all will be greater consideration for the welfare of these pachyderms and the horrible ways through which they are constantly exploited.