Recently released undercover footage by the charity World Animal Protection (WAP) sheds light on the disturbing and heart-wrenching training process known as ‘the crush’ that baby elephants undergo in Thailand.
The harrowing footage, spanning from 2018 to 2020, captures the cruel practice inflicted on seven innocent baby elephants who were torn away from their mothers at just two years old and isolated for training.
The distressing video reveals trainers, also known as ‘mahouts,’ using bυll hooks, sticks, and pails to inflict pain upon the crying calves during two daily sessions. The intention behind these brutal sessions is to force the young elephants to submit to humans, preparing them for interactions with tourists.
Subsequently, the baby elephants are chained and tied by their necks and ankles to a wooden frame referred to as the ‘crush’ box.
Throughout the footage, the appalling reality unfolds as the baby elephants endure the traumatic separation from their mothers, resulting in heart-wrenching cries and attempts to resist the relentless process. The emotional agony is evident as the mother elephants fiercely try to protect their calves, with their pleas for reunification going unheard.
One particularly distressing moment shows a baby elephant named Giпtaala being separated from her calf Booпshoo, the fourth time she has had a baby taken away from her. Giпtaala’s anguish is palpable as she attempts to shield her calf with her trunk, showing a mother’s fierce love and protectiveness.
The purpose of the ‘crush’ is to break the elephants, making them responsive to their trainers’ commands, enabling them to perform tricks for the tourism industry. As elephants grow to be massive and powerful animals, it is essential for the trainers to have control over them to ensure the safety of tourists during close interactions.
The training process inflicts significant psychological trauma on these intelligent and social animals, who would typically stay with their mothers for generations within a herd. Often, they exhibit stereotypical behaviors or repetitive head swinging, demonstrating the detrimental impact of the training on their mental well-being.
WAP is urgently calling for a transformation in the treatment of captive elephants, advocating for a permanent breeding ban to be implemented before tourism gradually resumes in Thailand and other holiday destinations post-pandemic.
Tourists are urged to research ‘elephant sanctuaries’ or ‘retirement homes’ in Thailand thoroughly before visiting. WAP recommends opting for centers that offer observation-only experiences without any direct human interaction, ensuring the welfare and protection of these magnificent creatures.
By raising awareness and urging for change, WAP aims to empower tourists to make ethical choices, creating a demand for responsible and compassionate wildlife interactions. Through education and advocacy, they aspire to eliminate the cruel practices that plague the lives of captive elephants, championing a better future for these majestic beings on a global scale.