On Saturday 16th April I shall be taking a leap of faith and jumping out of an aeroplane for charity. It will be a tandem skydive from 13,000 feet where I hope to raise significant funds for Elephant Family.
I recently returned from a trip to Thailand where I paid a visit to an elephant park. I have always loved elephants and knew this would be the highlight of my holiday.
Unfortunately, I was instead exposed to the horrific treatment that these elephants have to endure to fuel the needs of the tourist industry.
The elephants were chained to tree trunks and could not take a step forward. They all had cuts and scars across their heads. The elephant handler (mahout) walked around with a cruel bullhook consisting of a metal hook attached to a 1 metre handle (for those with a strong stomach try a Google search). The bullhook is used to train/goad the elephant; I had the misfortune to witness an elephant being beaten by one. The elephants were clearly afraid of the mahout and they looked very distressed. Elephants are known to be naturally sociable animals but there was no interaction between them whatsoever and they stood on their own watching the mahout. The youngest elephant just cowered, alone, in the corner.
This was without a doubt the worst experience of my life. I had no idea that elephants are being treated in this terrible way, which leads me to think that a lot of people still will not know the truth.
Extracted from the wild, baby elephants are separated from their families and subjected to a brutal practice known as "Phajaan", where they are tied up, confined, beaten and tortured to break their spirits and render them submissive to their human trainers.
For every wild elephant caught that makes it alive into a camp, it is estimated that up to two others will die from this 'domestication' process, and as many as five others are killed during the capture.
Due to the demand for Asian elephants in tourism, it is estimated that anywhere between 50-100 calves are being traded across the Thai-Muan-mar border each year.
If you wish to look into the charity more and what they do, you can go to their website: www.elephant-family.org
Please help me to raise awareness and let's try to secure a future for these beautiful animals.
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