Have you ever gone to a fair or a festival where elephant rides were offered? Maybe you’ve been on vacation and saw people riding elephants. It might have looked like the people were having fun—but the elephants definitely weren’t!
Elephants haul people on their backs because they don’t have a choice. While baby elephants are being trained to give rides, they’re taken away from their moms and their spirits are broken through beatings and torture. They’re often hit with a weapon called a bullhook—a stick with a metal hook on the end.
Elephants are big and strong, but that doesn’t mean they don’t get tired and hurt. Elephants who are forced to give rides often have to work for long hours in hot weather. Many become exhausted and overheated. In Asia, where elephant rides are popular tourist attractions, some elephants have even died from being worked too hard. The chair strapped to their backs can also cause painful blisters.
Elephants are very social animals, and when they’re forced to work all day and travel around, they don’t get to spend time with their families. Female elephants usually live with their moms for their whole lives, and male elephants will stay with them until their teen years. So when they’re separated as babies, they’re sad and afraid. While being carted around from city to city, they live in poor conditions inside cramped trailers.
Not only are elephant rides dangerous for the animals, they can also be deadly to human riders. In Thailand—one of the countries where where elephant rides are a popular tourist attraction—12 tourists were killed over the last 15 years. Just last year, a tourist was trampled to death while riding an elephant with his daughter. Witnesses saw a trainer his this elephant just before the attack, and a trainer at the same place was captured on video hitting another elephant a week earlier.
Elephants don’t belong at fairs, festivals, circuses, or zoos. They belong with their families in their native homes. If you’re at a fair or any place that’s offering animal rides of any kind, please say NO—and encourage others to do the same!