Mother and baby elephant shackled together.

Elephants Are Bred For Profit. Here’s How World Animal Protection Is Ending That.



World Animal Protection’s latest report details the cruelty elephants face when bred for entertainment.

(This blog post is part of a series that draws from World Animal Protection’s groundbreaking Bred For Profit report.) 

World Animal Protection’s latest report, Bred For Profit, estimates that at least 5.5 billion animals are bred specifically to be used in exploitative industries each year. Millions of wild animals are sold as pets, for entertainment or tourist attractions, or for luxury items, fashion products, ornaments, or traditional medicine.

In these billion-dollar industries, wild animals suffer due to malnourishment, disease, stress-induced behaviors, injuries, infected wounds, cannibalism, and even premature death. Among the species being bred for profit are elephants. 

Elephants farmed in Thailand are specifically used for tourism, where visitors pay elephant camps to feed, pet, photograph, ride on, wash, or watch elephants perform circus-like shows. According to World Animal Protection’s research, 2,708 elephants—most being captive-bred—lived in 246 camps in 2020, increasing from 2010 by a staggering 134%.  

Like all wild animals, captivity cannot provide elephants with the psychological and physical requirements to thrive like they would in the wild. Additionally, equipment such as saddles and restraints cause injuries, while carrying tourists for long periods of time on hard or rough ground causes foot and nail problems. In fact, foot issues are a leading cause of ailments in captive elephants, which can lead to euthanasia. 

In addition to the physical ailments of captive elephants, these intelligent animals have been found to have severe psychological trauma. This zoochosis manifests in repetitive movements with no apparent purpose, such as swaying and head bobbing. Bred For Profit reveals that a large number of elephants in Thailand’s captive industry also suffer from complex post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). 

In order to protect Thailand’s captive elephants, World Animal Protection has been working with elephant camps to help transition them to elephant-friendly venues. Elephants in captivity and their mahouts (caretakers) need to be provided for throughout the remainder of their long lives. Our team in Thailand has been on the ground creating observation-only facilities to ensure that elephants have the highest quality of life possible. 

Chang Chill, an elephant-friendly venue in Thailand, was the first venue to work with World Animal Protection and opened in Chiang Mai, Northern Thailand, in 2019. This facility used to allow elephant riding and bathing, but now is observation-only, allowing tourists to learn about these elephants as individuals, observe them in their natural habitat of the Thai forests, and meet the mahouts devoted to their well-being. Visitors can also prepare the elephants’ lunch for them by sending fruits and veggies down a tube for the elephants to enjoy while letting “elephants simply be elephants.” 

Like Chang Chill, Following Giants used to offer elephant rides, bathing experiences, and direct interaction with elephants. When they weren’t giving rides, the elephants were chained without shelter from the sun or elements.  

Following Giants was the second elephant-friendly venue in Thailand to work with World Animal Protection. In the forests of Koh Lanta, close to the capital of Thailand, Following Giants opened its doors in December 2019 and now gives the elephants in its care the freedom to roam, graze, and bathe while happily socializing with each other. 

Now, five years later, both Chang Chill and Following Giants are thriving. 

In order for these venues to improve elephant welfare, they were closed to the public for a number of months to build new facilities, including housing for elephants, leaving them unable to make money. World Animal Protection stepped in for both venues, funding their new structures, feeding the elephants, and providing necessary medical care during this time. 

When tourism halted due to the pandemic, World Animal Protection also supported these venues financially to ensure their survival as they had just one tourism season under their belt at that time.  

Without your generous support, World Animal Protection wouldn’t have been able to provide the necessary funds and resources to help shift these venues to become better places for elephants and those who care for them. 

Our team in Thailand has collected over 50,000 signatures and has been calling on the Thai government to protect elephants. Now we need your help to show that there is worldwide support! 

Sign our petition asking the Thai government to enact laws so no more elephants are born into a life of chains and hooks. 

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