Opinion: Elephant Rescue, Elephant Orphanage, Elephant Sanctuary, or Elephant Scam?
By now, many travelers are turning their backs on the obvious cruelty of elephant rides, and more than 50 companies, including Fodor’s, refuse to offer them in their itineraries. Tourists have seen numerous videos and photos showing elephant calves—many of whom, according to a report released by the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES), the international body that regulates trade in endangered animals, have been kidnapped from their homes and families in nature—shoved into wooden cages or tied up with ropes and beaten mercilessly for days until their spirits are broken and they become fearful and submissive.
Tourists have also seen plenty of evidence that once elephants are trapped inside the tourist camps where they’ll toil until they die, mahouts (handlers) armed with bullhooks—these resemble a fireplace poker with a sharp hook on one end—force them to trudge up and down the same path hauling tourists on their backs, even when they develop painful foot, leg, and back problems. And tourists have seen what results when a stressed, frustrated elephant tries to fight back.