Sunday, July 22, 2012

The agonising blows that expose the evil secrets of Thailand's elephant tourism con

There are few things more adorable than a baby elephant.

Little more than 3ft tall and naturally curious, they are the undisputed stars of the scores of elephant camps created in the forests of Thailand to offer tourists the opportunity to get close to the world’s largest land animals.

For many of the 850,000 Britons who go on holiday to Thailand every year, a trip to an elephant park is an unmissable part of their trip.

While some are doing good work, the vast majority of elephant camps are commercial enterprises, making money from tourists keen to have their photos taken with the young ones, bathing with the elephants or riding them, or watching them paint.

Some camps even dress up their elephants and have them perform unnatural and demeaning tricks, all in the name of entertainment.

But beyond the happy smiles of tourists posing with elephants, there is a hidden dark reality, of murder, smuggling and torture for the calves on show.

The booming Thai tourist industry is fuelling a huge illegal trade in baby elephants that are taken from the wild in Burma, beaten, starved and tortured to break their spirit before being paraded in front of fee-paying holidaymakers. Read More