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Baby elephants tormented mercilessly in 'crush box' to break their spirit and train them for tourists

Wildlife tourism in Asian countries, especially Thailand, remains extremely popular but involves elephants being subjected to horrific torture

Elephants make for popular tourist attractions and are especially prevalent in Thailand, which boasts of a large native elephant population. They're incredibly intelligent animals who are dextrous, very perceptive to learning and capable of pulling off a wide array of stunning tricks. What many don't know, however, is the abuse and the torture they are subjected to by their trainers to break their spirit and terrify them into submission.

World Animal Protection (WAP), an international non-profit animal welfare organization, released a series of distressing videos that highlighted how these elephants that thousands pay to watch are stolen from the wild, bred in captivity and taught to be obedient. The victims, almost always, are the young calves because they are easier to train. One video shows some as young as one being torn away from their mothers, who can be heard crying and wailing as they watch these trainers, called "mahouts", take their baby away from them.

The mahouts can then be seen using hooks, sticks, and nails to hurt the calves, who are often bound, isolated and left without food and water. One technique to get them to submit involves chaining them by the neck and ankles to a "crush box," where the short ropes give them almost no mobility.

Another video shows some trainers washing the blood off from a calf's head after it was put through the ruthless regimen, at the end of which they will be expected to dance, play with hoops, carry people on their back, paint, and walk on just their hind legs for entertainment. 

(WARNING: DISTRESSING CONTENT) Watch the video of the elephants being trained here:


MEA WorldWide (MEAWW) had previously spoken to the People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) about some of the inhumane treatment the pachyderms undergo in several Asian countries, which are the largest promoters of these elephant camps. "The cruel phajaan ("breaking the love between") ritual is used to break baby elephants' spirits and force them to submit to humans," PETA said. "Still-nursing baby elephants are forcibly dragged from their mothers, bound with ropes and steel cables and immobilized in wooden cages."

"They're beaten mercilessly for days or even weeks at a time while being deprived of food, water, and sleep. Mahouts (handlers) may gouge them with bullhooks — weapons that resemble a fireplace poker with a sharp hook on one end — or with nail-studded sticks, and the babies panic, collapse in exhaustion, defecate in fear and scream out in terror and pain. Some do not survive, and those who do are forced to spend the rest of their lives in servitude."

WAP said it plans to "end elephant abuse forever" and is now working with tourist venues in Thailand to "transform venues into destinations that are elephant-friendly, creating habitats for elephants to live happy and healthy lives."

They said they were currently partnering with Happy Elephant Valley, now known as ChangChill, (meaning 'relaxed elephants' in Thai) to "support their transition from a camp that previously allowed tourists to ride, hug and bathe elephants, to becoming a truly elephant-friendly venue."