Published on : Friday, January 10, 2020
Detached from their mothers, poked with metal hooks, and sometimes not giving enough of food – many Thai elephants are tamed by compulsion before being sold to profitable tourism sites more and more advertised as “sanctuaries” to cruelty-conscious travelers.
Balanced dangerously on hind legs, two-year-old Ploy holds a ball in her trunk and throws it to a ring, one of many tricks she is learning in Ban Ta Klang, a traditional training village in the east.
Here young elephants are “broken” to act together with tens of millions of tourists pouring into this country every year, many keen to capture social media-worthy encounters of the kingdom’s national animal playing sports, dancing and even painting.
Villagers in Ban Ta Klang who have been working closely with the large, gentle animals for several years say that taming is essential for safety reasons and that the force is not excessive.
“We do not raise them to hurt them… if they are not stubborn, we do nothing to them,” said mahout Charin, as he stroked Ploy’s head warmly and spoke of her as part of his family.
In a month, Charin makes about US$350 (RM1,435) in a profession that was handed down from his father and grandfather.
“I have always lived with them,” he added.