Training starts at a young age, when calves are traumatically separated from their mothers, subjected to cruel training, and often confined in deplorable conditions. Handlers rely on the bullhook (or ankus) – a menacing weapon resembling a fireplace poker with a sharpened steel tip – to establish control of an elephant and instill fear of painful punishment with the device (pictured). Even so, elephants have lashed out and killed tourists and handlers.
Elephant tourism is found in various countries, including India, Thailand, Africa, and the U.S. Until last year, the elephant tourism industry was booming in Thailand, where an increasing number of elephants were being produced to meet demand for this highly profitable business sector. (Some calves are still taken from the wild, despite the highly endangered status of Asian elephants.) The COVID-19 pandemic exposed how unsustainable the industry is, when elephants were going unfed after tourists disappeared.
At facilities in the U.S., elephants perform circus-style tricks, paint, and pose for photos with paying customers – while under the control of bullhook wielding handlers. There are virtually no protections for the public. Despite their claims, these places have no true education or conservation value. They exist purely for people’s entertainment – and for profit. (See PAWS’ previous article on elephant tourism in the U.S. here.)
There is nothing humane about interacting with captive elephants. These highly intelligent, emotionally complex, and self-aware animals deserve our respect and protection.
That’s why PAWS wants your pledge to:
NEVER ride an elephant in another country or at home – or at a fair or circus.
NEVER pet, bathe, or participate in an up-close photo op with an elephant.
NEVER patronize places where elephants perform tricks.
You can take action to end this terrible exploitation of elephants.
Visit PAWS’ Take the Pledge! site and find out what the elephant tourism industry doesn’t want you to know.
Sign PAWS' petition and make your pledge official! Share the petition widely!
Make a donation to PAWS so we can continue our work to eradicate elephant exploitation and care for the seven rescued or retired elephants at our ARK 2000 sanctuary.
Share this information with friends, family and colleagues.
If you plan to travel overseas, only support facilities that provide observation-only experiences with high quality elephant care. Check out World Animal Protection’s Elephant-Friendly Checklist of facilities in Thailand, Cambodia and Nepal. (No U.S. facility meets their standards.)