An Elephant Never Forgets

Following on from our post about elephant cruelty, we were made aware of a few recent incidents that highlighted how these harmful acts continue to affect elephants, even after their spirits have been ‘crushed’.


(Image from Pixabay)

Less than a month ago, there were reports of an incident in Thailand where a mahout (elephant trainer) was attacked and killed by a male elephant at an elephant camp. The elephant apparently went into a rage after being unchained from a wooden post that he was tethered to at the camp.

An elephant never forgets. It’s an age old saying that actually rings true, with research finding that elephants have exceptionally solid memories. We’ll never know what was going on in the elephant’s mind when he attacked his mahout, but maybe it had something to do with the pain he endured while being ‘trained’.

Earlier this year, an elderly female elephant collapsed and died from exhaustion after carrying tourists around the Angkor Wat temple complex in Cambodia. Veterinarians concluded that the death was caused by excessive work in hot temperatures, leading to stress, shock, high blood pressure and a heart attack.

It would be inhumane to work a person to exhaustion in hot climates, so why is it ok that we do it to animals?

For a more in-depth look into elephants within the tourism industry and how they’re treated, you can watch a free documentary online that uncovers the gory details, aptly named An Elephant Never Forgets.

There’s Nothing #SoHipster About ‘Renting’ an Animal

So a couple of days ago, one of our team members was scrolling through Facebook and passing the time, when she happened upon some photos of her friend riding an elephant in Cambodia. Of course, she was horrified. She thought he knew better than to participate in an animal attraction. And then, she was insulted. Insulted because he chose to caption his set of photos with “Why rent a car when you can rent an elephant #DoingItLocal #EcoFriendly #SoHipster”, as seen below.


Naturally, we here at Fatal Animal Attractions were enraged. Riding an elephant DOES NOT qualify you as being a ‘local’ – there is nothing local or native about mounting these wild animals. It is also definitely NOT #EcoFriendly because riding on the backs of elephants, especially those that have chairs saddled onto them, is not an act of friendship, but rather one of enslavement. According to Elephant Aid International, elephants are not anatomically designed to carry weight on their back. The weight of carrying tourists and mahouts (trainers) on their back has the ability to cause long-term damage on their spine. As well as wearing down the tissue and bones on an elephant’s back, the chairs they carry can also damage their skin and cause painful lesions on the elephant’s body.


(These screenshots were taken with permission from the original user. The identities of the individuals have been removed for anonymity and privacy concerns.)

So please, don’t be a fool and think that riding an elephant makes you environmentally friendly and #SoHipster with your 52 likes. If you really want to be a local, rent a bike and explore the areas around town. Don’t rent an elephant, because they are not ours to rent!

Update 19/9/16: After speaking to the original user who posted these photos, he has since edited his post to mention that he was unaware of the pain and circumstances that occurred in training the elephant to be ‘tame’ enough to ride.

The Unspoken Cruelty Behind Elephant Attractions

It’s hard to find someone who doesn’t love elephants. There’s just something about these giant, gentle creatures that has us mesmerised. The image of sitting on the back of an animal of such an immense size as they wander through the wild jungle, the ability to say “I rode an elephant” and have the photos to prove it, is what makes many people put going on an “elephant ride” on their to-do list. But elephant rides and attractions do not belong on anybody’s to-do list, or bucket list for that matter.

South-East Asia has always been a popular destination choice for Australians – its proximity, its culture, and the exchange rate are all reasons for choosing the region as your next holiday stop.


Elephants are ingrained into Thai culture (Image from Pixabay)

Elephants play a huge part of South-East Asian culture, particularly in Thailand. As the country’s national symbol, elephants are essential to Thailand’s tourist trade, and it’s nearly impossible to go on a holiday in Thailand without being exposed to some form of elephant experience being on offer, from treks to shows, all of which allow people to have an up-close interaction with the friendly giants.

We’re shown the glamour of the attractions, but what many don’t realise is the amount of work and torture that has gone into making an elephant ‘safe’ for human interaction.

[WARNING: The following contains graphic descriptions of animal abuse]

Often taken from their families at a young age, elephants are placed in small wooden enclosures, referred to as “the crush” since it’s designed to ‘crush’ their spirit. Diana from D’s Travels Round describes the abused elephants as having their wrists and ankles bound tightly, before being hurt with knives and other sharp objects in their most sensitive bodily areas (ears, eyes, feet, trunk, just to name a few). During the days that this process occurs, the baby elephants are deprived of sleep and water, beaten and bloodied until they learn how to accept human commands. Sadly, many elephants do not survive the process, and at the end of it all, the ones who have survived are ‘trained’, but broken – their ties to their family are gone, and they become slaves for human entertainment.

Elephants belong in the wild, not at an attraction or a camp, for the purpose of making profit.

You can help end the promotion of unfair wildlife venues by filling out Animal Australia’s online form today, asking Flight Centre to stop offering tours that include animal attractions.

Think Twice Before Your Next Holiday Selfie!


“If you can hug it, ride it, or take a selfie with it in a close encounter, chances are that animal has been suffering and been subject to cruelty” – Nicole Beynon, WAP head of campaigns told the ABC.

So now that we’ve established that there is something cruel going on behind the scenes of these animal attractions, it’s time for us to ask you a question: are you actually funding the problem?

We’re not trying to point fingers. But we do want you to have a long, hard think about that time you might have paid to go and see an animal show. Yes, that includes the elephant show in Thailand you saw that one time on your holiday. Sorry to say, but your hard earned Aussie cash most likely went to hurting the poor animal.

There’s absolutely no judgment here – we’re just trying to spread the information. After all, many visitors of these animal attractions do so because of reviews and ratings they’ve seen online, for example on TripAdvisor. This billion dollar company’s influence over the tourism industry is insane, just Google “things to do in [insert country here]” and you’ll immediately stumble across it. However, it continues to promote and sell tickets (via their subsidiary, Viator) to some of the world’s cruelest wildlife entertainment attractions.

World Animal Protection have set up a petition to call for TripAdvisor to stop the promoting these attractions through their ticket sales and popularity indexes, and introduce a program to help travellers make more informed choices.

Since WAP released their findings on harmful animal tourism, over 100 travel companies worldwide have agreed to stop offering tours to venues with elephant rides and shows. This includes several Australian companies such as Adventure Tours Australia, APT and Intrepid Travel (hats off to you guys!).

So next time you’re trying to think of what to do on your next holiday, we’re begging you to stay off TripAdvisor and search a little bit deeper on Google for some friendly, ethical fun!

Do your research and you’ll be doing no harm, to humans as well as animals.


The Terrible Truth About Animal Attractions

550,000. That’s how many animals are suffering around the world in tourist attractions at this very moment. But the scary thing isn’t just that these defenceless animals are being mistreated and abused, it’s also the fact that we, as tourists, as people even, don’t seem to question what goes in to ‘train’ and ‘tame’ a wild animal enough to allow us to ride them, hold them, or take a photo with them.

All too often, we turn a blind eye on issues that aren’t standing right in front us. We might see an elephant, saddled up and seemingly ready to be ridden. What we don’t seem to think about is: how did it get there? World Animal Protection reported that 80% of tourists are unaware of the cruelty involved behind the scenes of wildlife venues.

Question what's in front of you

(Image taken from ABC News)

Animals are not actors, and do not deserve to be imprisoned and made a spectacle for human entertainment. Unfortunately, thousands of these animals are forced to perform tricks for audiences, are kept chained or caged in unhygienic and barren enclosures, are often separated from their family and friends, and, as PETA states, many of these animals even pay with their lives. All this suffering endured by animals, often for the sake of a photo for selfish purposes.

September is World Animal Remembrance Month. So here at Fatal Animal Attractions, we’re taking the time to delve deeper into the harsh reality facing animals in the tourism industry. It’s a time to respect and acknowledge animal victims of abuse, cruelty and neglect.

Instead of asking ‘why is this happening’, we’re choosing to focus on ‘stop this from happening’ by educating you and keeping you well informed about what your hard earned money is actually supporting when you visit these animal attractions overseas.

We’re asking you to put aside your desire for a ‘cool’ photo that will get likes from your friends, and instead, put the life of the animal at the forefront of your mind.