Memories of abuse: The life of an elephant in wildlife tourism

22 May 2018

The saying that ‘an elephant never forgets’ is one backed by considerable science. Sadly, for many elephants held captive in wildlife tourism venues across Bali, their memories are traumatic ones.

World Animal Protection inspected a total of 26 wildlife tourism venues across Bali and observed 62 elephants. What we found was some of the worst animal welfare we have seen in the region.  

No life for wild elephants

None of the venues observed that housed elephants met even the most basic needs of wild animals in captivity. Vet care was insufficient or non-existent – meaning injured and sick animals were left untreated for lengthy periods of time.

Elephants are kept in extreme restraint on short chains when not being used for rides and shows. Used to travelling in large herds through the wild, these barren and isolated enclosures are a far cry from their natural habitat.     

Elephants are put through a brutal training process known as ‘the crush’ to make them ‘safe’ to interact with tourists. This process lasts anywhere between a few days to a few months. Bull hooks are used to force elephants to carry tourists on their backs and perform unnatural tricks for crowds. 

Pictured: Bull hook used in 'training'

15% of all elephants displayed unnatural behaviours such as head swaying and foot shuffling. Both signs of lasting psychological damage.  

There's no excuse. It's abuse.

Elephant rides and shows are just some of the cruel wildlife attractions observed as part of our investigation. 

As a good rule of thumb – if you can ride, hug, or have a selfie with a wild animal, then it’s cruel, so don’t do it. 

Be part of the solution

Removing tourist demand for cruel wildlife rides, shows and selfies is vital.

You can be part of the solution by making ethical travel choices and boycotting wildlife abusement parks and the travel companies that promote them.

Add your name and make the committment now. Avoid wildlife abusement parks and boycott the travel companies that promote them. 

If you can ride, hug, or have a selfie with a wild animal, then it’s cruel, so don’t do it.