Tourists may not be aware of the damage they can cause when riding elephants, an example of which is depicted in this image from a Thai wildlife rescue group.
The Wildlife Friends Foundation in Thailand (WFFT) produced a photo of Pai Lin, a 71-year-old whose spine has been deformed due to her 25 years of working in the tourism business, during which she was compelled to bear the weight of up to six visitors.
In 2006, Pai Lin was come to our sanctuary. Her prior owner gave her up, as she was too slow and always uncomfortable and unable to work adequately anymore.
The strength and size of elephants are widely known, however, their spines naturally curve upwards and are not intended for carrying weight. When tourists persistently create strain on their backs, it can cause permanent damage, which we see in Pai Lin.
Elephant rides are a popular tourist activity in countries across Southeast Asia, yet the practice is a form of animal cruelty as their bodies are not constructed to be ridden. Moreover, the animals are commonly abused and exploited in other industries like trekking and logging, with many perishing from exhaustion and malnutrition as they are overworked to the point of death.
It is essential to grasp that elephants, in contrast to horses, are not bred to be ridden. Elephants are not tame animals and are taken from their natural habitat, and kept in deplorable conditions.
Sharing a shelter with 24 other rescued elephants near Hua Hin, a coastal town 2.5 hours from Bangkok, is Pai Lin. She's healthier than when she first arrived, though her spine's shape is still obvious. It's a permanent abnormality, but she is doing remarkably well.