The moment two elephants have their saddles removed for the last time has been captured in a heartwarming short video.
The Thai elephants Jahn and Chok have spent their lives in captivity as trekking animals, working to carry paying customers as part of the country’s elephant tourism industry.
However, the film by World Animal Protection has documented their last rides and the moment the park where they live transitions to an ‘observation only’.
The Eco-tourism Koh Lanta venture previously offered elephant trekking to guests, but is now transitioning to a sanctuary where the animals will no longer be offered as entertainment for tourists.
Previously the Koh Lanta offered bathing experiences and direct interaction to tourists, as well as elephant rides. When not entertaining tourists, it was typical for the elephants to be chained up indoors, says World Animal Protection.
Jahn and Chok have spent 30 years logging and tourism.
But now they will go free as the attraction reforms its approach to animal welfare.
From now on visitors to the site – now called “Following Giants” – will be encouraged to watch and not touch the gentle animals.
“These elephants have suffered a lifetime of misery, both in logging and tourist entertainment industry. They have undergone the harsh training of the crush in order for them to be safe to interact with,” says World Animal Protection’s Audrey Mealia, the group’s global head of wildlife.
“Ventures like Following Giants and Chang Chill are transforming the lives of these elephants allowing them to behave naturally and socialise as they would do in the wild and give them a life worth living. Visitors also get to see how elephants behave in family groups and learn more about this endangered species.
“Venues that offer tourists a chance to watch elephants is genuine sanctuaries give us hope that we can encourage the urgently- needed shift in the captive elephant tourism industry.”
According to the group’s Taken for a Ride report Thailand was found to hold three quarters of captive Asian Elephants used for entertainment.
In spite of growing awareness of the animal welfare issues surrounding elephant riding – there has been a growth of 30% in the population of elephants in captivity.
Following Giants will be open from the end of the year as a place to observe free elephants in their natural habitat.