History of Elephants in Thailand
The Asian Elephant has been a mainstay in Thai culture for centuries through service to humans. After logging was banned by the Thai government in 1989, thousands of elephants were suddenly out of work. This led to their owners having to use them in new ways, and thus the elephant tourism industry began.
For the last 30 years, tourist venues have taken advantage in the shift of elephant use in Thailand, to the detriment of elephants' mental and physical health. Elephants suffer severely from a variety of mental and physical ailments in tourism settings where they are ridden, bathed, bred or forced to carry out unnatural behaviors.
When traveling on holiday in Thailand, tourists are usually unaware of the physical and mental health problems elephants face in captivity.
Health issues for elephants in captivity may include the following:
Skin disease due to poor diet, rubbing of chains and saddles, use of bullhooks and other tools to control them, frequent bathing in water and not being allowed to use mud to protect their skin
Blindness due to poor diet and abuse
Foot infections from standing on concrete and being unable to travel in natural settings
Physical injury in forced breeding activities and working in settings where their welfare is not a priority
Mental anguish due to not being allowed to behave as nature intended (e.g., foraging, socializing, traveling)