Each year, millions of tourists flock to Thailand in the hopes of interacting with Asian elephants. Popular tourist encounters include everything from taking selfies with calves to riding on an elephant in the jungle. Tragically, these “entertaining” endeavors often lead tourists to believe that these excursions are normal and somehow acceptable. Most tourists are unaware of the abuse elephants face when in captivity but considering how endangered Asian elephants are, the facade needs to end now. Between poaching, the tourism industry, and habitat loss, both African and Asian elephants are in danger of becoming extinct within our lifetimes.
According to the National Geographic, the median lifespan of a zoo-born female is just 17 years with Asian elephants living up to 19 years in captivity and 42 in the wild. If that’s not telling, we don’t know what is – but it comes as little surprise as wild elephants form close relationships with other family members. Calves will stay with their mothers for around 16 years, but the elephant tourism business shatters this bond at the ripe age of six months. The fulfilling life these animals lead in the wild makes any captive scenario seem unbearable.
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