A disturbing picture released by the Wildlife Friends Foundation (WFFT) in Thailand sheds light on the harsh realities of the tourism industry’s impact on elephants. The photo depicts Pai Lin, a 71-year-old female elephant whose spine has become permanently disfigured due to carrying tourists on her back for over 25 years.

Boon Chuey, is another of our rescued elephants who also has a damaged back / WFFT

According to Edwin Wiek, the director and founder of WFFT, Pai Lin arrived at the sanctuary in 2006 after being given up by her previous owner who found her too slow, in constant pain, and unable to work well anymore. Pai Lin’s story is not unique, as many elephants in the tourism industry are subjected to similar physical strain.

Tom Taylor, Project Director at WFFT, explained that elephants’ spines are not naturally designed to carry weight, despite their known strength and size. Constant pressure on their backbones from tourists can result in permanent physical damage, as seen in Pai Lin’s case.

A typical “howdah” – or seat – used for elephant rides

The issue of elephant abuse in the tourism industry has gained more attention in recent years, with many organizations advocating for responsible tourism practices that prioritize animal welfare. Elephants are not the only animals affected, as other species are also forced to perform or entertain tourists for profit.

Pai Lin’s story serves as a reminder of the devastating consequences of exploiting animals for human entertainment and emphasizes the importance of responsible tourism practices that prioritize the well-being of animals. It is up to travelers to make ethical choices and support responsible tourism that does not harm animals or contribute to their exploitation.

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