An elephant is a toy for wildlife tourism in Thailand

By Claire Guillot

Posted on August 24, 2021 at 11:59 PM – Updated on August 30, 2021 at 12:36 PM.

It was not difficult for Kirsten Luce, a photojournalist who covers topics such as illegal immigration to the United States, to take this photo taken in Thailand in 2018: we see such scenes everywhere on social media. In this hilarious and animated picture, two baby elephants bathe in the sea, surrounded by them. maquts (“Trainers”), along with a family of British tourists, in beachwear and all smiles, are happy from the moment of this crime. In the background, the island of Phuket has a view of paradise, hills and lagoon-blue waters …

“I could take a picture without attracting attention, Confirm Kirsten Luce, Because everyone was doing the same thing on this beach called Lucky Beach. Tourists lined up to go swimming with elephants and paid about $ 20. ” Among them are Westerners who come with their families, as well as Chinese couples who want to pose with an elephant. The site does not appear in official tourist guides. But Kirsten Luce didn’t need to look far to find him: “People are geolocation! They take a picture of themselves and immediately post it on Instagram. “

“From 2014 to 2019, the number of selfies with animals on social networks increased by almost 300%,” explains Natasha Dali, a correspondent for National Geographic.

The photographer describes the pleasant atmosphere prevailing there. “These tourists really love animals and believe that this is a positive experience for elephants … This is probably one of the most original moments of their trip to Thailand. To be honest, I don’t think anyone is insured against such naivety. ” Because the reality behind the lack of smiles and violence is more worrying.

Tourists do not notice that these young elephants are being domesticated in order to be so obedient and to pose with them without endangering people. Separated from their mothers from an early age, handcuffed and locked in a small cage for days, they are beaten until they are terrified and are regularly stabbed with a metal hook: known in Thailand as the ancestral technique. phajaan, A word meaning “to crush” and to break the will of elephants in order to subdue them.

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