Save Rani The Captive Elephant In Sri Lanka

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Rani is a captive elephant working as a trekking elephant in the tourism industry in Habarana, Sri Lanka. She spends her days behind a large hotel in Habarana Village, where she gives rides to tourists. Rani's life and the life of all trekking elephants, is one of misery and abuse. Last week an 18 year old male trekking elephant nicknamed "Kan Kota" in Ratnapura, Sri Lanka, literally dropped dead at the end of the day after giving three long consecutive safari rides.

Here are ten reasons why riding an elephant is cruel, and why Rani and the rest of the trekking elephants in Sri Lanka should be retired.

1. When they’re babies, elephants are taken from their mothers and families in the wild. Because they have a high sale value, not only are babies illegally captured, their protective mothers are also often killed as they try to save them.

2. “Training” begins immediately. The babies are tied down and beaten with bull hooks and other instruments designed to inflict pain until their spirits are broken and they’re willing to obey their “trainers” to avoid pain. Researchers have found that elephants who are subjected to this “breaking” or “crush” process often develop post-traumatic stress disorder that lasts a lifetime.

3. All captive elephants including trekking elephants, are controlled with sharp bull hooks which are painful and can cause wounds.

4. Elephants in nature live in matriarchal herds in which they forage for fresh vegetation, play, bathe in rivers, and travel many miles a day. Held in captivity, they can move only in small circles in an arena or along a short path while carrying humans on their backs, even on the hottest days. They must also carry tourists on hot tarred roads which is painful and bad for their feet.

5. When they aren’t working, the animals are usually kept in sheds or shacks—often with concrete floors that damage their feet and legs—and they’re bound by chains that can be so tight they can barely move.

6. Captive elephants are routinely denied nutritious food, adequate water, and needed veterinary care, especially for their feet. They are overworked and can become dehydrated and die.

7. The heavy seats or howdahs are tied tightly the to elephant's body with rope. Many times the ropes cause rope burn and open wounds from rubbing against the skin.

8. Denied everything that gives their lives meaning, elephants sometimes reach their breaking point and rampage, injuring and even killing those around them. In 2016, for example, a Scottish man vacationing in Thailand was killed and his 16-year-old daughter was injured when an elephant they were riding lashed out. According to World Animal Protection, “Between 2010 and 2016 in Thailand alone, 17 fatalities and 21 serious injuries to people by captive elephants were reported in the media. Unreported incidences involving local elephant keepers are likely to make this figure much higher.”

9. Because public awareness of cruelty to captive elephants has increased, many attractions are trying to dupe tourists by adding words such as “sanctuary,” “rescue center,” “refuge,” and “retirement facility” to their names. But the abusive training methods and deprivation are often the same and make the elephants follow the trainers’ commands to let people ride, feed, touch, or bathe them.

10. An elephant's vertebrae point up instead of laying flat. As a result, carrying the heavy weight of people on its back causes pain and can cause painful arthritis.

We are asking the Minister of Tourism to help Rani and all other elephants in the tourism industry by putting an end to trekking and opening a sanctuary where they can retire to. It's a huge request but the time has come to change. Ethical tourism is the wave of the future. Sri Lanka is a country that is built on tourism and tourism is starting to drop because Sri Lanka is getting a reputation for animal cruelty. It's time Sri Lanka turn things around so it can be a shining example to the rest of the world of how tourism ought to be.