Add video (the camp after the elephants were found chained to poles and authorities investigated) : https://www.dropbox.com/s/gey1xwkoac7iqxk/VRP41331.mp4?dl=0
Harrowing pictures show emaciated elephants tied by their necks to metal poles before they were finally rescued at an animal camp in Thailand.
The jumbos were discovered by shocked tourists visiting the centre offering elephant rides and shows at the Chang Puak Camp in Ratchaburi province on June 15.
The three elephants identified as Plai See Dor Thong Pool, 15, Plai Boon Mee, 15, and Plai Kham Kaew, 45, were so week they had to be held up by chains around their necks attached to the rusty poles.
They are believed to have been suffering from neglect after the Covid-19 pandemic killed international tourism in Thailand – decimating up to 20 per cent of the country’s GDP.
After being reported to authorities, officers from the Department of Livestock Development (DLD) went to the camp and rescued the animals on June 18.
A DLD spokesman said: ‘We visited the camp after receiving reports to confirm and saw the animals tied using chains. We are now investigating the mahouts why they had to do that.
‘We have also warned them not to repeat it or they could be charged with violation of our animal protection laws.’
Camp official and mahout Thavorn Parnkaew apologised after the incident and denied that they were being cruel to the animals.
He said ‘Many of our mahouts were laid off because of the Covid-19. The camp could not shoulder the cost of paying them while sustaining food for the elephants so we had to retrench some of them.
‘We now face a shortage of mahouts to take care of the elephants so we had to chain them for safety concerns. We always take good care of them like our family.
‘We apologise and will instruct all of our mahouts at the camp not to tie the elephants b their necks again. We hope for everyone’s understanding.’
Elephants are the national animal of Thailand. An estimated 2,000 elephants are living in the wild and a similar number in captivity.
In the wild, they roam through the deep jungle and in the country’s protected national parks but often encounter humans on roads and in villages. However, they are protected by laws and killing them carries a maximum prison term of up to three years and a fine of 1,000 baht (25GBP).
Animal rights groups such as People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) have campaigned extensively for the country to ban the use of elephants in the tourist industry.
The organisation’s Asia boss Jason Barker said: ‘ ‘Elephant camps, which have profited from elephant suffering for decades, should rehome elephants at reputable sanctuaries like BLES immediately before they die from neglect and starvation.
‘Elephants like this emaciated one are living a life of torment for Thailand’s ‘entertainment’ industry. The COVID-19 pandemic is a chance for any facility that exploits elephants and other animals for profit to reflect on what the future holds.
‘There is a growing recognition that elephant rides, forcing elephants to perform other ‘tricks’, and keeping them captive for profit is ethically indefensible. PETA urges everyone who genuinely cares about elephants to never support any facility that exploits these majestic animals and instead donate to campaigns that actually protect elephants in their native habitats.’