The agonising blows that expose the evil secrets of Thailand's elephant tourism con: The Duchess of Cornwall's brother tells how baby elephants


Broken spirit: A helpless baby elephant endures a brutal ritual to prepare it for sale

There are few things more adorable than a baby elephant.
Little more than 3ft tall and naturally curious, they are the undisputed stars of the scores of elephant camps created in the forests of Thailand to offer tourists the opportunity to get close to the world’s largest land animals.
For many of the 850,000 Britons who go on holiday to Thailand every year, a trip to an elephant park is an unmissable part of their trip.

Campaigning: Mark Shand pictured in the late Eighties with an Asian elephant called

While some are doing good work, the vast majority of elephant camps are commercial enterprises, making money from tourists keen to have their photos taken with the young ones, bathing with the elephants or riding them, or watching them paint.
Some camps even dress up their elephants and have them perform unnatural and demeaning tricks, all in the name of entertainment.
But beyond the happy smiles of tourists posing with elephants, there is a hidden dark reality, of murder, smuggling and torture for the calves on show.

Cruel truth: A baby elephant makes an appealing photo for tourists in Thailand

The booming Thai tourist industry is fuelling a huge illegal trade in baby elephants that are taken from the wild in Burma, beaten, starved and tortured to break their spirit before being paraded in front of fee-paying holidaymakers.
The reports we have recently received indicate that at least 50 to 100 elephant calves are still being taken from the forests of Burma every year to supply the tourist camps.
Even worse, it is estimated that for every calf smuggled across the country’s 1,200-mile border with Thailand, up to five adult female and adolescent elephants from the calf’s immediate family group are gunned down in cold blood.

Support: Mark Shand helped launch a conservation charity a decade ago to save the Asian elephant

The forests of Burma are one of the last strongholds for Asian elephants and second only to India.
But such is the scale of the trade, it is thought that the endangered wild elephant population there – estimated at up to 5,000 individuals – could be wiped out or damaged beyond repair within ten years or so.

source: dailymail