A heartbreaking photo has surfaced of an elephant who has suffered severe physical harm from carrying tourists on its back for 25 years in Thailand’s trekking industry.
The Wildlife Friends Foundation in Thailand (WFFT) recently released an image of Pai Lin, a 71-year-old female elephant who has been left with a disfigured spine after being made to carry up to six people at a time.
The picture shows the sunken spine of the elephant, which should have rounded into a dome shape, but instead, it visibly caves inwards due to the weight it has carried over the years.
Thankfully, Pai Lin has now found refuge at the WFFT’s sanctuary, where she lives alongside 22 other rescued elephants.
The exploitation of elephants for tourism purposes is prevalent in many Asian countries, including Thailand.
Campaign groups, such as WFFT, have been advocating for the end of this practice, citing that the continuous pressure on the animal’s body can cause irreversible physical damage.
WFFT’s Project Director, Tom Taylor, explains that while elephants are known for their strength and size, their spines are not naturally designed to carry weight, making them vulnerable to permanent physical damage.
In contrast, the sanctuary offers Pai Lin and other rescued elephants a chance to live the rest of their lives in peace, free from abuse.
The WFFT hopes that the poignant image of Pai Lin’s deformed back will encourage tourists to choose ethical and sustainable sanctuaries over exploitative trekking industries, helping to protect elephants from the suffering and harm they endure to satisfy human entertainment.