She was stolen from her family, who she'll never see again.
With news swirling in recent months about wild animals who have been plucked from their habitat simply to take selfies with, it’s no surprise that there has been another recorded incident of this nature involving a baby elephant.
Fortunately for Nang Chok, the baby elephant found parading tourists around the beach in Phuket, Thailand, was not killed by her abusers like many of the other animals were.
The 5-6 year-old gentle giant was originally stolen and smuggled from the Surin province, which is over 700 miles from where she was discovered giving rides and posing for photos. Thankfully, she had a microchip and it was able to lead authorities to her homeland.
An animal advocate living in Thailand, Vicki Kiely, told The Dodo,
“She’s been here a couple months for sure. She was there working all day and it has been 100 degrees or more some days.”
For elephants, being separated from other elephants is akin to torture because they are very intelligent and social animals. Even worse, female elephants like Nang Chok typically stay with their families for their whole lives when in the wild, which is something this baby will never be able to do now.
A 2010 report from World Animal Protection surveyed 1,688 captive elephants at 118 establishments across Thailand, a hot spot for elephant abuse, and found that most of the elephants used as tourist attractions were in terrible shape.
The report said,
“Elephants destined for the tourist industry experience great physical and mental trauma. Isolation, starving, hitting and beating are just some of the methods used to initially break their spirits and get them to behave and perform.”
This was confirmed by Kiely, who said this about Nang Chok:
“She is very gentle and well-behaved. But we know how they become so ‘well-behaved,’” indicating that Nang Chok likely experienced physical abuse to make her obedient after the shock of being stolen from her family.
This method is calling “training crush,” which is a way that elephants’ spirits are crushed to tame them for attractions and entertainment.
As for the baby’s captor, who led Nang Chok up and down the hot beach everyday by the ear, he is in custody for smuggling her from where she was born.
Though it’s remarkable that this baby girl survived this trauma, she’s not out of the woods yet. She is currently being cared for by the Phuket Provincial Livestock Office, where they will hold her for 30 days or until a suitable location has been chosen to transport her.
Kiely is worried that Nang Chok will end up in an elephant trekking camp, where she will again be forced to give rides to tourists, instead of a sanctuary where she can spend the rest of her long life. Advocates have rallied in support of sending her to a sanctuary.
“We get them out of one bad situation and too often they end up in another one — sometimes a worse one,” Kiely said.
We hope that Nang Chok not only gets the justice she deserves by convicting the man who smuggled her but that she also ends up at a sanctuary, where she belongs.
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