End the Suffering at Thailand's Surin Elephant Festival!

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Demand that Thailand's government take steps to end elephant exploitation at the world's largest elephant festival.

The illegal elephant trade is surging in Thailand, propelled by the tourism and entertainment industries. At the center of it all is the horrifying Surin Elephant Festival1.

Held annually, this deplorable spectacle serves as both a venue for the sale of illegally poached wild elephants, and a major tourist attraction. Once captured, these gregarious animals are confined, beaten, deprived of sleep and food, and ultimately "broken" for a lifetime of labor2. As many as 300 elephants per year shuffle through the festival grounds.

Worst of all, Surin's elephant trafficking hinges upon the illegal capture and sale of babies, torn from their mothers in the wild during the vitally important infancy period3.

Elephant labor is pivotal to the Thai economy4, making a blanket prohibition virtually impossible. Instead, we must offer economically and environmentally viable alternatives for the elephants and their handlers ("mahouts").

Join us in asking the Thai government to phase out the elephant entertainment industry by:

  1. Prohibiting the sale and trade of baby elephants at the Surin Elephant Festival, and
  2. Funding the maintenance and expansion of Elephant Nature Park, a nonprofit that creates sanctuaries in which elephants roam freely and their mahouts earn a living wage.

Compliance with each of these requests would not only create a real, long-term alternative to elephant exploitation, but also significantly slow the pace of trafficking in Thailand.

Even when elephants are saved from exploitative situations, turning them loose in the wild is not an option — there simply isn't enough habitat left for their basic survival. It is Elephant Nature Park's mission to give domesticated elephants a life worth living by preserving habitat, increasing public awareness of humane treatment practices, and keeping their mahouts employed — a winning scenario all around.

You can help save elephants in Thailand while supporting Elephant Nature Park's great work! Sign the petition below and demand the Surin Provincial Governor outlaw the sale of elephants at the Surin festival and expand the Elephant Nature Park!

More on this issue:

  1. Gillian Murdoch, Reuters (23 December 2007), "Fun is serious business as Asian elephants struggle to survive."
  2. Kate Good, One Green Planet (2014) "Why Elephant Trekking is Cruel, and Risks the Lives of Humans and Elephants."
  3. Neil Greenwood IFAW One Green Planet (2021), "How Tearing Elephant Calves From Their Mothers for Captivity Impacts the Wild Herd."
  4. Richard C. Paddock and Muktita Suhartono, New York Times (24 March 2020), "As Tourism Plummets in Thailand, Elephants Are Out of Work, Too."
  5. Food and Agriculture Organization of the United States, "The elephant situation in Thailand and a plea for co-operation - Roger Lohanan."
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The Petition:

Dear Surin Provincial Governor,

For years, we have been heartbroken to watch as hundreds, if not thousands, of innocent, healthy elephants are torn from their habitats, confined, beaten, and "broken" in the name of entertainment at the Surin Elephant Festival.

Not only are Surin's performances inhumane and abusive, the elephant trafficking that this event encourages hinges upon the illegal capture and sale of wild calves, separated from their mothers during the vitally important infancy period.

We would, of course, love to see this exploitative festival put to an end, but we understand that this situation is complex. A blanket ban would leave hundreds of elephants homeless and even more mahouts out of work, not to mention do nothing to shrink the role of elephant labor in the Thai economy.

We therefore propose a two-part solution that's a win-win for all parties. We urge that you:

  1. Outlaw the sale of all baby elephants, wild or domesticated, at the Surin Festival. In the short term, this will ensure calves stay with their mothers in the wild until they are fully weaned (around age 10). In the long term, this will greatly reduce the number of trafficked elephants in general, as adults are significantly more difficult to capture than calves.
  2. Begin endorsing the maintenance and expansion of Elephant Nature Park. If supported, Elephant Nature Park sanctuaries can provide employment for mahouts, as well as healthy, happy living conditions for retired elephants.

Compliance with these requests will not only create a sustainable alternative to elephant exploitation, but also significantly slow the pace of trafficking in Thailand, and potentially phase it out completely.

With as few as 900 wild elephants left in Thailand, the time to take action is now. Please commit to ending elephant exploitation before it's too late.


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