An aged elephant, aged 71, is suffering from a spinal deformity while carrying tourists.

by johnsmith

PaiLin, a 71-year-old elephant in Thailand, has carried tourists on his back for 25 years, resulting in a deformation of his spine. Unlike a normal elephant, PaiLin’s spine is concave and his back is sunken. The elephant’s case highlights the problem of elephant exploitation in Thailand’s mountain tourism industry.

A 71-Year-Old Elephant Carrying Tourists With A Deformed Spine

The weight of up to six tourists, plus a day’s worth of handlers and chairs for guests, can cause permanent damage to the elephant’s bones and tissues, leading to spinal degeneration and deformities. PaiLin’s back is also scarred from the howdah used to carry tourists.

Wildlife Friends of Thailand (WFFT) has rescued many elephants, including PaiLin, who have suffered similar abuse for decades. Tom Taylor, WFFT’s project manager, explains that while elephants are known for their strength and size, their bones and back structure cannot handle such weight.
A 71-ყεɑɾ-σɭɖ Elephant "carried" Tourists For 25 Years With A Sunken Back And A Deformed Spine.

To prevent further exploitation of elephants, WFFT recommends supporting sustainable, ethical elephant sanctuaries and avoiding places that offer elephant rides or other similar practices. However, Thai elephants continue to be used for entertainment purposes, with the industry estimated to be worth more than $500 million annually before the pandemic.

Meanwhile, Asian elephants, the largest land mammal in Asia, are critically endangered with fewer than 52,000 remaining in the wild. They are important herbivores that help disperse seeds during their movement and support the creation of gaps in dense rainforests, allowing sunlight to reach saplings and vegetation. NGOs advocate for the release of these animals into the wild, but the Thai government has yet to take action.

A Rescued Elephant at Wildlife Friends of Thailand

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