Pulverized Elephant Handler a Reminder Never to Ride an Elephant

Published by Zachary Toliver.

An elephant—forced to give rides at Zimbabwe’s Victoria Falls National Park—was shot dead by park authorities after crushing a seasoned handler to a pulp.

Elephants Mbanje and a female companion named Nkanyezi were out grazing when elephant handler Enock Kufandada attempted to corral him into a pen. The animal then charged after the man. The enormous bull elephant—who had been forced to give rides earlier in the day—crushed him to death.

No one reportedly saw the trampling, but people in close proximity to the incident heard screams and the trumpeting of an elephant. Mbanje was later seen walking down a road covered with blood. According to local reports, Kufandada’s son later visited the horrific scene to help pick up his father’s scattered body parts.

Before his death, Kufandada had two other dangerous run-ins with Mbanje. For more than a decade, he worked for the tour operator Adventure Zone, bringing in countless tourists for rides on elephants. The company promotes these encounters as a chance for tourists to “get close to these giants and interact with them.”

Elephants in the tourism trade are regularly beaten with bullhooks, bound with ropes or shackles, and worked to exhaustion.

The only way to force elephants to give rides, paint pictures, juggle, or perform other demeaning tricks is through violence and domination. Under these conditions, it’s no surprise when an elephant finally breaks and strikes back.

Glynis Vaughan, chief inspector of the Zimbabwe National Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, told The Telegraph that captive elephants used by tourist companies have killed numerous people in recent years.

“We should not be surprised when there are tragedies after elephants are captured in the wild when they are young, and taken from their families,” Vaughan said. “Teaching a young elephant to get on to its knees so that people can mount it is vicious, it’s cruel.”

To train baby elephants to be subservient in the tourism industry, they’re often forcibly separated from their mothers, tied down and immobilized with ropes, and struck and jabbed with bullhooks—sharp weapons resembling fireplace pokers—until their spirits are broken.

How many lives must be lost before we shun these dangerous encounters?

Many people—including children—have been injured or killed after stressed, traumatized elephants have snapped and run amok. People have been crushed in front of family members, thrown into the air, and picked up and trampled by elephants finally pushed to the brink.

Often, the elephants in these stories are punished or killed for trying to stop the torment in the only way they know how.

Help Us End Elephant Rides

Public opposition to using animals for human entertainment is stronger than it’s ever been. But a handful of companies still continue to endorse the beating, prodding, and abuse of elephants by offering rides on them. Stand with PETA today and help us end elephant rides around the world.

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“Almost all of us grew up eating meat, wearing leather, and going to circuses and zoos. We never considered the impact of these actions on the animals involved. For whatever reason, you are now asking the question: Why should animals have rights?” READ MORE

— Ingrid E. Newkirk, PETA President and co-author of Animalkind