For everyone’s sake, let’s hope “elephlying” doesn’t take off as a cultural phenomenon.
An American visitor to Thailand, Whitney Lavaux, received an unpleasant surprise while trying to wash an elephant in Chiang Mai: The powerful mammal sent her soaring through the air.
Thankfully, she escaped without any serious injury, and in a lighthearted manner, she named her newfound activity “elephlying.” Hopefully, though, she understands that her day could have gone far worse.
Many people—including children—have been injured after stressed, traumatized elephants have snapped and run amok. In 2016, a Scottish man was trampled to death and his 16-year-old daughter was severely injured during an elephant ride in Thailand. Later that year, a woman died after an elephant picked her up with his trunk, threw her to the ground, and crushed her. These are just two examples of the many injurious incidents involving frustrated captive elephants.
TripAdvisor, the world’s largest travel site, no longer sells tickets to encounters in which wild animals are forced to come into direct contact with the public—including elephant rides, tiger encounters, and “swim with dolphins” excursions. These encounters put wild and endangered animals (and travelers!) at risk.
What You Can Do
The uptick in public knowledge about the cruelty of elephant rides and attractions has affected how facilities market such encounters. The best way to be sure that you’re not supporting an industry of abuse and exploitation is to stay away from elephant encounters that promote human contact altogether. Instead, go on safaris in which elephants are free to roam in their natural environment and vet any sanctuary before visiting.