Female elephant is left with a deformed back after carrying six tourists on her back for 25 years in Thailand
- Pai Lin has a deformed spine after decades of transporting tourists
- In the rather poignant photo, the elephant’s back visibly sinks inwards
A chilling image shows the extreme long-term damage an elephant can do after years of carrying tourists on its back.
Animal group Wildlife Friends Foundation in Thailand (WFFT) has released a photo of 71-year-old Pai Lin, a female elephant who has a deformed spine after carrying tourists for decades.
In some cases, the elderly elephant was made to carry six people at a time.
In the rather poignant photo, the elephant’s back visibly sinks inwards. Where the back should curve to form an almost domed shape, the spine comes in and has sunk after decades of enormous weight-bearing.
Pai Lin worked in the trekking industry in Thailand for 25 years but has now found refuge in the facility of the Wildlife Friends Foundation Thailand.
The rather harrowing photo shows the back of the Pai Lin visibly caved in after decades of carrying tourists
Riding elephants is an incredibly popular tourist activity in countries like Thailand where Asian elephants are abundant. This also makes it incredibly lucrative work for trekking companies.
Campaigning groups such as WFFT have long campaigned to prevent local tourist businesses from using the animals. They believe the practice exploits elephants.
“Elephants used for trekking often spend entire days carrying the weight of their mahout (handler), groups of tourists and a heavy howdah (chair,” the animal campaign group said.
“This constant pressure on their bodies can erode the tissue and bones on their backs, causing irreversible damage to their spines.
“Pai Lin’s back still bears scars from old pressure points.”
The 71-year-old elephant was rescued from the trekking industry in Thailand by WFFT in 2007.
She is now known as the grandmother of the 22 other elephants living in the reserve.
Elephants like Pai Lin live in the animal group’s enclosures that stretch to 44 acres across and are filled with trees and lakes for them to play in.
Where the back should curve to form an almost domed shape (pictured), Pai Lin’s spine pokes inward and has sunken after decades of enormous weight-bearing
The group said they hoped this stark image would encourage tourists not to participate in exploitative trekking industries and instead choose to support ethical and sustainable sanctuaries
Tom Taylor, the WFFT’s project director, said: ‘While elephants are known for their strength and size, their backs are not naturally designed to support weight, as their spines extend upwards.
“Continued pressure on their spines from tourists can lead to permanent physical damage, which can be seen in our gentle Pai Lin.”
“Most of the rescued elephants here at WFFT have endured decades of abuse,” the group said.
“While we have never been able to comprehend the trauma these animals have suffered in the past, at least now they can live in peace in our shelter for the rest of their lives.”
The group said they hoped this stark image would encourage tourists not to participate in exploitative trekking industries and opt instead for ethical and sustainable sanctuaries.