They've been depicted as Ganesh, the Hindu god of luck, children’s book heroes like Babar and Dumbo, and the symbol of America’s Republican Party. Elephants come up time and time again in mythology, symbolism, and popular culture as representations of strength, honor, stability, and tenacity. Weighing in at up to 13,000 pounds at heights up to 10 feet, it is little wonder that these mighty creatures have fascinated humans for centuries.
And wait, did you just say you can ride these animals? Where’s my ticket? Sign me up! That’s exactly what most people think when they shell out cash to ride elephants in places like Thailand. But there's more to this tourism industry than meets the eye.
The history of captive Asian elephants dates back thousands of years. In olden days, they were put to work transporting goods and troops during times of war. With the arrival of modern machinery, they became staples in tourism and entertainment industries—main attractions in circuses and riding zones. But the truth is that these elephants were designed to roam free and move naturally, not to be sat on all day and gouged by a bullhook.