The Elephant Parade

The first time I saw elephants on our trip -not in a cold British zoo- was not what I had wanted to see. Animal welfare in countries like Thailand is an ongoing battle, with Asia’s forests rife with poachers and trafficking. Hopefully, this is on the decline, and yet evidence of it walked right past me in the street. The elephants were huge -gold star for noticing Malika- and being ridden along the side of a dusty road in Ayutthaya. There were about six of them, including a bull, doing their loop of the road. On first glance, I thought elephant riding in Thailand, no shock there, but then I watched, taking in their size and their beauty. I stared at them at the gently strolled past, unprotesting but somehow glum, tired. I know elephants can walk miles and miles for a lifetime, and yet they still looked tired. I knew that their complex brain and long memory were tired of the little strip of land they paraded along. Little more than a living room in human scale. I knew that their lifetime of walking should not be a lifetime of carrying, but a lifetime of age old routes through their habitat. I thought also about how these animals had to have been caught (taken at different times from different families), whipped and trained. I couldn’t help but cry, pathetic and unproductive but watching then stirred me up too much. I could hear the people on their backs laughing and taking photos and raged at how they could be so selfish. How could their joy be more important than these elephants lives, how could they even find joy in this? I cried and glared at them in a silent rage. I had seen enough of the elephant parade.

 

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