- An elephant handler in Thailand was caught on film beating an elephant named Jumbo Chan Chao on the head with a metal bullhook.
- The elephant is currently receiving treatments for the deep cuts it received.
- The handler later claimed that he used the bullhook to prevent the elephant from becoming aggressive since an earlier encounter with an adult elephant had made the animal tense.
- The trainer has been fired and faces a police complaint filed against him by animal rights group Watchdog Thailand.
Warning: This article contains descriptions and video of animal cruelty.
An elephant handler in Thailand was fired from his job after he was seen repeatedly beating an Asian elephant with a hooked metal bar.
The 18-year-old elephant, named Jumbo Chan Chao, received a lashing on the head from its trainer Peerapat on Monday as it was being prepped to give tourists rides at the Ayutthaya Elephant Palace, a popular tourist attraction in Phra Nakhon Si Ayutthaya.
A tourist captured the incident on video, as the trainer, also age 18, used a bullhook to stab Chan’s skin.
Local reports showed another clip of Peerapat being forced to kneel at the elephant’s feet and apologize.
Peerapat later claimed that he used the bullhook to prevent Chan Chao from becoming aggressive, since an earlier encounter with an adult elephant had made it anxious.
“I’m very sorry about the incident and I admit everything,” he was quoted by Daily Mail as saying. “My father worked here and I have grown up with Chan Chao since we were both babies. Using the hook is not done often, but only when the elephant is stubborn. If they are not controlled, in the future they will become fierce.”
Chan Chao is currently receiving veterinary treatments for head injuries. Veterinarian Thongthae Meephan, who manages the establishment, said the elephant’s head wounds would heal in less than a week.
“It was my mistake for putting a young inexperienced mahout in charge of Chan Chao,” she said. “They grew up together so they have a connection but he shouldn’t use the hook so aggressively.”
Explaining that the hook is meant to subdue elephants only when they exhibit aggression, Meephan further said, “The rider should not let their own emotions take over. They need to stop once the elephant has obeyed.”
The teen trainer has since been fired and faces a police complaint filed against him by animal rights group Watchdog Thailand.
“The owner of the camp has removed the young man seen in the video, but we believe that fundamental improvements need to be made,” a representative from the group said. “Serious violence against the elephant can be seen in the clip. We hope to see improvements in animal welfare management at the elephant camp and we will follow up the outcome of the investigation.”
Police Lieutenant Samart Raksasak said they will interview the trainer and witnesses as well as examine the injuries the elephant sustained.
The attraction has sparked controversy in the past. Just last month, some of the elephants were seen with open head wounds that were dripping blood.
Before they are used for the tourist industry, elephants are tamed as babies by a method called elephant crushing, in which they receive corporal punishments.
Despite international calls to keep elephants from being used for tourism, many have defended the practice, claiming they are well taken care of.