The Amer Fort was where I saw my first real elephant, with the exception of the zoo. I had been longing for this moment since I found out I would be going to India, so when it finally arrived, I was beyond excited. Looking up at the giant beast, I felt so tiny and childlike. My first reaction was excitement, seeing as I’d always wanted to see an elephant in person. But after the initial reaction died down, I found myself disappointed. It wasn’t nearly as magical as I was expecting. In fact, it was quite disturbing.
The massive animals would slowly creep up hundreds of steep stairs whilst carrying lazy and ignorant tourists on their backs. With their trunks being drug against the ground, the elephants struggled to pick up their feet, as an Indian man would thrust a stick towards their temples, ensuring the creature’s movement. I say that the tourists are ignorant because they are so unaware of the pain these animals are in. If they had even the slightest bit of knowledge of them, they would know that riding elephants is not healthy for the beasts. Elephants are enormous, especially when compared to a tiny human like myself. If I were to climb on top of one you would naturally assume that it wouldn’t even notice me. However, you’d be wrong! An elephant’s spine cannot support the weight of chairs and Howdahs, let alone a person. Carrying a lot of weight on their backs can lead to permanent spinal injuries, not to mention toting around chairs all day can cause blisters and leave the animal in more pain. We told our tour guide that we wanted to feed the elephants and that we were adamant about riding them. We only wanted to spend our money on ethically treated animals, not the ones being worked to death. The guide, seeming to understand our concerns, stated that “Elephant Joy” was the place for us! Judging by the way he spoke, I was imagining a place where the creatures could roam around, with a big lake to splash in. I thought I was going to be able to feed them lots of yummy treats and play with them in the water. But when we walked in, reality slowly crept up on us. “Elephant Joy”, more like “Elephant Prison.” The site was located in a highly trafficked city, not a jungle or large open area. The vicinity was surrounded by concrete walls and was nowhere near large enough for 6 elephants. It was probably equivalent in size to 3 of my little farmhouses. Oh yeah, that “pool” they mentioned to us was empty, literally there was no water!
We spoke hesitantly to them. We were told that the man responsible for the elephants loved them so much and, apparently, they’re treated great and aren’t over worked. Let me tell you, that’s all a bunch of crap! Don’t believe a word they said! We were still very dubious as to whether these elephants were truly being treated honorably. We weren’t about to give our money to a company that was exploiting animals for profit, but the Indian man was very pushy and persuasive. We both agreed that there was no way we were going to ride the animals, but we figured it couldn’t do any harm if we fed them. As we stood there and waited for the bananas, we began to regret our decision. The elephants were all standing in a row underneath of this tarp, but not by choice. We quickly learned that whenever one would get out of line, a skinny little man would jump towards it, jab the animal with a stick, and scream, “back, back, back.” We were absolutely disgusted. When we were about to just bail, the little Indian man showed up with the bananas. Aj and I looked at each other and were just like, “hey, we might as well go ahead and give them to the animals.” The awful people somehow had even managed to dictate how they ate. I gave all of my bananas to the elephants and just balled my eyes out. These poor and innocent creatures are starving and are constantly being treated so cruelly. There has to be something we can do to help them. When we got back in the car, our driver asked me how it was. As Aj explained to him how gut wrenching it was, the man told us that we were crazy. He said that the elephants are happy and nothing is wrong with the way they’re treated. Then it hit me. In order for these animals to stop being exploited, entire cultures all over the world will have to have a change their mindset, and not just India. Sure the Elaphant Joy was the less of the evils and the people working there honestly thought the elephants were happy, but the fact remains. In order to have a once wild creature become so disciplined, that animal must be broken and beaten down so much to the point where it is at a constant state of fear. I understand that people don’t realize that these elephants are in pain, but the issue stands. We need to obliterate the way these animals are poorly treated and start respecting them. Elephants are like humans. They have families and enjoy socializing with their friends. Also like us, these animals feel hurt and pain. These elephants are hurting and having to pay for the obliviousness of this culture. I strongly urge you to educate yourself on the ways animals are treated. Take a stand against animal cruelty and don’t participate in animal entertainment. All we did was give an elephant some bananas. We didn’t realize we were enabling an organization to mistreat their animals. Lesson learned!!!! If you’re still fascinated with elephants, check out an elephant sanctuary, where the animals can roam free and most of them have been rescued from circuses and other entertainment gigs. *