ANN/THE STAR – Elephants – the world’s largest land mammals – are known for their strength. As working animals, they haul heavy loads and also provide elephant rides.
One elephant is suffering permanent damage to its back, following years of carrying tourists.
The 71-year-old female named Pai Lin has a caved-in spine after being made to carry up to six tourists at a time for 25 years, according to spokesperson for Wildlife Friends Foundation Thailand (WFFT) Amy Jones.
In a recent Newsweek article, Jones said: “Pai Lin had a long, hard life.
“She was used for elephant trekking, as a street begging prop, and in the logging industry for many years. She was forced to carry a heavy howdah – a type of seat – with up to six tourists in it. Because of this, her spine is visibly deformed, and she has many scars caused by pressure sores.”
Jones said that Pai Lin, rescued by WFFT in 2007, arrived at the foundation terrified, dehydrated, underweight and suffering from a respiratory infection, which resulted in nasal and eye discharge.
Photos show Pai Lin’s back sunken, unlike a healthy elephant’s typical dome-shaped spine.
Elephants in this industry often spend full days with no break, carrying the weight of their handler, tourists and the weight of the howdah seat, said Newsweek.
Their bones and tissues deteriorate due to the constant pressure on their bodies, and their spines suffer irreversible damage.
WFFT Project Director Tom Taylor said: “While elephants may be known for their strength and size, their backs are not naturally designed to carry weight, as their spines extend upwards. Constant pressure on their backbones from tourists can result in permanent physical damage.”