• Don Lichterman

Elephant in The Room, Happy, #NatGeoWildlifeTourism, Roadside zoos, Tourists Riding Elephants is Odd

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The tourists may look happy, the architecture is beautiful, the elephant colorfully adorned. All in all, it looks like a tableau practically designed for Instagram.

What you might not see is the elephant's suffering, and what you definitely can't see is the torture that takes place behind the scenes... the beatings that are used to "keep her in line." 

Maina is 25 years old and blind in one eye. She has horribly overgrown and cracked toenails and cuticles that must make every step she takes painful. Especially when she's forced to carry heavy loads, which she can be found doing nearly every day at Amer Fort in Jaipur.

Wildlife SOS is committed to helping Maina, and all of the elephants in India like her. Our Refuse to Ride campaign is designed to show people the truth behind these pretty pictures.

We believe that if tourists know the cruelty inherent in this type of elephant attraction, they will refuse to ride elephants. And what happens when tourists stop taking rides on elephants? The whole elephant riding industry will crumble, and the cruelty will stop, forever. 

The busy tourist season is right around the corner in India. Can you help us spread the word about the cruelty these elephants endure?

Dumbo the elephant was just a baby when he was first forced to perform tricks for tourists at a roadside zoo in Thailand. It took workers days before they even noticed the extent of Dumbo’s injuries that shortly after led to his death. Roadside zoos are invested in making money, not the care or quality of life of the animals forced to live there. Never visit a roadside zoo or any other business that exploits animals for profit.

How to take part in the Wildlife Tourism social campaign

National Geographic’s June cover story takes an in-depth look at the thriving global wildlife tourism industry and exposes how the industry takes advantage of people’s love of animals. You may have seen photos of travelers bathing elephants or snuggling with a tiger cub on social media. But in many cases, captive experiences with exotic animals rely on abusive training or treatment.

Help bring to light some of the hidden realities of the wildlife tourism industry by taking part in the social campaign. Share the image below on social media using #NatGeoWildlifeTourism and on.natgeo.com/wildlifetourism. Click to download.

Horrifying pictures have emerged of elephants brutally struck over and over again with sharp metal hooks on the island of Phuket in Thailand, blood dripping down their heads and their bodies covered in dozens of scars from old wounds. Mahouts, or elephant trainers, hit the poor elephants with razor-sharp tools to make them behave for human entertainment — the most popular form being riding elephants.

Add your voice to stop this senseless torture of elephants in Thailand.

There are currently 3,500 wild elephants and 4,500 domesticated elephants living in Thailand. World Animal Protection reports that of the 3,000 working elephants in Asia, 77% are treated inhumanely. This abuse ranges from being fed poor diets, kept near distressing loud places, and, when not working, being held in captive isolation with chains less than 10 feet long.

As reported by UNILAD, Dr. Patrapol Maneeorn, a wildlife veterinarian of the Department of National Parks, Wildlife and Plant Conservation, claims that Thailand is working to improve, and eventually eradicate, elephant cruelty.

“What we are doing is collaborating with different organizations and sectors in Thailand to reduce and hopefully eliminate animal cruelty as much as possible.”

But we have a long way to go and no time left to wait. We must speak out to end elephant tourism now. Elephants are intelligent, social creatures who do not deserve to spend their lives being mercilessly beaten for entertainment.

Sign this petition to urge Ambassador Manawapat to end elephant tourism once and for all and spare these majestic creatures from a life of unrelenting pain.

Save this baby elephant from daily torture and abuse.

Gluay Horn who is being systematically abused and tortured at a facility called the Samut Prakan Crocodile Farm and Zoo at this address 10280, 555 Thanon Thai Ban, Pak Nam, Amphoe Mueang Samut Prakan, Chang Wat Samut Prakan 10270, Thailand. The Thai government needs to create and enforce laws to protect these suffering animals.

An open letter to Southern Oregon University

On your website, your President, Dr. Linda Schott claims her favorite quote is Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr’s assertion that “Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.” On behalf of thousands of people worldwide I am writing to request Southern Oregon University put its principles in action and help us right a terrible injustice.

Last month, National Geographic launched a “Wildlife Tourism” campaign to draw attention to the plight of captive animals, intended to be shared in social media --


The story featured a deeply disturbing photograph of an abused baby elephant named Gluay Hom with this caption:

Gluay Hom, a four-year-old elephant trained to perform tricks for tourists, is chained to a pole in a stadium at Samut Prakan Crocodile Farm and Zoo near Bangkok, Thailand. His swollen right foreleg hangs limp. At his temple is a bloody wound from lying on the floor.

The Samut Prakan Crocodile Farm and Zoo in Thailand has long been the subject of news reports and social media exposes regarding the appalling conditions in which its captive animals endure lives of starvation, neglect and misery while forced to perform tricks for tourists. The zoo’s owner, Uthen Youngprapakorn, adamantly refuses to take any steps to remedy the situation and has been quoted as saying that the fact that his animals hadn’t died showed that the facility was caring for them properly. News reports also indicate that another zoo also owned by Youngprapakorn had been shut down by Thai authorities due to the terrible condition of its captive animals.

Why is this of relevance to you? Because on his Facebook page, Uthen Youngprapakorn, this serial exploiter and abuser of animals claims to hold a BA from Southern Oregon University.  


The National Geographic articles and the heartbreaking photographs accompanying them have ignited a firestorm of outrage worldwide. Petitions circulating on change.org and other sites to release Gluay Hom to a sanctuary and shut down the Samut Prakan Zoo are garnering thousands of signatures and expressions of horror and disgust. Sadly, Uthen Youngprarpakorn remains immune to these requests and Thai authorities are not taking any action to enforce the country’s Cruelty Prevention and Welfare Animal Act. Baby Gluay Hom continues to suffer, chained to concrete under the stadium where emaciated, scarred elephants and tigers are compelled to perform to profit Uthen Youngprarpakorn.

We ask that Southern Oregon University issue a letter condemning the actions of your former student, Uthen Youngprapakorn in the strongest terms, urge him to release the suffering baby elephant to a sanctuary and to shut down the so called “zoo” where animals exist in daily pain and misery.  This open letter will be posted on the change.org petition and the world will wait and hope that Southern Oregon University will do the right thing.


The 70,000+signees of this petition 

Happy is credited as the first elephant to recognize her own image in a mirror, a sign of her intelligence.

Yet, for the past 13 years she has been held in solitary confinement, locked behind a steel fence with no other elephant companions. A smart, innocent animal living a lonely life so the Bronx Zoo can sell more tickets.

Thousands of animal lovers like you believe that the Bronx Zoo is holding Happy captive in unbearable conditions.

World Elephant Day, a global day dedicated to the protection of the world’s elephant population, is just days away. Between now and then, we need to recruit 320 new Animal Protection Members to help push this campaign – and others like it – toward victory.

Help us cover the costs:

Today, we’re asking you to help cover the costs of campaigns that are fighting to protect animals against inhumane living conditions, abuse, and cruelty.

Almost a million people – compassionate animal lovers like you – have taken a stand for Happy’s welfare by signing the petition calling for her release to a sanctuary. The story has gotten news headlines, and the campaign has been endorsed by celebrities and politicians. Supporters have even taken to the streets in protest.

Bringing stories like this to light helps petitions win on Change.org – and it takes resources.

As someone who cares, will you be one of the first to help us reach our World Elephant Day goal by joining today to help fuel powerful campaigns like the one to save Happy, and many others fighting to end animal cruelty?

Elephants never forget. And Happy won’t forget the community of Animal Protection Members that are supporting her fight and the fight of so many other elephants. We hope you’ll take this next step with us to help fund important work that must be done to protect animals like Happy the elephant.

Elephant in The Room

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Our companies are known for creating products that enhance people's lives.  Through Sunset Corporation of America and its companies, we’re equally dedicated to improving lives.   Our commitment extends to helping local communities, fostering better educational systems, supporting the arts and culture, helping disadvantaged youth, protecting and improving the environment, animal welfare, wildlife issues and encouraging employee volunteerism.

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