Problems of domesticated animals are perhaps more numerous than their counterparts in the wild. The Asian elephants, unlike the bigger African pachyderms, are held in captivity in large numbers. The plight of the domesticated Asian elephants is also attributed to the lack of proper records that does not make clear the numbers living in the wild and those tamed by humans.
In Asian countries like Thailand, elephants have being domesticated for thousands of years and have become an integral part of their culture. In earlier days, the animals were a sign of aristocracy with the grandiosely decorated royal elephants carrying the king.
Nowadays, elephant taxis are a popular tourist attraction in Thai cities. Tamed elephants are forced to entertain tourists with their carefully learnt skills like painting or playing games. They are often tortured by their mentors as entertaining tourists is the only source of livelihood for the elephants and their keepers.
While the Asian elephants in the wild are facing a loss of habitat and food due to deforestation, their domesticated counterparts are facing danger of cruelty from their keepers to keep the entertainment business alive. Ban on deforestation by the Thai government have swelled the ranks of the entertaining animals as the pachyderms earlier engaged in transporting logs from the forest have lost their jobs.
According to elephant expert Richard Lair who is the director of the Thai Elephant Conservation Centre, to protect the elephant would require a better monitoring system by ‘micro-chipping’ domestic elephants to prevent abuse and reduce horse-trading among owners.