Inside the Dark World of Captive Wildlife Tourism | National Geographic

Inside the Dark World of Captive Wildlife Tourism | National Geographic


– (sighs) Jesus. We came behind the stadium
where the elephants perform and we found this juvenile elephant. He had gaping red wounds at his temple. He also has a broken leg. The other one is chained up. He looks totally emaciated. Skin and bones. And this is the worst shape I’ve seen an elephant in in Thailand. (mellow music) All in the name of entertainment. (mellow music) (crowd cheering)
(intense orchestral music) Wildlife tourism is a massive industry accounting for 10-20% of
the global tourism industry. People go on vacation and
pay money to either view or interact with animals. I don’t think we can ignore the role that social media plays. The sheer number of people now
not only posting their travel experiences, but consuming
others’ travel experiences means that these things
are spread in an instant with the click of a button. But the issue with wildlife tourism is most people have absolutely no idea of what goes on behind the scenes. (crowd chattering) I reported this story on wildlife tourism with photographer Kirsten Luce for a year. And we set out knowing that
we really had to sort of narrow our focus and
go to kind of hot spots around the world where this
industry is a massive part of the local economy. But there was nothing that prepared me for what I actually saw in the field. Especially when we went to Thailand. (mellow woodwind music) (tires scraping against road) (cage clanging) This is a place that puts on monkey shows and as you can see behind me, this monkey is in a small metal cage and you can see he’s jumping over and over and this is called zoochosis and animals that are kept in captivity do this when they’re in
psychological distress. (cage clanging)
(woodwind music) I’m here at a zoo on the top floor of a shopping mall in Bangkok. This kind of place, animals
are living in conditions that no living being should be living in. The only gorilla in Thailand
is apparently in this zoo. The gorilla was reaching
its hand through the cage onto a puddle on the concrete floor scooping up fingerfuls of water. It seemed to be the only way this gorilla could access water. (somber music) We just finished watching
the crocodile show which was pretty
disturbing and consisted of two trainers dragging crocodiles
around by their tails, smacking them on the head with sticks, and then everyone would laugh. It was like all designed
as a comedy routine. On most people’s bucket
lists for going to Thailand, you’re gonna want to see an elephant. So we went to dozens
of elephant experiences all over Thailand. Mahouts, trainers that
care for their elephants, used their bull hooks on the
elephants to get them to pose to allow tourists to
take photos with them. A bull hook is a stick and at
the end of the wooden stick is a metal prong or hook. And this is the instrument
used to control an elephant. (crowd chattering) I’m here at Maetaman
Elephant Camp in Chiang Mai. (elephant trumpeting) I think the most shocking thing
was during the actual show. Some of the bull hooks
had nails on the end. I witnessed a couple of
mahouts that had nails in their hands and they were poking behind the elephant’s ear to get them to perform and do the painting. (crowd chattering) A young elephant named Meena, she’s four years old and
she performed in the show. She painted a picture. So she did have a nail in her ear. And after the show we walked over to where she was being kept. (broom scraping against ground) There was a chain around her
leg that had spikes in it. The spikes were all the way
around, pressing into her skin. She was kind of hovering it in the air, because obviously it
hurt to put weight on it and I asked her mahout why and he said it’s because she likes to kick. Her mahout said that he puts
it on for a little while to teach her and then he
takes it off at night. I decided that I wanted to come back later to see if she actually
was on a different chain. With permission of the facility we ended up coming back six hours later and I feel like before I
got to her I just knew. (rain hitting structure) It’s about 7:30 PM and you
can see it’s getting dark and it’s pouring rain. Meena has had a spiked
chain around her ankle since we last left her and her mahout, he told us that at night he removes it. But he hasn’t and it was a lie. So I don’t know how she’s gonna sleep and it’s really, really
upsetting to watch. It was the first time I
sort of witnessed deception that sort of runs through this industry and I wanted to see for myself
where these animals are born, how they’re trained, the
economics behind this industry. And if you wanna go to
ground zero basically of the elephant industry in Thailand, you have to go to Ban Ta Klang. (mellow music) There are 3,500 captive
elephants in the country and half of them are actually
sourced to Ban Ta Klang. It’s a place where
elephants are bred, trained, and then when they are ready, they’re sold down south to
camps around the country. (mellow music) The Thai government
actually offers a subsidy to mahouts who care for elephants there. The elephant tourism industry
is a massive source of income for the country so they actively fund it, ensuring that the elephant
entertainment industry is healthy and that there
are always new babies being funneled in and that it is thriving. (motorcycle engine revving) Most people in the town are mahouts, meaning they work with
elephants for a living. A young man was happy to be honest with me about how they train their elephants and what tourists don’t realize is that in order for an elephant
to be docile enough to stand there and let
you touch him safely, that elephant has to be
trained in the same way that an elephant throwing
darts at a show is trained as a young baby going through
abusive fear based training. What usually happens is
when a elephant is about two years old the baby is confined and over several days and weeks the baby is slowly trained. This young elephant… he’s kinda freaking out. The first thing they teach
the baby is how to sit. He said they use a hook at the back and someone pulls down and then someone uses another hook at the front and the baby’s legs are tied together and they pull the legs front and they do this over and over until the baby learns how to do it. He said to me we have to use the bull hook so the baby will know. (crowd chattering) Knowing that Meena was four years old and elephants live 80 years. They live as old as people do. She was at the beginning of what could be another 60, 65, 70 years of this life. Was very overwhelming
to sort of grapple with. So it’s been three days since
we were last at Maetaman Camp. We’re returning today just
to see what the situation is. And we’ll of course check on Meena and see how she’s being held in her stall when she’s not performing. It’s the spiked chain. Watch her foot, it’s her right foot. (somber music) She was just out posing with tourists. Then her mahout just brought
her back to her (mumbles) and put the spiked chain
back around her foot and I’m realizing now
that this is her chain. This isn’t a chain that he uses
sometimes to discipline her. This is her chain. She’s been in it every
time we’ve seen her. There’s no other chain in sight that he could possibly be switching out. It’s tethered to the pole. If any tourist sort of
thinks, “Is this okay?” “Is this hurting the animal?” Most places are very quick
with a response to say, “Oh no, they’re fine.” “It’s just the way the way it is.” “Don’t worry about it.” And that satisfies most people and they say, “Oh okay, they
must know what they’re doing.” “They care for the animal.” The system is actually
designed to be confusing. Most tourists I really do believe kinda wanna do the right thing. They love animals and they
wanna get close to them. It’s simple. It’s understandable. And since 2014 the
number of animal selfies that people have posted
has grown almost 300%. Part of what often inspires
people to go on this trip is because they saw someone else do it and they want that
experience for themself. However, social media
really does go both ways. I wanted to actually
visit a couple of good elephant experiences in Thailand just to see for myself
what that looked like and how it differed from
places that may call themselves a sanctuary but offer
a lot of interaction. So we went to Elephant Valley
in Chiang Rai, Thailand. They have elephants that have been rescued from the traditional industry and tourists are not allowed
to get close to the elephants. This is probably the only
interaction that tourists will get while they’re here. It’s snack time so they’re able to feed each of the elephants some bananas and you can see this barrier is there mostly to prevent people from going into the elephant grounds. It’s totally voluntary. The elephants come for snack time and then they can leave
whenever they want. It’s a sustainable option for
elephant tourism in the area. Social media can actually
be harnessed for good. You can go to an ethical place and you can use social
media to sort of educate your own communities on ways that they can be part of the solution. This entire industry is so
incredibly entrepreneurial that it can and does change on a dime. So when people decide that
they no longer want to give their money to a
certain sort of experience, and if enough people do that, then the experiences
themselves will shift. You the viewer and reader and traveler and just citizen are at
the heart of this story just as much as anyone else is. You have tremendous power as
a consumer to change things. (mellow music)

100 Comments

  • National Geographic

    May 15, 2019

    In many cases, captive experiences with exotic animals rely on abusive training or treatment. To learn more, you can read on here: https://on.natgeo.com/2Q3vhBT

    Reply
  • moto moto

    May 29, 2019

    this needs to go viral :/

    Reply
  • kittymaster gammer

    May 29, 2019

    Who ever dislikes this video will regret it

    Reply
  • EdGoHello

    May 29, 2019

    it`s not good!

    Reply
  • Marko Grepl-Malmgren

    May 29, 2019

    When i went to Koh Samui in Thailand we found an industry that would let you ride the elephants but they wouldn’t mistreat then

    Reply
  • Goldy bays

    May 29, 2019

    To train an elephant humanly, you just treat them like a toddler, get them interested in the trick by doing it yourself and talking with them, stimulate their brain and let them have fun. You can also teach them like a dog! If they're kicking bring them back to their stable and let them sit there till they're calm and give them a treat, then continue everytime that bad behaviour is done.

    Reply
  • Hades Daughter

    May 29, 2019

    A lot of people are saying "release them back to the wild." You can not. It would be completely unethical. They have been fed and chained. There natural instinct is being dulled because it really has never been use. Yes they can go to a sanctuary where they will be constantly monitored but is there enough space of all the elephant where "rehomed?" They should be put in the proper habit and live a happy elephant life but human kind has ripped so much away from everything.

    Reply
  • FlyGirlLiLi

    May 29, 2019

    I pray that their suffering ends and their captors suffer. And the ignorant become educated

    Reply
  • That guy

    May 29, 2019

    Why cant wildlife tourism be about finding and protecting ‘wild’ life not caged and abused life?

    Reply
  • Imaspecofdust

    May 29, 2019

    The poor baby animals

    Reply
  • Alexandria Nicole

    May 29, 2019

    This is so upsetting 😞 No animal or living being should have to go through that , my heart is broken for those elephants 😢💔

    Reply
  • Elza Lankamp

    May 29, 2019

    People are monsters sometimes, i hope everyone see this video and realizes that this is wrong, nu heart breaks of i see something like this, i love animals

    Reply
  • manuz subba

    May 29, 2019

    morons😡😡😡

    Reply
  • latasha richardson

    May 29, 2019

    I go to the soul circus and I've only seen to only two animals there

    Reply
  • Animals Unleashed

    May 29, 2019

    How can they do that! Personally I will boycott!

    Reply
  • XUnicornz_SquadX Gaming

    May 30, 2019

    NOOOOOOO F THE PPL WHO DO THIS STUFF PPL R STUPID!!! WHAT HAVE WE DONE I FEEL SO GUILTY WE HAVE COME TO THIS!!!!!! 😡😡😡😡😡🤬🤬🤬🤬🤬😭😭😭😭😭🥺🥺🥺🥺🥺

    Reply
  • TS

    May 30, 2019

    😢 Save them!

    Reply
  • Yeet 666

    May 30, 2019

    We need more people to see this so everyone share

    Reply
  • DINIE0011

    May 30, 2019

    I can't watch, but i share this video! What does this people think? Making money out of animals is so wrong. But when there's no choice (even i think there's always a choice), you have to give them everything they need. And that's the best treatment there is. Otherwise you don't deserve those animals!!

    Reply
  • Aries lov3

    May 30, 2019

    How can we open up peoples eyes to help them see these animals dont need to be in captivity , and protect these animals. This broke my heart!

    Reply
  • Concarne

    May 30, 2019

    I don't know what's worse, the people training the animals or the humans who go to these places just to exploit animals for their selfish pleasure

    Reply
  • Allie Ziller

    May 30, 2019

    I'd rather be bored out of my mind than him to be that way so cruel

    Reply
  • Dire Dragon

    May 31, 2019

    I was told that when it rains an animal has died and that animals are our reincarnation of our ancestors yet people treat them like their robots, no feelings, no talking just empty shells used for our useless needs.

    Reply
  • Shane Smith

    May 31, 2019

    I live in Thailand and very shocked to see this as Thai people are in general very kind to Animals especially elephants. Did you report your finds to the Police as cruelty to Animals in Thailand is a serious crime and you seem to have plenty of evidence? I will visit the places in your video and see if I can backup your claims and if true report it to the Authorities.

    Reply
  • Emma Cabading

    May 31, 2019

    I am so very sad to say that I never got to see these animals in person but I'm even sadder for the people who got to see them in this condition and still be entertained.

    Reply
  • Jordan Iannotti

    May 31, 2019

    Thank u for making this video to show people how horrible this truly is

    Reply
  • Roro 2019

    May 31, 2019

    🏳️

    Reply
  • Vanadium

    May 31, 2019

    If people stopped supporting the businesses things would get better. I bet these animals wished they were dead

    Reply
  • Maria da Luz Moutinho

    May 31, 2019

    Os abusos dos animais e inconcebível! Nós somos superiores?? Eles estavam primeiro que nós!! Um Requiem pelas 250 baleias e golfinhos que foram massacrados de forma cruel nas ilhas Faroé…As vergonhas da humanidade!!

    Reply
  • anaviveri

    May 31, 2019

    We as a human rase should be ashamed! All of us! And most those who pay for this abuse! Mother Earth remember and one day we will pay for all of this!

    Reply
  • Ferra Nouri

    May 31, 2019

    experiments on animals.

    Reply
  • Spill The Tea

    May 31, 2019

    this is so distrusting!! elephants are my favorite animal and it disturbs me to see that they are getting treated this way, especially at a young age.

    Reply
  • Hailey Speck

    June 1, 2019

    This video is so sad I hate the world

    Reply
  • Varma

    June 1, 2019

    I love the way she put forth the problem while also giving solutions and alternatives. Thanks for spreading the knowledge!

    Reply
  • Gazelle Richardson

    June 1, 2019

    Leave these animals in the wild, and protect their habitat. Don't promote this by participating. Watch these beautiful creatures in their natural habitat via television or other. To be Human, implies we are, and should be Humane… Grossly lacking here, JMO: Cruel and appalling.

    Reply
  • Tran Thi Hong

    June 2, 2019

    and thank a lot to nat geo channel. i appreciate your effort to save these animals

    Reply
  • Wendigo Blackwood

    June 2, 2019

    What can we do to help? Are there better animal attractions that don’t include hurting them?

    Reply
  • julyana

    June 4, 2019

    this needs to stop. just look at them. just let them be. :((

    Reply
  • Royal Kingz

    June 4, 2019

    Y doesn't this go on Facebook

    Reply
  • SantaDeerhound

    June 4, 2019

    Absolute disgrace.

    Reply
  • Juan Pablo Herrera Tejeda

    June 5, 2019

    The main responsability of this abuse are the tourist who pay to watch this! This type of information videos should be at the clasrooms or even cinema! Shows like Our Erth should be at clasrooms, shows from NatGeo as well…

    Reply
  • Melody Moreno

    June 5, 2019

    This should not b allowed in any country so so sad

    Reply
  • Matt D

    June 6, 2019

    To many elephants smh 😫

    Reply
  • Shaun

    June 6, 2019

    I guess Like most things. We criticize, but have no solution.
    If they had the knowledge and means to do better they would (majority).

    Reply
  • Prapa Mohanty

    June 6, 2019

    I'm so thankful you made this documentary

    Reply
  • Lol Lol

    June 8, 2019

    This video should not even need to be made but all of the people in the world made this video have to be show on yt. I am very disappointed with anyone who works at any of the jobs and his along with it. I would rather quit and be homeless.

    Reply
  • New England Views

    June 8, 2019

    Animals don't belong in cages 💥

    Reply
  • Happy Queen

    June 8, 2019

    Lord pleease if you could strike all these people dead who are doing these horrifying deeds to your beautiful majestic creatures i would greatly appreciate that !! Thank You❤

    We should stop going to these shows really lets stop these horrors !!

    Reply
  • matt enarle

    June 9, 2019

    thailand needs to see this

    Reply
  • Patricia Morales

    June 9, 2019

    😢

    Reply
  • Teresa Gary

    June 10, 2019

    😭😭😭😭😭😭

    Reply
  • Jovana Janjic

    June 10, 2019

    i am crying…

    Reply
  • Saima Nazz

    June 11, 2019

    My favoirt chanll all fans follow me

    Reply
  • Dolly Cau

    June 11, 2019

    MA LASCIATELI LIBERI!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

    Reply
  • Flora Sherry

    June 11, 2019

    National Geographic, this has been going on and documented for years, but very little has changed. It is good that you guys showed this, but what are you going to do to change it. Right now in Thailand, very soon they will allow the selling of elephants and their body parts to other countries. If you guys made a stand, I'm sure others would follow.. @nationalgeographic

    Reply
  • alberto zoe.

    June 11, 2019

    So sad ,the way they treat these elephants.
    When I read the article from National Geographic ,I was crying 😥😥😥

    Reply
  • ณภัทร ชัยสิทธิ์สงวน

    June 12, 2019

    you think everything in your mine. why you not ask the reason that they do. you make everythink in youself and don't know the real reason.

    Reply
  • 지효사랑하는진저겜피

    June 12, 2019

    I think it should stop but in the way of changing the way of training because to say, the trainers are a human being and they need money(and I like these shows)

    Reply
  • John Lab

    June 14, 2019

    We don’t value human life…why be shocked this happens.

    Reply
  • Naveen Yadav

    June 14, 2019

    It is these humans who need to be trained, they need to be given training on how to be compassionate and respect this biodiversity on earth. Shame on people who make this industry remunerative. Human life was possible even when these kinds of harassments were not there and i believe it is still possible to live a life without torturing these innocent creatures who contribute in their own ways to life on earth.

    Reply
  • Andrew Cox

    June 15, 2019

    Are zoos in America like this Bc Ik they make it all look good

    Reply
  • Fer Nog

    June 16, 2019

    Sea world

    Reply
  • Shimron Netia

    June 16, 2019

    you stole our elephants from Africa you fools

    Reply
  • Erinin orange

    June 16, 2019

    Thank you sweet💚. I woulf like to do somthing. I am in California and fought the 10yr fight against circus's. My children are about grown, dont know what the circus is like as they are smart children and love animals. Bless your heart. I would like to start some type of awareness as well on a George Clooney scale. Each elephant should have a doula to emotionally comfort.

    Reply
  • Dan & Lois Gardner

    June 17, 2019

    Need to keep sharing these videos and raising awareness as much as possible. It's insane how so many people/tourists are still SO CLUELESS to this reality! Breaks my heart to see!

    Reply
  • Jefferson Kahinju

    June 18, 2019

    Changed my thinking of travel.

    Reply
  • Rahul Raj

    June 20, 2019

    The worst animals on the world is human…….
    Selfish and cruel….
    ….

    ..

    Reply
  • Tabassum S

    June 21, 2019

    K

    Reply
  • the LORD lord

    June 23, 2019

    Thailand disappointed our
    Whole world

    Reply
  • Andrew Ling

    June 25, 2019

    They pray to the elephants and then chain them

    Reply
  • Kivrin Engle

    June 27, 2019

    🙁

    Reply
  • Maximo Cocononjis

    June 27, 2019

    😡😡😡😡😡😡🤮😱

    Reply
  • Deepu m

    June 28, 2019

    Pls…. Don't do… These such things
    For wild animals pls🐘🐊🐅🐵them back to wild🥺😢

    Reply
  • Country Cats

    July 1, 2019

    National Geographic can do a better documentary on how these animals are treated than PETA

    Reply
  • Arif Mete

    July 1, 2019

    Bu insanlık dışı.. Cahillik.. Canavarlık..

    Reply
  • Kev Mac

    July 12, 2019

    No no no!! God has a special place for people who hurt those animals!!!! I want to be the gatekeeper to that place! !!###

    Reply
  • Dave Arreola

    July 15, 2019

    God it hurts to see this …

    Reply
  • Anro2788 Daza

    July 20, 2019

    This wouldn't happen if these animals were from Europe
    We are more educated and would take care of them

    Reply
  • Guinea PigLover

    July 20, 2019

    I’m literally crying as I watch this 😭😭

    Reply
  • Austin Kucharski

    July 21, 2019

    So where can you have a Elephant Friendly elephant experience?

    Reply
  • Fille Ecube

    July 23, 2019

    who even dislikes this?

    Reply
  • Ashley N Hill

    July 23, 2019

    If I ever find out anybody I know going to these places I will definitely Slap TF outta them. I hope this gets more attention

    Reply
  • Bethany Byler

    July 25, 2019

    It's crazy how humans find a way to ruin everything

    Reply
  • GAMING WITH Aakib

    July 26, 2019

    Yaa babes you are absolutely right

    Reply
  • Pamela Bellesen

    July 28, 2019

    If you want to see more about the difference between elephants in performing and trekking businesses in Thailand, and the REAL rescue sanctuaries in Thailand, watch Love And Bananas. You will see more truth.

    Reply
  • Samitnow

    July 29, 2019

    Shame on them. Before being involved in such cruel acts. This individuals need to imagine themselves as being the elephants. How would they feel if they were the elephants being held in captivity and not having the freedom to live freely

    Reply
  • indigo Dreams

    August 2, 2019

    This makes me sick to my stomach. Thank you for bringing this to light.

    Reply
  • rsurrection

    August 2, 2019

    i wish those animals would turn on the people hurting them🤘

    Reply
  • OKAYYYY

    August 15, 2019

    The Chinese love supporting these shows

    Reply
  • Mansa Pratap Singh

    August 16, 2019

    She is so good and beautiful. I like her.

    Reply
  • Alice In Wonderland

    August 16, 2019

    I wish the elephants would stampede EVERRYYYYBODDDYYY

    Reply
  • joosua kauppinen

    August 18, 2019

    All these people commenting are fake woke!

    Reply
  • Dhruv Sabharwal

    August 18, 2019

    i feel like people who fully support this industry should be put through what elephants experience for a year

    Reply
  • Dhruv Sabharwal

    August 18, 2019

    but HOW will things ever change if its such a powerful source of income for the country

    Reply
  • Atkins Oriko

    August 19, 2019

    I am going to share this with your permission on my Fb page and repost and repost until some things change

    Reply
  • Maria Samantha

    August 25, 2019

    Poor animal and poor tigers and everything !!

    Reply
  • Polo Mbunde

    September 3, 2019

    Who cares 🤣

    Reply
  • Dan Li

    September 6, 2019

    Something need to be done to stop this, i want to help, what can i do to help?

    Reply
  • Dan Li

    September 6, 2019

    Please share this vedios as much as possible, and tell people around you to stop supporting the cruel acts of entertainment!🐘 please help the elephants.

    Reply
  • Glenda CRoy

    September 10, 2019

    I just cried and cried watching this 😭💔😢…I wanted to go to Thailand..but now I don't know ..I can't stand animal cruelty

    Reply

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