In one chapter, the main character, Crystal, takes an elephant ride into the jungle with a group of other expatriate women. At that time, the village portrayed in the book where the elephants lived was engaged in logging, and the elephants were used on a daily basis in the logging operation. Special arrangements had been made for the women to ride the elephants for part of the day to get to an otherwise unapproachable destination in the jungle. Elephant tourism was not common at that time in Thailand.
Today, however, elephant tourism of various kinds is prevalent there. In 1986, logging was banned in Thailand for ecological reasons. This put large numbers of elephants and their mahouts out of work and made it difficult for the mahouts to afford to feed their animals. It has led to elephants being walked through cities begging for food, to riding camps where they suffer mistreatment, and to places where they are forced to entertain spectators by performing tricks.
Thai organizations such as the Save Elephant Foundation now ask people not to ride elephants, but instead to visit the elephants in the sanctuaries run by the organization. Because the main character’s elephant ride plays a prominent role in this story, and because I think elephants are wonderful animals, I have made a donation to the Save Elephant Foundation of Thailand.
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