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Elephants are very gentle animals. We have taken advantage of this nature and used them for the most mundane of activities. From elephant riding to swimming with them.

Elephants are wild animals. They are not domestic. They may show a fascinating affectionate behaviour towards humans but this does not mean they can be domesticated or should be domesticated. Elephants belong in the wild. They are key ecosystem builders. Without elephants in the wild, our biodiversity stands at a loss, not only for other animals, but human beings as well.

If you would one day like to ride or swim with an elephant, maybe you should rethink your bucket list. Do not even consider placing it there. I have seen plenty of international and local celebrities riding, swimming or playing with elephants in Thailand or Bali. I have read the ignorant comments of their followers wanting to go do the same. Feeling inspired that they should also do what their favourite celebrity is doing. This is a really disturbing trend.

Kim Kardashian, a celebrity who has a following of more than 1 million on Instagram, just like other people of influence, seem to have no idea of the impact she had on her fans. When she took a photo of herself riding on an elephant in Bali, she seemed to be oblivious of her actions. Regardless of whether they are living their own best life or not, influential persons should be conscious of everything they do, especially if it is going to affect someone else’s attitude towards wildlife or an animal negatively.

Wild animals

Elephant riding in Nepal ©Pixabay

I have seen Kenyans follow up on the same. Why would you consider riding, swimming or playing with an elephant living your best life? Why would you think it is okay? Sometimes ignorance is bliss. But you cannot claim to appreciate God’s creation if at all you are not bothered by what happens to wild animals before they become safe to be used and abused. And let’s not use excuses like even the domestic animals we have now were one once wild animals. This will just continue to prove your ignorance.

Before an adult elephant is accustomed to being ‘nice’ to humans, it is robbed of its life from the moment it is born. It is not ethical nor humane. To train them to ensure they never stomp on humans, their spirits are crushed. They are bitten, starved, placed in tight pens, scared to death, berated and even their legs tied together. They are separated from their families weakening their social nature as elephants. All these are done in an effort to teach them they are meant to be scared of human beings. This is a sad state. It is not something to look forward to.

Many people think the elephants are treated well, but they aren’t. Studies have shown riding elephants weakens their spine. You may think, well, elephants must be strong and thus should be able to carry my lightweight. But consider this, you are not the only one who has ridden that particular elephant since it was born. Considering how they are tortured, keeping them in tight pens which is not part of their instinctive behaviour as they are meant to be in open spaces, these animals have been through certain life-changing physical damage.

Do not ride, swim, or play with elephants in Thailand or Bali or Srilanka and any other areas where elephants are riden. Instead, visit Thailand’s, Srilanka’s or India’s National Parks where you can see the Asian Elephant in its natural habitat. You don’t even have to get on a plane to see an elephant, we have them in Kenya and the best way to protect them from the illegal wildlife trade is to show an interest by visiting them in their natural habitat.

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Asian elephants in their natural habitat © Pixabay

Moving away from elephants, another trend that I have observed is walking and playing with lions and cheetahs mostly in the southern African countries. Kenya is also adapting to this obscene tourist attraction. I’m only hoping it doesn’t spread. You are not Tarzan. This is not a mythical fantasy you have. This is plainly supporting the abuse of wild animals. That lion or cheetah selfie just for social media does not even benefit you. We need to stop this madness. Let wild animals be wild.

You should consider adding to your bucket list activities that make sense like adrenaline packed actions such as sky diving, rock climbing or better still, seeing all wild animals across the world in their natural habitat and appreciating what we have. Not playing with wild animals.

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Vicki Wangui
Vicki Wangui
Vicki Wangui is a believer in all things beautiful. A believer in spreading information in regards to environmental awareness. A believer in sharing all that is good in Kenya's natural world. A believer in speaking truth with no boundaries. Do you have a story, photo, experience or message you need to share? Send your work to vicki@nyikasilika.org or vickiwangui26@gmail.com.

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