Around 75 elephants were forced to dance and carry couples during a Valentine’s Day wedding event on Tuesday in the eastern province of Chonburi in Thailand.
Four young elephants dressed up in pink were forced to ‘dance’ in a parade at Nong Nooch Tropical Garden. They heavily shook their heads and swung their legs while their handlers walked next to them.
Around 70 elephants followed, carrying three people -a handler and a couple. The carriages where the couples were sitting were attached to the elephants’ bodies with ropes, which can harm the animals. A local district official was also sitting on an elephant.
Elephants used for rides are often taken from their natural habitat, separated from their families, and forced to perform in unnatural ways to entertain tourists.
Even though they are big, elephants are not physically designed to carry people and a carriage on their backs. The heavy weight can cause injury and pain to the elephant’s back and legs, leading to chronic health issues.
They are social animals that thrive in the company of their herd. Isolation and the use of painful training methods to force them to interact with humans can cause immense psychological distress.
“The elephant is Thailand’s icon, so to be able to sign (a marriage license) on the back of an elephant is a symbol that I had a grand wedding,” 41-year-old resident Monwan Limprasert told news agency Reuters as the reason why she wanted to get married on an elephant.
“It’s a wonderful feeling, living in Thailand and to do what Thai people know and love,” Ron Twergo, an American retiree who also got married on an elephant, said.
The riding elephants wedding is an annual event at the botanical garden in Thailand, which usually saw up to a hundred couples before the coronavirus pandemic.