Proper Chain Use
The following articles were written by Belynda Zolotto, assistant to the Communications Director at Elephantstay. We chose to use her pieces because not only have we supported Elephantstay in the past during floods, but we feel that their explanation of practical and safe chain use in elephants is both succinct and easy to understand.
Why the chains?
Elephantstay is a program for old and retired elephants and younger elephants that do not want to work. It is but one program operating at the Royal Elephant Kraal. At the Kraal, we have saved many killer and dangerous elephants and also we have successfully bred 58 baby elephants. We are involved in many various projects to help give elephants the best quality of life. This includes negotiating with the government for better laws to protect elephants and the people who work with them. We work under a registered Thai Foundation, Prakochaban.
Check out our founders profile http://www.elephantstay.com/Laithongrien-Meepan.html He has been recognised with one of the highest awards possible in this country. Look at the history and culture of elephants and the evolution of life in Thailand and what that means for elephants today. Look at it from our point of view. Does anyone really think that we would allow pictures of an elephant tethered with a chain if we had something to hide? Or if it was unnecessary? Or if it was cruel? Anyone can come here and can see what we do and how we do it. Like life, it is a work in progress. Elephants are endangered, predictions are that they will be extinct in 20-50 years. Is that not THE MAJOR consideration? Sure we could put a few elephants in a field that get along and say look no chains aren't we just wonderful for doing that. But is that good enough for their continued future and existence? Is that going to save them from extinction? And what do we do with the others who are not going to get along? Do we just get rid of them? The chain is a just a temporary tether. It means they can go everywhere to the river, for a walk, many places. It is nothing sinister. It is just a cheap practical way to keep elephants safe. Please try and walk in our shoes and see it from our point of view. See it from the point of view of people who are trying to ensure a future for these amazing animals before it is too late.
If elephants were not tethered they would be walking anywhere they want. They can destroy other people's trees, farmland, or orchards not knowing those are not for them to eat.
If they become a pest they can get killed or poisoned or injured or at the very least be resented. Human Elephant Conflict is the biggest threat facing elephants in the wild in Thailand. We can keep our domestic elephants safe from this.
Mother elephants are also chained while in the fenced areas because they can easily push the fence or climb over the fence and this causes distress for the baby. Which in turn causes distress of all the mothers and babies in the nursery.
Chains are necessary to keep the elephants safe from harming each other (not all elephants like each other) and other people,
The advantages of chains over other means of tethering are overwhelming. Chains do not stretch or shrink with changes in heat or moisture. Chains are stronger than the alternatives. Chains, unlike rope or wire, are very unlikely to cause wounds and to get twisted up in knots or caught up in trees or rocks. Chains are very durable and last longer than the alternatives. They are easy to keep clean especially during the rainy season when it is muddy. They don’t stay wet so the elephant skin is unaffected by rubbing of wet material. They can easily be adjusted to size to fit properly.
Chains mean elephants can be easily moved around and can go anywhere, with their mahout. They can go to the river, or go outside the village to grassy areas and eat in different spots. They can go to work. Elephants can also have a visual presence in everyday life with their participation in festivals, parades and public events.
We have been flooded several times over the last 16 years because we are located on the Lopburi River. The chains meant we could relocate as many times as necessary quickly and easily. If the elephants were not used to chains and being moved around they would have suffered distress and the mahouts job would have been far more dangerous.