“Elephant doesn’t voluntarily let someone ride them, do fancy tricks, or hold a paintbrush with its trunk; it’s forced to perform and most often it’s in the form of abuse,” said Hannah Williams who is a volunteer at Elephant Nature Park in Thailand.

Some groups of people who run organization are trying to save Thai elephants that are in danger because of humans’ irresponsibility. Progress is being made, but this long battle is going to be endless if the citizens don’t take some actions now.

There is a lack of concern in Thai people when it comes to elephants. Nevertheless, some people who have expertise in this subject think that many Thais care about elephants, but they do not know how to start helping.

Kerri McCrea is a manager and co-founder of Kindred Spirit Elephant Sanctuary. She couldn’t stand there and do nothing when some cruel humans torture these magnificent creatures.

The organization is focusing on bringing elephants back home to the forest. This organization has already helped four elephants that were treated as things to please humans in tourist camps before.

She said, “Our poor elephants have been taken from riding camps where they were wearing a saddle to give rides for long periods of time and performing tricks.” They research on the elephant’s natural behavior in order to create more awareness and improve elephant welfare nationwide.

“Asian elephants are endangered species according to International Union for Conservation of Nature — so people should stop treating them like dogs on the leash,” said Kerri. She sees saving the Thai symbol is necessary.

It’s Thai people’s responsibility as elephants’ habitats were greatly destroyed during the commercial logging. Some elephants are trained to drag a small log on land or water with the chains, which can be harnessed to their bodies.

Killing elephants for ivory is very wrong even though some trophy hunters claim that this activity brings money to the country. Feeding bananas or sweet sugarcanes to elephants just to get photo opportunities is also unacceptable in Kerri’s opinion.

Kerri pointed out that “Many low-income families have to make a living, which involves turning elephants’ activities into business. For instance, selling elephants’ ivory, removing tusks and walking them on the street.” She also added that, “They may have no choice, as finding money for their families is their priority.”

These harmful activities should be prohibited and people should learn more about its disadvantages. She suggested that, “There needs to be more alternatives and education for the local people to make an income.”

According to the traditional belief of Thai people, this gentle giant is the symbol of the Land of Smiles. Back in 1855, the white elephant used to be on the red field.

Elephant is the official national animal, which is considered as icon for the country. It has played a crucial role as a war elephant in the past. It fought along with the King in the Thai history. The elephant has been a contributor to the country as it is a sacred animal in the Buddhist country.

The World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF) is another force that is helping the elephants; it came into existence in 1961. This organization views elephants as vital animals — “We think it should remain as an iconic species that are treasured worldwide,” said Yowalak Thiarachow, who is the Country Director of WWF Thailand. She added, “Without the elephant, the ecosystem wouldn’t be completed.”

Miss Yowalak mentioned that, “Some groups of Thai people are willing to help the elephants. The problem is the fact that they don’t know how to actually save the elephants. This is due to lack of knowledge so it’s the job of the organization to help spreading awareness.”

Another step that Kerri suggested people to start doing for elephants is that they should stop supporting any products made from elephants’ tusks. No elephant would want its tusk that is embedded within the skull to be removed.

She said, “When elephants lose their tusks, it can harm their diets as they use tusks for digging and scraping bark off trees. Their social status can be harmed as well because they use it for fighting, flirting and mating.”

“There has recently been a decline in jobs for elephant tourism as many people are boycotting elephant camps.” Kerri said with high hopes that “Raising awareness and finding alternative jobs for the local people will create better welfare for the elephants that need it.”

Hannah Williams who has first-hand experience in helping elephants also agreed with this idea. She said, “There is a saying that goes ‘knowledge is power,’ — it applies directly to this situation because when people spread the truth about what elephant abuse is, more people become aware and actions will be taken to reinforce the natural lifestyle of the animals.”

At the end, the best suggestions from these organizations are to create alternatives and other sources of income for the local people. Start educating the local and spreading more awareness can brighten the future of Thai elephants.

“Huge damage caused by humans’ actions can never be undone but it can surely be stopped,” Miss Yowalak voiced her hope. “We all need to work together as one cannot only be the force to help saving the Thai symbol.”

Originally published at medium.com on January 10, 2018.