"Foreigners just don't understand elephants" says unrepentant and under fire zoo director
The director of Khao Kheow Open Zoo in Chonburi has hit back at claims in the UK media and online that an "Elephant Playing in the Water" show amounts to animal abuse.
Appaporn Sriheran told PPTV HD 36 that foreigners don't understand elephant behavior. He said his show is educational for tourists and students and he has no intention to stop it.
Calls were made in the UK's mass circulation The Daily Mail for the show to end. A petition on Care2 responded to by animal lovers worldwide also called for the show to stop.
PPTV said that activists want it stopped because mahouts are forcing the elephants to act unnaturally with enticements of food.
The show, with "Pang Saeng Dao" the star of nine elephants who take part, has been going on two or three times daily for five years.
Each show in the four meter deep tank lasts about ten to fifteen minutes. Hundreds of tourists and students view via an underwater viewing area 30 meters long.
Mahouts (or elephant handlers) told PPTV that this is natural elephant behavior. The elephants breathe through their trunks and stand on their hind legs as they would do in the wild.
Picture: Thai Rath
They said the elephants willingly enter the water for the show.
Director Appaporn agreed saying that it was educational for tourists and students to learn about elephant behavior in water. The crowd get a great view of this in the area underwater, he said.
He said that the practice of the mahouts riding on the neck of the elephants was ended two years ago and replaced by the handlers encouraging the elephants with promises of food around the edge of the tank.
PPTV quoted him as saying that foreigners don't understand elephant behavior and he sees no reason to stop the show.
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