Born Free USA Blog
by Will Travers,
Chief Executive Officer
What can you say about a big-hearted bloke who has rescued dolphins, tigers, elephants and more and whose parents once helped a lion cub from a department store by caring for him in their backyard and engineering his rightful return to Africa? You can safely say that he's got great animal instincts! In 1984, Will Travers joined his parents — "Born Free" film stars Virginia McKenna and Bill Travers — to form what became The Born Free Foundation. With knowledge, passion and compassion dripping from his every word, Will's blogs are sure to make you embrace our crusade to Keep Wildlife in the Wild ®.
So now it’s not enough to see elephants in small, unnatural enclosures: A handful of zoos, including the Orange County Zoo in Southern California, want to offer elephant rides!
I hardly know where to begin. But for starters, as a parent, let’s just say that if we set aside the cruelty to elephants, I would NEVER put my children at risk by letting them get that close to a wild animal, especially the largest land mammal on Earth.
History shows that elephant rides are not safe. In Florida, an elephant with a woman and five children on her back suddenly bolted. Although the riders were rescued, some spectators were injured and the elephant was killed in front of the public in a shocking hail of bullets. In 2009 at the Indiana State Fairgrounds, an elephant forced to provide rides became “spooked” and caused a mobile stairway to collapse, injuring children waiting for a ride.
There is a serious potential disease risk as well. Research suggests that elephants with tuberculosis could spread the disease to handlers — could they infect children riders as well? This past August, an elephant used to give children rides at Southwick Zoo in Massachusetts was found to have died of tuberculosis.
Even the Association of Zoos and Aquariums (AZA), which accredits and sets standards for zoos, strongly discourages visitor-elephant interaction — including elephant rides — in the interest of public safety.
Elephants are not well-suited to a life of subjugation and unnatural confinement. Although elephant rides may appeal to the uninformed, elephants are not amusement park rides.
I say find a roller-coaster and get off their (the elephants’) backs!