Mission to rescue baby elephant from 'grim existence' inside cage at tourist park

The bold plan is to buy the baby elephant and reunite him with his mother, who is believed to be at a camp some four hours away.

Left - Daniel Villota with the baby elephant in the background. Right - A red circle around the baby elephant's chained leg.
Daniel Villota (left) is raising funds to buy the freedom of a baby elephant chained inside a cage. Source: Unchained Elephants

The mission is simple. There’s a baby elephant chained up inside a 3x3 metre cage in Thailand and he needs to be free.

His days inside the popular tourist park have been monotonous since he arrived in Bangkok three years ago. He’s been forced to learn simple tricks so it appears he’s showing gratitude when cashed-up tourists pay to feed him.

Video seen by Yahoo News shows the animal chewing on his bars and walking around in circles. Vicki Kiely from charity Unchained Elephants described his situation as “a pretty grim existence”.

“His life isn’t great. He’s just standing on concrete, chained to the floor pretty much 24/7. He’s just so bored, there’s no enrichment in there,” she said.

But although life is pretty awful for the young bull elephant now, she is worried things will soon get worse. He’ll probably soon be forced to undergo brutal training to placate him into giving forced rides to paying customers.

“Now the owner of the elephant wants to sell it and use the money to look after his family. We know that he's not using the money to buy another elephant and that’s important because we don’t want to be perpetuating the trade here," Vicki said.

Related: Tourists warned after video exposes cruel elephant training methods

Two images showing the baby elephant in his pen in Bangkok, Thailand.
The baby elephant is living a 'pretty grim existence' according to observers who have watched him inside his 3x3 metre pen. Source: Unchained Elephants

Yahoo last spoke to the crew at Unchained Elephants in December before its supporters donated thousands to free an aging, emaciated, female who was being forced to work the often seedy streets of coastal Pattaya, around two hours south of Bangkok.

Now Vicky and her charity partner Daniel Villota are working to repeat that magic and they’ve pulled together US $42,744 ($64,425) to buy the animal's freedom. Now they’re working to secure enough cash to pay for his transport and make a documentary that advocates for ethical tourism over animal torture.

If you would like to donate to "unchain a baby elephant", you can do so here.

The plan will then be to track down his mother who is believed to be living four hours south in the coastal city of Hua Hin. They were separated around three years ago, around a decade earlier than they would have parted in the wild.

All going well, the pair will be reunited at a sanctuary called Following Giants, which is run by a family who have transitioned from keeping trekking animals to ethical experiences.

"We want to see this same change with all of the different camps to get a better experience for Thailand's elephants," Daniel said.

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