I watch, happy tears swelling in my eyes, as the first of two rescued ex-trekking elephants walks off of the truck, backing out slowly and cautiously placing her hind legs, one-at-a-time, on the ground.
It’s pitch black, save for a few flashlights and one camera light. Around us, cicadas, frogs and crickets all compete to pierce the oh-so-still night.
She walks softly, crunching dried grass, as we follow behind her. Slowly, slowly she walks. To freedom. At the Cambodia Wildlife Sanctuary.
From this moment forward, she will never have to strap a 200-pound bench to her back. From this moment forward, she will never have ropes cutting into her. A bull hook threatening to slash her ear, forehead or neck. She will never have the weight of a person on her. But, most importantly, she will never again be exploited for a human’s need to cross “riding an elephant” off of some bucket list or posing atop her back for a selfie.
Even though I no longer live in Thailand, I receive emails from readers regularly who ask: Should I ride an elephant? What’s the truth about riding elephants in Thailand and the rest of the world?