If you are a longtime follower of Global Sanctuary for Elephants, or just a supporter of elephants in general, you are probably aware of the concept of elephant tourism. More specifically, you are probably familiar with (and disheartened by) the idea that elephants should be used to give leisure rides to human passengers in different areas around the world. In light of recent news about laws regarding elephant rides, we wanted to share a bit about elephant spines and vertebrates for today’s EleFACT.
Healthy elephants should have spines that are naturally rounded and raised, which you can often see in photographs that we share of the sanctuary girls. Most mammals, including humans, have spines that are composed of smooth, rounded disks which help distribute weight evenly. Elephants, however, have sharper, bony protrusions that extend upwards from their spine, making their vertebrates and the surrounding tissues that are meant to protect these bones particularly vulnerable to weight and pressure from above. This pressure from the wWeight on their backs, paired with malnutrition and injuries sustained from years of carrying human weight, can lead to obvious deformities. The tissue and bones on their back can deteriorate, causing irreversible physical damage to their spines.Their backs may appear caved or sunken in, noticeably different from what a healthy spine should look like.
These exploitative rides are just another example of using elephants for selfish human desires; for just a few minutes of “fun” for a tourist around the world can be contributing to lifelong damage and pain for an elephant. In recent years, more worldwide attention has been brought to the damaging consequences of these tourist attractions, and we hope to continue to do our part to educate others to spare elephants from more pain.
Photo of Mara