EleFact Friday: Healthy Elephant Backs

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


  1. REPLY
    CAROL says

    I wish you could send these posts out on social media such as Instagram so we can repost! We need to get these horrible practices to be stopped!

    • REPLY
      Kat Blais says

      all of our blog posts are also on facebook and Instagram, so share away. ☺️

  2. REPLY
    Wim says

    Thank you for writing this very important article about the fragile elephant spine. I’m on a Twitter crusade every day of the year asking organisations and individuals not to ride elephants. I’ve seen the damaged, tortured, Asian and African elephants for many years. So heartbreaking this still happens today.

  3. REPLY
    Barb says

    Heartbreaking to think of allowing people to ride on those precious backs! I just added this posting to my Instagram story.

    • REPLY
      Kat Blais says

      thanks for sharing 💜

  4. REPLY
    Rocío says

    Gracias por la información, desconocía los problemas que tienen por cargar humanos.
    Desde mi punto de vista, toda excursión turística que involucre animales deberían prohibirse; desde montar elefantes, zoológicos, nadar con delfines, acuarios o centros donde tienen orcas, leones marinos, etc. ¿Por qué no apreciarlos en libertad, en la naturaleza, en un parque nacional, y a la distancia para no interferir?
    Gracias por lo que hacen por las chicas y por aportar su conocimiento y experiencia ♥

  5. REPLY
    Sandi says

    Thank you for all that you do for the elephants. It is so sad to think that there are still people using them as pack animals and transporting people on their backs. I would wish that all captive elephants and ones that have already been working like this for years, could be at the Sanctuary, where they could finally live like elephants, without having to work!

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