Nueng the elephant is used to being ridden. As a 30-year-old male at the Maesa Elephant Camp in Chiang Mai, Northern Thailand, he’s a popular attraction for tourists who clamor to ride one of these majestic creatures. But what is the price paid by these gentle giants for our amusement? This is the question posed by a new documentary that investigates the often cruel process by which these wild animals are tamed and made to submit to humans.
While many elephant camps now offer alternatives such as bathing or feeding the animals, most tourists still dream of taking a ride. But animal welfare organizations have been raising alarms about the sadistic training practices used to break young elephants’ spirits, leaving permanent emotional scars. In fact, many activists now call for an end to any riding or other direct interaction with elephants in captivity. In this documentary, viewers will see firsthand what it’s like to be Nueng and other elephants in this situation, and they may find their own hearts and minds changed by what they discover.