Season 8 Love Island star Coco Lodge is still turning heads – this time with a new PETA video campaign that warns fans not to visit misleadingly named elephant “sanctuaries” if they allow visitors to interact with the animals.
Coco Lodge: ‘I Was Tricked’
In the video, Lodge explains how she once posted a photo to social media following a trip to an elephant-bathing facility in Thailand, believing she had visited a bona fide animal sanctuary.
Today, these tourist traps give Lodge the ick, since she learned that, behind the scenes, handlers often chain and beat the elephants in sensitive places with bullhooks – sharp, hook-tipped steel implements that resemble a fireplace poker – and attract unsuspecting visitors by claiming to be involved in animal rescue.
“The fact that I had gone to one of these, given them money, taken selfies with the animals, and posted it online made me feel really sad. What you don’t see on Instagram is that many elephants used for entertaining tourists were torn away from their mothers as babies. They are often beaten or prodded to make sure they comply.”
– Coco Lodge
True sanctuaries, she points out, do not allow visitors to touch wildlife. The Global Federation of Animal Sanctuaries requires that member sanctuaries never breed or sell animals and that they allow rescued exotic animals to live out the rest of their lives in peaceful, spacious natural habitats with members of their own species.
“These wild animals should be left in peace, not touched by strangers day in, day out. No animal should suffer for a selfie.”
We’ve put together some tips for identifying whether or not any facility claiming to be a sanctuary is genuine:
Elephant Abuse in Tourism
A PETA India–commissioned investigation into elephant training in Nepal revealed horrific physical and emotional abuse.
Baby elephants are torn away from their mothers at just 2 years old and tied up out of reach. Elephant calves are restrained during training for as long as 14 hours at a time with heavy chains and ropes that cause painful burns.
Calves are put through terrifying “desensitisation” sessions, in which trainers tie the elephants tightly to a pole, surround them, startle them with loud noises, hit them, prod them with sticks, and wave flaming torches at them – often singeing the elephants’ skin.
What You Can Do
If you truly care for elephants, admire them from a distance and avoid facilities that exploit them. You can also take action for these animals by urging Indian and Nepali officials to ban elephant rides: