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One small Phuket elephant is suddenly all that activists want to save

Jumbo or Dumbo? Tears Spark Campaign

Saturday, April 18, 2015
News Analysis

PHUKET: Animal activists in Australia are continuing a mindless campaign to try to save a small Phuket elephant from the ''horror'' of a life in the tourism industry.

The headline on the latest article, published today, says it all: 'My holiday in Thailand turned to hell.'

Clearly, the journalist who wrote that phrase has picked up on the key to the whole misadventure: this is not about ''saving'' the elephant, but about shielding the poor, misty-eyed visitor from sights they don't wish to see.

What a shame that ''Australian traveller''Jamie Singleton has yet to see kangaroos and koalas being culled at home or pet dogs and cats being poached so they can be cooked alive for diners in Vietnam and Laos.

The problem is, you see, that Jamie came to Phuket for a holiday and while out looking for a place to drink, happened to spy a juvenile elephant being petted by children out the front of the Dino Park restaurant.

Now, juvenile elephants have been petted by children out the front of Dino Park for two hours each night for about 15 years.

According to Jamie Singleton, this shouldn't happen.

''Just seeing her, I knew it wasn't right, it wasn't normal. I already had some idea of what happens to many of these elephants used for tourism, so I burst out crying,'' Jamie writes in today.

''Seeing this completely ruined my trip. I went from two days of bliss and then seeing that, I was distraught.''

Jamie did some research . . . but apparently that didn't include finding out who the real owner of the elephant was, or realising that other elephants in Thailand are treated far worse than those in the tourism industry.

And so what followed was a campaign for a petition to make the resort where jumbo ''Nadia'' was being kept donate the elephant to a sanctuary.

This is what happens when a traveller becomes so distraught on holiday that she cries . . . for herself.

Never mind the dolphins being abused around the corner in the Gold Coast. Never mind the culled koalas and kangaroos.

What Jamie didn't know was that the Phuket resort did not own the elephant, so the jumbo - whose name is really Choochai, not Nadia - has since been moved by its real owner to another location.

But don't worry, the activists are on the case and have tracked it down. ''Nadia'' is the one they want.

Let's overlook the fact that there are actually 216 working elephants on Phuket, with 26 under the age of five - and some of those are bound to be treated worse than ''Nadia.''

All of them are looked after carefully by a team of local livestock officials and veterinarians.

But ''Nadia'' is the one that made Jamie Singleton cry.

Jamie was so upset she didn't bother going for a look to see how the treatment of Nadia, being severely petted by children, compared to other young elephants across Phuket.

The result of Jamie's 'My holiday in Thailand turned to hell'?

A misguided campaign that fails to target the Thai government and seek reforms that would help all ''Nadias'' and could even lead to fresh awareness by Thais, the people who need to be persuaded.

Animal activists on Phuket know that riding elephants isn't something tourists should be encouraged to do. They're not supporters of culling kangaroos or koalas, either.

But the serious mistreatment in the tourist industry of slow lorises, gibbons and soi dogs is of far greater concern to animal-loving locals who have actually done their research.

And the local protesters who have so far stopped a live dolphin show from opening on Phuket even won the Phuketwan Best of Phuket Award last year for Environmental Excellence.

So dry your tears, Jamie.

Have a strong cup of tea. Then think about perhaps asking people who live in Phuket or other parts of Thailand whether your campaign really makes any sense.

'My holiday in Thailand turned into hell'

THE popular tourist activity of riding elephants in Thailand has come under fire recently as Australians who have witnessed the horror inflicted upon the animals fight back.


Comments have been disabled for this article.


Dumbo indeed.

They just are unable to make a simple act of thinking in a proper manner, by collecting all relevant information, analyzing all factors, calculating all consequences along a time axis, looking into alternatives , and separating important from non-important.

Posted by Sue on April 18, 2015 08:53


Great article.

Totally agree it's the other animal's Loris etc that's real problem

My son's love of animals started when he was about two riding the baby elephant up the street from dino park

Posted by Michael on April 18, 2015 09:09


Dear Editor,
As you are aware, the status of elephants in Thailand is a complex matter.
Your editorial lacks the extremely pertinent fact as to where these baby elephants originated from.
Were they born in captivity ( if so, easily proven ), or were they illegally taken from the wild ?
Were their mothers killed in order to have children pet them on Phuket ?
Until you establish these facts, your editorial is worthless.
Also, using the mis-treatment of some animals to justify the mis-treatment of other animals is juvenile and an example of extremely poor logic.

Posted by graham on April 18, 2015 09:27

Editor Comment:

Elephants are valuable creatures and those in the wild and in captivity in Thailand are much more carefully monitored than they once were, graham. Burma is where some wild elephants are still killed for their offspring. Perhaps you and the others should be campaigning there.

Excessively emotive outpourings, though, might bring some to tears. Most readers are capable of telling what's in greater danger: elephants in the controlled tourism industry, or slow lorises, gibbons and dolphins outside it.

I would have thought, by the way, graham, that it's up to the activists to establish that ''Nadia's'' mother was killed. It would be foolish to make that assumption.


Another Murdoch rag with xenophobic tendancies.
Can anyone say beer mat lady or hate the muslims. Normal Murdoch hate.

Posted by Arthur on April 18, 2015 10:42

Editor Comment:

Now now, Arthur. Don't blame the media. In this case, the activists should know better. Pursing one small elephant when the issue is much, much larger . . . it's really silly. They're actively trying to sensationalise the ''Nadia'' case and trigger false emotions.


Dear Editor,
I am not making the assumption that the mother was killed.
However, I am saying that it is unprofessional for a journalist to take an editorial stand without knowing all of the pertinent facts.
If you do not know, stay neutral.

Posted by graham on April 18, 2015 12:23

Editor Comment:

I know enough to know that this campaign is not helping elephants in Thailand, and that you are no judge of journalistic standards - or anything else for that matter. Why prove your ignorance? Why do it more than once?

We are not neutral. We're on the side of the elephants.


Obviously her research did not include finding out most of the elephants came from the ex logging industry

Posted by Michael on April 18, 2015 12:38

Editor Comment:

What's your evidence for that, Michael?


Ed, as they Rome was not built in a day why are you attacking her! The issue I heard with the elephant was that is was alone most of the time in the day which is cruel especially being a female elephant as they live in groups. I don't think for an intelligent animal to be "parked" outside Dinos with people touching her would be enjoyable either. What really upsets me is when you see elephant's back leg chained as the owners are too lazy or can't afford fencing. These are very intelligent animals with extensive memories and should be better cared for by law.

Posted by Welcome To Paradise on April 18, 2015 12:49

Editor Comment:

I am attacking a dumbo campaign, WtP, a campaign that ignores elephants in real need and focusses on the obvious. The aim is to stop tourists seeing sad sights and bursting into tears, not to address the real issues. This does the cause of elephants in Thailand no good at all.


The 'Nadia' movie can not be far off

Posted by Paul on April 18, 2015 18:01


Mr Morison,
Please feel free to republish my previous post on your earlier link regarding this issue. I honestly cannot understand the blind ignorance of most of the so called animal activists commenting here. Nor can I understand their criticism of your comments. You seem to be the only person here exercising a modicum of logic. Your critics seem to be suggesting that you do not support the fair treatment or elephants. One on the previous article even suggests that you must be 'in cahoots with the mahouts' (who are all, apparently, severe animal abusers). Personally I do not see you doing anything other that suggesting that animal activists do their research, talk to the Thai people, and then implement a well thought out campaign that addresses the broader issues rather than blindly trying to 'save' a single elephant. I adore elephants and see them as one of our planets truly magnificent creatures. I am committed to educating myself about their plight and also the vital role they play in the lives and livelihoods of Thai people. Once I am fully aware of all the facts, I will do what I can to help the cause. Until then, I will keep my trap shut for fear that any rash actions will inadvertently condemn one of these beautiful and sensitive creatures to a life worse than it was already suffering - as is likely the case with Nadia/Choochai. Personally Mr Morison, I applaud you for encouraging people to think before they act. The planet has enough bleeding hearts going off half cocked. Slow but steady wins the race.

Posted by Suzi on April 18, 2015 21:23

Editor Comment:

'In cahoots with the mahouts.' Suzi, I salute you.


Dear Editor,
You seem to have a comfortable relationship with the Owners of this elephant.
As a journalist, did you not think to ask them where this baby elephant came from ?
Simple question, and the very first one that a responsible journalist would have asked before writing on the subject.
Not doing so reveals either error or bias.

Posted by graham on April 19, 2015 07:07

Editor Comment:

I have no relationship with the owner of this elephant. You, graham, are a person who takes to the keyboard relying on guesswork and assumptions. Your views are based on total ignorance. Add value or you won't be published again.


Graham, firstly, nowhere have I read into anything the Editor has posted that suggests he has any kind of relationship with Choochais owner. I imagine on Phuket it would only take a journalist a couple of questions to find out who the owners are. Secondly (and again I'm utterly bewildered by the ignorance being show by posters here!), the Editor's articles were never about highlighting the issue of where the baby elephant came from (if they were, I dare say he could find that out easily enough too). The Editor's article was highlighting the problems with a knee jerk petition vs a well thought out campaign. Get over yourselves bleeding hearts and stop attacking Mr Morison. He is not attacking you personally, he is not defending unfair treatment of elephants (he's made it quite clear to me that he defends fair treatment), he is merely highlighting the need for a WELL THOUGHT OUT PLAN.

Posted by Suzi on April 19, 2015 08:12


The article about Jaime is so self centered and selfish. How many times does the word I appear? Jaime, the self centered drama queen, "oh, how I suffered, I refused to go out it was so distressing,". What rubbish. Elephants in Thailand are often and mostly we'll cared for. Of course there will be some exceptions. As to ambassadors for their cause, Jaime is a let down. Period.

Posted by Jimm on April 19, 2015 10:37

Editor Comment:

It seems a fairly blatant plea: ''This what I felt, this is what you all should feel.'' The importance of the issue is concealed under a layer of manufactured emotional blather. The headline writer has recognised it for what it is: special pleading. Let's hope logic and reason shine through the conceit sometime soon, for Nadia's sake.


The issue here is to try and get the authorities to stop the Thais from killing, eating, selling or otherwise exploiting wild animals.

Instead of which the witless Morrison turns it into a rant against someone who actually cares.

Shame on you. Do you even know what they do to "tame" these animals?

Posted by Harry Barracuda on April 19, 2015 13:26

Editor Comment:

You almost get it, HB. People who actually care - and there are thousands of them - need to have the chance to achieve change. Running a dumbo campaign over one elephant who is not poorly treated leaves elephant-lovers facing 216 campaigns just to free all the elephants in Phuket alone. That doesn't make sense. Asking the owner to give it up for free, having paid to buy it, also doesn't make sense. Pass the hat around, buy the elephant, put it in the sanctuary, then get serious about a real campaign with a real strategy . . . is that witless enough for you?


Finally Jimm, someone who gets it. Jamie's bleating did NOTHING for the cause and everything to appease her personal misery. I passed Choochai/Nadia on the street every day on my last trip to Phuket last year. I felt very sad to see her there, just as a feel for all elephants I see in a situation of isolation from their herd and stuck on a street instead of wandering in the jungle. I didn't immediately assume that she had been mistreated or abused though. Someone on a previous article link said she was skinny and clearly underfed. Oh really? When was that, because she looked quite the porker to me last year. I went and spoke to her carer. She spoke with pride about Choochai. Said she gets a bit bored outside the restaurant at night but really loves to play soccer with her carers during the day. Didn't sound to me like she had such a bad life. If Jaime were really so concerned why didn't she speak to them? I know elephants in Thailand don't live in ideal conditions and I personally aim to return to Thailand, educate myself more and start campaigning for improvements that are practical and achievable. I'm dismayed at Jaime's reaction. She claimed she spent 2 days in paradise until she spotted Choochai. When exactly was she, for those 2 days? Clearly must've spent them sipping cocktails by the pool at her resort and not exploring the real Phuket. There are far more distressing sights on the streets of Thailand than a baby elephant being fed bananas by kids!

Posted by Suzi on April 19, 2015 14:56


Now Now Editor:
I don't blame the media as I consider the Murdock empire to be entertainment and never real news.
Talking about the activicts sadly they are often people who care but never look past the consequences of there own success.
They would, sadly, save the baby elephant and then let it starve to death in it's natural environment.

Posted by Arthur on April 19, 2015 16:05


'Wrong headed'? Really? That Dino Park restaurant/bar has had an elephant CALF since the 20 years I've lived here, so when they start losing their 'cuteness', they are replaced. Made me laugh when some drunk German tourist was sat on and killed by one many years ago after he'd been teasing it. And don't get me started on the poor creature chained at the entrance to the Big Buddha of all things, swaying back and forth in obvious distress.

There was a recent poll in a local paper which found the most empathetic/concerned about animal welfare here showed up tourists being the majority, followed by Thais, and 'expats' running a poor third. Doesn't surprise me after reading expat forums here, yours included, as most seem to have left their humanity at the airport.

Posted by tif on April 20, 2015 09:18

Editor Comment:

I am not sure why CALF is in capitals. You are making the point that needs to be made - other elephants on Phuket are far, far worse off than the ones petted by children over many years outside Dino Park. Ending that ''horror'' is a hollow victory because we don't know whether the CALF is better off or worse off now. At least, unlike a beef CALF, the young elephant has a long life expectancy. Whether its future is a more important issue than, say, human slaves in the fishing industry, is up to readers to decide. But yes, this dumbo campaign remains wrong headed and misguided.


Dear Editor,
I am neither an activist, a zealot nor ignorant.
I am a resident of Kata who is asking a very simple question - why did you not ask where the baby elephant came from ?
It is extremely relevant to the story.
By all means continue to deflect and insult, but perhaps also answer the question.

I am asking you why you did not question where the baby elephant came from.
By all means continue to insult, but perhaps also answer my question.

Posted by graham on April 20, 2015 10:09

Editor Comment:

It's of little relevance, graham, although the Phuket Livestock Office keeps comprehensive records and would probably be able to tell us who the creatures' mother was easily. Almost every young elephant in Thailand has been born to a captive mother. You are the one interested in a single elephant. We want the whole issue resolved. You can chase up that blind alley if you wish. Like so many, you seem to think campaigning on behalf of one baby elephant can make a difference. All that's happened is that the campaigners run the risk of losing track of the elephant. Wake up to yourself. Try understanding the need for a strategy that works, not a dumbo jumbo campaign that ''saves'' nothing.


Once again, ignorance prevails with those commenting here. Apparently Mr Morison (that's the name of the Editor for the benefit of those who earlier suggested he is nameless - read the top of his articles duh!) you left your humanity at the airport now. Clearly tif has not bothered to take the time to learn anything about you. I wonder if tif, or anyone else posting here, would be willing to risk going to jail for speaking out about their chosen cause - in your case, human trafficking and injustice. I applause your HUMANITARIAN work Mr Morison. Good luck to you and your colleague.

Posted by Suzi on April 20, 2015 10:10

Editor Comment:

If we focussed one at a time on each single boatperson . . . . let's see . . . we could have the issue resolved in a few million years.

Thanks, Suzi.


In answer to your at best disingenuous response, plain ignorant, worst, (yet expected), a 'baby' elephant is called a CALF! The ONLY 'baby' anything is humanoid. There you learn something every day. And yet again, you fail to address my point that this Dino park/bar has ALWAYS had 'baby' elephants as a draw to, haha, 'young children to pet/drunken tourists to tease'. The obvious fact that these Elephant CALVES are rotated once having loss their 'cuteness' seems to have alluded you. And, BTW, the are rented. Read Nicky Beach. It's on many sites within the kingdom and so you should be able to find it somewhere ..

Posted by tif on April 20, 2015 11:34

Editor Comment:

It's disappointing that you've clearly failed to read what's been written on Phuketwan over the past few weeks about the issue of elephants. Do some research, please, otherwise you're just a Dimbo. (I hesitate to go any further down that path.)


Your lack of response as to the name given to a 'baby' elephant and it's being a CALF speaks volumes. Along with your silly ignorant article. Address the remainder of my response. Or have you not taken your meds today.

Posted by tif on April 20, 2015 11:54

Editor Comment:

A pitiful, lame response, tif, that adds nothing . . . like your other unresearched and ill-informed comments. e've consistently referred to a juvenile elephant.


Baby- an extremely young animal, the youngest in a group. When alone I often refer to myself as the baby of my group and nobody with me appears to give a toss or get into a tif about it.

Posted by Manowar on April 20, 2015 12:49


Ambivalence in regard of goals and methods of taking care about elephant' well-being is so well illustrated by the video in yesterday's NatGeo article:
"How to Move a Two-Ton Elephant to Safety"

Posted by Sue on April 26, 2015 22:26


I think you're missing the point. An individual saw something that they didn't like and now wants to help that something. Maybe she'll go back to help the others afterwards. The fact is this has brought media attention and the attention of others who think that keeping wild animals as pets is OK. I don't know why people aren't in it together. Why we bitch others for helping just ONE thing is not good enough for some. I think people need to seriously open their eyes and their mind before they open their mouth. And this case it's the editor.

Posted by Anonymous on March 3, 2016 16:31

Editor Comment:

I like elephants and I'd like more to be done to give them a better life. But a tourist who sees a young elephant on Phuket and bursts into tears really should do some serious research. Most people understand that, anonymous. R-e-s-e-a-r-c-h. There is a job to be done by people who know the facts and really care about elephants rather than their own pathetic tears. If you think elephants are kept as ''pets'' in Thailand, you're among the say-something know-nothings.

Friday February 28, 2020
Horizon Karon Beach Resort & Spa


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