Investigators also witnessed the 2-year-old elephant sucking his trunk, which is a sign of distress in elephants
Activist group Moving Animals has shared alarming footage and photos of a baby elephant at Thailand’s Phuket Zoo, in hopes of getting the young animal moved to a sanctuary.
According to the group, their investigators found that the baby elephant, who they nicknamed Dumbo, was forced to dance to rave music, play musical instruments, pose for photos and perform tricks for laughing tourists. Additionally, Moving Animals says, the baby elephant appeared “skeletal” and was seen sucking his trunk, which is a sign of distress. The group has photos and videos of Dumbo performing at the zoo, which has numerous negative reviews on TripAdvisor for their treatment of animals.
Performances like the one documented by investigators occur three times a day at the zoo, reports Moving Animals, “all under the threat of the sharp ‘bullhook’.” Moving Animals worries that the baby elephant will spend his entire life in captivity forced to perform for tourists, who also pay to take selfies with the ailing animal.
The Phuket Zoo did not respond to PEOPLE’s request for comment.
In an effort to change Dumbo’s future, Moving Animals launched a petition on Care2 demanding the animal’s release into a sanctuary, “where he can feel happiness and peace, without the threat of abuse or being forced to perform.”
The petition already has over 66,000 signatures and is hoping to reach 100,000. Moving Animals’ heartbreaking eyewitness accounts of what this baby elephant endures every day has prompted Phuket Provincial Office of the Department of Livestock Development (DLD) to investigate the Phuket Zoo, reports The Phuket News.
After checking in on the baby elephant, officially named Ping Pong, officers found the animal is in poor health and ordered the zoo to pull the 2-year-old elephant from performances until he is fully healed.
“Our officers found that Ping Pong is underweight, so we have to make sure he is not suffering from an infection or a digestive problem,” DLD Chief Manas Thepparuk told The Phuket News.
“His weight loss might be a consequence of diarrhea. Plus he has new teeth coming up. This might make him want to eat less than normal,” he added.
According to the DLD official, the Phuket Zoo offers adequate shelter, care and food for the baby elephant. DLD plans to check in on the animal again in a month to see how his health is doing.
If the Phuket Zoo uses the little animal in any performances before the DLD deems he is back at full health, the zoo “will be charged for breaching the Cruelty Prevention and Welfare of Animal Act, under which they shall be liable to a fine not exceeding for 40,000 [Thai bhat],” Chief Manas Thepparuk said.