Life In Chains

animal eye
brown elephant with chain

( Intermediate Level )

Phoebe always knew, since she was young, that she wanted to become a veterinarian. Once, she saved a small featherless bird which had fallen from its nest. She raised it to the point where it could be set free. Her father had told her it would not survive without its mother but she proved him wrong.

Graduating from the university was a milestone for her. She was the first in her family to do so. Many offers from veterinarian clinics came in but she was unsure which direction to take.

It wasn’t until she read an article regarding the elephants used for tourism that she made her choice. She was going overseas. She wanted to work with exotic animals.

Her mission was to spread the word on the plight of the elephants. People always read about the poaching of these magnificent animals but why aren’t we aware of the use of elephants in tourism? Or entertainment and the conditions they have to endure?

She wanted to set them free. Looking into the eyes of these creatures and seeing their sadness she knew this is what she needed to do.

One particular elephant caught her eye. Her name is Buppha which means a flower. This elephant, now at the age of thirteen was taken from her mother at a tender age. She never wandered free in the jungle, instead she earned her owner thousands of dollars.

Buppha was sold several times until she was in the hands of a local man who ran a tourist trap offering elephant rides. Most of these elephants would work from sun up to sun down giving fifty to sixty rides a day.

When not in use, the elephant’s foot was shackled by one leg with a few feet of chain only allowing them a few steps in either direction. When they misbehaved a hook was used. Startling them to comply with the mahout.

“How could they abuse such a majestic animal.? You can look into their eyes and see they are unhappy.” She said her father when she showed him this article.

“Unfortunately, Phoebe, the people found a way to earn money using animals and this has been this way for years. You won’t change their minds. For most it is their way to provide for their families.”

“Maybe I cannot change their minds but I can try to save a few elephants. ” Phoebe picked up the magazine and showed him Buppha. “This one never ran free,” as she pointed to her. “She needs to know what it feels like to be part of a herd. She needs to know what it feels like to take a mud bath.

She set the magazine down and headed to her room. Her idea to research as much as she could and hopefully find an answer. If she could help just one elephant then maybe it could lead to another then another.

After hours surfing the internet she came to the conclusion that the only thing to do to save Buppha was to purchase her from the owner. How can she raise such funds? Would he be willing to sell her? Or be convinced to just give her up?

She contacted the author, Matthew Greene, of the article via email. He too agreed with her father. His whole idea of writing this piece was to bring awareness and hopefully the elephant rides would become obsolete.

She asked about Buppha. She was told she was in a smaller village and when not used for rides she would haul logs or other heavy materials thus earning money for her owner.

Matthew did state one very important thing to her in their conversation, “Everything has a price. If you give her owner a number, he may just accept it. I do want to warn you, he may simply find a younger elephant to purchase. Until elephants aren’t used in this business, this circle will continue.”

“There are a few so-called sanctuaries or safe places for the old and disabled elephants that can no longer earn their owners money but be very careful. They are still being ridden by their mahouts and are on display earning money for the owners. They are truly not free.”

“If you are able to get Buppha just know where she will live out the rest of her life. I can recommend a few places I have visited. These places care about the elephants one hundred percent.”

She thanked Matthew for his information and immediately started a Go Fund Me page to raise money towards the purchase of Buppha. She wrote about her and the other elephants and linked Matthew’ s article to hers.

Amazingly, within three days the page had raised seventeen thousand dollars. She was pleased that she was not the only one who seemed to care about Buppha and the others.

Within a month, Phoebe was heading to her destination. She hoped she had enough money to persuade Buppha ‘s owner to sell her. She knew she had a difficult battle ahead of her but she was up for the challenge.

Phoebe settled into her hotel room and quickly befriended a local man named Somsak who knew Buppha’ s owner. He offered to take her to meet this gentleman on Friday which she accepted. This would give her ample time to check out the safe havens that Matthew had told her about.

The next morning Phebe set off to investigate the sanctuaries that Matthew spoke so highly about. She was impressed with the second one. She observed the animals playing in the mud, bathing in the river and foraging for food with little interference with their assigned mahout.

This was definitely the place where she could see Buppha living for the rest of her life providing she could convince her current owner to sell her.

She had a wonderful conversation with the owner of Second Chance Haven for Elephants over lunch. Phoebe offered her services to be the project’s veterinarian. Since the haven ran on donations only she wasn’t offered a great salary.

She was offered, though, free room and board along with three meals a day. This suited Phoebe. She accepted the offer. She couldn’t wait to secure Buppha and start her new adventure as the veterinarian to these wonderful creatures.

Somsak was punctual. He arrived just before eight in the morning knowing they had almost a half day journey in front of them. He greeted Phoebe by the jeep and told her they must get started if they were to get to the village where Buppha was and return home before it got too late.

Finally the day came for her to see this elephant that she grew so fond of. Most of the trip was in silence. Phoebe was lost in her thoughts. “What if her owner wasn’t willing to sell when she traveled so far? What if she did not have enough money?

“Ma’am we will be at the village in less than ten minutes. Please let me talk to her owner first. Let me find out what type of mood he was in.”

Phoebe thought for a moment and shook her head to agree. She hadn’t been in the country long enough to know the culture. Maybe they do not like an outspoken person to tell them what is right or wrong. She hadn’t intended to say these things but she knew she would do just about anything to get Buppha.

They pulled up to what looked like a small arena with a small shade attached. There Phoebe sees Buppha. She looked down and saw her left leg in chains. Her head was swaying back and forth.

It took all of Phoebe’s willpower not to get out of the jeep and go to her. Somsak pleaded for her to stay inside the vehicle until the time was right.

Somsak emerged from the house with a taller man about twenty minutes later. As they walked towards the jeep Phoebe’s heart beat faster. She opened the door and stood quietly waiting until it was ok to speak.

Somsak broke the silence and introduced Phoebe to Kittisak. He was considered a wealthy and cunning man in his village. “Miss Phoebe, my friend here tells me you want to purchase my elephant, is this true?”

“Yes Sir. I read an article regarding her and others here but there was something in her eyes that drew me to her specifically.

What will a woman from America want with an elephant?”

I am now the veterinarian for Second Chance Haven for Elephants in the north. I would like to see her live out the rest of her life there. Let her live free without chains and have a family that she never had the chance to experience.”

She wondered if what she said was too abrupt as she watched Kittisak look at his elephant then at Somsak. As he turned to look at Phoebe she could see he had a slight smile on his face.

Well Miss Phoebe, everything has a price. I have not become a rich man by giving things away. I will set a price for her. I will take no less for what I ask. Give me a few moments.”

She knew exactly what he was doing. He was calculating what money he has put into her and what loss he may occur by selling her. She remembered what Mathew told her. He would want to buy another to replace her.

He turned to look at Phoebe and Somsak. “My wife tells me everyday that I am getting too old for this. Taking care of these elephants. It is time for us to enjoy the sunset years of our lives. We will never be able to spend all the money I have earned over the years.”

“Maybe today I am being a bit sentimental or maybe I am finally listening to my wife so I will give you Buppha. I will sign over ownership to you. I can see you genuinely care about her.”

He saw the huge smile on her face. She let out a heavy sigh as she moved closer to shake his hand. She hadn’t expected this outcome. “Thank you sir. Thank you very much. I will take care of her. I promise this to you.”

Now go over to say hello to Buppha. She is yours now.”

As she ran to greet Buppha she thought to herself, “Had Somsak said something to him? Or was he finally listening to his wife’s pleas?” Either way Buppha was going to her forever home free of chains and the money raised for her purchase would be donated to the sanctuary.

Phoebe approached Buppha who stood watching her. Her swaying head had stopped. Her eyes widened as Phoebe reached out her hand to touch her trunk.

“You’re going home girl. You and I will start our new lives together up north.” Buppha touched Phoebe’s face with her trunk as if she knew things would soon be better.

Written By: Angel

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Twitter: AngelOfTheMorn5

Meta Business Suite: Angel’s Thoughts To Pen

Thoughts From Angel:

I had traveled to Thailand in the past and it was amazing to see elephants up close and personal. Unfortunately, those too were used for elephant rides.

I was sadden when I seen a mother elephant in chains with its small baby huddled close to her. The baby would follow her as her mother gave rides to tourist trying desperately to keep up.

Thankfully we have people like @lek_chailert and @elephantnaturepark ( Instagram ) for their amazing commitment to many elephants who were used in tourism or the likes. These elephants come to her with not only physical problems but emotional also.

Elephants have strong bonds with their families, are intelligent and have feelings. It is nice to see them run free within the park being just an elephant . Creating bonds that were stripped from them at some stage of their lives.

Can you imagine having your world change overnight then live a duration of your life in chains?

If you appreciate what I do :


veterinarian – noun: a person qualified to treat diseased or injured animals

milestone – noun: an action or event marking a significant change or stage in development

plight – noun: a dangerous, difficult, or otherwise unfortunate situation

poaching – verb: stealing animals also or to take game or fish illegally

magnificent – adjective: beautiful, elaborate, or extravagant

tender age – noun: a young age

tourist trap – noun: a place that attracts and exploits tourists

shackled – verb: restrained with chains

mahout – noun: a person who works with, and tends an elephant

majestic – adjective: showing impressive beauty or dignity

research – noun: investigation or study

conclusion – noun: the end or finish of an event or process

awareness – noun: knowledge of a situation or fact

obsolete – adjective: no longer

amazingly – adverb: impressive

destination – noun: the place to which someone is going

persuade – verb: (of a situation or event) provide a sound reason for (someone) to do something

safe havens – noun: a place of refuge

foraging – verb: search widely for food

interference – noun: intervention

secure – adjective : safe

punctual – adjective: doing something at the agreed time

outspoken – adjective: rank in stating one’s opinions

willpower – noun: control

cunning – adjective: showing skill in achieving one’s ends by deceit

specifically – adverb: exact and clear

abrupt – adjective: sudden and unexpected


genuinely – adverb: truthful 

Question ( s ):

Where do we draw the line when it comes to the use of animals?

Is service animals included in this category?

Many argue the line is drawn when the animal is asked to perform things that are not natural to them. (like a dolphin playing basketball) Do you agree?