Animal Defenders International


Animal Defenders International

Amazon urged to drop movie featuring abused elephant

Posted: 5 September 2019. Updated: 27 September 2019

Animal Defenders International (ADI) is calling on Amazon to drop the movie Saving Flora, which features an abused elephant named Tai. As documented by ADI, the wild-caught Asian elephant has been beaten, hooked, and electric-shocked by her owners and trainers.

Saving Flora – which stars David Arquette – is now available to rent or buy on Amazon Prime, and this past weekend it premiered on Sky in the UK under the name An Elephant’s Journey. The film’s story centers on Flora, a circus elephant “who can no longer perform her tricks.” The night before she is scheduled to be euthanized, the circus owner’s daughter breaks her out and tries to save her. Sadly, in reality, Tai is still being forced to perform.

ADI President Jan Creamer said, “Animal Defenders International exposed, eight years ago, the terrible abuse of Tai the elephant, who was torn from the wild and has been forced to perform her whole life. Her suffering has been largely ignored by the industry, and we call on Amazon not to support the violence inflicted on Tai and other performing animals.”

Shocking footage from an eight-week undercover investigation by ADI, released when the movie Water for Elephants featuring Tai came out, shows Tai and other elephants at Have Trunk Will Travel (HTWT) in California being beaten with bull hooks and electric shocked with stun guns by the owners and trainers. HTWT, rebranded as The Preserve, is now based in Texas.

Video of ADI’s findings can be seen here

Forced to perform the tricks seen in the movies, TV shows, commercials, and events they are hired for, the company’s elephants were chained by their legs 12 hours a day, barely able to take one step back and forward. The producers and stars of Water for Elephants, as well as Have Trunk Will Travel, asserted that Tai was trained with kindness, marshmallows, and positive reinforcement. As the ADI footage shows, this could not be further from the truth.

The investigation resulted in condemnation from veterinary surgeons, elephant experts, zoo industry insiders, and the public.

During filming of Saving Flora in the US, ADI reached out to producers FJ Productions, providing them with evidence of Tai’s abuse and urging them to use CGI technology instead. ADI also contacted American Humane, who award films with the ‘No animals were harmed’ certification, urging them to re-evaluate how they assess the use of animals in films and the statements they make endorsing the use of performing animals.

At their new location in Texas, Have Trunk Will Travel / The Preserve offer interactions with their five long-suffering elephants, Tai, Dixie, Kitty, Rosie and Becky, who were all captured from the wild during the 1960s and 1980s. Billed as “intimate, meaningful experiences,” interactions with the animals include bathing them and filing their nails, taking selfies, and watching as the elephants are made to paint pictures on canvas.

Research shows that presenting wild animals as objects of fun, and within a human environment, can negatively distort people’s perception of their conservation status, undermining efforts to protect them. The Asian elephant is listed as Endangered on the IUCN Red List, with wild populations continuing to decline.

At the recent CITES (Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species) Conference of Parties, a proposal to end the international trade in live wild-caught African elephants was adopted, subject to an amendment that the export of elephants outside their natural range be permitted if it could be shown to help conservation of wild populations. This would require the agreement of the CITES Animal Committee, and also involve consultation with the IUCN African Elephant Specialist Group, which has already indicated there is no conservation benefit in doing so.

Media contact: Lesley McCave, ADI Communications Director: (323) 935-2234/(323) 804-9920, or

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