Ban Ta Klang: Separated from their mothers, jabbed with metal hooks, and sometimes deprived of food many Thai elephants are tamed by force before being sold to lucrative tourism sites increasingly advertised as 'sanctuaries' to cruelty-conscious travellers.
Balanced precariously on hind legs, two-year-old Ploy holds a ball in her trunk and flings it towards a hoop, one of many tricks she is learning in Ban Ta Klang, a traditional training village in the east.
Here young elephants are "broken" to interact with tens of millions of tourists who visit Thailand every year, many eager to capture social media-worthy encounters of the kingdom's national animal playing sports, dancing and even painting. Villagers in Ban Ta Klang who have been working with the large, gentle animals for generations say taming is necessary for safety reasons and force is not excessive.
"We do not raise them to hurt them... if they are not stubborn, we do nothing to them," said mahout Charin, as he stroked Ploy's head affectionately and spoke of her as part of his family.
Charin makes about USD 350 a month in a profession that was handed down from his father and grandfather.