Disturbing photos have emerged of the injuries elephants have suffered at the hands of their handlers in Thailand as authorities beg tourists not to ride the animals.

Images posted to social media show the animals with blood dripping from their heads after keepers repeatedly hit them with sharp metal hooks.

Scars on the elephants' heads can also be seen showing signs of extensive and regular abuse as they are made to perform for tourists.

The photos were accompanied by the message: "You can stop inhumanity tortured on elephants by stop riding an elephant!"

Advertisement

Now there are calls for Kiwi tourists to boycott the centres that practice inhumane and torturous treatment on animals.

The widespread circulation shocked tourists and Thai travel authorities alike, who are now pleading with holidaymakers not to support the ride operators.

"'Please don't ride the elephants and don't support this business. We never support tourists riding the elephants," a spokesman from the Tourism Authority of Thailand said.

The travel authority added that the nation's government agencies have been trying to combat the problem through a number of initiatives, including policy-making, supporting research on wildlife, rehabilitating injured animals, and eradicating the illegal wild animal trade.

Elephants in Thailand are being subjected to terrible abuse from their keepers as they are forced to perform tricks for tourists every day. Photo / Twitter
Elephants in Thailand are being subjected to terrible abuse from their keepers as they are forced to perform tricks for tourists every day. Photo / Twitter

The spokesman added that tourists can play their part in the matter, by boycotting attractions that exploit elephants for entertainment purposes.

"Travel businesses and individual tourists can help government agencies by boycotting businesses that do not take good care of animals," he said.

The process of domesticating elephants in many Thai tourist attractions is horrific, including tying elephants up on short chains, beating them with sharp objects and underfeeding them to make them behave in captivity.

Some tourists may see elephants sway their head side to side, appearing to be playful. However, this is actually a coping mechanism for isolated elephants after being taken from their mothers.

Advertisement

There are currently 3500 wild elephants and 4500 domesticated elephants in Thailand.

World Animal Protection estimated that 3000 elephants are currently being used for entertainment throughout Asia, with 77 per cent being inhumanely treated.