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24 May 2019 15:56
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  •   Home > News > International

    Doc Martin star Martin Clunes dropped as animal welfare charity patron for riding elephant

    The Doc Martin and Men Behaving Badly star is dropped as a patron of animal welfare charity Born Free after he is filmed awkwardly clambering on top of an elephant in Nepal while shooting a documentary.

    Animal welfare charity Born Free has dumped Doc Martin star Martin Clunes as a patron after he was filmed riding an elephant in Nepal.

    The 57-year-old actor climbed onto an elephant while shooting an episode of ITV program My Travels And Other Animals, prompting social media criticism.

    The actor expressed concern about riding the elephant during the episode, but then countered that using the elephants for tourism was a "kinder life than hauling heavy logs".

    The footage shows Clunes gripping the elephant by both ears, before apologising and saying "I didn't want to hurt her".

    He eventually clambers on top of the elephant, using its nose as a means of a leg-up before reaching the seating on the animal's back.

    Born Free confirmed Clunes's "deeply unfortunate" departure for riding a "captive, wild" elephant.

    "Born Free has always been opposed to the exploitation of captive wild animals for entertainment and human interactions," it said.

    "There is clear evidence that training, keeping and riding captive elephants causes distress and suffering."

    The charity has removed the Men Behaving Badly actor as a celebrity patron on its website, though Clunes's endorsement was still visible on a cached version of the webpage.

    "I like to do whatever I can for Born Free whenever I am asked. I love the Born Free Foundation, it steps in wherever there's an animal facing cruelty, abuse or unfairness of any kind … any animal in any place," Clunes said.

    "It's a truly unique resource for wildlife conservation with a knowledge base built on years of work in the field in so many countries with so many different species. You should love it too."

    Elephant riding is common in the tourism industries of many south-east Asian countries.

    Welfare organisation World Animal Protection (WAP) says "appalling cruelty" is inflicted on elephants in entertainment, and elephant riding may also lead to increased poaching, with the animals being sold into the industry for as much as $85,000.

    The organisation says photos tourists post to social media of them riding elephants are really evidence of animals in suffering.

    © 2019 ABC Australian Broadcasting Corporation. All rights reserved

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