An Asian elephant supports itself on one leg, completely submerged in garish electric-blue water, while a keeper tugs painfully at its ear. The photograph shows bubbles rising from its trunk as it offers a stick of sugarcane toward a crowd of onlookers on the other side of the glass tank, enthralled by the performance. In contrast, the elephant stares blankly ahead.
The scene, captured by photojournalist Adam Oswell at Khao Kiew Zoo in Thailand, is representative of how animals are held captive for human entertainment at venues all over the world. “To me, the image is a powerful metaphor of our global relationship with animals and nature, showing just how exploitative and manufactured it can be,” Oswell tells Mongabay.