The One and Only Packy

Heart of Ganesh is currently out working in the field in central Sri Lanka, but we are deeply saddened to hear that our “Home” elephant, the world-famous Packy, is no longer among the living.

Packy, the oldest elephant in captivity in the US, was born, lived, and then died at the Oregon Zoo in Portland. Packy was euthanized last week after the zoo reported that his life could not be made better while doing battle with tuberculosis.

However, reports from anonymous zoo keepers and longterm caregivers from the zoo stated that the plan to “put Packy down” was “not based on science, safety or Packy’s best interest” but rather in the self-interest of the zoo to close the book on the increasingly controversial story of keeping Packy in the confines of the Oregon Zoo.

We’re reminded of the last time Heart of Ganesh (along with Free the Oregon Zoo Elephants and many other concerned and compassionate citizens) offered testimony to the Portland Metro City Council about the condition and morality of holding elephants at the Oregon Zoo.

This is a bit of the transcript from what we said that day:

“Like others sitting behind and beside me, I’ve been here many times. We all have. We’ve called, we’ve written, we’ve signed, and we will again and again. We will not just sit and wring our hands in dismay and anger and talk amongst ourselves about how inhumane or unjust your confinement of these sentient beings is.

What’s MISSING from the equation is your Compassion and Leadership. Once again, we are imploring you to become leaders instead of followers, for certainly you know by now that the world is watching.

I invite you to look at the message you embody, the message you give the people of Portland, the message you send to your children, the message you are now sending the world, as you continue to turn away from another’s suffering, turning instead toward the almighty dollar and status quo.

To create lasting change that doesn’t just deal with the symptoms, but digs underneath to what we must do to leave a legacy of kindness, and to do so without preaching or hostility, takes a real conversation, and it’s powerful to know so many people, right here— behind me, beside me, are creating the time to have that conversation”.

After we each spoke, Portland Metro President Tom Hughes looked condescendingly into the audience and stated “…now you have to listen to me, and YOU ARE WRONG.”

Door closed, conversation and communcations stopped, without options. And now, Packy is gone.

Whatever the true story may be, our hearts are with Packy, with all who loved him truly, and with the many other captive elephants living in isolation in cramped conditions around the world.

Advocates everywhere will never give up— we will continue to intervene in this stormy world, to rise up in solidarity and in action for the day when Compassionate Care is the norm and kindness is the legacy we leave behind.


Changing Minds and Opening Hearts Takes Time

In mid-January, I was spreading our Humane Tourism campaign for travelers and our Elephant Love Project for children throughout Cambodia.  One afternoon I was working in a small Khmer cafe in the southern part of the country when a broken and battered elephant pulls up, a wave of emotions overtaking me in no time flat.  I followed the elephant and rider throughout the town, educating and engaging the tourists and locals alike the best I could to the reality of what they were seeing.  It was shaky ground to communicate in a foreign language to locals and especially encouraging the tourists to look past the exoticism of what they were seeing and peer in to the probable lives of both the elephant in captivity and the rider in poverty.

It’s easy to be paralyzed in depression when you see yet another animal’s wounds, to throw harsh words upon locals when you observe them pass their babies under the elephant’s belly in their belief in its’ blessing, and to explode in outrage when you witness tourists paying to take a selfie without seeing what damage their actions perpetuate .

And yet it is consistent education for tourists and locals alike, along with generating sustainable options for the elephants already in captivity, that can break the cruel cycle trapping elephants in tourism and temples.

The work takes far more patience than what comes naturally. Habits and hearts are slow to change, true sanctuaries take time to build, and reforesting elephant habitat or helping elevate rural elephant “owners” up from poverty is usually not what people want to do when they say they want to volunteer to help elephants.

Longterm systemic changes require openminded dialogues with locals, travelers, the wealthy, the poor. It’s easy to spew venom or simply turn away when what lies in front of us seems impossible to change, but with every passing week working across SE Asia, we’re witnessing the power of possibility as people learn the truth, change their minds, and work together for a future that exchanges a past filled with conflict for a future embracing coexistence.

#NotOnMyBucketList: Humane Tourism Campaign


In December we launched our international Humane Tourism campaign #NotOnMyBucketList, empowering people around the world to participate on social media by helping tell, share, and change, the elephant story. Although trekking, circus shows, and temple parades happen year round, December through February is high-season for captive elephants used in the tourist industry throughout all of SE Asia, and is prime time to take action. Every person who participates helps spread the message far and wide that elephant cruelty disguised as entertainment needs to be taken off the Bucket List, enabling every traveler to help create a more humane world for the elephants no longer able to live in the wild.

The response to the campaign has been incredible, with wonderfully creative posts coming in from every corner of the globe. THANK YOU to everyone who has participated! If you haven’t joined in, please reach out your hand for the elephants and help spread the word and change the world! Taking action and speaking up to your friends, families and followers is not always easy to do, but we believe that compassionate action is the only way to move towards change. So thank you for taking a stand. You voices truly matter!#NotOnMyBucketListIt’s not too late to take part! It’s quick, it’s easy, and we need your Helping Hands!

  1. WRITE #NotOnMyBucketList on your hand (or a paper hand) and take a picture.
  2. Share your “hashtag hand” on social media, adding this message: “Elephant Cruelty is #NotOnMyBucketList! Join me in reaching out your hand in Compassion for Elephants!”
  3. TAG Heart of Ganesh in your post, and SHARE far and wide!

On Instagram? Share from there first, and if your account is public and you tag your location, we’ll be able to post your hand to our map. You can check out the map or learn more about #NotOnMyBucketList here: