Seeing Elephants at Sunset

Yesterday’s gift was breathing with wild elephant families at sunset. A surreal experience and an exquisite reminder of what so many of us are fighting for.

Nothing in conservation is what it seems—there are the fights you expect and the ones you don’t. There are the conflicts that you can understand (even when you can’t always resolve them), and the conflicts that you can barely dream might have a resolution in them.

To those who don’t really know me, it may seem like my work is to fight for keeping wild elephants wild while extending humane care to those already held captive. Or perhaps to stem the flow of the suffering dogs seen around every bend in the road, or to enable local subsistence farmers to keep their crops in the ground until harvest, while simultaneously offering their children options and choices for a different future.

But that’s not quite the work, not really. What it really is, for me, is the willingness to go with fierce love to where I am called, to be relentless in living my life as an offering of the dharma, and to remember to be happy along the way.

And then sometimes there are wild elephants at sunset..

“Tears of Giants”: New Documentary by CES

Steadfast and relentless action for Sri Lanka’s captive elephants by our friends from the Centre for Eco-Cultural Studies, now being made into a documentary so more people around the world can know the truth. CES has been on the ground and at the forefront of the fight for what’s right for these innocent ones from the very beginning, and with their documentary in the works, soon what has been hidden will be revealed.

Watch the trailer below:

The Cambodian Library, 2 Years on!

Almost 2 years ago we built a much-needed library for the Bunnong children who live in the elephant lands of rural Cambodia. Last year we brought additional books and school supplies for all 137 children and their teachers (as well as school supplies for almost 100 more children in 2 nearby village schools), and this year we’re back again!

Thanks to our extraordinary donors, we’re currently updating the infrastructure of the library inside and out, and the children are reading, reading, reading! Your support also helped us provide basic school supplies to an additional school whose needs are profound. Can you imagine if your child went to school where there is no electricity, no water, no working toilet, a leaking roof, and not enough food in their bellies or even the ability to physically get to school? The road ahead for this particular school is long and the needs complex, but we are so grateful to everyone who has supported our work as we strive to create sustainable positive change for the mostly Bunnong children residing in these vulnerable Putrom Villages.

A very special thank you from the Heart to Franci Blanco and her Happy Hearts Yoga for their generosity in helping us help these children! We could not extend our reach without you! And another special thank you to Kathy Stoyle and Teresa Bishop, whose charitable love allowed us to bring medical supplies to a very special teacher and friend, as well as first aid supplies for mahouts and guides tending elephants in the forest.

Whether we are in Cambodia or Myanmar or Sri Lanka, whether we are working with the kids or the elephants or the dogs, one thing remains clear and constant: Love Conquers Fear, Compassionate Action Changes Lives, and when you Let What Moves You Move the World, miracles happen…

PS Our charitable work in Cambodia is made possible by our donors, but also by the fantastic people of ELIE (Elephant Livelihood Initiative Environment). Their Elephant Valley Project is shortlisted for a fantastic grant and needs your vote to win! Check out our last post for how you can help create positive change for elephants, people, and the fragile habitat they all share simply by taking one minute to VOTE!

Take it off the Bucket List

“Elephants in Captivity” is a complicated topic, with many countries entangled in its web via logging, patrolling, temple duties, and/or tourism of many shapes and sizes. More of the story is being heard as the mainstream media starts to pick up the pieces of a puzzle that, even when put together, will have no clear picture of how to fix all that has been broken. Education is key, as is an active empathy for a once-wild animal that is now living in a world that is not its true home.

It’s currently low season here in Asia, but many are planning holidays for the high season soon to follow. If plans include interacting with elephants, consider if your ”pachyderm love” is truly helping or hurting what you care about.

It might be easy to fall into the trap of loving an “elephant experience” (bathing, hugging, “too-close selfies”, etc..) more than loving the elephant itself. A “hands off” sanctuary that places the needs of an elephant before the desires of a tourist or volunteer is a great place to start changing the story from “they exist for us” to “they are deserving of as much respect and space as we can possibly give them”. Sometimes it’s about taking something OFF your bucket list…

Some of our sanctuary friends in Thailand and Cambodia:

Current mainstream media article telling a bit more of the story:…/global-wildlife-touri…/

To a kinder world for us all…

Isuru and his Amma

Isuru and his Amma are quite extraordinary. They live a km or so away, alone in a dark brick house after Isuru’s Tata passed away, and although Isuru cannot walk or talk or sit up or eat by himself, he sure can smile and laugh, and when you visit him his eyes will follow you everywhere, telling you all sorts of stories until you learn how to follow the thread. His Amma, who does every and any thing for him and has every reason in the world to complain about how hard life is, instead smiles lovingly, letting you know clearly that she makes the choice, every single day, to be happy.

Since meeting Isuru in December, we’ve been bringing sacks of staples to his Amma every month.  Rice, Dahl, Tea, Sugar, Milk Powder, Vegetables and Fruit, Soap, Washing Powder and Coconut Oil are just a few of the offerings that we gladly supply each visit as we work to source some larger items for their house.

I used to think we were the ones bringing nourishment when we pull up in the tuk tuk every few weeks with sacks of food, but yesterday it was clear that sometimes you get fed with food, and sometimes you get fed with smiles.

Sometimes Dharma Teachers come in disguise.