It’s “World Elephant Day”…
Maybe you’ve learned to love them via educational programming or years spent working in the field as a professional conservationist or environmentalist. Perhaps you’ve landed upon the small handful of reputable sanctuaries where you could be a hands-off, keep-your-distance observer, or you’ve found an ethical safari guide.
Perhaps your Elephant Love is offered through habitat restoration, social service, community renewal, or maybe you simply enjoy knowing that such a marvelous creature exists on this planet. No matter how you may have become engaged in the world of elephants, it is easy to see they inhabit some of the best qualities any of us could ever hope to possess.
But nothing exists independently in nature, and certainly not in a world jam-packed with humans, many of whom possess seemingly none of the qualities attributed to elephants, and many whose atrocious actions have elephants either on the brink of eradication or chained and abused in the name of entertainment, culture, or religion.
There is another piece to the puzzle of elephant welfare, less popular and often ignored, and that it is the rural communities who have long lived among them. Sometimes vilified, sometimes seen through a rosy exotic lens, many times used as pawns to create money-making ventures which often do not “trickle down” to help the communities of humans living among the communities of elephants.
Sometimes the Big Picture gets distorted by human desire for a particular experience. The shape of the world we’re living in now beseeches us to look past what we want to see to make sure what we’re really being sold (ie what we’re buying) is truly helping turn conflict into coexistence. For the elephants (and all the other animals who may or may not have their own “world” day), but also for the local populations whose every-day lives are informed and impacted by where and how you travel, what you eat, what you purchase, and how you advocate for what you care about.
~To a kinder world for us all~
Last night here in Thailand, several chained elephants were tragically killed by a tree crashing down in a sudden fierce storm. The ongoing fallout from the pandemic raining upon captive elephants and those trying to care for them has created yet another untenable situation, and the future of many remain in jeopardy. There is no path forward that is clear as the complexities of “what happens next” continue to mount.
As we remain unable to return to Sri Lanka until international borders can open without prohibitively expensive quarantine regulations, we witness from afar families of wild elephants being ripped apart as the conflict continues to escalate between mismanaged over-development and lack of any environmental conservation. The wild ones of Sri Lanka are losing their homes and their lives at an unprecedented rate, and any hope that this can be reversed before it’s too late is on shaky ground.
When sorrow threatens overwhelm, we return to the photos and videos we’ve taken over the last few years, reminding us of the power of persistence and the beauty of wild animals living in their wild homes. They don’t give up, and we mustn’t either.
I remember the day of this video — we turned a corner and came upon a pachyderm picnic spread out across the road. As the wise ones gently gathered their extended families in a circle of security with the most vulnerable in the middle, we quietly moved on so they might continue their afternoon browse without interference.
It is said that, spiritually, “we are all just walking each other home”. And that is all innocent animals want. To be able to raise their families in their rightful homes, walking together in peace. Just like you, and me, and all the other sentient beings…
May our actions help make this so.
Today is “Endangered Species Day”. Such animals are, by the very nature of that title, under tremendous threat. And conserving wild elephants is similar to saving any population, be they 4 legged, 2 legged, finned or feathered: they all need to have a safe place to live, enough food to eat, and the capacity to raise their children and tend their families and friends in peace.Creating sustainable change rarely has a direct path, and the complexities of conservation on a very crowded planet can be overwhelming. But not knowing how to fix the entire problem is no reason not to try to fix what we can, where we can, however we can. Sometimes in the midst of innumerable worldwide conflicts, it can seem impossible to even imagine that solutions can be discovered and implemented in time to save what we love. But it is that very love that demands we continue to try.These families of wild elephants in central Sri Lanka were a joy to film, from a distance and without any disruption, and we hope they speak to your own joy in witnessing what so many are working to save, and to sustain hope that an “Endangered Species Day” might one day not be needed.
What a year, no?
Whew…And yet, there is so much worthy of our love, and of our devotion to create a kinder world. Keep renewing your vows to care for yourself so you can keep rising up to care for one another, for this living breathing planet, and for the innocent animals that, by their sheer presence, make this world a sort of heaven on Earth.
“When despair for the world grows in me and I wake in the night at the least sound in fear of what my life and my children’s lives may be, I go and lie down where the wood drake rests in his beauty on the water, and the great heron feeds. I come into the peace of wild things who do not tax their lives with forethought of grief. I come into the presence of still water. And I feel above me the day-blind stars waiting with their light. For a time I rest in the grace of the world, and am free.” (Wendell Berry)
Although we remain grounded in Thailand busily working with street animals and Canvassing for Change for cruelty-free practices once tourism reopens, we are deeply saddened to read of the deaths of the “miracle twins”. We usually refrain from posting such things unless there are Action Steps to take for positive change, as the tragedies happening on a daily basis would fill a newsfeed with steady sorrow. But this time we knew we needed to pause, to honor their lives and hold tightly to the hope they brought to so many. There are no answers at this time, only questions, but we cling to the hope they instilled in us by their birth, and with that hope (and sorrow), remain committed with so many of you to continue finding ways to create a kinder world for the innocent animals and their rightful place on this earth. Gone but not forgotten, may they rest in peace.