With wild elephants foraging for food in smoldering trash heaps filled with endless plastic, broken bottles, batteries, etc, we witness a system so broken that even working to keep elephants in the wild is conserving an unacceptably small piece of an unsustainable future. If there is no wild left, then “saving elephants” forces them into a different sort of captivity—not one of physical chains perhaps, but captive to a world where their rightful home has been stolen and their identity forever lost. Fragmentation (of wilderness and of public policy) is adding to the crisis of trying to keep wild elephants wild in Sri Lanka. Documentation of the individual and family elephants that feed at this open dump has begun, with the research going to those who can best support policy change. It’s not too late, but there’s no time to lose.

2019 was the deadliest year for elephants since Sri Lanka’s Independence in 1948, with over 350 elephants losing their lives, most at the hands of humans…350+, forever gone, lineages disrupted, and more yet to come…

And now, somehow one of the “solutions” appears to be 2000 civilians receiving shotguns to “control” the issue. Not only are they an endangered species and deserve a more thoughtful response simply by being what they are, but if the discussion must turn to money (and it always, always does), then looking at the amount of money wild elephants generate through safaris and tourism in this small island nation surely must give those overseeing the situation some pause…

The complexity of the issue is easy to ignore in our anger. First reactions can fly about on wings of hatred and overwhelm as the seemingly never-ending story of conflict, greed, ill-advised farm placements, overpopulation, etc, subsumes the greater issue—that this, that ALL of this, is about relationships and what we value as a species…

Everything is about relationship– to the land, to the animals, to one another, to money, to the complex/interwoven systems that have somehow trickled down to create such desperation.

There are no answers at this time. For those of us that live in rural areas, every night we hear elephant “crackers” (like fireworks) or gunshots, as small-family farms attempt to bring their rice to harvest. I cannot speak for the huge farms and banana plantations down south, where corporate export $$$ is making the decisions, I’m only able to share that in this area the impoverished do not want to kill the elephants, they only want to feed their family. They are not land-grabbers, as most of them have farmed here for generations, so attacking them is popular, but not helpful.

With that said, we are 100% against this proposal of arming civilians with shotguns. Violence begets violence, and once these extraordinary animals are gone, they are gone forever. End of story.

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..

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:

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!