We were on our way from Sri Lanka to a short research trip in Sumatra, and like others who work in the field, we were re-routed mid flight as borders closed around us. The only open door at that time was Thailand, where we have been grounded since.
Seeing the fallout the pandemic has had here on so many captive elephants has been tragic and disheartening, and yet—it has opened a window for change. It’s a small window, but nonetheless, it’s a real opening to creating change that we mustn’t squander.
We strongly support the work of World Animal Protection. Their longevity and transparency, along with their understanding of and commitment to the multitude of steps required for sustainable change, is unmatched. Their petitions get into the right hands and are a necessary step in raising the global voice to change the future for elephants used and abused in the tourist industry.
There were more “Joys of the Week”, but this post is just about one because “Fisher” deserves his own space!
When some shrug their shoulders and roll their eyes telling me there are simply too many animals suffering to make a difference, and that THIS one definitely will never make it and so should be “set aside to die”, even then, ESPECIALLY then, you stay the course. And for every time any suffering is alleviated, the energy that remains changes more lives than the one you were focused on.<
Remember “Fisher”, the wee one brought to me by his kind human after being attacked by a wild Fishing Cat? He sustained deep puncture wounds, one a hair’s width from his trachea, and had haggard, rattling breathing with 3 out of 4 puncture points infected. He couldn’t eat, and cried out in pain every time he was touched. Resources here are very slim. It didn’t look good and sustained Compassionate Action was all that remained. And yet every couple of days Fisher’s human carried him to me, wrapped in a towel and sheltered in her arms as she walked down the rough dirt roads in the blazing sun. I was very honest with her about the severity of the attack, but she kept showing up, and so did I. And then, with hard-won medication, nutritional support, and an abundance of tenderness and love and perhaps a bit of a miracle, Fisher beat the odds!<
In the face of all the struggle in this world, is this too small of a success for some? Perhaps. But as I kissed the woman’s cheek and our eye’s met over the top of Fisher’s head, I knew that more had been saved than the life of one wee pup. And the circle grows…
One quick minute out of a day spent with the stellar team of the Department of Wildlife Conservation, as they responded to a call of a wild elephant needing veterinary intervention in the field. Tracking, moving the elephant into position with loud “elephant crackers”, darting, assessing, and then treating, these guys and the veterinary team are skill-in-action.
Competition for resources makes it hard to believe sometimes that wild elephants will still be here in the generations to come, and there is no simple solution. Many times it seems that there may be no solution at all… But still, there are those that stand up, rise up, and fight for what’s right, every single day, even when there is no guarantee that the effort will allow the elephants, and all non-human animals, to inhabit their rightful place on the planet. The time spent working beside those who continue to believe in the rights of the wild ones is sometimes all that heaven will allow, and sometimes, it is all that is needed to carry on.
We live and work in the rice-farming villages of rural Sri Lanka. Every day we’re exposed to all sides of all of the stories and only one thing is perfectly clear: that the situation is getting worse for both elephants and people (2019 was the deadliest year on record since 1948), and that to turn this conflict into coexistence will require a holistic way of thinking/acting/moving forward.
Just yesterday we were driving down the main road that separates the Knuckles Mountains from the paddy fields to see 2 wild elephants bathing in the tank (reservoir) in the middle of the afternoon. Although they were beautiful, seeing them at that time of day and their proximity to the soon-to-be-harvested rice was unsettling, for the safety of both families of elephants and families of people.
In the midst of it all, we gather a momentum of hope when we hear those living among these majestic animals say: “The animals seem to appreciate a kindly touch. In the middle of his paddy, Lalith and his neighbours demonstrate their technique, passed down for generations. They sing to the animals: “Go away, little babies, go away. But once we’ve gathered the harvest, anything we leave is yours.” How on earth, Banyan asks, can that work? It just does, Lalith replies. After all, he adds, ‘We’re still here, and so are the elephants.”
This final quote is taken from a recent article published in The Economist. You can access the full article here.
The first story seen is not the whole story being told…
Confronted with suffering around every bend, it’s easy to judge and submerge oneself in anger, but looking deeper it’s possible to see that those who have few-to-no options are doing what they can, and will literally chase you down the road when they see an opportunity to help end that suffering.
At first glance, most of these photos look like stories only of pain, neglect, abandonment, or worse. And those themes are present, but they are not the only chapters to be read. There’s also love and hope and gratitude, so we simply have to choose which story we’re going to read, and which one we’re going to work from for what comes next…