Endangered Species Day

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.

Six Hours

Six Hours. In less than 6 hours yesterday, I was lucky enough to be working alongside very diverse people dedicated to changing stories of escalating conflict into new stories of compassionate coexistence. Some of the stories were obvious. Some were very subtle and you had to pay close attention to how they were Change Makers too.

Along with my tiny-but-mighty team of Supun Priyankara Herath and Sarath Kumara, the morning was for the elephants and the villagers, working for peace with DWC’s (Department of Wildlife Conservation) Mahinda Wijayasinghe and Sanjeewa Wikrama, the Wasagamuwa Park Warden, and my favorite monk of the Weheragala village (those larger stories coming soon, still sorting photos and facts).

The afternoon was for the street dogs, the children who were curious about how to change a life, the woman who saw a chance to change her dog’s life and came running up the road, and one little boy who cannot walk or talk or sit up or chew his food or hold a toy and yet can chortle and laugh alongside his un-complaining widowed mother. I’ve been working on writing proper stories about so many animals and people here, to tell the true stories of love. Oh for that window of time to do them justice!

Every one of these people believes in the power of being willing to walk the path of Compassionate Action, even when the steps are not always clear. We might not speak the same verbal language, but we speak the same language of the Heart…

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..

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:
https://www.facebook.com/BEESElephants/
https://www.facebook.com/ElephantValleyProject/
https://www.facebook.com/ElephantValleyThailand/

Current mainstream media article telling a bit more of the story:
https://www.nationalgeographic.com/…/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.