“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…
The wonder of the wild ones. I watch them and they watch me, and who knows who is really saving whom. The conditions are challenging, the myriad of problems in turning multi-layered conflict into unilateral coexistence is not for the feint of heart, and the uncertainty of the future for the wild ones is on my mind every day. On the days when I see gunshot wounds in a crop-raiding bull or speak with a family impoverished by that same innocent bull, the answers are as nebulous as the monsoon clouds. The sustaining belief in the power of Compassionate Action is real, yet no doubt the complexities of the issues are as well. With poets by our side, we’ll continue the good fight for the peace of wild things…
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)
Working alongside the Department of Wildlife Conservation, we spent a rather amazing day in the world of tracking/darting/treating a wild elephant in need of veterinary intervention. It is an honor, in every sense of the word, to learn and serve with these fine people, all working so hard to keep Sri Lanka’s elephants wild…And safe…
Stories to come as soon as a rainy day keeps me bound to the IPad. When the weather is good, the work is too big to get the stories out of my head and on to the page.
A sunset spent witnessing wild elephants in their wild homes is 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 barely dream could ever have a resolution in them.
Creating sustainable change rarely has a direct path, and the complexities of resolving Human Elephant Conflict on a very crowded planet can be overwhelming. Some days though, you get lucky enough to quietly watch families of wild elephants simply being elephants, renewing the hope that the beauty you see is the beauty that can be saved.
We’re back in Cambodia now, ready to take our “Elephants Can’t Read” project to the next level! Meeting with the Community Board of the local education department, we reviewed how a year ago today we delivered school supplies to 127 kids going to Putrom 2 Primary School, many of them children of the minority ethnic Bunong, living not far from the border of Vietnam, and with long family histories in elephants.
Yesterday we helped the Elephant Livelihood Initiative Environment get children from 3 rural villages registered for the new school year, and soon we’ll set them up once again with all the school supplies they need, and also tend the library we built for them last year, filled with over 800 books, art supplies, and all kinds of mad love.
Trunks up for solid collaborations and for helping communities whose lives are intertwined with elephants—village by village, elephant-sized love changes lives, for the animals, the people, and the habitat they all call home.
We’re back in Thailand now after a challenging time working in Myanmar on several deeply saddening elephant situations. The trade of what some may call “elephant parts”, but we call “pieces of the bodies of sentient beings”, with every possible bit of these innocent animals being sold to the highest bidder. It is the most complex movement of illegal trade we’ve seen, and it was heartbreaking, eye opening, and never, ever, what it seemed.
From Myanmar, the main market for the the ivory, and the tail hair and elephant skin, is China. The market for elephant skin in China is huge. And this is, if it’s possible, more tragic than the ivory, as the murdering of entire elephant families and herds is done for skin. For the tusks, you need the big papas. For the skin, any age is a target…
CITES is slated to be held in Sri Lanka at the end of May 2019, and we’ll be there. It’s a bleak time for elephants, but more and more people around the world are fighting for the survival of the remaining wild ones, and for the humane treatment of those held captive. United we stand, in hopes that together, we can reverse the tragedy before it is too late as we fight for what’s right, for a kinder world for us all. We won’t give up, and we know you won’t either.