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.
“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…
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.
In December we launched our international Humane Tourism campaign #NotOnMyBucketList, empowering people around the world to participate on social media by helping tell, share, and change, the elephant story. Although trekking, circus shows, and temple parades happen year round, December through February is high-season for captive elephants used in the tourist industry throughout all of SE Asia, and is prime time to take action. Every person who participates helps spread the message far and wide that elephant cruelty disguised as entertainment needs to be taken off the Bucket List, enabling every traveler to help create a more humane world for the elephants no longer able to live in the wild.
The response to the campaign has been incredible, with wonderfully creative posts coming in from every corner of the globe. THANK YOU to everyone who has participated! If you haven’t joined in, please reach out your hand for the elephants and help spread the word and change the world! Taking action and speaking up to your friends, families and followers is not always easy to do, but we believe that compassionate action is the only way to move towards change. So thank you for taking a stand. You voices truly matter!It’s not too late to take part! It’s quick, it’s easy, and we need your Helping Hands!
WRITE #NotOnMyBucketList on your hand (or a paper hand) and take a picture.
Share your “hashtag hand” on social media, adding this message: “Elephant Cruelty is #NotOnMyBucketList! Join me in reaching out your hand in Compassion for Elephants!”
On Instagram? Share from there first, and if your account is public and you tag your location, we’ll be able to post your hand to our map. You can check out the map or learn more about #NotOnMyBucketList here: