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.
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.
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..