Elephants are not “parts”…

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.

https://m.phys.org/news/2018-10-myanmar-torches-13m-illegal-wildlife.html

 

The Long Fight For Ganga Continues…

THE COURT ORDER for Ganga’s release into safe custody from illegal captivity by religious institutions has been openly and flagrantly defied for well over a year. The ruling in favor of moving Ganga into Protective Custody has repeatedly been ignored as her keepers not only deny her compassionate care, but also continue to exploit her in the name of religion and social status in a blatant display of political maneuvering.

NEXT COURT DATE: Ganga’s case will be heard in court, again, in Colombo, Sri Lanka on Monday, December 11th, at 10:00 AM..

WHAT YOU CAN DO: 
1. Send the consistent message, “The World Is Watching. Release Ganga into Protective Custody Now” to the following addresses:
administration@attorneygeneral.gov.lk
pm@pmoffice.gov.lk
secpm@pmoffice.gov.lk
meegasmulla@yahoo.com

2. Submit a grievance form to the President of Sri Lanka, respectfully demanding that Ganga be taken into Protective Custody per the Court Order from 2016: 
https://tell.president.gov.lk/grievance/showAddGrievance.mvc

Within the form, click:
Organization Type: Top Government
Organiztion: Presidential Secretariet 
District: Colombo

Even if you have written to the above people during our past campaigns, please write again (and again and again)over the next couple of weeks.

At great cost in all ways, the Legal Counsel from the Centre for EcoCultural Studies continue to intervene in court on Ganga’s behalf as the depth of governmental corruption continues to be revealed. Ongoing work has become dramatically more challenging as systemic corruption and invasive manipulation of court proceedings continues unabated.

Someone asked me why everyone is “doing all that work for just one elephant”. Yes she is one. One of many hundreds of Temple Elephants, all who need protection from the ways of abject cruelty. She is an innocent sentient being, worthy of kindness for no other reason than that. But if more reasons are necessary, then we see how changing the Story of One can change the Story of Many.

Outrage alone is futile. Action is Everything.

February Full Moon Brings the Nawam Maha Perahera

The February full moon in Colombo sees the return of the annual Nawam Maha Perahera. The procession of captive elephants starts at The Gangaramaya Temple, once home to Ganga, before she was moved down south, to be hidden out of sight as her court case continues, and where over 100 elephants begin their forced march through the packed city streets.  

From Feb 7 through Feb 20, an estimated 10,000 tourists will join locals to line the streets of Colombo to watch the event. The thunderous noise of the drums, the flashing lights, the burning torches, and the spinning and whirling of dancers and acrobats may seen like an exotic and spectacular cultural experience for foreigners and a mystical journey for locals. But, imagine for a moment, being one of those wild- captured  elephants systematically beaten and broken simply to take part in the parade for the enjoyment of your captors. Imagine being torn from your family, captured and confined, and forced to live your nightmare time and time again. As numerous travel companies continue to sell tickets to foreigners online and on the streets of Colombo, it’s time for tourists and locals alike to turn away from a cruel past and turn towards a kinder future, clearly communicating  that bearing witness to abuse is no cause to celebrate.

It’s past time for this practice to shift into the 21st century, as cruelty-free options to honor this long-standing festival DO exist. One only has to take a look at Sri Lankan communities around the world to to see that many now choose to celebrate using creatively constructed, beautifully decorated floats of replicated elephants, engaging in an old tradition but with a new vision of compassion.  

Witnessing the Kandy Esala Perahera for the first time

It is our pleasure to introduce guest blogger and Heart of Ganesh volunteer Louise Chester who recounts what she felt when she saw, and documented, elephants in perahera for the first time last month in Kandy…. 

As part of my volunteer work for Heart of Ganesh I took photos at the annual “perahera” festival in the city Kandy, Sri Lanka a couple of weeks ago.

During the event, Buddha’s tooth relic is paraded through the city accompanied by drummers and dancers who come from all over Sri Lanka and elephants of all sizes, draped in colourful material and LED lights.Elephants of all sizes take part in the Kandy PeraheraHonestly, it was like watching a nightmare unfold in front of my eyes…. Even if I had seen photos of this festival before online, its just not the same as witnessing it in real life!

Picture the scene…exhausted elephants swaying in chains being shuffled through the streets for 4 hours every day for 10 days, jabbed with bull horns by their “mahout” (their keeper) if they veered off course by a cm or two. Their eyes were wet with tears and filled with fear and their trunks coiled up around their tusks as they endured just another day in the life of a captive elephant in Sri Lanka….Elephant trunk at Kandy PeraheraThe terrible reality is that these elephants are never without their chains. I saw them the next day at the temple, unable to move or even lay down with their ever present mahout and his bull horn lurking a meter or so away, telling unsuspecting tourists that the elephants compulsive sways was quite simply his “happy dance”….Watermarked-temple-3Surely there are ways to honor and celebrate cultural and religious traditions without inflicting such pain and torment on these beautiful creatures??

 

Thanks to your growing international support and to volunteers like Louise coming together to help us tell, and then alter, the Elephant Story, one day we will look back on what seemed impossible to change—and know that we did.

Find out more about temple elephants and how we can do more to help these wonderful, majestic animals.

An update on Ganga: telling the truth until the truth changes

We would like to extend a big thank you to One Green Planet, for being willing to publish our recent article.

As we tell the story of Ganga, as well as all the other captive elephants in Sri Lanka who live their lives swaying on chains, we shine a light on the cruel practice which continues in the name of cultural pride and religious devotion in this country.

The story of Ganga and other captive elephants has recently taken an unexpected and unthinkable turn. Following months of legal proceedings, over a dozen custody cases had been won, allowing for some of these young elephants to begin their recovery at the Elephant Transit Home (ETH), and prepare for their eventual return to the wild.

And then, the unthinkable happened: claiming there were not enough temple elephants for proper peraheras, robes of white and orange interfered with previous court rulings and initiated opposing legal action. The idea that it is essential to use captive (not domesticated, not tame, but captive, and certainly broken) elephants as a display of cultural pride and religious devoutness is an outdated idea that will not go unchallenged until it is changed.

The crimes being committed are multiplying: stealing innocent calves from the wild, continuing to exploit them at Pinnewela, and worst of all, the recent demands to remove traumatized juveniles from their safekeeping at ETH.

You can read the article in full on One Green Planet’s website here.

Please share it with friends and family and together, we will take steps towards putting an end to this cruel practice.

Chained by two legs on crumbling bricks off the side of a busy city street, Ganga was on display inside temple gates for years as traffic relentlessly moved behind her and people streamed just as endlessly in front of her.
Chained by two legs on crumbling bricks off the side of a busy city street, Ganga was on display inside temple gates for years as traffic relentlessly moved behind her and people streamed just as endlessly in front of her.