We’ve said it before, our society has opened its eyes to the truth of who elephants are and the damage that we have caused them for our own entertainment. Now we’re watching this growing trend accelerate. The latest and by far the most impactful new legislation for captive elephants occurred just a couple of short weeks ago as Mexico’s President, Enrique Peña Nieto signed a national bill into law that will prevent all animal acts in circuses. US circuses claim that they are different, they provide better care, and they have better trainers. These are all arguments that are not relevant to the legislative efforts. The bottom line is brutal training methods and extreme dominance are no longer acceptable nor justifiable in any form, especially not for human entertainment. Globally, nations are standing up to enact laws to protect these innocent lives and continue to beg the question: when will the US join this progressive trend? Why is it so easy for other nations to go beyond outlawing the tools of intimidation, prohibiting animals in circuses all together as they clearly understand that circus life isn’t appropriate for any animal.
Legislation isn’t the only way to promote incredible change. Strong voices willing to speak the truth facilitate change as well. Recently we’ve seen an encouraging trend from Asia as notable journals are exhibiting a louder voice about the perpetual cruelty of the use of elephants for human purposes. Threats are being made to publicly release the names of high-level bureaucrats, known to be keeping elephants illegally unless they release their elephants. Raids have begun taking custody of numerous undocumented elephants. Instead of posting news about the ceremonies and festivities with elephants, several agencies are now posting photos of the impact of the torturous actions used to force these animals to obey. The days of hiding behind the façade of ‘we worship these animals, they are our family’ are rapidly coming to an end as the truth is being told; these elephants are enslaved for human pleasure.
On a more global scale, and an issue that is reshaping the world before our eyes, is climate change. With temperatures soaring in parts of Asia, combined with intense sun and extreme drought, working elephants are literally being worked to death. Elephants have a limited ability to release body heat; they can’t pant like a dog and they only have sweat gland between their toes. African elephants have an easier time at cooling themselves due to their large ears, which Asian elephants are lacking. In the heat of the day their only method of evaporative heat loss is through access to water: spraying themselves or submerging to saturate their skin and cool their bodies. Frequently, and this is something that we have observed within spacious sanctuaries as well, in the hottest times of the year, the elephants shift to a more nocturnal nature, quietly standing and sleeping in the shade during the day and foraging at night.
In certain conditions (exact temperature varies with sunlight and humidity) excessive heat that can’t be released due to high ambient temperatures, is transferred to the elephants’ core. It is stored there and then released through evaporative cooling when bathing or when nighttime temperatures drop. Elephants can use this ability to slowly release heat stored during the day to maintain comfort through cold nights. Unfortunately this physiological wonder is having a fatal impact for elephants not allowed to find reprieve from the intense heat and compounded by the work they are forced to perform. In one study on Asian elephants, (see full report here) designed to investigate the dangers of core temperature rise, it was discovered that in temperatures of just 88°F (31°C) 4 hours of locomotion in full sun, is enough to raise the core temperature 8 F, a lethal amount in elephants. These findings are tragically playing out in real life, as above normal temperatures, with intense sun and no rest from human enslavement, have caused mortality rates to double with working elephants in parts of Asia.
“The realization and admittance that elephants are not on this planet to serve humans is the first step to saving their lives”
The topics we’ve touched on have one substantial thing in common, the core question of why we still feel that animals are here for us? We are in an era where they are no longer needed as beasts of burden, they are not needed for human entertainment, they are not here for us to play with or be massaged by, nor are they a mode of transport for nature treks. We have invented machines, we are inundated with sources of entertainment and we have feet of our own. The realization and admittance that elephants are not on this planet to serve humans is the first step to saving their lives. Share this simple knowledge and fundamental understanding. It’s time we start honoring all life. It is a necessary step in stopping archaic practices throughout the world.