Thank you for making World Elephant Day 2014 a day of increased awareness and a day of action. Together we created a global network on Facebook that resulted in more than 70,000 page views and attracted more than 450 new followers; it is clear that people want to learn, and want to help.
Many times yesterday people asked, “What can we do?” I think it is fair to say that most of us wanted to reach into the photos, choke the people responsible and grab the elephants to bring them to a better home. But we have to be realistic, well, sort of realistic since progressive change frequently pushes the limits of reasoning. August 20 1994, just one week shy of 20 years ago, I was sitting on the couch watching a horrific scene unfold on TV as Tyke the elephant was gunned down on the streets of Honolulu. We had already been talking about sanctuary and giving elephants more space to try to create a better life for them, but this was our day of action. It was this day that we fully committed and said, “We have to do this, it is time to create a sanctuary.” We were brushed off, people said it could not be done, that elephants will destroy the habitat, and that it was a nice dream but wasn’t realistic… The concept was out of the normal grasp of reality but we said, “Why not?” Something needed to change and we needed a solution. Today, once again we say why not? Is there any reason that we can’t set a goal to make this the last generation of elephants suffering in captivity? Why not? Is there any reason that we can’t set a goal to get all elephants out of insufficient zoos, out of logging camps, to end circuses and terminate trekking camps? Why not? The only thing standing in our way is ignorance and that can be resolved through action and awareness. This is what we wanted World Elephant Day 2014 to focus on.
We all want to take every elephant out of every bad situation but how do we get there and what are the courses of action? Yesterday, in honor of World Elephant Day we asked you to share our posts, to spread the word around the globe about the crisis these elephants face- education and awareness are the most powerful tools for change that we have. And, we asked you to pledge a nominal $2 for every post that you shared, donate to the animal/elephant cause of your choice. Every donation to animal causes that are helping to care for, rescue, create legislation, and educate makes a difference. Presently there are two campaigns to build sanctuaries for elephants, Elephant Haven and our project Elephant Sanctuary Brazil, donations made today help to build a future safe haven for captive elephants tomorrow. With every dollar contributed you become part of the solution. Many people say that they don’t donate because they don’t have enough to give; but literally every dollar helps and if we are committed to helping the global change then we all have to make clear choices. Do you skip one trip to Starbucks each week, or commit to adding donations to your monthly budget? It is a small sacrifice and a clear choice for the greater good of all elephants.
Some people asked why we didn’t post more details about each situation. We know that people want to help every elephant that they see in horrible situations, but yesterday we wanted to focus on the bigger picture. Indeed, every elephant matters and each individual deserves a better life. Yesterday being World Elephant Day, we wanted to profile the global crisis. Unfortunately, it is not just an isolated few that need us, we need to shift the entire perspective of captive elephant use, treatment, and care. For every picture we posted, we literally could have used 100 different elephants in their place. It is easy to become overwhelmed by the magnitude of the problem, if we try to fix all of it, we will spin in place and never accomplish our objectives. If we try to save each individual separately only a few are helped. But if each of us does our part, together we will create a huge global shift.
What are the solutions?
The principle approach is actually quite basic; if we stop paying to participate with the torturous practices, the reason to abuse will be terminated. One simple example is elephant back treks in south Asia. More than 80% of the clients that pay to participate with these treks are North American and European. Most people do not have a clue what it takes to use elephants in this capacity, they don’t know that babies are still being stolen from the wild and brutalized to submit to human dominance. We are not going to stop this industry through protest but we can put an end to it through education and increased awareness. We have all heard about the 6 degrees of separation, if we share the truth with our friends we can quickly build a network of increased knowledge that extends around the globe. We all need to do our part to share the truth about what elephants endure, and to ask those around us to make clear, educated, and compassionate choices. If you hear about a friend traveling to Asia, provide them with some background information and offer suggestions about where they can visit elephants humanely. We are already seeing a shift in trekking camps that are trying the same approach that places like ENP are using. People who run trekking camps are seeing that they don’t have to dominate elephants to make money, and since money is their motivation, it is resulting in positive change for the elephants.
This holds true with circuses as well, do not go, do not participate, and encourage others to do the same. One tactic of circuses today is to provide free tickets to schools and civic groups. We have had people tell us that they went to the circus because it was free so they felt like they were not contributing, but they bought drinks, food and other concessions; money that goes right into the hand of the circus. If your child’s school receives free tickets, go the principle or the school board and ask them to refuse participation. If they claim that circuses educate or contribute to global conservation, ask them how, ask what they have learned from the circus? If they insist on going, ask them to talk to the children afterwards and see what they learned- it might change their mind for next year. If you go into your local favorite store and they have a poster up or are offering free children’s tickets, talk to them about it. See if you can get them to throw away the tickets or take the posters down. Many people just don’t realize what a circus life means to a captive elephant and you can be the person that changes that. Educate yourself on the truth of the claims that circuses make and be sure to be polite.
Yesterday we posted the truth about the minuscule space that Ringling Brothers offers the elephants at their touted 200-acre conservation center. It took 30 minutes of my time to unveil the truth, using tools that are available to everyone on the Internet. The truth is at our fingertips; if you have a question, there is an answer available. We can help with this; let us know what you want to learn.
There are derelict zoos around the globe; to move these elephants to better facilities we need solutions-we need global sanctuaries. We all want to rescue elephants and we are willing to donate towards transport, vet care, food, etc. but we also need to build the solution. Bricks and mortar may not resonate with our hearts as much as rescuing, but your funds are building a solution for many elephants. Without them, these elephants have nowhere to go. With global sanctuaries ready to receive elephants, an opportunity is created to help the individuals that are suffering from the inherent neglect of captivity. Sanctuaries offer increased opportunities to educate about the greater cause, and through sharing the recovery of the elephants rescued, they help to enlighten people about the true nature of elephants.
We have to make a commitment to change, it is not always as simple as signing a petition or writing a letter, and we also have to examine our choices. In one post yesterday we were asked what could be done about the elephants logging the teak forest. Again there is a simple answer to do your part to make a difference. Investigate the source of the teak for the items you buy. If it cannot be verified that the wood is supplied from a sustainable teak farm, then you should purchase a different product. Ask your store to stop carrying products made from teak that aren’t sustainable and take the time to explain why. Live a life that embraces no more excuses. We hear people say, but I am only one person buying one teak table, does it really make a difference? Yes it does! Our choices every day matter.
We are a small, new organization, yet yesterday with your help we had more than 40,000 page views on Facebook, next year let’s work to make it 400,000. In the meantime let’s make the next 364 days a year of action for elephants. Continue to share, educate, donate, and make compassionate choices to change the world around you and impact the lives of thousands. Every one of our actions make a difference, thank you for joining our efforts to become part of the solution.