Chrissy has shared her first #MendozaMail from Argentina, where Pocha and Guillermina are getting ready for their upcoming rescue! The Ecoparque Mendoza is also the home of Tamy (a male Asian elephant) and Kenya (a female African elephant) who will be rescued on future trips.
It has been one full week since our arrival and one full week of getting to know Pocha, Guillermina, Kenya, and Tamy. Boy, what a week it’s been! This is my first time in Argentina and my first project working with soon-to-be-rescued elephants living in a “zoo” type environment.
Until now, I’ve worked primarily in South and Southeast Asia, with organizations that rescue and provide sanctuary for elephants working in the tourist (giving rides) and logging industries. I can’t help but compare these two different captive situations and the effect they’ve had on the elephants.
At a typical “elephant camp” in Southeast Asia, the elephants will work 6-8 hours a day, giving rides and posing for selfies with tourists. The rest of the time, they are usually on a chain. Here in Mendoza, the elephants live in their designated habitats 24 hours a day, seven days a week, 365 days a year, for over 25 years. In the cases of Tamy, Pocha, and Guillermina, the enclosures are encased by concrete walls of rock and cement, preventing them from being able to look out at what’s going on around them.
So which captive situation is “better?” On the one hand, elephants in Southeast Asia have a brief respite from life on a chain. They get a chance to exercise, a change of scenery, and something to do. However, this respite is entirely controlled by humans. They do not have any choices or freedom to do as they please.
On the other hand, the elephants in Mendoza have a small space that they never leave. Yet, their time and space are theirs to do as they wish without much interference from their caretakers. How do we measure the psychological impact prolonged exposure to either of these environments has on an elephant: an intelligent, sentient being with physical, mental, and emotional needs?
The conclusion is easy for all of us to see… neither captive situation is good. As humans, it’s time for us to leave blame aside, take responsibility for what we’ve done, and do whatever we can to rectify the situation. I am grateful to Global Sanctuary For Elephants for providing a space where these elephants will have the freedom to be elephants. I admire Ecoparque Mendoza for having the heart and courage to do the right thing for the elephants they love so much. Slowly but surely, these and other captive elephants will have the freedom, respect, and dignity they deserve.
Photo of Karissa offering the hose to Pocha. Guillermina is checking out snacks along the ledge in the background.