What Does World Elephant Day Truly Stand for?

ele feeding

We had something different planned for World Elephant Day, but got derailed while reading about events planned across the world in celebration of the day.

For us, World Elephant Day seems like it should be a day to raise awareness about the reality of wild and captive elephants. A day to be a united global voice for elephants, to help share their message and ensure their survival and proper treatment. A day to demonstrate our appreciation for magnificence of who they are.

So…..why is it that World Elephant Day is being celebrated in numerous places by holding activities like elephant rides, swimming with elephants, painting by elephants and so on. It not only brings into question how those things are considered educational, but also how passively ignorant we are to the sentience of elephants and other living beings.

For us, selflessly honoring an elephant means doing so without the expectation of what we get in return. It’s about appreciating what makes them so remarkable and simply being grateful for just that. They put humans to shame with the depths of their generosity, their ability to forgive, their will to survive, their loyalty and nurturing and their beauty. This should be what they are revered for, not whether you can ride them, touch them, hug them, have your picture taken with them, or feed them. We need to appreciate them, for them.

Many of us will never have the pleasure of seeing an elephant in the wild. We will never be able to feel their full presence, much of what is lacking in captive elephants. When people see wildlife, they generally stop and admire them, knowing that approaching them will often scare them away. But with these same wild animals in captivity people want to get closer, they want more, they feel that we as humans “deserve” more. This desire has transformed captive elephants into a shell of their full being and it has destroyed our full appreciation for their rightful place in our world as free living, peaceable beings.

It’s understandable to want to see an elephant up close, or interact with one; they are incredible and mesmerizing in every way. Words can’t do them justice.   Some will say that it’s different for us because we get to be with them. We are lucky and blessed to be able to work for them, but even when working with elephants we don’t expect them to want to be touched or to be in our company. It needs to be about what makes them comfortable, but also what brings about the most growth in them. Some captive elephants appreciate human affection and flourish through a deep trusting bond with a human. Some enjoy your company, but only at certain times, and others look to their herd to fulfill all aspects of their lives. It’s about honoring their needs and not our desires. There are many elephants where the biggest gift we can offer is to walk away and let them be.  You need to examine every interaction and ask yourself if it is positively impacting the life of that elephant.

This is just part of a bigger consideration and evaluation of our role as humans on this earth. Analyzing the flawed thought process behind acting as if other living beings exist for our enjoyment and not examining the impact we have on all species. We need to look at the full reality of our actions and not just the moments of joy we feel from them. There is interconnectedness with all nature, we should be part of the whole, a beneficial and nurturing part of life.

So, on this World Elephant Day, we ask you to try to examine your role in the bigger picture and question what kind of impact you are having. Elephants deserve to be respected and admired for who they are, not what they offer or what they can do for us. If you can never touch an elephant, that’s ok, it doesn’t mean that you care about their well-being and future any less. I believe that it actually demonstrates that you love them even more.   They don’t have to be seen and touched to be revered. Value them for them, and for the integral role in this beautiful web that makes up our world. And if you are lucky enough to be able to see an elephant in the wild, a true unaffected version of who they are, make sure to take a long moment and appreciate the majesty of what is an elephant. Then drive away content with the fact that the only thing that has been touched is your soul.

In honor of all elephants- World Elephant day 2015


  1. REPLY
    R Taccone says

    Beautifully, beautifully written.

  2. REPLY
    Sabine Zell says

    Yes, beautifully written. Having volunteered at the Elephant Nature Park 3 times, in my third visit, I found I no longer needed to touch an elephant or even be up close to feel humbled by her. I have learned that they are incredible and naturally curious. And by doing my own thing (some chore or other), their magnificence in the distance is no different than if you are close to them. There is something very magical and majestic about elephants no doubt. I am continuously amazed at how massive, gargantuan tons of a living being can exude such kindness, patience, tenderness and gentleness. But I have learned so much about my own behavior in just observing them – mostly how to be respectful and more empathetic. And that has been the best part.

    • REPLY
      Kat Blais says

      We have always found with elephants that the more you want or expect, a lot of times, the less you will get. I think one of the biggest gifts they can give you is to just be able to sit back and watch them with each other. It is quite humbling.

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