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12 August 2019
August 12 is World Elephant Day. I couldn't NOT talk about it!
Elephants have always been my favorite. I dreamed of having my own dog, but we never could, and I longed to learn to ride a horse, which I also couldn't. Elephants, however, were in a different category. I didn't want one in the back yard and I wasn't going to ride one, but I sure loved seeing them.
They were always the animal I wanted to see at the zoo and loved going to the circus where I waited eagerly to see the elephants.
Each year when the circus came to town, Char and I would take our kids down to watch them unload the train, especially the elephants.
Then we would run over to the coliseum, where the circus would perform and watch the elephants marching onto the grounds. This particular year, Char and I found ourselves and our then-five children standing at the back of the big cat tent when the elephants arrived, marching very close to us--and we had nowhere to go. One guy warned us "watch out for that one--she kicks."
It was not until many years later that I began to really learn about elephants. I started reading a blog called "Moon Rattled," which no longer exists, and I started to learn about elephants and the treatment they receive in captivity. I started following the site for the Elephant Sanctuary in Tennessee, which rescues elephants from circuses and zoos and gives them a place which, while not what it would be in Africa or Asia, is still somewhere away from the prying eyes of people like us, and allows them to live in small groups, as they would in the wild. Elephants are perhaps the most intelligent beings on the planet and in the wild they have complex physical and social needs.
Babies are often taken from their mothers and brought somewhere where they live their lives in chains (and you know how I feel about babies being taken from their mothers)
And then there is the ivory trade. I don't know if he has reversed it but in March of 2018, Trump lifted an Obama era ban on importing ivory...the ban may once again be back, due to the outcry of so many. I don't know. But other countries--China in particular--still imports lots of ivory. For the sake of some little ivory do-dad, a mother is killed, her tusks hacked off and her baby is left orphaned and heartbroken.
If that sounds melodramatic, do some exploring in the David Sheldrick Wildlife Trust in Kenya, which rescues these orphans and raises them to adulthood when they can be releasesd back into the wild. The stories that break you heart are the babies who are so distraught at the memory of the death of their mother and being without her that they literally die of a broken heart.
Check out the story of Nabulu to see the Sheldrick crew in action rescuing a baby. To date they have raised ~250 orphans to adulthood and released them back into the wild. Part of their fund raising allows you to "adopt" an orphan. I did for a couple of years. They send regular reports on "your" elephant (yours and dozens of other people, I'm sure!) but you feel you are doing something, from this side of the world to help in some little way.
Check this video for some interesting things about elephants, called "the only harmless great thing." The idea of World Elephant Day is to make people aware not only of the wonder that is elephants, but of the danger they are in. In 1930, there were some 10 million elephants in Africa. By 2016, it was estimated that the population had dropped 111,000 in the space of a decade. Today there are just 415,000 elephants in Africa. Their numbers have dropped 62% and there is a possibility that if things are not changed, they could be extinct in the next decade or two.
I have read a lot of books about elephants since my "awakening" and am constantly amazed at how complex their society is. Any nature video where you see what happens when elephants come across the bones of an elephant is just so impressive as are the many videos showing how elephants come together in a group when one is in trouble, or gathering around a newborn to keep it from being attacked by another animal.
I think my favorite story, though concerns Lawrence Anthony, called the "elephant whisperer." I loved his book. He never intended to have anything to do with elephants, but either he took a herd that was causing problems or they would be put down, so he took them and over the years established a respectful relationship with them. A couple of years after I read his book, I learned that he had died of a heart attack.
this gallery of 12 facts you probably didn't know about elephants, in
honor of World Elephant day.
PHOTO OF THE DAY
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