Tag Archives: elephant

A great resource on elephants: Elephant Voices

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I just came across this great elephant resource: Elephant Voices, run by elephant researcher Joyce Pool. It covers all conceivable elephant-related issues in our modern world—from poaching and culling in the wild, to the treatment of elephants in captivity around the world (zoos, circuses, etc). I can see myself spending many hours reading through the wealth of information here.

A voice for elephants

“As we enter the 21st Century, a multitude of human practices threaten the survival and well being of wild elephants. The killing of elephants for their tusks is out of control once again, accounting for as many as 38,000 elephant mortalities each year (Scientific American, July 2009 (2.59 MB). To this figure add the thousands of calves who die as a result of their mother’s deaths. The wanton destruction of habitat and the killing of elephants due to conflict over diminishing resources adds many thousands more deaths to the overall figure. And then comes the individual elephants who are killed for sport, those that are killed in the name of management, and the capture of wild calves for human entertainment.

The conservation and ethical treatment of wild elephants is of paramount importance, yet the individual distress and misery suffered by many captive elephants is also appalling and, given that many live in the zoos and circuses of wealthy countries, is totally unacceptable.

With four decades of groundbreaking research on wild elephants, we are in a position to speak with confidence on the interests of elephants, wherever they may be. These scientific discoveries indicate that we need to improve the way we care for elephants, and demand that we err on the side of caution when the interests of elephants are being considered.”

See some of my other posts about elephants:

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I just finished editing a short interview with Juliette West about her documentary, How I Became An Elephant

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I just finished editing a short interview we did with Juliette West at Portland VegFest, about her documentary, How I Became An Elephant. Will air Tuesday!

At Portland VegFest, we sat down for a few minutes with Juliette West, star of the riveting documentary, How I Became an Elephant, which was screened at VegFest. Juliette was just 14 years old when she set out to Thailand to see for herself how elephants are mistreated there, to meet Lek, Asia’s famous “Elephant Lady,” and to take part in rescuing one elephant, who becomes a symbol to the world of humanity’s capacity for cruelty… and compassion.

How I Became an Elephant is directed by 16-time award winning filmmakers Tim Gorski and Synthian Sharp and produced by actor/producer Jorja Fox.

Emotional day 2 at Portland VegFest

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Read about Inspiring day 1 at Portland VegFest

Day 2 at Portland VegFest

Got home about an hour ago, caught up with hubby, loved on all of the animals, and unpacked. Really need to get a good night’s sleep before work tomorrow.

Today was another whirlwind of activity. Even though we knew it would make us late to the first session, we started out with a fantastic vegan brunch at Sweatpea. The biscuits and gravy were fantastic, mostly due to the tall, fluffy, and buttery biscuits, which were equally good with the berry topping. It was crowded, so we had to squeeze in at a table with strangers, which led to some interesting {if at times awkward} conversation.

We then caught the latter half of a presentation by Richard Heitsch, MD—he’s a northwest vegan doctor and I really liked his style. I then ran back to the hotel to check out, and back to the conference just in time to sit in on Juliette West’s screening of the documentary in progress, How I became an Elephant. Juliette, who was 14 when filming the documentary and I think is now 15, traveled to Thailand to help expose the tortures that captive elephants undergo there. Even the “rough-cut” we viewed was very upsetting and I was trying not to sob in this room full of 100s of people, seeing how those poor elephants were beaten, the babies taken from their mothers and “broken,” many many elephants exhibiting stereotypical behaviors and post traumatic stress. It’s a powerful documentary which will help expose these practices to the world. We sat down with Juliette for a few minutes afterwards and recorded an interview, which I’m sure will appear in an upcoming show.

I describe today as an emotional day, because I already had the upsetting picture of that poor little monkey in my head from the rescue video yesterday, whose eyes had been roughly sewn shut shortly after birth, and equipment either implanted into or strapped onto his head that played deafening sounds 24 hours a day. The poor little thing had never had any affection, and as they were cradling it in their hands it was sucking its fingers just like a human baby. I’m so sad and angry that this senseless torture happens in our university medical labs. And it’s so discouraging to see that on the other side of the world another type of torture against helpless baby elephants and enslaved adults is happening.

Coincidentally, or maybe not, a protest against the circus had been going on for days at the arena only a few blocks away. Those elephants and other circus animals don’t have it any better than the Thai elephants. We skipped some of the conference (including a couple of talks I was looking forward to) to go help with the protest for a few hours. It was a great experience and helped to channel the hopelessness I was feeling into action. By the time we got back, we’d missed the last session as well, but I had some time to go through most of the rest of the exhibit hall.

All in all, a great VegFest. I met so many new caring, compassionate people from different advocacy groups that I hadn’t known of or been in touch with before. I really feel like I’m making some worthwhile and maybe lifelong connections.

We are all Elephants

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Elephants on the Edge

I’m having a hard time getting through Elephants on the Edge: What Animals Teach Us about Humanity, by G.A. Bradshaw. In fact, I keep digesting a little in small chunks, then putting it down for a few days. What has happened to the elephants of our world is quite simply terrible: habitat fragmentation, wars, hunting, genocide of entire family groups; babies seeing their mothers and families, everyone they’ve ever known and trusted, murdered before their eyes. This is causing posttraumatic stress disorder PTSD in elephants in a similar manner to humans who have suffered through the same types of tragedies. Young elephants are then taken into captivity and treated shamefully in zoos and circuses.

I want you to read this book so that you know what is happening. It is probably too late for captive or wild elephants to survive in our world, but we should know what has been done, so that we will not repeat it. Here are just a few reasons to not support zoos and circuses who keep elephants:

The Animal Welfare Act (AWA, 1970) and the Endangered Species Act (ESA, 1973) are the two main pieces of federal legislation governing elephant welfare and the safety of humans working with elephants in the United States. From an elephant’s point of view, the laws offer little protection. Tellingly, the AWA is administered by the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) and administered through its Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS). There are not specific guidelines tailored to care of elephants, with the exception of tuberculosis testing, treatment, and autopsies.

The number of inspectors assigned to monitoring and enforcing the AWA is miserably inadequate. … Records concerning elephant health and transfers are not readily open to the public…

A variety of tools, including food and water deprivation and other methods of causing distress, pain, and injury, are used to force an elephant to live in captivity and submit to total control by the trainer. This process is called breaking. …

Typically, the breaking process begins by forceful removal of infants from their family units, followed by bodily immobilization, beating, and starvation and other deprivation until the elephant accepts the trainer as his or her “master.” A broken elephant is one who has ceased active resistance against restraint and confinement. Negative reinforcement techniques are a part of regular training: bullhook beatings for poor performance, displays of resistance, and/or unapproved socialization with other elephants. The severity of negative conditioning through the breaking process allows the trainer later to use relatively little force in performances. …

An elephant veterinarian for more than thirty years, Schmidt [Michael Schmidt, an elephant veterinarian of the Oregon Zoo in Portland] maintains that “the modern zoo is as dangerous for elephants as it always has been.” The use of the term dangerous is interesting. Of late much has been made about the necessity of captive breeding of elephants because their conditions in the wild are so threatening. Indeed they are; however, statistics comparing free-ranging elephants with those in captivity demonstrate that confinement is not only dangerous but lethal. One of the National Zoo’s leading researchers on elephant reproduction, Janine Brown, predicts that the severity of problems with zoo elephants—more than 30 percent infertility; high infant mortality, including infanticide; neurotic and stereotypic behavior that includes calf rejection, self-mutilations, and intraspecific aggression leading to deaths; serious foot and weight problems—will result in “the extinction of all elephant species in North American zoos within only a few decades.”