Welcoming orphaned elephant

Video: youtube, elephantnews

The Elephant Nature Park in Thailand is a special place.  They rescue elephants and rehabilitate them from landmine accidents, abusive circus acts, and body-breaking logging work.  The elephant then can live out his or her life in retirement.

Tourists are allowed to observe the elephants, and even can feed or bathe them (the staff are careful to choose elephants who are willing participants).   This park was where I got to meet a variety of elephants during my trip to Thailand in June 2015.

Therefore, I try to keep up with news online about the Elephant Nature Park.  This video of an orphaned elephant being welcomed by the herd made world news this week, and for good reason.  It’s so heartwarming to watch good news!

With summer here (a short season in my city), I will be posting on the blog less – likely once a week – as I will be trying to spend as much time outside during my free time as possible!




Elephants help rescue effort

An elephant in India hurt his leg and became stuck in swamp waters.  Local villagers have been bringing the wild elephant food.  They have ridden their domestic elephants into the murky water to deliver supplies.  Now a team of rangers and vets have arrived to free the elephant and fix the leg.

One of the most touching aspects of this story is that the domestic elephants showed great compassion for their fallen wild friend.  They intertwined trunks for extended periods of time, an act usually reserved only for friendly family members.

From ABC News:

Indian veterinarians are treating a 10-year-old wild elephant with an injured leg to help it escape from a marshy area where it has been stuck for at least five days.

The state Forest and Environment Ministry said forest rangers are bringing domesticated elephants to help rescue the trapped male elephant in Amchang Wildlife Sanctuary, 40 kilometers (25 miles) east of Gauhati, the capital of Assam state.

Sadly, more elephants are becoming trapped (and often die) in wells or dangerous waters.  This is due to climate change – wild elephants are going into unchartered territory to search for water and food.


Proposed budget would hurt wild horses


(Photo: every week in the spring I do volunteer work with children and domesticated horses)

Wild horses are a symbol of the “Wild West”, often seen as emblematic of the American spirit.  Yet, they have been controversial for decades.  Ranchers have longed bemoaned the wild horses’ presence, and complain that protections for the animals have created problems of overpopulation.  The new budget proposal seems particularly cruel to the horses, however, as it would allow horses to be sold overseas for slaughter.  This would reverse protections both Democrat and Republican Presidents have championed for over forty years.

From CNBC:

President Donald Trump’s budget proposal calls for saving $10 million next year by selling wild horses captured throughout the West without the current requirement that buyers guarantee the animals won’t be resold for slaughter.

Wild horse advocates say the change would gut nearly a half-century of protection for wild horses — an icon of the American West — and could send thousands of free-roaming mustangs to foreign slaughterhouses for processing as food.

Reteti Elephant Sanctuary

The Reteti Elephant Sanctuary in Kenya is supported by the Northland Rangelands Trust, which strives to get locals involved in conservation.  The Samburu tribe traditionally feared elephants, but now are on the front lines saving them.  They founded the sanctuary in 2016, and employ both male and female tribal members.  The Samburu track elephants for data purposes, rescue elephants in trouble, rehabilitate adults elephants and provide care for orphaned elephants.

From National Geographic:

The loss of elephants has a ripple effect on other animals. Elephants are ecosystem “engineers” who feed on low brush and bulldoze small trees, promoting growth of grasses, which in turn attract bulk grazers like buffalo, endangered Grevy’s zebras, eland, and oryx, themselves prey for carnivores: lions, cheetahs, wild dogs, leopards.

For pastoralists like the Samburu, more grass means more food for their cattle—one reason indigenous communities have begun relating to elephants, animals long feared, in a new way. “We take care of the elephants, and the elephants are taking care of us,” Lemojong says. “We now have a relationship between us.”


Elephant “revenge” on hunter

Big game safari hunter Theunis Botha, age 51, died this past week after being crushed by a female elephant.  From NPR:

Botha ran Theunis Botha Game Hounds Safaris specializing in leopard and lion safaris in South Africa, Zimbabwe and Mozambique. He claims to have pioneered a European-style of hunting in the region using hounds to help flush out the prey. Botha would often travel to the United States to find wealthy customers to take part in the trips, according to the Telegraph.

He was with a hunting party and they came across a breeding herd of elephants – three elephants charged towards him, and a fourth came from the side and took him by surprise, lifting him with her trunk.  A fellow hunter shot the elephant and she too died, crushing Mr. Botha.

Sadly, Mr. Botha leaves behind a grieving family.  Yet, hunting big game is very dangerous and there is always high risk.  The fact that this was a breeding herd made the situation incredibly precarious for the humans.   Elephants, like most mammals, are prepared to fight to the death to protect their most vulnerable family members.

Supporters of big game hunts say the money goes into conservation, and also keeps populations in check.  But, the results show problems with this optimistic theory.  National Geographic looked at six countries that allow big game hunting (South Africa, Zimbabwe, Zambia, Mozambique, Namibia, and Tanzania) and wrote the following:

But a closer look at trophy hunting in Africa shows that the industry employs few people and that the money from hunt fees that trickles down to needy villagers is minimal. Government corruption can be a factor. In Zimbabwe, for instance, individuals associated with President Robert Mugabe have seized lands in lucrative hunting areas. Trophy hunting isn’t stopping poaching, especially in countries that have a poor record of protecting their wildlife…

With more than one-sixth of the land in those six countries set aside for trophy hunting, and the fact that land-hungry politicians are seizing more and more land for themselves, impoverished rural communities often resort to poaching and the illegal wildlife trade to sustain themselves.



Guide Dog Foundation

Like America’s VetDogs, the Guide Dog Foundation is in Smithtown, NY.  It was established in 1946 to help the blind. Originally, the program focused on assisting returning WW2 veterans, but now services a huge variety of people who are visually impaired – those born with the disability, those who have suffered injury or illness, and those who have age-related loss of sight.

It costs $50,000 to breed, train, and place a service dog.  Puppies undergo evaluations to see if they have what it takes to be a guide dog.  They are put in many different social situations, and must be able to walk fearlessly over a wide variety of surfaces and inclines.

According to Charity Navigator, 84% of the organization’s expenses go towards the services it provides.  This is a pretty good statistic!  You can support the foundation through a regular monetary donation, or by shopping online at their website.  They have cute holiday cards for $8, and plush toys for under $20.

(YouTube video from the Guide Dog Foundation is below)




Prison Puppy Program

Yesterday I highlighted America’s VetDogs.  One more aspect of the organization I admire is the Prison Puppy Program.  From the America’s VetDogs website:


In order to be selected as dog handlers, inmates are required to submit a letter of intent to a liaison, after which a team of social workers, case managers, psychology, custody and program staff become involved in the selection process. Inmates who are honorably discharged veterans are given preference to become raisers, but all candidates must have acceptable behavioral records while they have been incarcerated and first must pass a screening of the prison intelligence department.

The puppies learn basic every-dog things like how to sit, stay, heel, and be housebroken.  The training then moves onward to include how to pick things up off the floor, how to turn lights on and off, and how to open and close doors.  The prison has three or four puppies at a time.  As you can imagine, they are popular residents so the puppies get used to being in busy environments.

On weekends, the puppies leave the facility and are placed in volunteers’ homes so they can become socialized with children, other animals, and be taken to many different public places.

video: YouTube, America’s VetDogs