More elephants rescued from sea

Last month, an elephant made international headlines for being stranded out to sea and having the Sri Lankan navy rescue it.

This week, two more Sri Lankan wild elephants were at risk of drowning.  From The Guardian:

The navy said the pair of wild elephants were brought ashore on Sunday after a mammoth effort involving navy divers, ropes and a flotilla of boats to tow them back to shallow waters.

Photos showed the elephants in distress, barely keeping their trunks above water in the deep seas about half a mile off the coast of Sri Lanka.

“Having safely guided the two elephants to the shore, they were subsequently released to the Foul Point jungle [in Trincomalee district],” the navy said in a statement. “They were extremely lucky to have been spotted by a patrol craft, which called in several other boats to help with the rescue.”

The two incidents occurring within weeks of each other may seem odd.  Not only that, but a pod of stranded whales had to be rescued in May by the Sri Lankan navy.

The Sri Lankan lagoon waters this year are very shallow, so elephants are crossing them, not always recognizing the danger that lies in the ocean ahead.  The cyclone season was early, and brought the worst rain since the 1970s.  The animals are having trouble adjusting to the extremes in weather, just like us humans.

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World Animal Protection study

A recent study by World Animal Protection found that the number of elephants used as entertainment in Thailand has grown dramatically – increasing by a third in only five years.

Fortunately, many large travel companies are banning selling tourist tickets to elephant rides, including Trip Advisor.

Still, there is a massive problem of naive tourists who are excited to meet an elephant and desperately hope for a picture of themselves riding it so they can share their experience with friends and family back home. The report suggests that 40% of tourists in Thailand expect to ride an elephant.

What these tourists do not see is that many of these tourist elephants have to endure hours of being chained up each day.  Most have experienced harsh training methods such as hooks to keep them submissive.  Many were taken by force from their mothers as babies so they could grow accustomed to human control.

It is scary to read that only 200 of the 3000 elephants studied had humane living conditions.

If you plan on viewing wildlife on your vacation, please do a lot of research beforehand.  Elephant rides, dolphin swims, and holding tiger cubs are fun experiences for humans, but it rarely is good for the animal.

In Thailand, I can recommend the Elephant Nature Park in Chiang Mai is a wonderful way to meet elephants.  You are able to pat them, feed them, and wash them.  Yet, all the elephants are rescued and being well taken care of on acres of land.  The elephants are able to form herds, and are never forced into human contact.

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Summer in the Finger Lakes

IMG_4675Sunrises and sunsets can be very dramatic in the Finger Lakes region, but this sunrise might have been one of the most beautiful I have seen.  This summer has brought rain and thunderstorms, which has given us some fantastic cloud formations.

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And, rainbows.  So many rainbows.  We had double rainbows three evenings in a row.

IMG_4907This past weekend there were two Lavender festivals.  I attended the one in Skaneateles.  It was as if I transported myself to Provence.

IMG_6040My favorite summer activity here is fruit picking.  Cherries for $2.49 a pound.  Western NY is actually the second most agriculturally rich area in the USA – in terms of variety and abundance – Sonoma, CA is ahead of us.

I love to travel, but home is pretty great at this time of year.

(photos are my own)

The value of elephant memories

Interesting recent research shows that elephants memories are very complex.  Older elephants pass down memories and associations to other generations.

For example, researchers now know that elephants can distinguish different human groups by their clothing and voice.  Evidence shows that elephants recognize and fear tribal hunters’ clothing colors, smells, and voice tones but have little interest in farming tribal groups, seeing them as harmless.

The matriarch teaches young elephants what and who to be wary of even when the young elephant has yet to experience it for himself.

From The Guardian:

The idea of elephants as information networks should matter to conservationists, because in this view of the world every elephant killed by humans is a network user or editor lost. With the extinction of elephants, we would also see the extinction of a network of elephant experiences – where the waterholes are; who to befriend and who to avoid; where the grasses come late or early; where the mud holes are plentiful and where the crocodiles are not; why it’s a good idea to avoid men in red garments; when the moon lights the night each month; where dead friends and ancestors let out their last tortured gasps. This is network chatter. It is network traffic. It has value. We are told that elephants matter because they are spectacularly intelligent and charismatic and because they are ecosystem engineers and umbrella species, protecting the wildlife of the region. But, what if they were also worth conserving for the information architecture that their societies utilise?