My local zoo gladly takes donations to help elephants and other animals. Obviously, monetary donations are accepted, but it is nice to donate items where you can see the animals actually use them.
The zoo elephants enjoy “foraging” for pasta, unsweetened cereals, oats, and unsalted pretzels. They also like spices and perfumes. And, if you have large cardboard tubes you want to recycle, they make enjoyable elephant playthings to manipulate and destroy.
Other animals also need supplies – for example, my zoo was thrilled to accept blankets for their primates.
So, if you are cleaning out your cupboards, house, or garage, ask your zoo if they need anything!
Today is World Elephant Day. Here is a picture from my recent visit to the zoo.
I got an email from the David Sheldrick Wildlife Trust, updating me on my foster elephant (reminder: you can foster an elephant for $50). It also talked about World Elephant Day and offered an opportunity to send an elephant vocal message. Details are below:
“Saturday 12th August is World Elephant Day, an extra opportunity for all of us to celebrate elephants and draw global attention to the threats they face, as well as the work being done to help these most majestic of animals. To make it possible for elephants to be truly heard this World Elephant Day, the Trust has created Say Hello in Elephant, a web based campaign that allows you to translate messages into elephant calls and share them with friends and family. The translations are based on decades of research into elephant communication by ElephantVoices and we hope you will take a moment to visit: http://www.helloinelephant.com and translate a message to share with your friends. I find it exciting to think that we can bring the true sounds of elephants to people all over the world, a sound that could be lost, were it not for the support of caring people like you, who help us to protect them.”
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.
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.
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?
Hui-mang, which means “Hope”, is a lucky little one. The baby elephant fell into water and her mother and grandmother rushed in to rescue her. The video is from a zoo surveillance camera, and shows another family member in the background pacing with concern.
This video is yet more proof of the social nature of elephants, the importance of familial relationships, and their intelligence.
It is also a good visual of why humans have long felt a kinship with the animals.
Video: YouTube, photcube
I got an email from actor Jared Leto. Not a personal email, although he used my name. Rather, he is an ambassador for the World Wildlife Fund, and they are currently running a fundraising campaign to save Asian elephants in Myanmar.
Last week I posted about the current crisis in Myanmar, and how poachers are now selling elephant skin as “medicine”, even though there is no real scientific evidence that elephant skin has any benefit for human health.
Elephant poaching rates since January have already surpassed the annual average for Myanmar—this is truly a crisis. Most of the poaching is happening in two areas: Bago Yoma and Ayeyarwady Delta, where poachers can gain easy access. At this rate, wild Asian elephants could vanish from these areas in just one or two years…
WWF has an emergency action plan to stop the poaching. With your support, WWF will train, equip and deploy 10 anti-poaching teams to the most vulnerable areas, and implement a thorough plan to stop the slaughter.
So far, the campaign has raised $80,000. The goal is $230,000, so if you’re looking for a good cause for donatations, please consider this!