If you were listening to Roundhouse Radio 98.3FM on April 18 you will have heard Elephanatics’ Director of Education, Leanne Fogarty, mention a petition to strengthen Canada’s ivory laws. Even if you are not a Canadian resident you can still help protect elephants by signing the petition at https://www.change.org/p/catherine-mckenna-minister-of-environment-climate-change-canada-ban-the-sale-of-elephant-ivory-in-canada?recruiter=49660550&utm_source=share_petition&utm_medium=copylink
Leanne also mentioned how harmful elepĥant riding, captivity, circuses and performances can be for elephants. Here are some reasons why:
- Captive elephants are stolen from the wild as babies, tied up, beaten and starved for 3 to 10 days until they give up their natural fight for freedom. Tragically, 1 in 3 do not survive the ordeal. See www.thailandelephants.org.
- Then they live a lifetime of slavery in logging, tourism or the circus. Most work long hours, 7 days a week, till they collapse or cannot work any longer.
- Mahouts (people controlling an elephant) carry an “ankus” or bullhook with a sharp tip. They hit or drag on the elephant’s sensitive ears, face and scalp to force them to do what the mahout wants.
- Advanced “tricks” such as balancing on two legs, playing soccer or basketball, balancing on a log, or picking up objects, requires repeated and prolonged use of the bullhook.
- Elephants are extremely intelligent, self-aware, emotional and social animals. The females live in a herd their whole lives. Captive elephant families are separated. Elephants are usually chained so they cannot even touch each other. This leads to “zoochosis” or repeated stereotypical behaviour like rocking, swaying, head bobbing, and trunk circling.
- In the wild, elephants walk 10 – 20 km daily and spend up to 20 hours walking, foraging for food, dusting, swimming and socializing. In captivity, they usually walk 1 to 4 km a day, are not allowed to forage and have little (if any) time to swim or socialize.
- Elephants eat up to 200 kg of a wide variety of food (grasses, fruit, twigs, roots, leaves and bark) and drink up to 150 litres of water a day. In captivity, they get a very small range of often inappropriate foods in insufficient quantities. They may only get to drink once or twice a day.
- Elephants’ spines are shaped the opposite way as the spines of horses and other load-bearing animals. Each vertebrae has a sharp, pointed top. This causes spinal injuries and sores from the howdah (saddle) which can be over 200 kg, not counting the weight of anywhere up to 6 people!
- Foot problems cause the most deaths in captive elephants – arthritis, nail infections, abscesses (from standing in their own feces) and sole overgrowth are often fatal.
- Less than 40,000 Asian elephants remain. They are officially an endangered species. Captive elephants live half as long and breed less than wild ones.
What can you do to help?
- Don’t ride elephants! Instead, get up close and personal with them at an ethical elephant adventure location – see below.
- IMPORTANT: tell your friends and family not to ride elephants.
- Sign and share petitions for the release of captive elephants and the removal of wild animals from circuses and zoos. Online petitions work!
- Adopt or gift an adoption of an elephant for as little as US$50 per year at sheldrickwildlifetrust.org or saveelephant.org.
- Donate to non-profit groups conserving and caring for elephants, such as www.earsasia.org, www.wildlifesos.org and www.wfft.org.
- If you see any animal being mistreated, report it to the facility manager and call the local police and/or animal care agency. Most importantly, when you are home, fill out a Travellers’ Alert at www.bornfree.org.uk and they will investigate if possible.
Where can you ethically visit elephants?
Here are 30 sanctuaries in a dozen countries where you can have a much more enjoyable and interactive experience with elephants AND be guilt-free!
INDIA www.wildlifesos.org www.chandakawildlife.in
MYANMAR www.saveelephant.org/myanmar www.ghvelephant.com
SOUTH AFRICA www.tembe.co.za
SRI LANKA www.slwcs.org www.millenniumelephantfoundation.com
UNITED STATES www.elephants.com www.pawsweb.org