If you care about wildlife, if you acknowledge that human beings are not the only species on the planet in need of help, then you are probably familiar with the many kinds of mistreatment by human hand that elephants face around the world. You probably know that the circus and ivory trade are not the only culprits, and that the real bad guys are often difficult to identify.
This is a brief survey of the available online literature about problems for elephants today. The survey begins with the most frequently discussed problems like the Ringling Brothers and African poachers, then continues to the less obvious issues like street entertainment in Thailand, and trekking in India.
- Elephants in Zoos - Animal Defenders International is a leader in animal advocacy and publishes an annual report called the Top 10 Worst Zoos for Elephants. Read it and weep. We need to help these elephants and we need activists like you to help!
- Elephants in Circuses – PETA has a wealth of information about the horrors endured by elephants – including baby elephants – at the hands of circuses like Ringling Bros. Read their Circus section to get educated.
- Elephants in the Movies – The Huffington Post article “Water For Elephants’ Animal Abuse Allegedly Revealed In Undercover Video” covers the mistreatment of elephants during the making of the recent blockbuster “Water for Elephants,” a shocking but telling controversy.
- Ivory Trade - The recent New York Times article “Elephants Dying in Epic Frenzy as Ivory Fuels Wars and Profits” reports on rampant elephant poaching in Africa. BornFree is a leader in the ivory trade issue. You can read their Bloody Ivory site for a full education. Juliette is serving as BornFree’s International Youth Ambassador for Elephants and in this capacity requests that you please sign the petition One Million Kids Against the Ivory Trade.
- Elephant Rides - One of the most popular tourist activities in Africa and India is to go for a ride on an elephant. The idea of riding an elephant is exciting and romantic, but the reality of the trekking industry is not so bright. Here are two articles that expose that reality: Why Elephant Riding Should Be Removed from Your Bucket List and Eco-Adventure Travel: Seven Reasons Never to Ride an Elephant
- Elephant Painting - Likewise, it may seem like pure magic to see an elephant paint a picture of a tree, say, or take your proffered dollar bill or baht note with its trunk, but our job today is to think twice about how that wild animal was made to be obedient. We should think about what physical punishment the mahout must use to keep the animal in line. Read about elephant painting issues from the filmmaker of Eyes of Thailand.
- Street Elephants Begging - The wonderful elephant activist Katherine Connor’s site, who started her own elephant sanctuary called Boon Lott for elephants in need, describes the mistreatment of street elephants.
This is not a comprehensive list. There are other troubles and injustices for elephants everywhere they live (like being used to clear and haul lumber, or like being captured or mistreated by zoos), but this is a good starting point to begin to become informed.
Before we can start saving the lives of elephants, we must pin down what forces are taking those lives away. Sadly, it turns out those forces are most often people. That is why it is so important to familiarize ourselves with the problems. It is the first step toward their solution.
Photo Credit: Ringling Circus Training Baby Elephant (c) PETA