By Juliette West
This is the 2013 update on the state of elephants. We continue our efforts to improve their lives in captivity and the wild, but there is still a long way to go to save this species.
There continues to be an increase in the ivory trade. Now 40,000 elephants are killed each year for their tusks. China has the largest amount of imported ivory trafficking in the world, with the United States in second place. The problem is the desire for ivory by the Chinese middle class. Ivory has become a status symbol in the Chinese culture, and people are buying ivory trinkets to show off wealth. However, these ivory trinkets are made of real tusks from real elephants who had to die for them. The killing of elephants each year has reached such high levels that some suggest the wild African elephant population will go extinct by the year 2025. To ensure that this doesn’t happen, officials need to enforce more effective laws and methods of policing illegal imports. Also, the Chinese people need to be aware of the dangerous effects their buying has on the African elephant population. The buyers need to understand that they are supporting an industry that is causing the eventual extinction of elephants.
Circuses are a big contributor to the exploitation and abuse of animals in the entertainment industry. This year Columbia and Belgium outlawed the use of animals in circuses, and more countries are getting closer to making the same decision. Awareness is being spread about the abuse required to train elephants in circuses and the miserable lives they lead. More people need to understand that an elephant should not have to go through a life of abuse just for their entertainment. Animals are not put on this earth for us to dominate and use for entertainment.
Elephant-free zoos are becoming a trend as 18 major cities in the U.S. have already sent their elephants to sanctuaries, and other cities are being pressured to follow. With more education about elephants being available through other resources, zoos are unnecessary and just cruel. An elephant has no hope of living a full life in a small enclosure where he/she cannot walk 20 miles a day, socialize with family, or fulfill any of the other natural habits that make elephants who they are.
The state of elephants in Los Angeles hasn’t changed much in the past year. Three elephants currently live in the L.A. Zoo’s “Pachyderm Forest” exhibit. Billy, the bull, has now spent 24 years in captivity, and his condition doesn’t seem to be improving. He exhibits stereotypic behavior and his health continues to decline, simply because an elephant cannot thrive in captivity. The Ringling Bros. Circus came to L.A. this summer and protests took place as usual. This Fall, watch out for a big push for a bullhook ban or even a ban on animals performing in Los Angeles. Ringling Bros. has said that they will not let their elephants perform if bullhooks are not present, so a bullhook ban would stop Ringling from being able to bring elephants to the L.A. shows, or even coming to L.A. at all. However, a ban on animal acts would ensure that no animals can perform in L.A., with no way around it. If this ban passes, it would mean that city council has taken a huge step toward taking the lives of the animals in our city seriously.
Our Own Individual Behavior
Today on Elephant Awareness Day we need to remember the importance of being educated about how elephants are affected by our actions as humans. Whether it’s by buying ivory chopsticks or a ticket to the circus, we all need to take responsibility for our actions. Spreading awareness about the plight of elephants in our city is the only way we can invoke change for them. Elephants don’t have a voice, so it’s up to us to care and speak out for them.
Thank you all for your constant support. I’m still learning and am very lucky to be able to work alongside so many passionate and capable activists. You all continue to be role models for me in my work.