I wrote a post awhile back, about elephants, after taking our boys to the circus and having a very unexpected emotional reaction. I left there with a heavy heart and a promise to educate myself about the elephants’ life in captivity. This is a follow-up post to what I’ve learned.
One of the questions that came up in the comments was whether the elephants are better off in captivity because the wild has become an inhospitable place with an ever-shrinking habitat and resources and poachers thinning herds yearly by the thousands. Plus, they’re intelligent creatures, maybe they enjoy learning tricks and performing for us?
I’ve watched some horrifying videos of elephants being abused by circus workers “training” them to perform, and I’ve also read the opinions of people defending such practices of using chains, ropes and bull-hooks. But, last night I stumbled upon a HBO documentary called “An Apology to the Elephants” and it was the nail in the coffin for me. Elephants have been shown to experience grief, trauma and depression. Living in chains, being intimidated into entertaining us and having their calves separated from them forcefully causes them pain. There’s no doubt left in my mind. We are harming these majestic creatures.
Here are some facts from the documentary:
• Roughly 38,000 elephants a year are killed for their tusks. At this rate, we will have wiped out their entire species in the wild in ten years. TEN YEARS.
• Over 50% of elephants in captivity will die of foot-related disease. These are creatures built to roam, not stand on hard surfaces for hours.
• It is still legal to keep an elephant chained for up to 19 hours a day.
• In the wild, they spend 16 hours a day roaming and foraging for food. Their bodies are built for this, and the swaying motion you see in zoos and circuses is from the anxiety of not being able to act on this natural instinct.
Believe me, I know there are issues in the world closer to home than making sure elephants don’t go extinct and aren’t abused and suffering in our hands. And I know that there’s only so much one person can do. But, this is my personal burden now.
So, here are some simple ways you can help:
• Don’t buy ivory
• Don’t support circuses
• Do support elephant sanctuaries and zoos that give them room to roam, like the Oakland Zoo
• If you’d like to get more involved, support PAWS Elephant Sanctuary
• Pass this knowledge on!
On a positive note, Britain has recently banned wild animals from being used in circuses. It will take effect in 2015. We need to follow their lead! As the documentary stated, “Zoos can be fixed, circuses cannot.”
Thanks for reading this far. Stepping off my soapbox now. If you have a cause you’re passionate about, please talk to me about it!
♥This post is dedicated to the memory of Topsy♥ (Warning, this is a very disturbing story)