Since my return from Asia in July I have found myself deeply involved in elephant welfare activity here in the US. These past few months have been a whirlwind of activity, flying cross country, participating in Animal Control officer training, providing elephant expertise to city officials and inspecting the conditions of elephants traveling in the circus. This activity is a perfect fit for me, a continuation of the work I have done for the past fifteen years. The difference is that I am traveling much more and have an opportunity to help a greater number of elephants, in new ways.
While at the Sanctuary I was aware of how sheltered I had become, one level removed from the daily suffering of the majority of elephants living in captivity. My effort to help and rescue elephants to sanctuary was made more bearable by my daily observation of the elephants who were living a sanctuary life.
Now I am back on the frontlines again, immersed in the lives of elephants who are chained by two legs, provided water only at intervals determined by their overseers, forced to perform behaviors on command that in some cases cause great physical pain, as they are transported around the country in trailers and railroad cars for the majority of their lives. Denied autonomy, freedom of choice and their culture.
With so much science to support an elephant’s need for space, compatible companionship and autonomy, it is difficult to comprehend how this modern day slavery continues. The image of elephants chained on asphalt parking lots, watered from 50-gallon plastic barrels, paraded down city streets trunk-to-tail, is a powerful testament to the degree in which elephants are an exploited commodity.
I am grateful for the opportunity to apply my knowledge and experience to improving elephant welfare both here and in Asia. Only through continued education will government officials and the public come to understand just how detrimental traditional captive life is for elephants.