Last updated on August 28th, 2018 at 11:26 pm
As I sat watching old family movies, memories came flooding back. Memories of happy times travelling with my parents and younger brother. What struck me was how almost every trip had a visit to some local animal park, roadside zoo or aquarium. It reminded me that in the late 50’s and early 60’s, this was the norm. It was what most people accepted, as being acceptable. Animal welfare and endangered species were not as widely discussed back then as they are today.
From alligators and exotic birds to jumping dolphins doing tricks in small pools to wild animals being paraded around for onlookers to “ooh” and “ah” over, there was no shortage of attractions to draw in tourists. We seemed to say “yes” to them all.
Extinction is Forever
As a rose-colored glasses optimist, it also reminded me how far we’ve come. Never forgetting how far we still have to go. Although consciousness is raised, those who work in the conservation arena warn us that the continues to accelerate “fast enough to eliminate more than half of all species by the end of this century.” The cause of this extinction is directly linked to human activity.Extinction of species continues to accelerate fast enough to eliminate more than half of all species by the end of this century. The cause of this extinction is directly linked to human activity. #endangeredspecies #animals #extinction Click To Tweet
The rapid loss of species we see today is to be between 1,000 and 10,000 times higher than the natural extinction rate. Using the low estimate that there are 2 million species on our planet, how can we stand by and continue to allow species to perish? Especially with the knowledge that extinction of species and natural ecosystems is not reversible. Once species are gone, they’re gone forever.
Success for Fur-Bearing Animals
As bad as the news sometimes seems, it’s important to acknowledge the successes we’ve seen over the last decades.
Back in the 70’s, it was fashionable to wear fur coats. Wearing fur was considered a sign of your status in society for decades before this. The more expensive the fur, the higher your status. More people are now saying ‘no’ to fur, leaving unwanted fur coats hanging in closets or sent to landfill.
Personally, I still have four fur coats (already used when I got them) that I wore in the 70’s. I’d love to put them to some good use for orphaned or injured wildlife, or humans in need. They still sit in a box, waiting to be shipped to someone who will use them. So far, no takers.
There’s good news. In the last few years, we’ve seen major shifts in the fashion industry, with high-profile designers committing to San Francisco recently became the world’s first major city to ban sales of fur. Progress!Now major fashion magazines are doing the same. Cities are coming on board too. We’ve seen major shifts in the fashion industry, with high-profile designers committing to stop using fur. Major fashion magazines too. Recently, San Francisco became the world's first major city to ban sales of fur. #furClick To Tweet
The Elephant Advocate in the Room
My deep love for elephants goes back to my childhood. Their wisdom and majesty fascinate me. As a long-time elephant crusader, I’m not alone. There seems to be a universal admiration and love for these beautiful animals.
In the past, I admit I was ‘that’ person who would visit the zoo in whatever city I travelled to. I’d spend hours observing the elephants from afar. Often, I felt conflicting emotions. Joy at being able to see them, but a sadness that was hard to put into words.
Elephants are often compared to humans because of how highly intelligent they are. Could this be why we humans are so drawn to them? Studies have proven that like humans, elephants are self-aware. A study done with an elephant named Happy showed how she would touch a white cross painted on her forehead. A test used to test self-awareness in children. Happy could only see the white cross while looking in a mirror. She understood that she was looking at a reflection of herself.Elephants are not only self-aware like humans but are also highly sensitive and caring animals, who express grief, compassion, altruism and play. #elephants #intelligence #BeKindtoElephantsClick To Tweet
Saying “No” to Elephants in Zoos
As our collective consciousness is being raised, zoos continue to , allowing their elephants freedom to live out their lives in sanctuaries. Zoos in San Francisco, Toronto, Calgary, Vancouver, Alaska, Philadelphia and Detroit have bowed to the scientific and public consensus that elephants don’t thrive in a zoo environment.As our collective consciousness is being raised, zoos continue to close their elephant exhibits, allowing their elephants freedom to live out their lives in sanctuaries. #zoos #elephants #sanctuaryClick To Tweet
Sadly, there are still many zoos who have elephant exhibits. Lucy, the lone elephant in the Edmonton Zoo and at the L.A. Zoo, both have high-profile groups advocating for their release to a sanctuary. Although they’ve been fighting for their release for years, there is still hope these elephants will be free soon.
A Leading Voice for Elephant Welfare – Dame Daphne Sheldrick
One of this century’s most respected wildlife voices has been Dame Daphne Sheldrick who founded the David Sheldrick Wildlife Trust in 1977. She dedicated over 60 years of her life to the protection of Africa’s wildlife and some of the world’s most iconic and threatened animals. Sadly, she passed away on April 12th, but her legacy will continue on into the future. Dame Daphne is remembered with gratitude and love in this tribute on the DSWT site. A tribute that underscores her great contribution to elephant welfare in the world:
“Daphne was the first person to successfully hand raise a milk dependent new born elephant and rhino, knowledge that has seen more than 230 orphaned elephants saved in Kenya, and countless other infant elephants in countries across Africa and into India. Daphne lived alongside elephants and learned to read their hearts, much as they read ours – she understood their fragility, their intelligence, their capacity to love, to grieve, to heal, to support one another and she took those lessons to the global stage. In doing so, Daphne became a leading voice for elephants, never through a desire for the limelight, only ever driven by her belief that elephants, and other wild species, have a right to live a free and protected life – just like us.”
One of my great joys has been to foster several of their orphan elephants. Fostering ensures they thrive and are able to be released back into the wild. For those who want to support orphaned elephants, there are many beautiful babies to foster on the DSWT site.
Being a Voice for Endangered Species
Dame Daphne fought for the release of elephants in captivity, knowing that seeing an elephant in a zoo or circus was not really seeing an elephant.are gregarious creatures, that have a strong sense of family and of death; they form friendships that span a lifetime. Like humans, they need the companionship and comfort of friends.”“Elephants are gregarious creatures, that have a strong sense of family and of death; they form friendships that span a lifetime. Like humans, they need the companionship and comfort of friends.” - Dame Daphne Sheldrick #elephants #compassion #friendshipsClick To Tweet
What can we do to help endangered species? As consumers, we can use our voice by refusing to spend money to visit zoos or circuses that feature elephants. Or any animals for that matter. It’s easy to become an elephant advocate by signing the and committing to avoid any sort of ‘entertainment’ setting where an elephant performs.
Will Elephants Become an Endangered Species?
Collective awareness has been raised about the unsuitable conditions and cruelty elephants in zoos and circuses experience. Yet, it’s not a main reason for declining elephant populations that put them on the vulnerable list.
It’s hard to imagine that at the turn of the 20th century there were a few million African elephants. There are only an estimated 450,000 – 700,000 today.
The troubling news is that the —overwhelmingly from poaching—is estimated at 8 percent, or 27,000 elephants slaughtered each year! Poached, to satisfy the insatiable demand for ivory from elephant tusks. Couple that with trophy-hunting, population growth, human encroachment and climate change, and it remains a reality that elephants are in real danger.
Good News for Elephants
There’s good news on this front though. Asian countries, who’ve been the main consumer of poached ivory, are moving to ban ivory imports.
reports that “China is widely believed to be the world’s largest consumer of ivory, both legal and illegal, and it plays a major role in the yearly slaughter of some 30,000 African elephants by poachers.” However, as of December 31st, 2017, a complete is in place in China.
African nations are doing their part by also cracking down on the ivory trade. With the rise in ecotourism, more people are travelling to see wild animals in their natural habitats. This helps keep tourist money in the local economy while helping to preserve the environment, culture and endangered species of animals and plants. It’s also a wonderful way to show respect for a people that have often battled political strife. A win-win.With the rise in #ecotourism, more people are travelling to see wild animals in their natural habitats. This helps keep tourist money in the local economy while helping to preserve the environment, culture and #endangered species of #animals and plants. Click To Tweet
Is there hope? Always. Enough so that one day soon, animal cruelty and an endangered species list, will (hopefully) be a thing of the past. Until then, I’ll remain a rose-colored glasses optimist, committed to raising awareness and change.
Note: An edited version of this piece appears in the “Endangered Species” edition of the Born Free USA magazine.