Apologizing to Elephants

Linh Hoang

The Paw Print

Elephants show a depth of emotion, kindness, and love for one another. Each elephant has a story, and we humans are a part of that story. They are the largest land animal to walk the earth today. Everything about them is magical. Each family is led by the oldest female, also known as the matriarch, and the family looks up to her for guidance and knowledge. Males will not leave their mothers until fourteen years of age and females will stay with their mothers for the rest of their lives. Elephants have the ability to recognize themselves in the mirror, which indicates they are self-aware. They are immensely tactile animals, always touching each other with their trunks, smelling each other, leaning on and playing with each other. Humans think only we have a grasp of death, but just like us, elephants grieve and are extremely emotional. If a herd of elephants comes across an elephant corpse, they will begin to feel the skull, remembering and trying to recognize which individual it was. They come with years of history and to present day, elephants are quickly moving up on the endangered species list. Elephants are being exploited for their meat, their ivory, and for entertainment. Americans are among the highest consumers for this cruel luxury. Change is needed to be made, and it begins with banning poaching of elephants, boycotting the circus industry for the use of exotic animals for entertainment, and being educated about zoos. This is an apology to elephants.

Elephants are taught to walk on their hind legs, skip, dance, bow, and stand on their heads. Many people are shocked and amazed that they could be trained to do all these tricks, but many do not realize the suffering life they have to endure by being in captivity. Many wonder how elephants are trained to do tricks. To train the baby elephants they strip them from their mother, and start with bull hooks and ropes. A bull hook is an instrument that has a pointed hook at the end and a sharp spike and is used for physical discipline. The trainers will hook the bull hook in sensitive areas like behind the ear, and above the eye. These are weapons and break the animal’s spirit down. The spike is to get the elephant to move away, and the hook is used to get them to move towards a person. They now are controlled by fear and that is why they stay in line and remain cooperative. What makes this possible is the willingness of people to buy tickets to see the circus acts. If people were more educated of what happens behind the scenes, maybe people would boycott the circus and realize it is not acceptable to have them living in these conditions. Elephants are under a tremendous amount of threat and that is due to poaching. Poaching is an illegal act of hunting, killing, or capturing animals. The demand for ivory is exponentially growing. Asian countries have been increasing their demands for ivory over the past three years. It is estimated that in about ten years, elephant populations can be completely wiped out. It has been estimated that 100,000 African Elephants were illegally killed between 2010 and 2012. Ivory levels have reached unsustainable levels. In 2011, there were thirteen large-scale seizures of ivory and over twenty-three tons of ivory confiscated. Ivory has been banned since 1989, yet elephants are being slaughtered daily. Looking at a bigger scale, poaching rates were approximately seven percent per year from 2010 to 2012. That is the equivalent of 33,630 elephants poached yearly, and equates to ninety-six elephants a day. At this rate, there is no doubt that they’ll become extinct within a decade.

Many people believe zoos could be comparable to sanctuaries. In reality they’re still capturing elephants and taking them away from their homelands. Elephants in zoos will suffer from physical, emotional, and social trauma. They also die a premature death. Many zoos to this date still use the circus-style training, using bull hooks for training and chaining them up for long hours. Zoos raid elephants of their basic standards of living.  Elephants are migrating animals. They have the need to be constantly moving. Elephants will travel approximately thirty miles a day and are active for eighteen hours a day.  Elephants that are in captivity will develop the habit of swaying back and forth because they have such little space to roam. Zoos do not have the adequate space for such a large animal and it creates major health problems. One of the leading causes of death with elephants that are kept in captivity is arthritis and foot infections from standing on rough areas. Although zoos may have good intentions, they cannot provide for them. It doesn’t matter how much a zoo expands their space, it will never truly give them what is a necessity for their well-being.

It is not our world. We share it with tons of species who deserve to be on this planet. Elephants tell a story, they are a huge part of our eco system, and they have the ability to teach us about the world. The trauma of capture stays with them for the rest of their life. What we’ve done to them is unforgivable, yet they forgive us after all the hell we’ve put them through. What people can do is start by educating themselves about their living conditions in circuses and zoos. We’re calling for compassion and change. If we can reach at least one person today, it is more than it was yesterday. Many people are unaware of these world issues and by educating and inspiring the next generation to be advocates for all wild life, we can change the world. We’re not just a part of nature. We are nature. Together we can find a happy ending not just for the elephants, but for ourselves.

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