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Published: December 27th 2007
What is your story and the many animals living in captivity? This question now tugs at my heart, and has become my quest to understand and help give a voice for animals who may be suffering.
That is an Excellent Question, and to answer, I must refer to the impact a travel log through Lonely Planet had on me. The Universe's mysterious power to lead us in the directions it does continues to amaze me. So the story goes: I used the name ShivaFan, and logged in to help me plan for my upcoming trip in January 2008. Someone asked if there was anything wrong with taking elephant rides, and asked about training methods of elephants. Thinking at that time I knew quite a bit about elephants, based on my past tourist experiences in Thailand, Bali, Nepal, and India, I answered that I felt it all had to do with how the mahouts may treat them. I had come in contact with several mahouts, or elephant caregivers. Most, I would say were good to their elephants they cared for. But, this question also brought back memories of witnessing things that weren't so kind. Overall, I answered that I thought it was okay. In fact, I had just registered to attend a 3-Day Mahout Training in Lampang, Thailand at the Elephant Conservatory where elephant riding and learning elephant commands are very much a part of what I would
A Golden Buddha
Watching over all people and creatures large and small...
be doing. The Elephant Conservatory I had learned had a very good reputation, compared to the traditional elephant camps in Thailand, so I thought I was making a good choice. Well, I logged back onto the site a few days later. My response that I had given regarding elephant riding was challenged. I would of let it go at that, but something deep within me wouldn't until I learned the truth... No matter what I found out. It seems that now the search has a life of its' own, as I am being drawn deeper and deeper into the experiences of elephants, as well as other animals. The following photos and narratives will be my effort to explain what happened to me and the insights I am now developing, in the process of trying to come up with an honest and reflective answer to that person's seemingly simple question.
September 5, 2008 entry:
The following article is from the Elephant Nature Park Website, also featured as reference on the Tennessee Elephant Sanctuary Website, about the so-called Painting Elephants. (you will see I also took some pictures of this during an elephant show I attended during one of my
first trips to Thailand: Please also refer to my blog entry about my visit to the Elephant Nature Park in Jan-Feb '08, which is the sanctuary mentioned here):
"Reality of the Painting Elephants in Thailand
Lek Chailart's Elephant Nature Park
May 2008 e-Newsletter
Everyone who has visited the Park in the last two and a half years probably has had the pleasure of meeting and/or even being kissed by young Pupia, who came here on a leased basis with his Mom when he was approximately one week old. He was one of our positive-reinforcement training stars and was a nicely behaved young elephant who learned a lot while he was here. A whole family group was formed around this young calf and often our newsletters stories would evolve around this diverse, happy family group.
But alas, in the world of leased elephants all good things must come to an end. The fact that they are leased means that they are here on a temporary basis and their owners have no intention of selling them. At some point, they must go back to the real world. This could happen at any time: sometimes they are with us
for years, sometimes only for a few months. Pupia was lucky to have a very happy childhood growing up at the Park.
Approximately three weeks ago, his owners called and said they wanted to take Pupia and Mae Toh Koh back to their village for a ceremony that would last 15 days. They said that they would bring them back when the ceremony was finished. We were hopeful but skeptical. Just today we received news that Pupia would not be coming back to the Park, nor would his mother. Sadly, Pupia will be separated from his mother and he will be sent to one of the many training centers to be taught to paint!
As a result of a recent video posted on YouTube of an elephant painting a "self portrait," literally millions of people have become interested in the idea of having a painting done by an elephant, not realizing the cruel training methods that are used to get the animal to perform this activity. The couple that originally recorded the eight minute video of the elephant painting have a website (ExoticWorldGifts.com) where they sell paintings by elephants, among other things. Their names are Liz Allen and
Mark Fangue. We think they have no idea of the baby elephant exploitation extravaganza that they are creating, or how harmful this is.
Disgustingly, there is lots of money in paintings by elephants. This couple are selling the paintings on their website, making it sound like this is a harmless activity that the elephants enjoy doing. It is very easy for people to buy into this if they don't know the real behind-the-scenes story.
At this point in Thailand, many owners of baby elephants are seeing a big money-making opportunity and are quickly whisking away their calves to train to become "Pachyderm Picassos." We would like to encourage as many people as possible to contact this couple at their website and voice your disgust and disapproval at exploiting elephants with this activity. Please help by contacting Exotic World Gifts and telling them how you feel.
Aura and Mae Boon are also on lease, and at this time Aura's owner is also planning to take her away in the near future to force her to learn to paint as well.
Please spread the word: painting is not a natural activity that an elephant would want to partake
So back to the question: If elephant riding is important to you or seeing elephants no matter where they are... the most important thing you can do is be keenly aware of their potential experience. Look at how they are treated, what they are being asked to do, how much weight is on their backs, if the carriage may be rubbing on them, and mostly attune yourself to the possible emotional experience the elephant may be having. The issue is not to be shamed into changing what you do, it is to have a growing awareness and compassion for the animals you come in contact with... Then, You Decide. For me, this will likely be my last elephant ride (at least carriage style). I would have to feel pretty certain in my heart that the elephant wanted me to ride them... if I don't have that indication, then I will be honored to walk near them.
in if they could choose by themselves.
Back at the Park, the remaining eles in the Pupia family are having to readjust to the restructure of their family group. The two eles that are having the hardest time are Faa Sai and Sri Nuan. Each day is getting better, but at least once every day, Faa Sai starts running around frantically confused that she can't find Pupia and Mae Toh Koh. She calms down when she finally finds Aura or one of the other family members. She does seem to be getting a bit more nurturing from the older girls than she did before, but she really misses her little buddy Pupia.
Sri Nuan vents her frustration from the loss of her little nephew in a different way. She is sometimes seen throwing a tire around at first seemingly playfully, but then she seems to get a little bit frustrated, and gets a bit more aggressive with the tire. Once another family member approaches her, she also starts to calm down."
Also please refer to my website @ www.animaldreamers.org
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