A gentle reminder that zoos are not the answer

Every now and then I comment on an Instagram post about animal issues. I do not care for the catty nature of insta-arguments, and it is heartbreaking to see how hateful people can be on social media, so I largely keep to myself. But sometimes I get inspired.

Some news outlet recently reposted a cartoon about how zoos educate children about animals not native to where they live, and thus encourage children to get involved in conservation issues when they’re older. The cartoon acknowledged how zoos aren’t the best environment for some of the animals there, but that they serve this educational/encouraging purpose and so we still need them. I found this post well-meaning but naive.

So I make the point in a comment that the problem with zoos is that the animals cannot consent to being locked up and that it is morally unfair for us to essentially imprison them for purely human objectives. Furthermore, doing so perpetuates this idea that we are lords over non-human animals and can do whatever we want with them. And, these days, zoos simply are not necessary to educate kids about wild animals, what with the technology and travel capabilities we have now. We’re past the days of menageries, people (or are we?). I learned empathy towards animals by having domesticated animals around. Elephants were important to me long before I ever saw one in person.

So anyway I made a short, sincere post and went on with my life. Well, someone responded to it. Which is fine, totally cool. Except that she had gone through my Instagram feed and brought my cat into the argument. 

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I am very protective of Nora, but that is not the point. This individual said that my cat could not consent to being locked up as my pet, and that if zoos made kids want to be conservationists then that’s a good thing. The fun part is that she did not offer any evidence that zoos do accomplish this purpose, when my explicit argument was that they do not accomplish this purpose any more than other methods. But she also erroneously connects lack of consent (which is a whole thing, it’s why we can’t marry horses) to a rescued, domesticated animal.

One depressing fact is that a lot of the elephants in India and SE Asia are domesticated, and it’s causing a huge problem figuring out what to do with them now that using them for logging has been banned, because they still need care. Similarly with dogs and cats, we domesticated them and then we were SUPER irresponsible, and now there are too many. And they need to be rescued and cared for (and spayed and neutered, I’m 100% behind that). But the fact is that shelter cats and dogs must be cared for by humans, because they cannot care for themselves. That’s what domesticated means.

So here’s how that connection is severed regarding elephants. First, some zoo elephants are captured from the wild – this ain’t okay. They cannot live healthy lives in zoo enclosures. In fact, even domesticated elephants can’t. Elephants need three things at the very least: (1) lots of room, (2) to forage for food, and (3) not to be separated from their herds or forced to cohabitate with a stranger elephant. The first point is all we need to look at to discredit the idea of zoos being okay at all for elephants. Zoos will *never* build enclosures large enough to house a family of elephants in a healthy way, because (a) they cannot afford to, and (b) the enclosures would be, essentially, sanctuaries (because we’re talking square miles rather than acres) and zoo visitors would never see the elephants and so what is the point in having them. It’s all about drawing crowds and making money.

We have videos, movies, books, semi-affordable safaris (I mean, I cannot afford them, but maybe someone who feels she is entitled to have the entire animal kingdom physically represented in her hometown can afford one). A kid does not need to see something to care about it – it’s called empathy.

Anyway, here are a few arguments for zoos and what I think about them.

“Zoos are educational and teach children about animals”

So do textbooks, videos, and the internet which is included on every single phone and now even 4-year-olds have their own phones.. I know it’s crazy, anyway thank u, next.

“It’s worth having zoos if it contributes to saving a species”

I read an interesting argument somewhere earlier (here) that submitted that a “species” in and of itself is a collection of individuals, and it’s not the existence of the species so much as it is the quality of life of the existing individuals that matters. How do we choose which individuals in a given species are unlucky enough to be subjected to a life of confinement? Again, that humans wield this power over animals and think we are “saving” them is narcissistic and, um, wrong. Like factually incorrect. Zoos do not contribute to saving a species because (a) it’s extremely difficult to reintroduce the animals into the wild, (b) zoo breeding programs are trash, and (c) it’s about money, guys.

Another problem with this one is that a lot of zoo animal species aren’t in trouble. I’ve not embarked on a study of the animals housed in every zoo but it’s not like zoos are saying, “all of the species you see here are endangered and it’s important to save them.” No, all the zoos are worried about is having exhibits with cute animal babies in them to bring in more money. Babies that likely won’t live as long (and definitely not as happily) as their wild counterparts.

The biggest problem I have with all of this is (obviously, by now) that people think they need to be able to see something to care about it, that it’s our right as humans to be able to see wild, powerful animals in the flesh because we want to. What’s with the entitlement? It’s so incredibly selfish. We take for granted the freedom we have, especially in this country, and we don’t find it necessary to bestow that same freedom on animals?

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This little angel isn’t in a zoo, and we would never see something this endearing or playful in a zoo, I would predict. Until I can afford to travel to a reserve I am satisfied watching videos of elephants, cuddling my 3 or 4 stuffed elephants (yes I’m an adult), and encouraging any kid I come in contact with to do the same. And if I ever have a child and they beg to go to the zoo, I would take them (only once) and I would say, “these animals don’t belong in cages, but not everyone realizes that yet. Momma/Mommy/Mother/Dude (whatever the kid calls me) is working to get these animals out and back into the wild, where they belong.”

Moral of the story is do not call out my cat on Insta if you don’t know her, however if your aim is to get a response from me then that is the way to do it.

Have a good Thanksgiving and you don’t have to eat turkey if you don’t want to! Meow

There Were Cats the Whole Time?

This blog is becoming more and more about human emotions than elephant issues, but I promise to mention elephants in every post.

Clearly, ABCs of Endangered Species is on hold, although I’ve picked out next few in the alphabet so maybe I’ll get around to it one day.

In the last post I talked about loneliness and sort of touched on identity, and I think now I’m going to ramble about identity, careers, and cats for a few paragraphs.

Like a lot of people I’ve always struggled with identity. Not so much labels, but more trying to figure out where I fit in the grand scheme of things. What is my purpose, how can I help, what am I supposed to do with my life besides take up space. I wonder about all of these things. And I’ve felt this confusion especially acutely in the past few years since I’m not in school anymore. In school, you’re supposed to learn, not really do, and you can put off worrying about your purpose until you leave the nest. I always thought I would figure it out when I graduated.

It turns out you have to really do the work to get to know yourself before you can answer any of these questions. I thought I could just take opportunities as they came to me and that I would eventually figure it out, without having to do any difficult work on myself. Wrong. Job after job, place after place, I still don’t feel like I have found where I fit. Everywhere I work, I feel out of place. And it’s quite frustrating not even knowing how to take steps to figure out what’s off.

I may have inadvertently let my identity sort of depend on what type of job I have. I’ve always been a strong believer in having multiple facets to one’s life – for example, I would crumble and die if I had a job where I worked around the clock, because I’d be committed to just one thing, and my personality has too many facets for me to be able to thrive doing just one thing forever. I’ve always been happier when I’m involved in lots of different things. But heading out into the “real world” with loans looming puts a lot of pressure to find a secure job, and a secure job (especially in law) takes up a lot of time and energy. For me, it’s necessary to have a job in an area I’m somewhat passionate about, or my energy plummets and I’m miserable. Like now.

It’s hard for me to compartmentalize and say, I’m doing this job not because I like it but because
-I need “experience”
-I guess I need health insurance (?)
-it’s technically in the “public interest”
– gotta make loan payments
-it’s a job ? who cares what it is, i should be thankful I have one.
I can’t do that. Despite my advocacy for not letting a job take over one’s life, I have let my identity depend on the work I’m doing. I get too worked up about the job I’m doing because I don’t think it’s “right” for me, it’s tedious and safe and boring and secure, and that’s just not for me. I’m not doing any good for anyone except myself. That’s what I think, constantly.

I’m terrified that I’ll never find where I fit, and that I’ll spend my whole life wishing I were somewhere else. So many people seem to have found their niche, or at least something they’re good at, and I’m hanging out doing the bare minimum at a job I hate. COMPLAIN COMPLAIN WHINE. Wine? Yes please.

 

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Which brings me to Mari Andrew and cats. I love Mari Andrew. I already loved her, then I listened to her talk at this synagogue in DC and completely lost it. She talked about how the parts of us we consider weak are actually strengths once we figure out how to harness them, etc. She also used to feel out of place but turned it into a strength because she’s really good at observing people – and I am the same way. She looks for meaning in life and definitely in her work as well, although she probably wasn’t as dramatically unhappy as I can act sometimes. Anyway, she traveled around doing odd jobs for a long time, and she talked about her job at a bakery and how she would do things to make the job meaningful.

to make the job meaningful.

Well, maybe not meaningful, but enjoyable.

That resonated with me even though it’s not a new concept to me. Of course I have tried to think of ways to make my own job more meaningful, which only work on days where I’m not feeling dramatic and angry, which is no days. I’ve made friends at work, which motivates me to go to work but doesn’t help me concentrate on the actual work. I don’t think the work would ever be meaningful to me. I usually end up finding the most joy in polishing off bags of popcorn and/or swedish fish.

What I failed to do was try to make my work day enjoyable. I’ve been at this job for almost a year, and since the beginning I’ve known there was a feral cat advocacy organization located on another floor of our office building. I follow them on twitter, etc. Just last week someone mentioned that the organization has office cats that we’re welcome to go hang out with. WHAT. HOW. DID I NOT THINK. TO ASK. THIS. SOONER.

My entire year could have been different. Petting/playing with animals is THE number one therapeutic activity for me. Hands down. And I didn’t think to go see if they had animals in the office? What is wrong with me?

Well you best believe I went down there to find the cats. And the cats were sick. And the cats were moving out of the office in two days.


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Worst timing, but also best timing. If the cats are leaving, I’m leaving. I’m interviewing for other jobs and will hopefully find something a little more my style soon, but this is a really good lesson I will take with me to my next job. On the stupid days at work, take advantage of your environment. If you’re like me, it’s easy to live in your own head and forget that your immediate surroundings aren’t a jail cell. For an entire YEAR, I could have been playing with cats at work. I could have looked forward to going into the office everyday, I could have spoiled the shit out of these cats with treats, toys, and cat clothes. Coulda woulda shoulda. I miss those cats and I never met them.

I was so wrapped up in feeling like my personal growth was on hold because I’m at a job I don’t like. How dramatic is that? And why do I feel entitled to the “perfect job” at 28? And who says I was growing in the first place? Crying because my cat turned five and I remembered she would die one day isn’t really a sign of an emotionally mature person who is experiencing significant personal growth. (for real though why can’t our pets live forever I can’t handle it)

But I could have at least enjoyed going to work even though I don’t want to be there forever. Trying to keep the job at arm’s length zaps my energy and doesn’t leave anything left to put toward my own writing or any other hobbies besides drinking and sleeping late – both art forms which I have mastered. But I also love animals and writing, and the hardest part of trying to navigate the professional career field is making time for the things you love if you can’t incorporate them into your work. I have not mastered this.

So anyway, elephants. I guess I imagined a job where my love for elephants would be intertwined with my work. But then I remembered I paid for this website’s URL, and I should keep using it and see what happens. And I don’t have to painstakingly research every blog post and I likely won’t ever do that again because it’s hard enough to do legal research when you actually get paid to – why would anyone do it for fun, and why did I think I could be that person. So I’ll keep writing about elephants and people and cats in my free time because I love all of them except people, and I’ll quit whining about not being able to find the perfect job that incorporates all of my hobbies which would be impossible because all of my 18 different personalities have different hobbies. So.

Conclusion: Elephants are awesome. They are satisfied living their lives just doing elephant things and I wish humans would let them do that. I’m living my life doing people things, hoping I can find a way to help make the world better. Hoping I can meet an elephant one day. Hoping I can start to make sense of things. I would encourage anyone that reads this to find out if there are office animals in your building and to visit them when you feel bored or unfulfilled at work. I give you my blessing (see below).

 

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Live footage of me giving my blessing to you

Elephants, Faces, and Loneliness (and whales!)

Asha, a 35-year-old African elephant, has been at the Natural Bridge Zoo in Virginia for 22 years. Every day, for 22 years, Asha trudges through the same lonely, solitary existence. Every day, she wakes up, and her life is the exact same as it was the day before. And she’s going through it completely alone.

She’s likely been beaten into submission by the “trainers” at this awful place – in fact, a commenter on Yelp stated he’d been asked to leave when his grandson was riding Asha (problem number one) and the trainer began hitting Asha with a stick. If this zoo’s employees are so bold as to hit Asha in front of patrons, imagine what they’re capable of doing after hours? It makes me sick.

She gives rides day after day, even in the sticky, unrelenting heat, with no hope for a better life after all of her literally back-breaking work. No breaks, no proper diet, no proper medical care, no shade….. cracked feet, small quarters, back rides (I can’t) the list goes on. Any of these is reason enough to shut this stupid zoo down, but the Virginia gaming and whatever crew doesn’t know what’s best for animals anymore than the riff raff over at Natural Bridge Zoo does. In any case, to me, the worst part of Asha’s situation is that she’s completely isolated. She’s alone. Everyday, the same painful, humiliating routine. Alone.

[sign a petition for Asha]

Loneliness is scary. Our identity is wrapped up in the relationships we have with other people, and when those relationships aren’t healthy, or they fail, or we isolate ourselves from others, we question our identity. That’s a big reason for depression and other mental illnesses. I mean, how many times have you been down the Rabbit Hole of Sad (RHoS is my own invented phrase, not to be confused with “Rabbit Hole,” an actual sad movie starring Nicole Kidman), and it just takes a simple interaction with another human being who did not go down the Rabbit Hole of Sad for you to snap out of it? (I’m not talking about actual depression – I would never suggest a depressed person simply “snap out of it”). It’s so important to have other humans around you to provide perspective when you get stuck. Even serious suffering can be alleviated by shared experience – see benefits of Group TherapyBut imagine being completely isolated at the hands of a different species. Having no way out, or being powerless to change whatever is isolating you – I mean, that’s even MORE isolating.

Lately I’ve gone down the Rabbit Hole of Reading About Face Transplants because (a) my morbid curiosity always wins and (b) face transplants are f-ing AMAZING. I am blown away by the teams of surgeons that perform these procedures. The intricacy of attaching a face, the super strict time constraints (aka keeping the face alive from donor to recipient). It’s just incredible. Have you ever seen a photograph of a face… just a face… laying on a table? If you get squeamish, ever, I wouldn’t Google it. But.. I mean you should. It’s crazy.

ANYWAY – there are a hundred reasons why a face transplant could fail. The biggest reason is that the recipient’s body could reject the face, just like it could reject any other organ transplant. But a face has more attached to it – muscles, tendons, bone, blood vessels, etc – so there are more ways your body can reject a face than ways it can reject a kidney. This means the recipient has to be on a crazy intense regimen of immunosuppressive drugs, which in turn leave the body vulnerable to other types of infections, and like, cancer. wtf?

My actual point is, another surprising way face transplants can fail is that the recipient doesn’t react well psychologically. Think about it. Think about what you think about when you think about you. (if you break that sentence down, slowly, it does actually make sense).  You think about your face first, right? Our face is our identity, because you can’t identify someone by their thoughts, feelings, preferences, or relationships right off the bat. Our faces allow us to identify a person quickly, so all of the feelings we have about a person are associated with their face. Now imagine that your face is gone, and you have someone else’s face, often ill-fitting (they choose donors by blood type, not whether the face is the same size) and oh also you have to take 700 medications per day which might allow you to get cancer good luck!

So you have someone else’s face, and it probably doesn’t fit right, and it’s swollen in weird places and your eyes are droopy, and it’s just generally an uncomfortable process. And often, when someone’s face is destroyed, their eyesight is destroyed too. So you’re going through this, unable to see whatever family or friends are supporting you, unable to see your doctors, just, in the dark. And face trauma/transplants are still rare, so it’s not likely that you’re in a unit in a hospital with twenty other people with funky faces. No, it’s just you.

And even if it’s not just you, the trauma of losing your face, your identity, is so deeply personal that it can be isolating even if you meet others with the same issue. Some face transplant recipients have a hard time adjusting – like Isabelle Dinoire, who, three years after her transplant, said she didn’t know who she was (like in a existential sense, not in an amnesiac sense). And her new face actually looked really good! Nevertheless, she had a hard time coping with essentially having a new identity. Also, a few years ago her body started rejecting her new face and then she passed away from cancer.

Another transplant recipient literally went crazy after his transplant and committed suicide – although it was a previous suicide attempt that took his face in the first place – despite teams of psychiatrists finding him to be healthy enough to handle a transplant.

Anyway – loneliness, identity, coping, health, blah blah blah. That’s my point. Loneliness is the worst and it’s bad for you, healthwise and for purposes of morale. It’s always better to have a buddy.

Back to Asha. What I am NOT doing is suggesting that Natural Bridge Zoo get a second elephant. No sir. What I am suggesting is that part of the reason zoos are evil is because elephants are isolated. Even within groups of elephants held in zoos, elephants isolate themselves because their fellow inmates are not members of the elephant’s family. Zoo groups are usually brought together in a piece meal manner and it just doesn’t work.

Elephants exhibit signs of loneliness. They are highly social animals that cannot thrive in solitary confinement (who knew?!). They can literally die from the effects of being lonely – they stop eating, don’t get enough nutrients, and die of infection.

But Asha doesn’t even have the option of interacting with another elephant. She just has idiot kids ranting and raving about riding her, and idiot “trainers” that hit her when she does something wrong normal. Basically, everyone is an idiot.

I can’t even sleep properly (poor me!!) imagining what her life must be like. It’s sad and infuriating, and shame on the state of Virginia for allowing this carnival of death and evil to continue operating.

I don’t quite know what to do other than email/write letters/call both the zoo and whoever is in charge in Virginia and hit them with facts. We could organize a protest? I think my organs would shut down if I got within 100 yards of this place. Umm… tell your friends not to ride elephants? Mkay yes thank you.

From the permit application it looks like collectionpermits@dgif.virginia.gov is a valid email. BRB gonna send them my feelings on the matter…

And now ~ back to the ABCs of Endangered Species.

Today’s featured celebrity is… TA DA…

the Blue Whale

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Bio:

OTHER NAMES

baleine bleue in French. Quel charme!

HABITAT

blue_whale_range_map

lol, everywhere 

IUCN says they live in every ocean except the arctic. More populous in Southern Chile, Gulf of California, and the Coral Triangle.

POPULATION

10,000 to 25,000

SIGNIFICANCE

beluga_58358.jpg

look at dat faaaace (this is not a blue whale)

So blue whales weigh – wait for it – THIRTY. THREE. ELEPHANTS. They literally weigh the same as 33 elephants. WHat. The largest animal on the planet and it’s louder than a jet. I can hear a jet now (I live near an airport) annnnd, let’s just say I ain’t wanna be near a blue whale when it gets mad. That is just crazy. Like, SeaWorld isn’t even gonna try to cram one of these things in one of its pathetic prison tanks. Imagine airlifting 33 elephants at a time? Omg.

So the significance of whales is that, well, first of all they exist and they have every right to exist just as much as we do. Also they are at the top of the food chain and therefore significantly impact marine ecosystems. Sort of like when my supervisor leaves for the week no one goes to work (is that just me?).

THREATS

Uhhhhh climate change? Habitat loss, toxins from all the trash we throw in the water (seriously littering should be a capital offense it is NOT hard to throw your stuff away and throwing your trash in water? what is wrong with people), toxins from other things like, idk, oil I would imagine. Also they can get into trouble with boats and get tangled up in fishing gear. I can’t imagine how puny fishing gear would be any match for one of these 33-elephant-fish but apparently it’s a serious threat to them. Also they eat krill and krill is disappearing. But let me clarify – they eat 4 tons of krill EACH. PER DAY. They eat four tons of food per day?! So jealous

Also pollution from big ships like barges harms whales by dirtying the oxygen they breath and the water they live in.

THE HELPERS

Sooo for one, World Wildlife Fund and other groups are tracking these babies and documenting the routes they take, so that hopefully those routes can become protected areas where no fishing is allowed. There is also the International Whaling Commission that big groups like WWF lobby for better protections for whales.

Also this group of helpers is encouraging big boats to slow down to help protect the whales. That’s neat.

HOW YOU CAN HELP

Unfortunately eating fish/seafood contributes to the problems whales face. The fishing industry often harms bigger fish when it rounds up the tiny fish for us to eat. I’m not like, preaching at you I’m just saying

You could symbolically adopt a whale through Defenders of Wildlife although I interviewed for a law school internship with them and didn’t get hired so can we really trust them

not bitter i swear

Help however you want. Tell your friends! Tell your cat if you prefer to spend time with your cat over humans. No judgment here.  Spread empathy, that may be a good place to start! Also do not throw your trash in the water or I will find you ~

Thanks for reading!

ABCs of Endangered Species

FRIENDS ~

 

It’s World Elephant Day.

 

Today, I choose to celebrate animals instead of stress over the convergence of the white nationalists and their unkempt facial hair onto DC.  I’ll also encourage you to donate money or share information with your friends or protest your local zoo, or order a pet portrait from me so that I can then give that money to elephants. Or protest Betsy DeVos as a human being, or… I don’t know, adopt one of these chickens from the Humane Rescue Alliance. However you want to celebrate.

 

This holiday (should be a federal holiday, right? Maybe I’ll skip work tomorrow, on principle) always makes me think a lot about the injustice of what’s happening to elephants, which usually spirals into a tornado of all of the injustices in the world.

 

Here’s something I thought about today.

 

I currently work in veterans’ law, dealing with disability appeals, and so I am more aware than I used to be about how policy affects veterans differently than other demographics. The New York Times covered Betsy DeVos’s decision to roll back transparency requirements that for-profit colleges are supposed to meet, that are supposed to protect prospective students. Not only is her decision transparently dirty, as most of her minions are involved in the for-profit college scam and get A LOT of money from taking advantage of students, but it can disproportionately affect veterans because of how they pay for school.

 

Please return to the ritzy hell whence you came, Betsy.

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A 22,000 square foot summer home…? Who needs that?

 

I won’t go into it – you can read for yourself here and here, and also check out this informative presentation on why Mrs. DeVos and her eyebrows are evil. 

 

Anyway, this realization sort of strengthened my resolve to do better at work, to do better for elephants, to do better for many marginalized demographics, rather than sit around and complain. There are so many ways people can be taken advantage of, and conversely, so many ways to help.

 

It can be overwhelming to think about all of the terrible stuff going on, especially living in DC where complaining about policy and social justice issues is super posh. But I saw on instagram the other day (while making responsible use of my time) the quote by Mr. Rogers where he encourages us to “look for the helpers,” meaning that, where there is injustice, there are people trying to make it right.

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And those are the people we should look to for guidance, rather than seething over the purveyors of injustice. Focusing on the good that’s being done, and working to improve on that, is a much better source of motivation.

 

I recently attended a day of the Taking Action for Animals conference (TAFA), hosted by the Humane Society of the US every other year or so. First and foremost, I got to hear Allison Argo speak. She made the film about Shirley and Jenny, the two ex-circus elephants who were reunited after a long time apart and remembered each other. Watch this famous clip and let the tears flow freely.

 

More importantly, I got to immerse myself in a community of people who consider the compassionate treatment of animals to be common sense. It was invigorating and inspiring, and the food was pretty good. I got to hear people speak passionately about tiny birds, big cats, and horseshoe crabs, and it reminded me that all animals deserve as much attention as elephants. A little blind dog gnawed on my hand. It was glorious.

 

Working in animal welfare is tough, as is other employment in which you mostly deal with the worst people in society, some from your home state. A pretty clear secondary theme of the conference was to focus on the good being done, to remember all the achievements of the past few years to strengthen resolve moving forward.

 

In honor of focusing on the good, and remembering the marginalized, I wanted to highlight other species besides elephants that need our attention, while also focusing on the ways people are already helping them. And, because art is therapeutic, I’m drawing them (sorry, not sorry).

 

In honor of World Elephant MONTH 2018, I present to you

 

the ABCs of endangered species

 

 

Sure, it’s sad that these gorgeous and unique animals are endangered, but yay for the groups working to save them.

 

Our first celebrity endangered species is, behold,

 

the Amur Leopard.

 

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Hisssss

 

Bio:

 

OTHER NAMES

 

Far East leopard, Manchurian leopard, or Korean leopard.

 

 

HABITAT

 

Northeastern China and the Russian Far East – also known as Amur-Heilong. More specifically, according to Science Daily, the Primorskii Province of Russia and the Jilin Province of China. I know nothing about these places.

The-current-range-of-the-Amur-leopard-popu-lation_Q320

 

POPULATION

 

Like 84 – which is an increase from the 30 counted in 2000, and 70 in 2015.

 

 

SIGNIFICANCE

 

Like many other endangered species, conserving the Amur leopard’s habitat benefits the other species that live there, like tigers and deer. Plus, the Amur leopard can jump 19 feet in the air – that’s reason enough to warrant saving it (and to warrant staying the hell away from it).

 

But, similarly to elephants, why don’t we consider saving them because they are animals, and they’re worth saving. Moreover, since its sort of our fault as humans that they’re in trouble, then it is our duty as humans to right that wrong.

 

 

THREATS

 

A few things. Its habitat is shrinking, and its being poached for its beautiful coat. Obviously my drawing won’t do it justice, so here is an actual photo.

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d/b/a Beyonce

 

 

It also suffers from a shortage of prey (like deer), which also benefit from habitat conservation.

 

 

THE HELPERS

 

Thankfully, the Land of the Leopard National Park was established in Russia in 2012, giving the leopards 650,000 acres of safe space to roam. It was largely this move that allowed the population to begin to recover.

 

 

 

HOW YOU CAN HELP

 

Thoughts and prayers! Just kidding, that doesn’t work.

 

Though I’m skeptical about where donor dollars go with big organizations, feel free to adopt a leopard through WWF for $55 – you get an adorable plush toy in return.

 

Um…. go to North Korea and herd their leopards across the Russian border? Maybe don’t do that either. For several reasons.

 

Find ways to support groups that are working to save them? Yes. You’re smart – do this however you want.

Boycott Betsy DeVos for funsies? Somehow, this will help.

Boycott zoos? Definitely. (BTW, just because some animals live longer in captivity doesn’t mean they live well… It’s still inhumane to cage wild animals).

Tell your friends how cute Amur leopards are and how high they can jump? Absolutely.

Do things that make you happy and be nice to others? Good place to start.

 

Happy World Elephant Month! ❤

Ethical Animal Tourism – SE Asia

Hey friends ~

 

How’s everyone feeling? If you feel good, I’m jealous of you. Everyone in the apartment is sick right now. Not to be excluded, even the cat threw up on the shag rug this morning. Now I have about 30 minutes of energy left in me, so let’s talk about elephants again.

 

The only tv I could handle today was Anthony Bourdain’s Parts Unknown on very low volume. One of the first episodes was filmed in Myanmar, which is where The Elephant Project is looking to build a sanctuary. It reminded me that recently, a few friends have asked me about visiting elephants in Thailand and how to do it responsibly.

 

I have mixed feelings about visiting elephants. I wonder sometimes if all elephant tourism stopped, if eventually people would just leave them alone in the wild. This is obviously not true, as human-elephant conflict will never allow both parties to live in peace (I care about humans, too!). Maybe elephant tourism is a necessary evil. Some animal rights extremists say owning pets is a necessary evil, and that all domesticated pets should be neutered/spayed so that eventually they will die out. I don’t think that’s happening anytime soon, and neither is the end of elephant tourism. Plus, I’m thankful that at least people want to see elephants in their native countries, as opposed to some pathetic zoo over here. 

 

So,

Six rules for a responsible elephant sighting in southeast Asia.

 

 

 

#1  Take your chances

 

If you won’t be devastated by potentially not seeing an elephant, I would suggest visiting a national park or reserve, where the animals roam completely free. For example, according to this article it’s pretty easy to spot an elephant in Minneriya National Park in Sri Lanka during certain months of the year. I’m sure this is true in Thailand, where there are a bunch of national parks.

 

I know it’s tempting to visit somewhere that you know you’ll be able to interact with an elephant. Who wouldn’t? I would pee in my pants if I got to meet an elephant. But the point of seeing an elephant is seeing it happy, exhibiting behaviors like it would in the wild (waving its tail, flapping its ears, constantly on the move). Who wants to see an elephant that’s been beaten into submission? It’s not worth it. Please, if you can, take your chances. Your elephant karma will be high, maybe that increases your chances of seeing a family!

 

 

#2  No riding

 

 

Most people know this by now (hopefully), but under no circumstances should you ride an elephant. Who are you, Aladdin? Who needs to ride an elephant? Nobody. No matter what the reviews say, no nothing. Those elephants were most likely beaten as infants and are chained when they’re not working. Plus, even if trained elephants were treated humanely, spending money on this activity supports this form of tourism, which increases the demand, which increases the abuse endured by elephants in the industry. Spend your money other ways in the country if you want to help.  

 

#3  Do not. ride. any wild animals.

 

Just don’t. I can’t even post a photo of western tourists riding elephants because they look so. stupid.

 

snape

 

 

#4  Keep it on the elephants terms

 

Elephant Nature Park, right outside of Chiang Mai, Thailand, has the best reviews by “woke” tourists – most people picked up on the fact that every interaction at ENP was “on the elephants’ terms.”

 

You shouldn’t visit places that have trained the elephants to do anything for you. To be trained, an elephant usually has to be broken, first.

 

african-elephant-balancing-on-ball-260nw-718342978

 

NO…….

Here’s a documentary about domesticating an elephant if you really need to be convinced: Yes, it’s PETA, just watch it.

 

 

#5  Use common sense

 

Now that you know an elephant shouldn’t be performing tricks for you, pay attention to the interactions between the mahouts and elephants. Read all the reviews you can. Ask what happens to the elephants when the place is closed. Are they chained or allowed to roam? I’ve read a lot of reviews from people who said they decided not to stay at a place because it “seemed fishy.” If something doesn’t feel right, don’t stay.

Do the animals look healthy? Do they have visible wounds?

 

Do they look like this?

bad-elephant-drawing.gif

Definitely a bad sign.

 

Are the elephants separated or together, in groups that resemble their original family structures? If it feels bad, it probably is.

 

 

#6  Finally, apply this knowledge to other animals

 

Elephants aren’t the only animals exploited for tourism money. See what happened at the famous Tiger Temple a few years ago.  And now they want to open a zoo next door! Don’t visit a zoo, don’t visit a “menagerie.” You should only be viewing animals in an environment as close to their natural habitat as possible.

 

tiger

Mood

 

There are a ton of web articles about ethical elephant experiences, but the best advice is to use your common sense. If you feel that an elephant is being mistreated, don’t stay. If you feel an elephant is being mistreated at a place that claims to be ethical/rehabilitating/sanctuary, tell someone! Leave a review! Contact the owners. Blow up Trip Advisor. It’s important, now more than ever, for us to be responsible with our tourist dollars.

 

 

 

So, if you’re going to Thailand, or anywhere else in SE Asia, I’m jealous. I also hope you’ll spend your dollars wisely. It just takes a little bit of research but it’s totally worth it for the elephant babies – and for other animals too! Beware of any group that’s making an animal perform for you.

Is There Hope for Any of Us?

Guess what? Just OFFICIALLY signed on the dotted line to make this site ElephantAdvocate.com! Turns out I don’t know much about elephant law, and this way, this site can engage in advocacy for other issues, too.

champagne+pop

 

Like mental health.

 

Mental health is a topic that’s really important to me, and often misunderstood. Issues with mental health manifest so differently from person to person, too, making it that much tougher to understand if your brain works like it’s supposed to.

 

After news of Anthony Bourdain’s suicide broke today, I got about.. oh I don’t know… another 45 minutes of work done before I paid to cancel my workout class and came home early to work on this site.

 

It’s not just him. Every time someone dies this way it hurts me, physically and emotionally. I think because, I understand what it’s like to be in a dark place, but even I have been able to somehow bounce back every time I go there. And it hurts a lot to imagine others being in that dark place, either for so long, or hurting so intensely, that they don’t see a way out. Quite honestly, it also scares me, because I don’t have any more control over my mind than they have over theirs.

 

Usually a dark side will breed some sort of creativity – you see it a lot with artists and writers and so on.

 

catscream

That’s me – tortured and brilliant.

 

So then, that means that a lot of people suffering from all sorts of mental problems have a lot to offer in terms of art or other thought-provoking mediums. And I think those creations are important, because they help us understand mental illness better than a psychology paper. For example, Sylvia Plath’s Bell Jar helped me understand how to put what I was feeling into words, and also encouraged me to start therapy, because I identified a little too much with the main character, if you know what I mean.

 

Another example is pretty much anything written by Andrew Solomon, who helped me understand my depression more than my own therapist. Had he not reached rock bottom, I wouldn’t have had his brilliant writing and speeches as a resource with which to understand myself. And that would be a shame.

 

 

Anthony Bourdain’s death is hard for me to comprehend, because I really identified with what type of human he was. I’ve worked in a lot of restaurants, and tended to appreciate the same sort of chaotic, fast-paced, late-night (I think he also mentioned free food and pilfered booze) life-style that he liked. I watched his shows not because of the culinary aspect, but because he seemed to not give a shit about anything. He seemed to be so open about everything. He wanted constant adventure – which I also get, because I tend to get bored with life really easily.

 

From my perspective (and probably everyone else’s), he seemed to have found a way to channel his constant need for stimulation or adventure, into something we couldn’t get enough of. He was raw and unapologetic, but still extremely charismatic, open, and non-judgmental. Or maybe he was judgmental. I don’t know. I don’t know him. All I know is that he had the life I want. And that, for me, begs the question – if that life couldn’t cure him, is there any hope for me?

 

Lately I’ve been “adventure seeking,” if you want to call it that. Really just putting myself out there in creative ways to see what sticks – performing, mainly. I’m doing it because the 9-5 life is not for me. I wish it was, I really do. But I feel more alive when I’m doing something out of the ordinary, and I’m tired of trying to fit myself into a box that wasn’t built for me. I’m wondering if Mr. Bourdain did the same thing, and then outgrew the adventures he was having. What if all of his adventures were in search of something, or running from something, and he got tired of running? And what if that’s what I’m doing? Will it be the case that, at some point, no matter what I’m doing, it won’t be enough?

 

 

ADTWO49alt

 

I don’t think that’s the case for me. I don’t know what kind of demons he was battling, but I have to assume they were more powerful than mine.

 

 

Elephants need advocates because they can’t speak for themselves. They can’t form non-profits and dress up in suits and go meet with elected officials, and explain, “Hey, um, we’re being murdered by the thousands. Could someone maybe help us out?”

elephant-in-a-suit

Can you imagine

 

We have to do that for them. But in different way, victims of mental illness are also unable to advocate for themselves. Depression sends your thoughts into a constant tornado of negativity, anxiety, what if, and then – blank. It’s hard to even explain to a friend what’s going on with you, much less put together a task force to fix the problem. Plus, who wants to bring it up? “Hey, I see you’re having a good day. Wanna talk about how I can’t stop crying?”

 

IMG_2063

Yeah, I drew this. We’ve come a long way from the Endangered Species Act.

 

Nobody wants to be that person. That’s why it sometimes falls to friends and family to ask for help for help on their behalf. Friends and family don’t always know you need help when you seem to have your shit together, I’m guessing. (Never had my shit together, so I can’t say for sure).

 

 

Anyway, there are a lot of topics I want to cover in the next few months, and mental health is joining elephants at the top of the list. If we don’t take care of ourselves, how will we save elephants?

The Gift of Empathy

Hi friends!

 

Has this been the month from hell or what? Is it just me? What’s going on with you guys?

 

Hell-road-sign-Reuters-5319176

 

March has worn me out and we’re only ⅔ through. I am TIRED. I’m tired of Maryland drivers, and tired of a lot of other things but mostly Maryland drivers. Everyday I cross the state line from Virginia to Maryland, and silly ensues. I think my Google maps lady is getting tired of it too. I feel her rolling her robot eyes every time she says “there’s a 500 minute slowdown on 495 for no identifiable reason.” “Your commute has just been multiplied by 40.” I guess I just hate driving, but I’m thankful I have the means to get to a job in another city everyday.

 

ANYWAY ~ I’ve had a hard time working up the motivation to draft a blog post lately, because I originally thought every post on here needed to be like, really good. (They haven’t been but… ) To put it simply, I thought blog posts needed to take a lot of time to prepare. And, remember when I thought it’d be cute to illustrate my own posts by hand? Well, that was a different time in my life. Let’s call it the “working part time at a wine store” era; the Barrel Epoque – my extended inability to deal with modern adulthood and subsequent enlightenment aka the realization I needed health insurance and therapy.

 

I never wanted to practice law, but I stumbled upon an amazing job opportunity and decided to give it a shot. And I love it. I am so so grateful for where I am now. The only problem is I haven’t quite built up the stamina to work a full day and then do more research and writing for this website, at least at the level I first anticipated. But I have so many ideas that I want to archive on here that it’s probably best to just keep writing and see where this goes. Plus I need to chill, this is a blog, not the bar exam. Go do legal research yourselves.

 

So, I’m going to write about empathy today and hopefully won’t trail off in a direction that’s too hard to follow.

 

The Gift of Empathy

 

What is empathy? My understanding is that it’s the ability to put yourself in the position of someone or something else. When we see pain in an animal, human or otherwise, it bothers most of us. We may not do this consciously, but what we’re doing is sort of imagining what that animal is going through by virtually placing ourselves in that situation. And when we’re in that virtual situation, we think, “I don’t like this…  they probably don’t like it either.” And then we feel bad.

 

Empathy is somewhat easier to have when the pain and suffering is in our face. But most of the pain and suffering non-human animals experience is purposely hidden from us, as consumers. Meat is packaged nicely at the grocery store and the ridiculous ag-gag laws (blog post idea!) prevent us from seeing what really goes on in slaughterhouses even if we wanted to know. Some dog breeders won’t show you where the animals are kept – they just show up with a cute lil puppy in a parking lot somewhere, or sell puppies to a clean pet store. Even more subtle, zoos put lonely, depressed animals on display and then tell us that they’re fine, that their behavior is natural. But, none of this is the whole story. And, it is much harder for us to imagine the suffering these animals are experiencing when we are not seeing it firsthand.

 

It takes what I like to call “advanced empathy” to have the same feelings of compassion and shared suffering when we can’t see an animal suffering firsthand. The good news is that seemingly a lot of people have advanced empathy. The bad news is that a LOT of people do not. (looking at you, NRA).

 

But more good news – you don’t need advanced empathy to make changes that benefit animals! You just need to know that doing the right thing is important, and you need to know what the right thing is. Even more good news is that these days, none of us can claim ignorance regarding animal suffering anymore. Everyone is on blast, and even if they are not, these days everyone should have a healthy level of skepticism about…. Well, everything.

 

So empathy, or the knowledge that animals are suffering, should be sufficient to encourage us to make changes in our daily lives that benefit them. Consuming fewer animals products, perhaps going completely vegan, speaking out, volunteering, donating, etc, are all good ways to help. Furthermore, taking action for animals propagates more action. You’ll want to go even further in your efforts or encourage others to join you.

 

The bad news here is that empathy and knowledge aren’t always enough. Take the current administration, for example. (not really a good example of typical, warm-blooded human beings but whatever). Here’s how their decision making process goes:

 

 

Admin:  we’ll lift the ivory ban for no apparent reason

 

Animal advocates: WHAT, elephants are on their way to extinction and they’re having their tusks ripped from their faces. How is sending Americans on hunting safaris going to solve this problem what is wrong with you everyone knows even the DC Circuit OMG 

 

Admin: okay maybe we won’t, that sounds kinda bad

 

NRA and SCI: here is money also can we join your board 

 

Admin: Ban lifted! Who cares about elephants

 

IMG_3617.gif

“I CAN’T, AND I CAN’T” 

(Kate McKinnon as Mika from Morning Joe, honestly one of her best characters just kidding all of her characters are the best)

 

I’m assuming some of the decision makers have their wits about them, and have some inkling of guilt or emotional pain when considering how barbaric trophy hunting actually is. Or maybe not. But they DEFINITELY have the knowledge that what their doing is mind-blowingly stupid, like, scientifically. This is a great example of a situation in which knowledge and empathy (if it exists) aren’t enough.

 

Where the process breaks down is in our weaponry. The two sides are not fighting with the same weapons. Animal advocates are attempting to appeal to the goodness and logic inside decision makers, and the gun lizards are using money. The decision makers see money and forget to use their brains. It’s a mess.

 

So what do animal advocates do? We’re broke. We are tired of the “small victories” being overshadowed by the endless suffering that no one in charge seems to care about. It feels like constant loss and it’s depressing. (Spoiler alert: there is no resolution in this poorly organized blog post).

 

I for one have decided to embrace my own empathic tendencies. Sure, it means I get sad easier. But if I can muster the energy to turn my feelings into actions, then I have an endless supply of ammunition. I will never run out of empathy, but my opponents may run out of money or power.

 

I used to be self-conscious about how sensitive I am. But now I am proud of my ability to put myself in someone else’s shoes. I forgive faster and I also am not living an insular life. I like feeling connected to animals – all of them, not just dogs and cats. Sure, my empathy is human-centric, but I think I’m in a good place and cheers to always improving.

 

 

Oh yeah – elephants.

Elephants are SUPER empathetic.

Just one of the many reasons we should strive to be more like them. I wonder if elephants show empathy to humans, too, or just their own species? I want to keep going with this but actually I need to go to work on this lovely spring day.

 

IMG_1449

 

 

You know what Hemingway says, stop writing when you know what happens next. That way you know where to start the next day. Stay tuned for my next post on Elephant Empathy!

 

 

15 TED Talks to watch if you care about Elephants

 

TED talks are my favorite videos on YouTube besides funny animal videos. I guess TED talks are my favorite videos to watch when I want to feel productive. Because I just started a new law job (yay!) that is super writing-focused and has a billable hour requirement, I am spending a LOT of time in an office.. at a desk.. staring at a computer monitor. To stay somewhat sane, I have (a) brought a cactus into the office, whom I have named Four Ninety-Nine for reasons you’ll probably figure out on your own; (b) displayed a few pieces of my own art to remind me of other things I like to do (See cover photo); and (c) started working my way through every TED talk in existence.

 

IMG_0979

Four Ninety-Nine

 

*Note:  My absolute favorite talk of all time is Elizabeth Gilbert’s, entitled “Your Elusive Creative Genius.” It is honest and candid, but presented seamlessly and covers a fascinating array of topics- from the author being afraid of seaweed (same, girl – mushrooms) to the Greek origins of the idea of a creative genius. It is truly a work of art and half of the views are mine……… OKAY FINE I am going to play it while I write the rest of this post.

 

Anyway, I’ve compiled 15 talks that talk about elephants, conservation, or related issues that I think are still presented in an awesome way. (There are some talks out there that I think have the right message, but are boring.)

 

Now I can’t write because I keep going back to the youtube tab to watch Elizabeth Gilbert… BRB.

 

one hour later

 

Alright so here are the 15 talks that made my list, in no particular order and with unhelpful insights attached to each. Enjoy!

 

Caitlin O’Connell-Rodwell – “Family Structure of Elephants

This lady has researched elephants for 20 years, so her two videos are like cliff notes on how elephants live their lives. Basically, elephants are just like us and have big personalities – go figure.

Caitlin O’Connell-Rodwell – “The Secret Lives of Elephants

When elephants feel threatened, sometimes they point their butts at you and “sniff” over their shoulders.. so cute. 

 

Andrew Stewart – “Are Elephants Worth Saving?

Apparently we can fit more people into Fenway Park than there are Asian elephants left on earth… what. I like his perspective on human/elephant conflict: he observes that the people living in elephant range countries have the same right to protect themselves from elephants as we do to protect ourselves from, say, bears. And so, conservationists need to do better taking into consideration the needs of the human inhabitants of range countries. I also like his reminder that elephants are a super keystone species in that they support whole ecosystems.  He says if you are going to pick ONE species to save, elephants are the best candidate. Save elephants → save land → save plants → save other species. He also reminds us that America is the second largest ivory market behind China. Come on!

 

Dr. Susan Canney – “Punch Above Your Weight: Mali Elephant Project

She talks about supporting and growing an elephant conservation project in a place affected by war… with a dope accent.

 

Patrick Freeman – “Elephant Rumbles

AH this guy loves elephants so much! He studies them but also makes poetry about them. This is an artistic piece followed by a quick reminder at the end to not buy ivory. I love it. 

 

Alex Gendler – “Why Elephants Never Forget

A cute and informative lesson on elephants, how they can have PTSD and why their memories are good. Note the manipulative elephant eyebrow raise at 2:48.

 

Brad Spanbauer – “A World Without Elephants

A great talk but honestly I am just excited to finally know how to pronounce the word “baobab.” Apparently it sounds like “bay-oh-bab.” I’ve been guessing, usually saying “bow-bab” the three or so times per year I use the word. Not relevant.

 

Josh Plotnik – “How Can Elephants Inspire Children to Think Critically?

I remember reading this guy’s NPR interview when researching elephants in law school. This talk is cute and thoughtful. And, he did research at Emory! Huzzah

 

Johan du Toit – “An Idea for Humanity, from a considerate elephant

I really like this one. He says we should be more considerate and uses elephants as an example of how to do that. Apparently his little daughter was at a watering hole when a herd of elephants showed up to drink, and one elephant made the rest of them stand back while the little girl scrambled away from them. Like, they waited respectfully for her to finish her business even though that was totally their turf. So sweet. And, he says if all of humanity started behaving like the average American, we would need 4 earths to sustain that behavior. Ugh, truth hurts. 

 

George Monbiot – “Re-Wild the World

See for yourself.

 

Corneille Ewango – “Hero of the Congo Forest

This guy’s grandfather was a poacher, so he grew up helping poach endangered species. Now he works to combat poaching. He also mentions that a lot of materials we use, we don’t realize have a bad effect on the environment. Like, materials in our cell phones F up the congo. Humans are the worst how did we get to this point

 

Damien Mander – “Modern Warrior

Far and away the most quotable of all these talks. Also, this guy has “Search & Destroy” tattooed across his chest. He begins the talk powerfully, saying about animals, “Their suffering is my grief.” He also talks about humans suffering from speciesism and Peter Singer’s equal consideration of interests, which I got really into in law school. This guy is a super bad ass.

Damien Mander – “From Sniper to Rhino Conservationist

Starts off with a story of a baby rhino named Piglet CAN YOU EVEN

 

Geraldine Morelli – “Wildlife Conservation and the Art of Letting Go

In a brilliant French accent, she talks about two ways to love animals. The first type is really a fascination with animals where we put our interests first, and the second is wanting what is best for the animals. Take one guess which one is better for the animals. While working with monkeys she befriended one named Gizmo, and talked about having to “let go” when Gizmo was being assimilated back into the wild. And, I agree with her observation that now, we don’t need to watch animals in captivity. We have webcams like the ones in Kruger National Park to watch animals in real time. There is literally no excuse anymore to keep large species in captivity. 

 

Ron Kagan – “Animal Welfare and the Future of Zoos

He was director of the Detroit Zoo when they gave up their elephants because they weren’t thriving there. It was a bold step at a time when elephants brought a lot of money to zoos. He talks about this at 14:55. 

Through an internship a few years back, I got to go to Detroit and tour the zoo with him after hours. I remember getting choked up seeing an alligator in a really small enclosure, and even more upset watching the polar bears crawl around in the summer heat. While I’m proud of the zoo for taking steps to educate people about animals and elephants in particular, I just can’t get over the rest of the species that remain in captivity, in enclosures too small and unnatural for them to thrive.  Blah.

 

Hope you enjoyed these!

An Angry Letter and A Positive Update

Dear Readers,

Thank you for visiting again after my prolonged absence.

Sh*t is hitting the fan these days, and I would be remiss not to put in my 2 cents. There are no cute drawings in this post because I don’t feel like it.

In a disgustingly anthropocentric move this week, President Trump and his cronies began the reversal of Obama’s ivory ban. Whatever bogus science Safari Club International claims supports this decision, the symbolism, much like in every other despicable decision this administration has made, outweighs any argument in support.

Mr. Trump, Safari Club and NRA lobbyists, and Fish/Wildlife Service puppets:

  1. This decision normalizes the vile pleasure trophy hunters experience from traveling across the world to kill an already endangered species. FOR A TROPHY. And, I don’t know what your definition of hunting is, but having a safari guide drop a hunter off at a sleeping elephant or an elephant that will stand its ground to protect its herd so the hunter can shoot it is not hunting. It is murder. It is deplorable and heart-breaking.
  2. Have you seen a dead elephant, or do your sons just saw off the tail and tusks and carry on before the rest of the terrified herd returns? Do your sons get back on their private jet while the rest of the elephant herd mourns, in human fashion, the loss of the one your sons just murdered? Do your sons boast about their “kill” while the dead elephant’s insides slowly decompose, causing the skin of the elephant to look like used tissue paper, crinkled and thin, while its majestic soul seeps out of its deflated body. How does the evil of this, or of the murders of lions and rhinos, how does this not weigh on you? Where is your humanity? Did it get locked in a bank vault? Did you lose it in a bankruptcy proceeding? Maybe you were born without it.
  3. Where is your common sense? There is no room for “well-regulated” trophy hunting (it burns my fingers to even type this) when 100 elephants are being poached every day. How does hunting. an. ENDANGERED. SPECIES. HELP? How? Elephants are literally disappearing. And reversing a symbolic and effective ban on the body parts ripped from murdered elephants just so Trump’s sons can continue with their awful, bloody hobby – it is just shockingly brazen to me. I just can’t understand. I can’t. Safari Club’s cited experts are wrong, for a lot of reasons. The lies are so obvious, it’s unbelievable. 
  4. What a legacy you are leaving, Mr. Trump. The White House, with its complicated yet sacred history, is a zoo now. Filled with your incompetent loyalists angling for a tiny bit of power or 15 minutes of fame. What a legacy. Despite a business with locations all over the globe, you are appallingly out of touch with reality. And, despite having brokered a few deals since your messy regime came to power, you’ve done nothing good. You are not improving our lives. You are embarrassing. You’re racist and narcissistic. The half of America that voted for you, deserves you. Because you’ve always been that way. But elephants? Please, please leave them out of your path of destruction. Elephants are good. Elephants are one of the only reliably beautiful parts of nature left. Despite hardships caused by climate change, that myth you continue to try to dispel, elephants haven’t resorted to dirty tactics to save themselves. They are hoping, maybe, humans will come to their senses and save them, or at least stop murdering them.
  5. You are doing this so a couple of wealthy hunters can bring back an elephant tusk to the U.S. From two countries. You really think hunters will limit themselves to those two countries? No. Trophy hunters are no better than poachers. Anyone who would murder an elephant is obviously not keen on showing the slightest bit of human decency, so why would they follow your rules? Money and lordship over the animals is what drives them, and you.
  6. You are breaking the hearts of the millions of people who work, everyday, for modest pay (usually no pay, actually), to improve the lives of animals. We want nothing in return except for healthy populations of endangered species. No fame, no money, no power. But you, that’s what drives you. And you are killing everything good on this planet for a deal, for a dollar, for power. What a monster.
  7. Secretary of the Interior Ryan Zinke is a disgrace, too. The world is falling to pieces and he’s installing hunting arcade games in the Department of the Interior. He’s also a scam artist but, taken in the context of the rest of Trump’s cabinet, that’s not really news.  
  8. The worst part is, this will never stop. You, Mr. Trump, are old, ill-informed, and unfortunately set in your ways. I expect nothing less from you than ugly, money-driven transactions, at the expense of good people, defenseless animals, and the environment.

 

This stinks. So, let’s talk, instead, about people that actually care what happens to the rest of the world, and not our humiliating monkey of a president. Wait, monkey is too generous. I am truly horrified, but moving on.

Steven Wise heads up the Non-human Rights Project, which files suits on behalf of non-human animals (originally primates) to free them from captivity or otherwise fight for body liberty, or rights on the personhood spectrum. Recently (and as suggested in my paper, hehe), this group of animals grew to include elephants. This week, perhaps serendipitously in contrast to the horror of a reversed ivory ban, the NhRP filed suit in Connecticut on behalf of three elephants living in a ramshackle zoo up there. Apparently the zoo has repeatedly failed inspections, and what the hell is an elephant doing in Connecticut, anyway?

Minnie, Beulah, and Karen were all born in the wild. Now, they give back rides to nasty little kids and they have untreated sores on their feet. Their zoo has, 50 times, proven to be an inadequate home for them. Yet, here they are. Because the zoo wants to make money. Any person with a sliver of sense would see the elephants belong in a sanctuary, but in the spirit of the times most of the people involved continue to be disappointing and worthless. Hopefully Mr. Wise’s arguments are strong enough to convince a judge in Connecticut that the way we view wildlife is messed up. Fingers crossed for this trio, because it will set a ground-breaking precedent to grant them the relief NhRP is seeking on their behalf.

 

Finally, a few nights ago I attended a talk by Pat Awori at IFAW’s D.C. office. Ms. Awori grew up in  Kenya and is now a career conservationist there. It was interesting to get the perspective of someone native to the area. She spoke about confusion over land-use and the need for economic investment to spur conservation efforts within the Maasai community. She was engaging and honest. And her life’s work is being slapped in the face by rich white men and their children. I. Literally. Can. Not.

 

Sign the petitions below and be on the lookout for the public comment period regarding the regulatory change. It should be opening soon.

 

Petition Site

White House Petition

Change.org

Another Change.org

 

Sweet dreams everyone except the entire administration, Safari Club International, and the NRA. You guys suck.

 

Laws Affecting Elephant Conservation Part 3 of 3: State Law

Hello! Welcome to Overview of Current Laws that Affect Elephants Part III of III: State Laws. 

Revisit Part 1

Revisit Part 2

I really can’t with state and local law but here we go.

 

First, Animal Legal Defense Fund puts out a report ranking states in terms of their animal protection laws. Understandably, these laws are geared more toward small animal (pet) welfare. It is pretty insightful – a lot of the laws you probably wouldn’t even think about. Some states provide mental health evaluations for animal abusers. That’s pretty cool!

 

The top five states were

  1. Illinois
  2. Oregon
  3. Maine
  4. California
  5. Rhode Island

 

The bottom five states were

  1. North Dakota
  2. Utah
  3. Wyoming
  4. Iowa
  5. Kentucky

 

So…… okay.

 

Every state has some animal protection law. States regulate abuse of pets, sometimes abuse of farm animals, and exotic pets. This is because exotic pets (think: crazy birds, tigers, and monkeys) are dangerous, and often people that buy these animals don’t know what the heck they are doing. Also, a lot of states have wildlife native to the state, so they have to regulate that, too. Elephants don’t fall into any one of these categories – no one wants a pet elephant, no one farms elephants, and elephants aren’t native to any part of the US. They are only here as part of a zoo, sanctuary, circus, or in ivory form.

 

lolelephantquote

 

It’s rare to come across specific protections for elephants. Some states have taken the step to ban the ivory trade within the state, making exceptions for super old items, items with very little ivory in them, musical instruments with little ivory, and inherited items. Anyway, here are some laws I’ve come across that pertain to elephants.

 

 

Alabama: ?

  • You can’t game-hunt an elephant in Alabama, so don’t even try.

 

Alaska: N/A

  • You need a separate permit to exhibit an elephant, which in turn requires three things: (1) intent to exhibit the elephant commercially; (2) facilities to maintain elephant under “positive control” and “humane conditions;” and (3) insurance. I don’t think this is a big issue in Alaska. They are more worried about mammoth ivory, which experts say is very distinguishable from elephant ivory. #SavetheWoollyMammoth

 

California: Super Yay

  • First, California is pretty progressive when it comes to animal welfare. Well, activism in general (hippies!).
  • California banned ivory sales in 2015. This action closed the loopholes in an ivory ban that was already in place in the state. 
  • Second, it makes abusing an elephant its own misdemeanor. That’s pretty specific. 
  • Banned the use of bullhooks and other “training” devices on elephants. 

 

Florida: Boo

  • Florida has a specific statute for elephant ownership and care. Pro: it prohibits keeping an elephant as a pet. That’s good? Con: It allows for elephant rides, mobile elephant exhibits, and other sad things. Furthermore, any elephant taking part in this nonsense has to be “tethered,” i.e. chained, or enclosed by an electric fence when not being exploited.
  • Plus, the caging requirements made a stupid exception to the required “daily untethered movement,” saying the elephant can be tethered at all times for “security or breeding purposes.” That’s a really broad exception. Only after 14 straight days does the captor have to get a veterinarian’s note. Ridiculous. I can’t talk about Florida anymore.

 

Hawaii: Yay

  • Bans the sale of ivory 

 

Indiana: ?

  • Indiana mentions elephants in their Wildlife Protection Act, but I can’t really tell what’s going on. Elephants are mentioned only in the trophy hunting sections, but not as the subject of the hunting. 
  • I also don’t know about this ranch – what is going on in Indiana?
  • I honestly don’t understand. Someone help.

 

lol obama

 

  • petition to build a wall around indiana

 

New Jersey: Yay

  • Bans the sell of ivory 

 

New York: Yay!

  • New York has already banned ivory, and recently banned the use of elephants in “entertainment,” i.e. circuses and carnivals. Way to go NY, I loved you anyway. 

 

Ohio: Boo

  • Specifically allows for circuses and elephant back rides at the circuses as an exception to its “dangerous animal ban,” which would usually include elephants. Mmm.

 

Oregon: Yay

  • Bans the sale of ivory with a few exceptions. 

 

Rhode Island: Yay?

  • Banned the use of the bullhook and other weapons against elephants, including baseball bats. BASEBALL BATS. On an animal. Is everyone crazy? 

 

Tennessee: Let’s do more, TN!

  • Trained elephants can have contact with the public, and can be “tethered,” while other Class I species cannot. I don’t know. Maybe this is for the benefit of the Elephant Sanctuary in TN. 
  • Please don’t tether the elephants, everyone. Leave them alone.

 

Texas: ?

  • In Texas, if your elephant wanders off your property, your neighbors and/or the local police have to try to locate you. What in tarnation –
  • But this Dallas-based company exists that lets the public rent elephants for events in Texas. They also offer dwarf actors and “living tables,” and we’ll see if they respond to my email asking for information on how the elephants are taken care of.   This doesn’t have anything to do with Texas law…… YET.

 

Vermont: Almost!

  • An ivory ban didn’t quite make it, despite the awesome efforts of Ivory Free Vermont. In this interview, a representative of Ivory Free Vermont references Lawrence Anthony’s herd mourning his death.
  • Critics said the ban would only be a “drop in the bucket” in the ivory market since the real demand comes from China. Drops are how buckets get filled up! That’s how water works, people… I officially can’t with Vermont.

 

Washington: Yay

  • Total ivory ban, unless the ivory is proven to be at least 100 years old, or the item is less than 15% ivory. The “Save Animals Facing Extinction” Act also protects other species. This initiative got a LOT of support. 

 

That’s all I have for state law. Moving forward, I’ll be writing more about elephant traits, symbolism, and the philosophy behind conserving the species… with a little law sprinkled in, of course. Stay tuned and thank you for your support!