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!

Bonus Cocktail Post – Amarula Liqueur

 

When I posted the Bonus World Elephant Day Cocktail Post, I almost regretted it because I thought, I’ll never have another elephant conservation-related cocktail idea.

 

Wrong! Fake news.

 

Introducing….

 

IMG_7959

Amarula 

 

If you haven’t heard of Amarula (I hadn’t until recently), it’s a liqueur made of sugar, cream, and brandy distilled from the fruit of the Marula tree. The liqueur is made in South Africa.

amarula tree

Marula Tree

 

 

From The Whisky Exchange:

Distilled from the fermented fruit of the Marula tree, a native of the African plains. The spirit is aged for three years, then blended with cream. If you like Bailey’s you should give this a try.

marula fruit

 

 

You can read another good description on The Manual.

 

The most important thing to note about Amarula: it is D E L I C I O U S. It tastes like toffee and caramel with a hint of something weird and wonderful, but it’s not so thick that it feels like drinking glue (Glue is Gross, or, Why I Have Issues With Eggnog). Amarula has really struck the perfect balance of cream/toffee/sweetness/fruit.

 

Elephant Conservation

 

The main reason I am down with Amarula is because the company supports elephant research and local women’s groups in South Africa. They started the Amarula Trust to focus on elephants. The researchers collar and track elephants that are caught up in Human Elephant Conflict (HEC), then they track the elephants’ movements and patterns to help reduce negative run-ins with humans. 

 

amarula trust

 

They also started a campaign recently called Name Them Save Them, where you can choose, design, name, and share a virtual african elephant. I did and named her Louise. #saveLouise

 

Louise

 

The Amarula bottle is sold with a gold tassel around the neck, which is hand-crafted by women at Sir Lowry’s Pass, a poor village nearby in South Africa. These women live in extreme poverty, and some have never worked before. Through this expanding project, the women have access to exercise classes, parenting training, and english classes.

 

How It’s Made

 

My understanding* is that locals in the Limpopo province of South Africa harvest and sell the fruit to the distiller. The fruit is checked for ripeness and then put through a “washing, stoning, and pulping process.” And…

 

From The Scotsman:

“The contribution to the local economy does not end here. The stones are given back to the community because the kernel is an edible nut of the cashew family and the shell can also be used in the production of face cream. Both are useful sources of additional revenue for a far-from-prosperous area.”

 

At some point it’s blended with cream and sugar.

I love that Amarula is a liqueur with social awareness.

 

How To Drink It

 

Like a lot of other websites have said, Amarula is best enjoyed over ice or neat.

 

Some other interesting recipes I stumbled across:

 

These are great (2 out of 3), but I was determined to come up with my own cocktail. So I purchased a bottle and a few other ingredients, and got to work. 

 

 

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Every time I see this photo I think of Beyoncé saying, “Okay ladies now let’s get in formation,” except I say babies instead of ladies. Because baby liquor bottles.

 

 

Since Amarula and Kahlua seem to be considered distant cousins, and I do enjoy a good White or Black Russian, I thought a play on those sounded nice.

 

After hours of practice I ended up with the Russian Rose™. Its deceivingly simple ingredients caused me trouble, but if you break up the steps you end up with a smooth, sort of frothy pastel pink drink. The cocktail is creamy, sweet, and packs a punch. (Note: Amarula uses real, although local, cream. If you usually avoid dairy, proceed with caution).

 

Russian Rose

 

What’s cute is that I tried to mix vodka, Amarula, and a little grenadine together just to taste, and was surprised when the grenadine turned into little specks. When I dumped a little lemon juice into the mixture (not sure why), and the entire concoction turned into a Cement Mixer shot, I realized I had a curdling situation on my hands. No worries, I worked it out for you.

 

Instructions:

 

  1. Shake 1 ½ oz vodka with ¼ oz grenadine. Strain into one of your shaker tins.
  2. Add lots of ice to shaker tin with pink vodka, and start stirrin’. (May need to youtube how to properly to stir cocktail).
  3. While stirring, slowly pour 1 oz of Amarula into vodka/ice. This should prevent curdling. (After tasting, decide if you want to change your ratios to your taste).
  4. Pop the other shaker tin on and shake that mixture. Strain into chilled martini glass.
  5. Enjoy!

 

IMG_7969      IMG_7970

 

IMG_7971

 

The grenadine should add color, not too much taste. The Amarula is sweet enough without it. Honestly, I just wanted vodka and Amarula.. But.. pink.

 

We got lucky with this liqueur, folks. If it was, say, Sambuca, mushrooms, or eggnog wanting to help elephants, I would really be in an ethical dilemma. Taste-testing would not be quite as fun.

 

If all else fails, just throw some Amarula in your coffee. Taste-tested and approved by me.

 

I hope you enjoy reading, dreaming, and wistfully thinking about this cocktail, and I hope you name and save an elephant!

 

Keep Calm if you Can

Laws That Affect Elephant Conservation Pt. 2 of 3 – US Federal Law

 

Hello readers,

 

Thanks again for visiting and welcome to Part II of my rambling overview of the laws that affect elephants and other large species. The last post in this series covered CITES and other international agreements, and this post will cover US federal law.

 

Elephant flag scooter sombrero

 

Unity!

 

US Federal Law: 5 Relephant Statutes

  1. Endangered Species Act 1973
  2. The Lacey Act of 1900
  3. African Elephant Conservation Act 1989
  4. Asian Elephant Conservation Act 1997
  5. Animal Welfare Act 1966

 

Endangered Species Act  

 

Remember how I said CITES isn’t automatically law in countries that signed it? (sure you do!) Well, the ESA makes CITES federal law.

 

The ESA more or less does four things:

  1. identifies a species as endangered or threatened;
  2. determines whether there is a critical habitat for the species within the US;
  3. restricts government and private action against that species; and
  4. says the government now has to help save the species.

 

Let’s apply that to elephants.

  1. The ESA listed the Asian elephant as endangered in 1976, and the African elephant as threatened in 1978, loosely based on how the species are classified by CITES.
  2. Because elephants are not native to the US, they don’t have a designated critical habitat.
  3. Under the ESA, the government now cannot do anything that will further harm the elephant species. For private parties, however, the Act prohibits a number of actions. The Act says a private party cannot “take” a species – a legal term that has a broad definition. It basically means that a private entity cannot do anything to harm the species. (This is where I take issues with zoos – to be discussed later).
  4. Finally, the ESA instructs the government to take action to help elephants. So, the government passed the two acts we will discuss in a second, the African and Asian Elephant Conservation Acts.

 

The biggest problems with the ESA in general deal with provisions that don’t really affect elephants, mainly land-use provisions.

 

The biggest problem with the ESA as it pertains to elephants is all of the exceptions it makes for people that want to import elephants. BornFreeUsa.org has a really clear explanation of this process. It goes like this: if someone wants to import an endangered species, all they have to do is say that it is for “scientific purposes,” or, more commonly, that it will “enhance the propagation or survival of the species.” And they get a “Section 10” permit to import the elephant. 

 

The requirements to get these permits are vague, and so permits are way easy to get, and species are not being conserved or protected like the permit owners/importers are promising.

 

Lacey Act

 

The Lacey Act of 1900 (last updated in 1981) makes it illegal to trade across state lines in any species that is obtained illegally. Aka, it targets wildlife traffickers. How is it different from the ESA? The Lacey Act “underscores” other acts, by making trafficking a separate crime. The Lacey Act is older than most other relevant legislation, but according to this article, “still powerful.” So, since there is a ban on ivory imports in the US, anyone possessing or trading raw ivory in the US could probably be prosecuted under the Lacey Act. Cool!

 

African Elephant Conservation Act of 1989

 

Since the US is a party to CITES and passed the ESA, the US has accepted the responsibility to do something to improve the situation of the endangered African elephant. Congress dutifully passed this act, which establishes the African Elephant Conservation Fund, which gives money to the 37 African range countries (countries with elephant populations), and gives grants to projects that work in those countries. The act also establishes a moratorium (I had to look up this word – it means “suspension of an activity”) on the importation of ivory unless a bunch of conditions are met.

 

What conditions? Are the restrictions restrict-y enough?

 

Well, the Act still says sport hunting of elephants is okay, so strike one. Basically, if an ivory-producing country that is a party to CITES has “submitted a quota,” and the hunter “takes” (kills) the elephant in that country, he/she can import the “trophy” (tusks). An executive order under the Obama administration limited trophy imports to two, per hunter, per year.

 

Ivory restrictions

 

There are a few requirements a country has to meet for its ivory to be imported to the US. The country has to comply with and be a party to CITES, the country’s conservation program has to be up to snuff, etc.

 

But, right now all ivory trade is prohibited under CITES, because even the Appendix II populations have little asterisks next to their listings that include those populations’ ivory in Appendix I. So it looks like this Act’s exceptions are pre-empted (means they don’t even matter, because there is a stricter rule out there). This is crazy, but good.

 

Soo….. Is ivory banned in the US? Pretty much, according to National Geographic last year, but not under this act. Click here for a good explanation of what President Obama’s ivory ban does.

 

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Asian Elephant Conservation Act of 1997

 

Structured similarly to its African counterpart, this act creates a fund as well. The fund has sent money to eight Asian countries, including Nepal, Thailand, Vietnam, Cambodia, and Indonesia. There is nothing about ivory or trophy hunting in this act, since Asian elephants are often tusk-less.

 

There are SO few Asian elephants left. This grant process should absolutely be utilized more by American non-profits.

 

Animal Welfare Act of 1966

 

When it was passed, the AWA was called the Laboratory Animal Welfare Act, because it was sort of in response to people’s pets being petnapped and sold to research laboratories. That’s pretty horrifying. And it prompted investigations into standards of care at all these labs, and apparently the labs were not doing so well providing luxurious conditions for their research animals.

 

So now we have the AWA, which sets standards of care for warm-blooded animals, but excludes rats and mice, and farm animals, AND cold-blooded animals. So really, only cute/furry animals. What?

 

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But it’s better than nothing, and people are always making noise about strengthening the law, and giving it more dollars to operate.

 

What does it mean for elephants?

 

Well, the AWA, by law, applies to “exhibitors,” which includes zoos and circuses. It prohibits keeping animals in conditions with “overheating,” “trauma,” “excessive cooling,” “physical harm,” and “unnecessary discomfort.” It only suggests the very minimum standards of care for animals.

 

What are the problems?

 

The problems with the AWA as it pertains to elephants deal with vagueness, weak standards, and enforcement. Some terms in the act such as “unnecessary discomfort,” are not defined. What is “unnecessary?” What is “discomfort?” The standards are not clearly outlined for different types of species. More importantly, even if the standards were higher, there are only a handful of inspectors for thousands of zoos and circuses. It’s unlikely problems will ever be uncovered.

 

Another reason the AWA does not do much to help elephants besides prohibit huge, obvious acts of mistreatment, is because elephants require more than other species. Elephants need more space to constantly move; they need to be able to forage for their food; and they need to socialize with elephants of their own herd. These needs are simply not taken into account by the AWA.

 

State and Local Law will be covered in Part III! Thank you for reading.

 

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Laws That Affect Elephant Conservation Pt. 1 of 3 – International Law

Dear Reader,

 

This post (one of three) is an overview of the legal framework with which elephants currently exist. There are three types of laws, for our purposes, that affect elephant conservation:

 

(1) international law, (2) US federal law, and (3) state and local laws in the US.

 

Broadly, each type of law affects different aspects of elephant conservation and welfare. International law will be more relevant to elephant poaching and the ivory trade; and US federal, state, and local law is relevant to domestic trade in ivory and elephants in captivity (i.e. zoos and circuses).

 

This post will discuss the first type of law:

International Laws that Affect Elephant Conservation.

 

International law is tricky because countries essentially have to agree to follow it – there is no global body of law that dictates how countries should act. For example, countries choose to join or not join the United Nations, and countries choose to submit or not submit to the jurisdiction of the International Criminal Court. However, once a country signs onto a treaty or international agreement, other parties to the treaty or the body holding the treaty can hold that country accountable to following the terms of the treaty.

 

So anyway, here are some international agreements (not a complete list) that affect elephant conservation, an explanation of each, and of course, why each one annoys me.

 

INTERNATIONAL LAW

 

What we first need to know about international law is CITES, the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (of Wild Fauna and Flora). CITES is a treaty among 183 countries, or “Parties.” CITES aims to ensure that trading in a certain animal or plant species does not threaten or endanger the species’ survival in the wild. CITES is not automatically law in the countries that have signed; those countries have to legislate these principles, using CITES as a set of guidelines. CITES meets once every three years to add, move around, or take away species from its list.

 

So, what does CITES mean for elephants?

 

CITES is very significant regarding two of the three main threats to elephants: poaching for ivory and the use of elephants in entertainment (circuses, zoos, tourism).

 

How CITES Works in 1 million words or less (no promises)

 

CITES is made up of three “appendices,” or lists. Any animal that is threatened by international trade is listed on one of the appendices based on the extent to which the species is threatened. The higher the danger of extinction, the more protections the animal is given from CITES.  Appendix I is for animals that are in the most trouble, and trading in an Appendix I species is prohibited with a few “exceptional” exceptions. Appendix II is for species that are not already “threatened with extinction,” but might be if trade in those species is not regulated. Appendix III is for species about which a particular country is concerned. So the CITES Parties may be thinking the rainbow-spotted Norasaurus is doing fine, but then Iceland says “Will you guys help us with the rainbow-spotted Norasaurus, we are worried about it.” So the Norasaurus goes on Appendix III and trade is allowed only with permits and certificates of origin. #savetherainbowspottedNorasaurus

 

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**See bottom for more info on this species.

 

Unfortunately, one of the big annoying issues with CITES is a problem that affects elephants disproportionately. It’s called split-listing. Split-listing means that some populations of a species can be listed on one appendix, while the other populations are listed on another. Now, split-listing would make sense if, say, rainbow-spotted Norasauruses lived in Iceland and Florida, only. Iceland all the sudden loses half of its Norasaurus population to international trade, and only has like 12 Norasauruses left, so the Icelandic population of the Norasaurus goes on Appendix I. But Florida’s Norasaurus population is ok in comparison so they want to list it on Appendix II or III. That’s fine. Florida can still export some of their Norasauruses.

 

Why split-listing does not work

 

While Asian elephants have enjoyed their sad Appendix I status since 1975, the African elephant was somewhat recently “downlisted” to Appendix II, but only for elephants that lived in 4 countries in southern Africa (Botswana, Namibia, Zimbabwe in 1997, and South Africa in 2000). This would make sense if each country had its own distinct elephant population, but elephants move freely across borders. There is no way to contain each country’s population within that country’s borders.

 

Another difficulty with migratory species is establishing which member state the elephants actually belong to. If an elephant wakes up in Zimbabwe and goes to sleep in Botswana, whose elephant is she?”

 

Screenshot 2017-08-23 17.49.22

 

To make matters even more annoying, the elephant populations listed on Appendix II essentially have a note next to their listing that says “y’all still shouldn’t trade ivory from these elephants, so we’re not going to allow it unless you have Appendix I exceptional exceptions.” The Namibia and Zimbabwe submitted proposals at this conference to be able to sell their ivory, but were denied. And, thankfully, Botswana decided to start supporting a total ivory ban. Botswana has a large percentage of the continent’s elephants – so this is good. But anyway, with the restriction on trading Appendix II ivory still standing, what is the point in downlisting? Who knows.

 

All the parties met at the Conference of the Parties in 2016 (“CoP17”) in South Africa, where proposals failed that would have re-listed the four countries’ elephant populations back on Appendix I. (Never fear, CoP17 was still a success for elephants, according to this article). Even if there were a billion elephants on the moon, it would STILL not make sense to downlist them, because poachers DO. NOT. CARE. They will drive their caravans and camels and AK 47s all the way to the moon and slaughter a moon elephant for $200. #savethemoonelephant

 

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We need to get it together and list the entire species of African elephant on Appendix I until the continent’s population is back under control.

Convention on the Conservation of Migratory Species of Wild Animals

 

So, this convention operates similarly to how CITES does, but with only 2 appendices. Appendix I is endangered and Appendix II just needs “addressing.” Elephants are migratory species, but not every country is signed onto it. This isn’t doing much for elephants yet. 

 

CMS parties

 

Maybe more on this later.

 

International Union for Conservation of Nature

 

As its name implies, IUCN is an “international union” of approximately 90 countries and hundreds of non-governmental entities aimed at everything from conserving nature to promoting sustainable economic development. Importantly, IUCN assesses the status of all species and lists threatened species on its rather famous “Red List.”

 

IUCN is relevant to CITES because CITES listings of species usually mirror IUCN’s listing of species. This kind of confirms, at least in my opinion, that both organizations’ data is somewhat reliable, or at least that they are using the same data, which implies that the data is reliable.

 

Either way, with regard to elephants, the data is pretty clear. However, African elephants are listed as “vulnerable” on the IUCN spectrum (7 levels: Least Concern (LC), Near Threatened (NT), Vulnerable (VU), Endangered (EN), Critically Endangered (CR), Extinct in the Wild  (EW), and Extinct (EX)), even though the explanation on the website cites “high levels of uncertainty” regarding the reasons for and levels of population decline and growth. Asian elephants are listed as endangered.

 

Other Agreements

 

Universal Declaration on Animal Welfare

 

Another international agreement that has not been approved yet is the Universal Declaration on Animal Welfare. Because it focuses on welfare instead of rights, it has gotten a wide range of support, but not from too many countries with native elephant populations. If approved, it will be non-binding and will give countries “guidelines” for adopting strong animal-friendly policies. This document was created by World Animal Protection, and enjoys the support of Compassion in World Farming, RSPCA, IFAW, and HSUS. Hope to see this approved soon!

 

Non-Legal “Charters”

 

Two documents that are in less danger of being approved by an international body are the Declaration of Animal Rights and the Universal Charter of the Rights of Other Species. Not hating on the effort of the drafters, but these won’t get loads of support for the following reasons. The Declaration on Animal Rights advocates a vegan lifestyle, which just ain’t gonna work in the USA. The Universal Charter of the Rights of Other Species is worded strangely – it talks in circles almost. Also, it *suggests* a vegan, co-exist type lifestyle but makes a bunch of exceptions, one for captive breeding programs, which is a problem for elephants specifically that I’ll cover later on. Anyway, check ‘em out and decide for yourself if you want to sign.

 

Before I wrap up, there is this really awesome Elephant Charter written by Joyce Poole of ElephantVoices. Definitely read it and consider signing it! You can also peer pressure your friends and colleagues into signing, too, because you can search the document to see who has signed.

 

In Part II we’ll cover US State and Federal Law. It’s really interesting I promise!

 

**

The hypothetical rainbow-spotted Norasaurus is inspired by my pet dinosaur, Nora. She eats a lot.

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5 Reasons We Should Care About Animals, or, Why Is An Elephant Like An Oyster?

Dear Reader,

 

Before this blog (blawg?) gets into laws and regulations and such, I want to first touch on a philosophical question common in the animals rights/welfare movement.

 

WHY?

 

Why should we care about animal welfare and/or animal rights?

 

First, the welfare vs. rights distinction.

Welfare just gives humans a duty to make sure animals are well cared for. It establishes sort of a mutually beneficial relationship that started way back when everyone was a farmer. There is a body of thought that welfare comprises these “Five Freedoms,” and as long as these are checked off, everyone is good.

  1. Freedom from hunger and thirst
  2. Freedom from discomfort
  3. Freedom from pain, injury, or disease
  4. Freedom to express normal behavior
  5. Freedom from fear and distress

So, animal welfare still allows humans to use animals for their meat, skins, etc.

 

Animal rights activists generally disagree with the use of animals for any reason, even if the animal is cared for in a “humane” way. The basis of this belief is that animals possess intrinsic value, and are not just valuable for what benefits they provide to humans.

 

Note: Beware the groups that demonize animal rights activists. Every social movement has its extremists, and not all animal rights activists want to take your pets away. Don’t believe everything the NAIA tells you. Seriously what is with the graphic at the bottom.

 

The main difference is that the animal welfare movement stills allows for the use of animals for human benefit, and animals rights movement aims to give animals legal rights and more autonomy.

 

Elephants & the Law’s position is that animals deserve better legal status, because they are valuable in their own right. Obviously not the same legal status as an adult human, although I do think my cat should be able to vote. She’s Lib-purr-tarian…

 

Animals are not ours to use freely, but we should be able to coexist with them, and use what they provide for us if our use does not cause harm. We should be smart enough to know where to draw the line.

 

But still, why do we even care?

 

Five Reasons

Because animals are valuable in their own right.

 

 

 

If you have the time, I would suggest reading Peter Singer’s Animal Liberation or Practical Ethics. Both were published a while ago but the philosophy behind his arguments is timeless.

 

               Peter-Singer-Animal-Liberation-Book         Practical_Ethics,_1980_edition

 

His argument starts with Jeremy Bentham’s utilitarianist view that the test for whether animals matter is whether they can suffer. Peter Singer builds on that test, explaining something that he termed “equal consideration of interests.” Basically, if an animal can experience pain and suffering, then that animal is worthy of consideration. That animal has an interest in not suffering, and that interest should be weighed equally with the interests of humans. Because no one wants to suffer.

 

Animals exist in their own complex universes, innocently concerned with not hurting, starving, or being eaten. We have no place ranking their importance in our universe.

 

But, while we’re on Bentham and the question “Why?”…

jeremy-bentham-remains

Why?

Click here for an explanation

Because we are compassionate beings.

 

If you really need a reason to care about animal welfare or rights, this is a pretty good one.

 

What is compassion? Google says: “Sympathetic pity and concern for the sufferings or misfortunes of others”

 

So suffering and misfortune provokes a compassionate response in humans. Well, animals – elephants in particular – are experiencing suffering and misfortune constantly. And we just can’t plead ignorance anymore.

 

We are compassionate to other humans (hopefully), so why not every living thing?

 

Because caring about animals makes us better.

 

“He who is cruel to animals becomes hard also in his dealings with men. We can judge the heart of a man by his treatment of animals.”

Immanuel Kant

Caring for animals makes makes us better in a lot of ways, not just our health. ( I know some people are like ew Huffington Post, but the author of this article is a well-known neurologist and a very reputable animal advocate. Check out Aysha Akhtar on TedX!)

Caring for animals makes us a more compassionate, progressive, sustainable society.

And less violent.

There are a lot of studies about the link between animal abuse and domestic violence Studies show that abusing animals during childhood is an indicator of violence later in life. This article suggests that children who do abuse animals have probably witnessed domestic or animals abuse themselves. What a terrible cycle.

So, if we turn this around, then maybe showing animals compassion during childhood is an indicator that one will show animals and humans compassion throughout one’s life. Maybe loving elephants is an indicator that one is not a serial killer? Would this hold up in court? Asking for a friend.

 

Because a world without elephants would SUCK.

Question: Why is an elephant like an oyster? (credit: IFAW)

IMG_7694

Answer: Both are “keystone” species. “This means that if the species were to disappear from the ecosystem, no other species would be able to fill its ecological niche.” 

And other reasons. And other other reasons.

 

But, most importantly, elephants are valuable in their own right, remember? They are valuable because they exist. They are beautiful, intelligent, friendly, vegetarians, and a world without them would be so, so, sad. Because a world without elephants reflects on our apathy to their suffering. For what? Little ivory statues? One of my friends from law school often says, “Is everyone okay?” Seriously.

DBJCxfgXoAAafUm.jpg-large

 

And finally,

Because progress is important.

 

Because progress on animal rights reflects progress on equality in general.

 

Equality is about more than race, sex, or whatever humans seem to think. Equality is about an open mind, about consideration, about realizing the world doesn’t revolve around one person or one species. Progress on one front means we’re going in the right direction.

 

“The animals of the world exist for their own reasons. They were not made for humans any more than black people were made for white, or women created for men.”

– Alice Walker.

YES ALICE. By the way, Alice Walker is an author and civil rights activist – not an animal rights activist. She might not be vegan, and that’s her business. This is a good quote and a sentiment that resonates with me.   

There is a common argument against animal activism that says it’s wrong to put time and energy towards animal rights when humans are suffering. But, like I said, progress on one front is progress in general. This article about a human rights activist-turned-animal-rights-activist is another good response.

I just love this:

Of course this is the dominant mentality, based on a presumed superiority of humans, so much so that the slightest harm to a human is often seen to outweigh a tremendous harm to an animal. Given that the capacity to suffer is in no way limited to human beings, this bias in favor of humans is simple prejudice, favoring those we perceive as similar over those we perceive as different and therefore inferior, the hallmark of all discrimination and oppression.”

 

Basically, equality is important, and progress towards equality is essential. And that includes animal equality. It doesn’t mean building mansions for mice, it just means letting them live in peace. It’s not that difficult!

 

Thanks everyone!

 

World Elephant Day Bonus Cocktail Post!

Elephant-inspired cocktail…!?

Wow! What? Is she insane? Yes.

Random, but tasty!

I warned you this blog would start out as a bunch of things.

Anyway, I started bartending again when I moved to DC last year, and have been very fortunate to have had access to the best ingredients. Fresh produce and high quality spirits make a huge difference.

With World Elephant Day approaching, I figured an elephant-inspired cocktail would be appropriate. The only connection I could come up with between an elephant and a cocktail was the color gray. And I love a lavender/purplish-silver-gray color, so that’s what I was aiming for.

Purple ingredient? Crème de Violette. What do you make with Crème de Violette? An Aviation Cocktail. Put a little spin on it and you’ve got…

Elephants on a Plane

I already know the name is stupid, but I’m in charge. So, it’s staying.

One more thing before I give you guys the recipe. Elephants on a Plane™ calls for one egg white, which I don’t personally care for, and maybe a lot of my readers will be vegans or want to avoid egg whites. I suggest replacing it with chickpea brine, called “aquafaba.” Aquafaba means “bean water,” which is cute. I have not tried it yet, and we did not stock it at the bar. I have read that it is a better replacement for egg white in cocktails. So I’m putting it in this recipe.

Just in case you’ve never used egg whites in cocktails before (I hadn’t until I moved here), just a minute before you turn your nose up like I did. Egg white/aquafaba is a common ingredient in certain cocktails, mainly fizzes and sours. It doesn’t change the taste, it only gives the drink a frothy, silkier texture. And it looks pretty, too.

Without further rambling, I give you..

Elephants on a Plane

First… Tools!

cocktail post toolsedited
You don’t absolutely have to have all of these tools – I have shaken cocktails in water bottles before. But I think, if you have Creme de Violette lying around, you probably have a shaker tin. Be creative if you need to.

Ingredients!

cocktail post ingredients**See Super Bonus Recipe at the end of this post.

Finally… Steps! 

  1. Use peeler to cut a lemon peel for your garnish. Set aside. *Make sure to do this first, so that you only use one lemon. #SavetheLemons
  2. Put ice water in martini glass to chill it
  3. Cut lemon in half
  4. Squeeze lemon juice into small measuring cup, to ¾ ounce line
  5. Add aquafaba to measuring cup, and pour contents into shaker tin.
  6. Add remaining three ingredients
  7. Seal shaker tin and dry shake (shake without ice) for like 15 seconds
    **This “emulsifies” the egg white. The citrus sort of cooks the egg white so it loses the ability to make you sick. Aquafaba won’t make you sick in the first place.
  8. Add ice to shaker tin, reseal, and shake for at least thirty seconds, definitely until condensation forms on the outside of the tin. Feel free to check inside the tin to see your froth progress. Reach desired level of frothiness and stop shaking.
    **Tip, if you want to UP your froth game like never before, strain your cocktail into an extra glass, dump out your ice, and return the cocktail to the shaker tin. Dry shake again. This is known as triple shaking, and it will make your arms tired.
  9. Fine strain//double strain into your martini glass or coupe.
  10. Squeeze lemon peel, yellow side down, over the cocktail, twist, and drop it in. The oils from the citrus make a big difference! (I did a lemon spiral in these photos, and it is prettier but not as effective.)

And voila, you’ve made a time-consuming but delicious cocktail, and you’re celebrating elephants! Look at you!
close up cocktail

**SUPER BONUS RECIPE ~~

If you don’t have maraschino liqueur, or you want to branch out even further, you can make Elephants on the Moon™!

“Wow”  “what’s that?”  “I want one”

Okay, okay. This is my own elephant-inspired variation on the Blue Moon, which is a variation on the Aviation. Cocktail inception!

For this recipe, follow the same nonsense listed above, but omit the maraschino liqueur and replace it with a ½ ounce of simple syrup. The cocktail will turn out to be more of a bluish-gray than a lavender-gray, but still delicious and totally worth the effort. If you don’t have simple syrup, then still omit the maraschino, and add another ¼ ounce of Crème de Violette, for a total of ½ an ounce.

Thank you all again for checking out Elephants & the Law. Enjoy World Elephant Day 2017 wherever you are! See you next time!

The State of the Elephant

Dear Reader,

Happy World Elephant Day 2017!

Thank you for visiting Elephants and the Law. Elephants are the most magnificent creatures on our planet. Countless individuals work to protect and conserve the species every day, and this website will discuss legal, political, and moral issues that affect those efforts. This will be a learning experience for me, so hopefully we can work through some of these issues together. I certainly appreciate suggestions and questions from all of you.

This blog might start out being a lot of different things, but, with time and feedback, I hope to grow it into a blog that is really good at just a few things. I am also going to try to photograph and draw everything myself, because I don’t understand stock photos, so, bear with me. Until I reach blog enlightenment, though, the basic purpose of this website is to

  1. inform all of you guys,
  2. stimulate open-minded discussion,
  3. encourage action, and
  4. hopefully add a compassionate angle to the way the reader thinks about animals in general- while using the elephant as the primary example.

Why? Because elephants are dope.  

This debut post will cover the following topics:

  1. Why Elephants Are Neat
  2. The State of the Elephant
  3. What We’re Doing (Wrong)
  4. How We Can Do Better

 

Why Elephants Are Neat

Besides the fact that baby elephants are super relatable (see below), elephants are magnificent for so many reasons.

baby elephant tantrum

Same.

Elephants are self-aware

Elephants are part of the small group of “self-aware” species that currently only includes elephants, dolphins, monkeys, and us. That is hugely indicative of elephant intelligence. I know some humans that could use a little more self-awareness, if you know what I mean.

Elephants comfort each other

Like humans, elephants comfort each other through physical contact with their trunks – elephant “hugs,” if you will.

Elephants stick with their families for life

Fact: the elephant divorce rate is 0%. An elephant herd consists of a matriarch, her daughters, and her daughters’ daughters. And they stick together forever. The herd allows the male elephants to hang out until age 12 – 15, then the male gets the boot. Yasss ladies.

Elephants mourn their dead and celebrate births

This indicates that elephants have a concept of loss and new life. The fact that they grieve like we do is so relatable. Here, I made a sad drawing to illustrate.

IMG_7611

Don’t you want a custom sad elephant sketch? Ask for one here!

Elephants exhibit signs of distress

Elephants in captivity exhibit behaviors that do not exist in the wild, such as pacing, gnawing, bobbing their heads, and swaying. Elephants also experience post-traumatic stress indicators. This NYT article is a favorite of mine and talks about this – either read or save for later. 

Elephants and Humans have similar histories

Elephants and humans evolved “in parallel” hundreds of thousands of years ago. In fact, some bodies of research show that elephants were around long before humans were. Respect!

ELEPHANTS ARE AFRAID OF BEES

Guys, this is super important information. They are afraid of humans and bees. I am also afraid of humans and bees. And I didn’t think I could love them any more.

Elephants do have great memories

Don’t worry, Shirley and Jenny will have their own post on Elephants and the Law. I’m not crying, you’re crying.

Shirley n Jenny

Okay, I’m crying, too.

statue

Buying this.

Elephants are a “keystone species”

More on this later, but elephants help maintain the biodiversity of the ecosystems in which they live. They even poop out seeds that grow into new grass, bushes, and trees. Incredible.

The State of the Elephant

Elephants are in big trouble.

There are technically three species of elephants – the African savanna elephant, the African forest elephant, and the Asian elephant. For our purposes, this site will group the forest and savanna elephants together.

The African elephant population was estimated at approximately 26 million in the 1500s – down to a staggering 600,000 in 1989. Estimates range from 400,000 – 700,000 African elephants, and between 35,000 – 40,000 wild Asian elephants today. These numbers are so low already, and elephants are dying every day.

Dr. Mark Chase heads up the Great Elephant Census, which was funded by Paul Allen, co-founder of Microsoft. This project is meant to show where elephants live. According to the Economist, this is the “most extensive count of a wild species ever attempted.” It’s sad but really, really cool.

Diminishing populations are due to three main factors, the biggest and most horrifying factor being poaching for ivory and meat. Second, elephants are being pushed out of their natural habitat by exploding human populations (exploding humans?!). This means elephants and humans are coming into contact more often. For example, elephants are eating villagers’ crops, which may be the villagers’ only sources of income. Diminishing resources means that one species will suffer as the other thrives.

The third big threat to elephants is their use in entertainment, including their capture and sale to zoos, circuses, and the tourism industry.

  • While circuses are starting to give up their elephants due to public pressure, zoos are still keeping elephants in captivity.
  • While some zoos claim to promote research and conservation, they actually have the opposite effect. Shameless plug, I discuss this topic in my paper.   
  • Entertainment includes trophy hunting of elephants. Elephant trophy hunting is disgusting, especially since the elephant species has been threatened/endangered for such a long time.
  • Also, regarding tourism, elephant back rides might not be the innocent elephant bonding experience we all hoped. See this article and also this article. Stay woke, everyone.

What We’re Doing (Wrong)

Thankfully, there are countless organizations that aim to protect and conserve the elephant species. There are also parks, reserves, and sanctuaries where elephants are legally protected. There are international and national laws and regulations banning the trade of ivory, and efforts to stop poaching are increasing every day. Even for elephants in captivity, at least in the U.S., local, state, and federal laws and regulations allegedly promote elephant welfare and conservation.

So, why are elephants still disappearing?

Two big reasons.

Market for Ivory

Poaching is already illegal, so no ivory ban is going to stop it. If there is a market for ivory, then you bet someone is going to cash in. The trade is most alive in China, where animal welfare is sort of lagging, as well as in Japan and Thailand. And some ivory consumers claim to “not know” where the ivory actually comes from. Apparently more than one consumer here and here thought ivory “grew back like a fingernail.” Why would it be so valuable? What? Is this pers…. I can’t.

Human-Elephant Conflict

Because of diminishing resources and increasing contact between elephants and humans in African countries, some villagers view elephants as nuisances and don’t care if the species survives. This contributes to the lack of cooperation and continued poaching of elephants.

How We Can Do Better

There are so. many. ways. We can do better globally, nationally, and individually.

Globally

International bodies should crack down on poaching, but that is expensive and requires cooperation among countries. Logistically, we need better surveillance, cooperation, and evidence-gathering, for poachers to be brought to justice.

Additionally, because human-elephant conflict is most intense where the economy stinks, conservation efforts should target these economies. If we invest in the economies and people of these villages and countries, we can stop their dependence on the crops or livestock that elephants may threaten. But we have to change our strategy.

In the US

The US and other countries where elephants are not a native species should ban the import of elephants altogether unless the elephants are headed, as a very last resort, to a sanctuary. An *actual sanctuary, not a Ringling Brothers Fake Sanctuary. But, in reality, that should never be necessary. There is no reason for elephants to come to the US, and the dollars that are spent bringing them here would go much further funding conservation efforts in their native countries.

Individually

We can change the way we think about elephants and other large species. If we take on the perspective of an elephant, or tiger, or giraffe; if we are aware of their needs and their similarities to us; then we will naturally recoil at the site of them in captivity. We should cringe at the exploitation of intelligent animals in which circuses engage. We should be furious that zoo elephants have less than an acre to inhabit, when they are known to walk 30 miles a day in the wild.

We should do the following:

  • Support a worldwide ivory ban;
  • Refuse to visit circuses that still exhibit animals;
  • Refuse to engage with tourist attractions abroad that feature elephants;
  • Refuse to visit zoos with large animal habitats;
  • Continue to publicly shame those that hunt elephants and other endangered species for sport (seriously?);
  • Put pressure on those groups that contribute to the exploitation of large species; and
  • If you have the resources, contribute in some way to the mission of organizations that work to conserve and protect this and other large species. I hope to have a page with a comprehensive list of these organizations soon.

When my passion for elephants was budding, I read Lawrence Anthony’s book, The Elephant Whisperer. In it, Mr. Anthony says “Perhaps the most important lesson I learned is that there are no walls between humans and elephants except those that we put up ourselves, and that until we allow not only elephants, but all living creatures their place in the sun, we can never be whole ourselves.” Practicing compassion is essential for healthy relationships among humans, and when compassion and human decency fail, the law should intervene.

Thanks so much for reading. Stay tuned for a World Elephant Day Bonus Post Surprise. Then, I’ll be posting again next Thursday!