Category Archives: 8. Education

YOU can do a lot for elephants

We send a warm thank you to those supporting us during 2009 – your interest and generous contributions makes a big difference and is highly appreciated! We dedicated your donations towards our work in Kenya, especially Petter’s field trip early in the year and Joyce’s in November.

We will at the same time apologize for not being as active on WildlifeDirect as we planned to. As a small organization we’re having a hard time dealing with all the elephant-issues we’re constantly confronted with – and (unfortunately) there are only 24 hours a day:-) We are happy to see that so many other bloggers on WD are active – and can only hope that some of you WD friends also visit us on ElephantVoices or ElephantVoices on Facebook.

People often ask us what THEY can do for elephants. There is actually a lot you CAN do – whether its helping to stop the killing of elephants for ivory, strengthening conservation efforts, being an eco-tourist (like Barack Obama-:)) or Barack Obama visits Basecamp Masai Mara during trip to Kenya, due to its commitment to responsible tourism and the local community. BMM has won several international awards, and is rated as the best eco-tourist hotel in Kenya. (©Basecamp Masai Mara, www.BasecampExplorer.com)improving the lives of elephants in captivity. We have listed some ideas here. One special challenge is to educate those who do not understand what a life of confinement means, and especially about how much elephants in circuses suffer. WE NEED YOUR INVOLVEMENT!

We’re asking an important favour of you: Get your friends to join ElephantVoices on Facebook, and not only those you believe support elephants already. We would like to reach as many people as possible about elephant interests – which is why we’re spending time here on WildlifeDirect, on Facebook and on ElephantVoices.org. Each day we work with cases and issues trying to convince legislators, judges and other decision-makers that elephants deserve proper treatment – and public opinion is extremely important!

We wish you and yours a great 2010 – please spread the word!

Take care, Joyce and Petter

Elephantvoices.org soon back online – Ringling case

We have been quiet for a long time here on WildlifeDirect, mainly because we’re working so hard to get our new and substantially expanded www.elephantvoices.org back online. The new website is much more than a presentation of what we do – it is, and will increasingly be, a bank of information for anyone interested in elephants – their basic behavior, communication and welfare – in the wild and in captivity. As wild elephants are squeezed into smaller and smaller spaces there are a growing number of issues that affect their welfare and survival and we will be highlighting these. The website will be available in a week or so – we’ll inform you as soon as it goes online.

Circus Agora's new elephant...One of issues that has taken time and effort over many years, is Joyce’s participation as expert witness in the Ringling case. After 8 years of preparation (4 for Joyce) the case was finally heard in February. You will find a recent news update on KTNV ABC about the case here, and a link to Court Filings and Exhibits for the Ringling Bros. Elephant Abuse Case here. The verdict will be delivered by Judge Sullivan in a few weeks time.

Over the last four years we have also been working to convince the Norwegian government to ban the use of elephants in Norwegian circuses. One of three currently on the road, Circus Agora, decided to act before being told to and went animal-free this year. To show our support for the change we attended a performance when they were in town a couple of weeks ago. We were truly impressed by their program, and hope that more and more circuses around the world will follow suit. Circus Agora still has an elephant as a mascot – but this one has four legs and two bodies – one front and one back! Fair enough…

We wish all WD visitors and bloggers a great summer!

Joyce and Petter

An Elephant In The Room, new book

A new book is on the market: An Elephant In The Room: The Science and Well-Being of Elephants in Captivity. The opening chapter in the book, Mind and Movement: Meeting the interests of elephants, is written by ElephantVoices’ Joyce Poole and Petter Granli.
The Science and Well-Being of Elephants in Captivity
Cover photos by ElephantVoices’ Petter Granli.

From the back cover:
“There once were about 160 species of elephants, reaching back across 60 million years. Today, only three remain, and their survival is not certain.

An Elephant In The Room: The Science and Well-Being of Elephants in Captivity, authored by experts from around the world and astride many disciplines, brings a new voice to assist their future. It examines the many and perplexing difficulties of elephants in captivity, looking for the best questions and trying to provide good answers,

The book presents the biological, ecological, and social dimensions of elephant behavior in the wild as the basis for any sound understanding of what elephants want and need. It discusses the effects of trauma and stress upon elephants, with a close look at current captive management systems and beliefs. It also offers a scientific assessment of captive elephant welfare, and practical methods to improve fundamental aspects of the lives of elephants in captivity. Presentations of new and impressive initiatives in the form of orphanages and sanctuaries provide hope for the future, as do new visions that would transform the current management regimes in zoos.

Humans have over millennia caused elephants enormous anguish, and even their imminent demise. Are we also capable of saving them? Is captivity a requirement for this, and if so, what should it be like? What are the special needs of elephants? What can be done to improve their quality of life?

The number of zoos giving up their elephants has been growing in recent times. More are questioning whether zoos can provide for the extraordinary demands of these extraordinary beings. To help address this, the book concludes with a set of Best Practices: a synthesis of science and ethics to guide a healthier future for captive elephants.

Anyone interested in animal welfare, and especially the welfare of elephants in captivity, will find this book essential and enlightening reading.”

An Elephant In The Room: The Science and Well-Being of Elephants in Captivity, will soon be available on Amazon.com.

Elephants and people need role models

Hi all,

One of our readers, Amy Mayers, sent this to us: A Public Service Announcement put out by the US Government that uses lessons from elephant behavior (a paper on which I was an author from 2000) to argue for bettering fathering. Well, the elephants in the clip are from Amboseli (some of my all time favorites, like Dionysus), not from South Africa, and while the behavior it describes is not actually what we see in the video, and it mostly gets the sexes of the elephants wrong, the message is a good one and true for both elephants and people. The youth of both species require good adult role models in their lives. Growing up without them spells trouble.

Joyce
[kml_flashembed movie="http://www.youtube.com/v/uZ-IavFhK0E" width="425" height="350" wmode="transparent" /]

Starting new elephant conservation project in Sri Lanka

Back in 2003 Joyce and I visited Sri Lanka for a conference and to look into work carried out by Lalith Seneviratne and his team on human-elephant conflicts which was being sponsored by the US Fish and Wildlife Service. While we were there we had the good fortune to be taken on a two week safari by Lalith to visit five different national parks with elephants. Our favourite place was Minneriya NP where, during the dry season, several hundred elephants gather to feed upon the new grass exposed by the receding waters of a reservoir.

During the short time we were there we saw incredible behavior – a musth male, greetings, contact calling, a newly born infant brought to the car, a defensive wall of curious elephants and a female with all the personality you could ask for – like a good Amboseli experience. The female mentioned tried to chase tourists away, and for some reason didn’t seem to realize that we were difference from normal visitors…! Check out a short video clip showing how she kicks our car in quite a clever manner (and breaks the light).
Joyce recording in Minneriya with Lalith Seneviratne
Joyce on left recording in Minneriya with Lalith in the driver’s seat.

While we were in Sri Lanka we also met an unusual woman named Manori Gunawardena, who told us that she would like to study Asian elephant social behavior with us. She has many years of experience working in Yala with the elephant research group there as well as doing conservation work in both India and Sri Lanka – moving elephants and looking into landscape and corridor issues – but her true love is social behavior and she has wanted to start a project along the lines of Amboseli for many years.
Elephant enjoying the tank in Minneriya NP
Elephant enjoying the tank in Minneriya NP
Group of elephants enjoying the tank in Minneriya NP built by elephants centuries ago.

Ever since then we have had the urge to do a study of Asian elephants, holding back both because of commitments in Kenya and the unrest on Sri Lanka. But now we’re starting – in Minneriya-Kaudulla in North Central Sri Lanka – we believe it is urgent and are willing to go for it. Together with Manori we will develop and maintain a long-term study of social behavior and demography of the Minneriya-Kaudulla elephant population along the lines of the Amboseli study – naturally with a special focus on communication. We think that such a study – that uses the individual recognition approach – will benefit conservation and welfare of Asian elephants and is long overdue. And our involvement in this project will allow us to speak with more authority for both species. We will spend about a month a year in Minneriya and we are very excited about it! We’ll continue our Amboseli work as well.

We are currently rebuilding ElephantVoices to include our new outlook and so that we can finally host more of our vocalization-related work (audio) – which will now include both species. Baby in Minneriya National Park
Although human elephant conflict is significantly worse in Asia than it is in Africa, elephants in Asia benefit from the historic and cultural identity its people have with them. Visitors to Sri Lankan national parks are predominantly country nationals. Our Minneriya-Kaudulla Elephant Project will capitalise on this cultural identity with elephants by encouraging the public to participate in the study and by contributing educational material toward a special elephant program being developed for area schools. Making the project’s elephant ID database accessible online and stimulating local people and national park visitors to become familiar with individual elephants, to photograph them and to send in behavioral and geographical information, we aim to give people a sense of ownership and a connection with individual wild elephants. This exchange of information will provide the project with vital information about associations, behavior, habitat use and areas of conflict, while simultaneously inspiring wonder in the behavior and voices of elephants thus increasing understanding and decreasing conflict.
Group of elephants and tourist in Minneriya NP
Lots of tourists visit the elephant “gathering” in beautiful Minneriya every year, a majority are Sri Lankans.

Manori has secured local funding for the start up of the project – more fund raising efforts will have to be on our agenda in the months to come. All contributions are very welcome! We hope you will follow our new project closely. Joyce is joining Manori for a kick-off field-trip during second half of September.