• Don Lichterman

Traveling circuses, Thailand, Wildlife SOS Caregivers, Sanjay, Maya are in the Elephant in the Room!

Traveling circuses regularly abuse and neglect their animals here. It's time for lawmakers to ban this cruelty!

Right now, traveling circus shows all over the world have been put on pause while the public locks down to prevent the spread of the deadly COVID-19. But the animals in these circuses aren't suddenly living better lives. Still trapped, malnourished, dirty, infested with insects, and locked in extraordinarily small cages, they continue to need our help.

Members of a local animal rights organization were shocked to find camels, ponies, lions, ducks, and a hippopotamus, all of which demonstrated severe symptoms of physical, mental, and medical abuse and neglect in a region of Spain called Andalusia. Two ducks had badly-fractured wings, while the camels were living in filth and missing almost all of their teeth. Trapped and cramped in exceedingly tiny cages, the lions displayed signs of obsessive-compulsive disorder.

This is obviously a totally intolerable situation, but unfortunately it's still completely legal in Andalusia. Luckily, four other autonomous regions in Spain — Catalonia, the Balearic Islands, Galicia, and Murcia — have already banned circuses from using animals in their shows. It's time for Andalusia to follow their lead. Sign the petition to demand that leaders in Andalusia finally commit to banning this abusive use of animals in circus shows!

Now that people can't exploit these elephants for money, they may turn to abusing them instead.

Sign Now to make sure they're cared for instead!

Domestic elephants are a huge part of the tourism industry in Thailand. But with travel restricted and self-isolation protocols firmly established due to the current pandemic, elephant parks and other elephant-centered tourist attractions are seeing a huge drop in attendance. While out of their normal exploitative work, these domestic elephants are vulnerable to the even worse abuses they once suffered in Thailand.

Please sign the petition and ask that Thailand's government allocate funds to care for these elephants for the duration of this pandemic!

In Thailand's not-so-distant past, elephants were often exploited, placed in compromising and often illegal positions in order to turn a profit. Many were put to work for illegal loggers, performing the hard labor of clearing forests. Others were dragged through city streets by their owners who would then beg for money, hopeful that the sight of the magnificent creatures would bolster their efforts. Thailand worked hard to put policies in place to give domesticated elephants better lives, and as a result, these cruel practices have all but vanished. But now, in the midst of a global pandemic, all that progress is at risk of unraveling. Sign the petition to help elephants in Thailand!

Botswana: Reinstate Elephant Hunting Ban During COVID-19 Pandemic

The lives of some 270 hundred elephants are hanging in the balance due to the COVID-19 outbreak. Botswana officially ended its five-year elephant hunting ban in 2019, but global airline shutdowns have prevented hunters from traveling to the region to gun down the innocent animals. Please take this fleeting opportunity to urge Botswana officials to reinstate its successful hunting ban and use nonlethal means to resolve human-elephant conflicts.

Now is our chance to prevent more senseless elephant deaths. Join us in encouraging Botswana officials to reinstate the elephant trophy hunting ban and implement nonlethal methods to resolve conflicts with elephants.

Please comment on the Facebook pages of the Botswana Department Of Wildlife & National Parks and Ministry of Environment, Natural Resources Conservation and Tourism, and tweet at the Botswana government.

You may say: Please reinstate the successful ban on elephant hunting and implement nonlethal methods of resolving human-elephant conflicts.

Submit our letter urging Botswana officials to reinstate their elephant hunting ban and opt for nonlethal methods to resolve conflicts with elephants.

Submit our alert to immediately deliver your comments to: Philda Kereng — Ministry of Environment, Natural Resources Conservation and Tourism

Mahima Sharma: Unsung Heroes, Wildlife SOS Caregivers Stand Strong Amidst Corona Crisis

Not all heroes wear capes, some wear Wildlife SOS T-shirts and wake up every morning, ever-so-diligently to go check on the animals that they take care of – indeed, these are the unsung heroes of Wildlife SOS, they are the animal keepers at our rescue centres across the country. Hailing from different corners of the country, these men stand united on a front– their undying passion to take care of the animals, no matter what happens.

All over the globe, the outbreak of the coronavirus pandemic has led to an air of economic as well as emotional stagnation, with self-isolation and social distancing, a person could be under the same roof, yet away from the rest of the family members. Following the protocol to control this pandemic from gaining ground, the Government of India has issued strict guidelines for all citizens to adhere to during the lockdown, in order to prevent the country from entering third stage of community spread. In light of this judgement, all inter-state borders have been sealed and movement has been strictly restricted.

Bear Keepers at the Agra Bear Rescue Facility make enrichments for the bears to keep them busy! [Photo (c) Wildlife SOS/Shresatha Pachori]

In troubled and dark times like these, the keepers at all rescue centres chose to not go home and instead stayed back with their rescued animals. Upon asking them why did they not go home to be with their family, Deenanath, one of our bear keepers at the Agra Bear Rescue Facility smiled and said, “My family back home still have each other’s company, but our bears need us to be here for them. We are their family.” These lines, said so causally, left a lasting impact.

“We often talk to our family on video call at night, after work and ask them how they are doing” said Satendra, who is another bear keeper at the Agra Bear Rescue Facility, known for his expertise in hand-rearing orphaned bear cubs, like Mowgli.

The bears are being served their daily porridge and fed fruits as a part of the usual routine; however, the gradually depleting resources and limited stocks stand as a cause of concern. In order to keep the bears occupied, our keepers come up with new and innovative ways to modify their enrichments and to make treats available to the bears. “We hide the dates and peanuts in different corners of the enclosures so that the bears have to dig them out! It keeps them entertained and helps us also to spend some more time in finding ways to keep them busy!” said Jay Prakash who takes care of 10 bears in their enclosure at the Agra Bear Rescue Facility and never lets them have their treat easily, always hiding them around on tree branches or deep inside the ground.

The bear keepers think of new ways to keep their bears. [Photo (c) Wildlife SOS/Shresatha Pachori]

The keepers at all our rescue centres were given a detailed briefing on the intensity and severity of the Coronavirus pandemic outbreak, familiarising them with safety gears and protocols of social distancing and quarantine, but for them to leave their bears behind to go home was unthinkable. They wake up each morning, according to their routine, and clean the enclosures, ready the porridge and check on their bears. Choosing to stay with the bears to take care of them in these bleak times shows their deep attachment with the animals under our care.

Our elephant keepers are of the exact same opinion and opted to stay on with their elephants. They understand that the times of this pandemic, call for even more precautions, hence one will spot them squirting sanitiser onto their palms prior to each feeding for the elephants and diligently doing the same later. Raju, Holly, Kalpana and Karma’s keeper, Surendra, adds, “I talk to my family twice a day and send them photos to assure them that I am fine. We support the Government in their decision and are very thankful to Wildlife SOS for taking care of us in these times.

Sanjay’s keeper, Nekpal, checks on Sanjay , constantly worried about his health. “I am always worried about Sanjay, he is so calm and patient, he barely will show his discomfort unless I figure it out. I don’t think I would have been able to stay reassured of his well-being while sitting at home” he states very matter-of-factly.

Sanjay and Nekpal, his keeper, out on an evening walk! [Photo (c) Wildlife SOS/Mradul Pathak]

Even though, Maya and Phoolkali’s keeper had to go home on precautionary measures, he is sure to call the other keepers who are looking after them now and asks for a detailed report on how they are doing! When we spoke to Munna, he said “Just because I am home does not mean that I will forget my elephants, they are a huge part of my identity and I miss them dearly. ”

Maya and Phoolkali’s keeper, Munna, misses them while he is at home, resting and recovering. [Photo (c) Wildlife SOS/Mradul Pathak]

For our keepers at the Manikdoh Leopard Rescue Centre, in Maharashtra, the situation is upsetting as the highest number of coronavirus positive cases have come from this state and the healthcare services are hugely overburdened. Fortunately, the leopard keepers reside in villages close-by and are more than ready to go beyond the call of duty to regularly report to the Centre for cleaning and proper sanitisation of the place. They dedicatedly report for duty and keep the veterinarians constantly informed and updated on the health progress of the leopards, without fail. Jiya’s keeper, Salim, speaks about the pandemic as he cleans her enclosure, “This virus is teaching us that we should be more respectful of animals and must not take nature for granted.”

Our leopard keepers carrying the feed for the leopards. [Photo (c) Wildlife SOS/Akash Dolas] The leopard keepers are following all protective measures and are equipped with safety gear so that their health is not at stake. Their commitment and passion towards taking care of the animals makes our heart swell with pride that even in the darkest and most hopeless of times, they are reporting for work everyday and taking care of the leopards.

Each and every one of our animal keepers serve as true inspiration for us, as they work tirelessly in making sure that their animals do not suffer or bear the brunt of neglect during a global health crisis and the nation-wide lockdown.

For them, home is not only where they hail from, but also where they presently are, as they bathe their elephants, cut fruits for their bears or built enrichments for their leopards. For our heroes who are the heartbeat of the centres, home is where their animals are!

Mahima Sharma: Elephants breathe relief as COVID-19 outbreak leaves Popular Tourist Spots deserted!

Not a soul in sight since the Indian Government announced nationwide lockdown beginning from 22nd March 2020, owing to the rapidly growing cases of the Coronavirus pandemic that have led to over 450 deaths all over the country. With the nationwide lockdown being imposed and strict repercussions levied on being spotted on the streets, all national heritage sites and monuments, as well as national parks, have been shut down for access to the public. The outbreak of the coronavirus pandemic has hugely affected the tourism industry, and henceforth the livelihood that came with it, especially in the states of Kerala and Rajasthan, that were most popular for elephant joyrides for tourists. As these elephant owners thrived on the income from tourists, with no tourists allowed to enter the States, the elephants breathe a much-deserved sigh of relief as they no longer spend their day in the monotonous painstaking routine of climbing on concrete fort roads with the overbearing weight of a carrier crushing their spirit and hurting their back or walking around confined temple spaces. Amer Fort has been closed down owing to COVID-19 outbreak which gives elephants that are used for rides, a relief!

For the elephants in the South of India, who were not only used for elephant joyrides but also as temple elephants living their life on whatever little “donation” offered by the devotees, the COVID-19 crisis and subsequent lockdown has been a breath of fresh air. Usually lauded with heavy chains, painted with bright colours and adorned with heavy clothes to hide the scars that are a host to their body, these elephants had a tiring routine of walking the unnatural stone surfaces of the temple premises daily, feeding on sweets or prasad given to them by people who would come to offer prayers. The outbreak of coronavirus and the rapid spread of it, in South India, has led to all places of worship being closed for people as a large congregation of people will not help the situation.

As the elephants find relief in this short period of freedom, there is another uncertainty that lurks around the future of these gentle giants. The State governments of Kerala and Rajasthan have made the necessary arrangements for their survival by providing monetary support to the elephant owners. With over 500 jumbos in Kerala and as many as 300 in Rajasthan not being paraded around for rides, temple processions and festivals, the elephant owners are gradually worrying about where their lives are headed! It takes a lot of money to take care of an elephant including fruits, fodder and sugarcanes as well as medical expenses, but with limited resources of sustenance and most of the resources being divided by overburdened medical facilities, the elephants’ survival is indeed a worrying part.

Fancy cloth would be used to hide the wounds on the elephants’ feet!

The outbreak of coronavirus, that has paused the world in global lockdowns, sealed borders and limited movement, has also given a chance for us all to reflect on our actions, as well as the undue advantage that we have taken of the environment. Our deeply misjudged perception of animals and their plight is the reason the world is in neck-deep crisis like this, that has caused death to an unsurmountable level and may just be the deadliest incident the world has had to deal with since the World Wars!

In the end, it brings to light this crucial question – would the world be paralysed in a global crisis, if those who belong in the wild would stay in the wild? Would the elephants used for minting money be allowed this break and not deserve it if they would be in the wild?

These troubled times call for the world to unite and speak for the voiceless, by encouraging responsible tourism. Visit www.refusetoride.org to learn how to be a part of the change and help the elephants by signing our petition!

What You Can Do:
  • Stay informed. Don’t visit places that offer elephant rides. Inform your travel agent and any local guides about your preference.

  • Share your opinion. Be vocal and object strongly. Post on social media. Tell your friends, family, and colleagues why it’s important to avoid riding elephants. We know most people will avoid doing it once they know the issues. Spreading awareness is the key to reducing exploitation and abuse of animals.

  • Write to travel websites, magazines, guidebooks, tour operators, and travel agents to discourage them from offering elephant rides to tourists.

  • Write to the local tourism departments and the parks you plan to visit expressing your concerns about elephant riding. Politely request that they put an end to it.

  • Support only responsible tourism projects. Look into tours and centers that do not offer elephant rides. Make sure they are reputable conservation centers, sanctuaries, national parks, or wildlife reserves—places where tourists and animal lovers are educated about these special creatures in a conducive space that is safe for everyone involved.

Beware of False Tourism Claims

When booking your travel, be skeptical even when places advertise themselves as an “ecotour” or as "humane." If they advocate for the riding of elephants, painting/decorating them, or if they keep any elephants in chains, they should be avoided. To experience elephants in a humane way, please visit Wildlife SOS Elephant Care and Conservation Center in Agra to meet our rescued elephants.

Elephant in The Room
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Our companies are known for creating products that enhance people's lives.  Through Sunset Corporation of America and its companies, we’re equally dedicated to improving lives.  Our commitment extends to helping local communities, fostering better educational systems, supporting the arts and culture, helping disadvantaged youth, protecting and improving the environment, animal welfare, wildlife issues and encouraging employee volunteerism.

Our companies are known for creating products that enhance people's lives.  Through Sunset Corporation of America and its companies, we’re equally dedicated to improving lives.   Our commitment extends to helping local communities, fostering better educational systems, supporting the arts and culture, helping disadvantaged youth, protecting and improving the environment, animal welfare, wildlife issues and encouraging employee volunteerism.

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