World Elephant Day

Today is World Elephant Day around the world, a day to recognize and celebrate these incredible animals. Many people are aware and rightfully outraged about the grave situation happening with poaching Elephants for their ivory.any people remain uneducated about the miserable situation of Elephants used in the tourist industry.

I have seen the conditions in which these beautiful creatures are living and how dismally they are treated

I volunteered for a week at the Elephant Village outside of Jaipur. These Elephants are used primarily to carry tourists up to the Amer (Amber) Fort. What the average person doesn’t see or is aware of is that for the most part, these Elephants are housed in concrete bunkers. They are unable to see or have any contact with other Ellies. Elephants are social animals. At the Elephant village, they are chained, with their front 2 legs together and one back leg is also chained. They are regularly hit and yelled at to keep them intimidated. Their food consists primarily of sugar cane.

Some of these Ellies have health issues such as open and untreated sores and a few of them are blind

One that I helped with some upkeep was “weaving”, swaying back and forth. The mahout said she was “dancing”. This is a clear sign of a stressed Elephant. Most of these Ellies have tattered ears and are pricked with a sharp stick or bullhook in order to raise their trunks for tourist pictures. Some have been retired from circuses, others taken from the jungle at a young age.

One of the unfortunate Elephants working the tourist trade at Amber Fort, Jaipur
One of the unfortunate Elephants working the tourist trade at Amber Fort, Jaipur

To prepare them for the day of carrying tourists up to the Amer Fort, which is on a very high hill, they have a heavy blanket put on their backs. Then a steel frame, weighing at least 100 kg is strapped around their bodies. More blankets are put on these frames. The tourists sit on these frames.

A fully-grown elephant can carry up to 150 kilograms. Add up the weight of the blankets, the chair and tourists

The weight far exceeds 150kg. This is their life, day in, day out. The rides will continue as long as tourists are unaware or they are more concerned about a selfie. If people were to become more aware and considered what is happening behind the scenes, many would choose to forgo that photo op.

I will never understand how an Elephant can be considered a sacred animal and yet treated in such appalling ways.

The following year, I volunteered again for a week, at Elephant Nature Park, outside of Chiang Mai, in Thailand

What a world of difference! Here the Ellies have a huge acreage to roam on and a river to swim in. Each Ellie has a mahout, who walks with them, cares for them. They are treated kindly, with love and respect, not with force or violence.

At this sanctuary, volunteers do a variety of jobs for the Ellies

Volunteers unload food trucks, wash the food before it’s chopped up, clean out stalls, cut corn stalks, clean the water buffalo fields. They also build gardens, walk with the Ellies, shower them with bucketfuls of water while they’re in the river. These are a few of the jobs, that we did.

The Ellies are free to roam and they have formed family groups. They are never chained, beaten or intimidated. For this privilege of spending time with them, I paid to volunteer, just as I paid to volunteer in India.

I wish for the Ellies in India to have a similar future as in Thailand. If it can work there, it could work in India also.

Welcome to Elephant Nature Park

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Hi. I'm Maija.

Producer of one of a kind fabrics, I am a Visual/Textile Artist at MaiTribe Studio Gallery, in central Ontario, Canada.

My life and art have been inspired by my travels  to countries such as Thailand, Laos, Vietnam, Bali and India.

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