HAPPY WORLD ELEPHANT DAY!!!
Today is very important to me. Elephants have always been one of my favorite animals. Their intelligence is astounding. Here's just one example; they have the ability to make tools and use them. What really intrigues me is the relationship between mother and baby elephants.
Captivity is extremely determiental to elephants, for more reasons than I have space to type. To start, baby elephants are often taken away from their mothers before they are one year old. In the wild, babies are not completely weaned until they are two to three years old. They spend a majority of their lives alone and depressed. Social interaction beyond their babies is also important, they travel in large family packs for their entire lives. Elephants are one of the only mammals that have been observed to grieve after a loved one dies.
Elephants have life long social bonds and can remember another elephant after years of no contact. One of the best examples was when Shirley (age 53, now 67) and Jenny (30) were reunited at The Elephant Sanctuary after being in the same circus 23 years prior, when Jenny was a calf. Shirley had not seen another elephant in TWENTY YEARS. Jenny came into the barn, they started exchanging loud trumpets of joy, and both Elephants were trying so hard to get to each other than they bent the steel gate that was separating them. Almost immediately, Shirley began to display mothering behavior by straddling Jenny when she was laying down and shading her from the sun. They had immediately bonded just like mother and daughter! How precious, and what a wonderful welcome for Shirley! Shirley had not seen another elephant in TWENTY YEARS.
You MUST watch the video of their reunion here!!!
In May of 2014, Chris and I had the opportunity to volunteer at The Elephant Sanctuary here in Tennessee. It is one of the most memorable experiences we have ever shared.
"The Elephant Sanctuary in Hohenwald, Tennessee, is the nation's largest natural-habitat refuge developed specifically to meet the needs of endangered elephants. It is a non-profit organization, licensed by the U.S. Department of Agriculture and the Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency, and accredited by the Association of Sanctuaries, designed specifically for old, sick or needy elephants who have been retired from zoos and circuses. Utilizing more than 2700 acres, it provides three separate and protected, natural-habitat environments for Asian and African elephants. Our residents are not required to perform or entertain for the public; instead, they are encouraged to live like elephants." - taken from elephants.com
We had no idea what to expect, how vast the space was, how big an elephant would be up close, or how much elephants really do like jelly beans! We spent part of our morning making giant treat bags for the girls
The caregivers at The Elephant Sanctuary have the utmost respect for the ‘girls’, it is obvious in just they way they endearingly refer to them as ‘the girls’.
They get so excited to tell you stories about each elephant and how they interact with each other, it is also obvious in the joy they get out of taking care of them. The staff at The Elephant Sanctuary spends a lot of time figuring out how to keep their brains active and developing new toys to challenge the girls.
The staff respects their freedom so much that they will always come to the elephant if something is needed rather than prodding them into the barns. Volunteering at The Elephant Sanctuary doesn't mean you are guaranteed to see the girls, after all they are not an exhibit. You can keep up with the ladies via 'Elecam' which consists of 14 cameras mounted throughout their habitats.
The staff is also extremely respectful of the sanctuary's resources and materials. One example is the reuse of materials. They reuse everything possible. We spent part of the morning making treat bags for the girls out of feed sacks. The feed sacks have two or three layers of bags, so we detached them and then taped up the bottoms. The other part of the morning was taking apart a shed that had been built years ago before the land was purchased by The Elephant Sanctuary. They thought perhaps the wood might be reusable, but it really wasn't, so we brought it to be used for fires. They did, however, attempt to recycle the nails. They even have a 44,000 gallon rain cistern to use for non-drinking water collection.
The point is: Elephants should NEVER have to live in captivity. They are elegantly designed to roam miles and miles of tree filled and lake spotted land with their loved ones.
Some lucky Elephants that have spent their days in circuses being prodded and poked with negatively reinforcement, sometimes without seeing another elephant for 20 years like Shirley, will have the pleasure of living out their days at The Elephant Sanctuary.
Whole Foods in Nashville, at both the Cool Springs and Hill Center locations, is donating 5% of their profits from today to The Elephant Sanctuary!! Please consider supporting this wonderful organization!