Monday, March 28, 2016

Today's Elephant In The Room!

Don't condemn 18 elephants to lives of misery.

The Association of Zoos and Aquariums has passed strict new standards for elephants in captivity: starting in September, any facility housing elephants must have at least three, of mixed gender. Many zoos don’t meet these criteria, so they are choosing to send their last remaining elephants to sanctuaries, where they will finally be free to roam and socialize as they are meant to. This is fantastic news for these majestic, and severely threatened, creatures. Sadly, the Dallas Zoo, Henry Doorly Zoo in Omaha, NE and Sedgwick County Zoo in Wichita, KS are taking these new standards as an impetus to buy 18 wild African elephants from Swaziland, removing them from their natural habitat and shipping them across the world to lead lives of fenced-in boredom and relative isolation.

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) has approved the transfers, citing that the elephant population in the Swazi trust from which they are being taken has grown too big and these 18 may be killed if left there. There are two problems with that theory: 1) this Swazi trust will earn nearly half a million dollars from the sale of these elephants, which indicates a strong economic interest in claiming their lives are on the line. 2) a viable offer has already been made that would transfer them to another part of Africa, and keep them free, in the wild.

They are claiming to have the elephants’ best interest at heart, but we know for a fact that captivity has terrible mental and physical effects on these intelligent creatures. Please join us in urging the Dallas, Henry Doorly and Sedgwick County Zoos to put their money where their mouth is, and donate the $450,000 to elephant conservation efforts in Africa rather than steal these 18 elephants’ freedom.

The world’s leading elephant conservationists oppose this import, as do the American people: while USFWS was considering the proposal, 85 percent of the nearly 8,000 public comments were against it. What’s more, all parties stand to gain financially from this import. If such a transaction is not primarily for conservation purposes, but to make money, it is in violation of international law.

Let’s band together and demand that they take the “con” out of conservation. Far more responsible solutions exist to protect these elephants, and the days of stealing them from the wild for entertainment and profit must end.

Please ask these three zoos to donate the money to elephant conservation rather than use it to imprison these beautiful wild animals.

This petition will be delivered to:
Mark C. Reed
Gregg Hudson
Dennis Pate

Help Lonely Lucy the Elephant in Canada

In Defense of Animals
Ask the Alberta Government to NOT RENEW the Edmonton Valley Zoo's permit.

The Edmonton Valley Zoo in Alberta is the sad home of Lucy, an Asian elephant who lives in solitary confinement in one of the coldest cities in Canada. Lucy suffers from foot disease, arthritis, and an undiagnosed respiratory condition that is causing a narrowing of the airway passages in her trunk. Lucy now apparently wheezes when she breathes, forcing her to breathe only through her mouth, which, according to the vet that examined her, is "totally abnormal" for an elephant.

Captivity itself is also totally abnormal for elephants – especially for an Asian elephant designed by evolution for a tropical climate, but forced to breathe sub-zero air for six months of the year.

The Edmonton Valley Zoo continuously fails to meet Alberta's Zoo Standards, and has been on In Defense of Animals' annual Ten Worst Zoos for Elephants List for the last five years consecutively. Lucy now has a chance. On March 31, the Edmonton Valley Zoo's permit is up for renewal. Click here to read more and take action.

This is Asha. She has been alone since 2005, held in deplorable conditions and exposed to frigid temperatures, snow, and ice at the Natural Bridge Zoo in Virginia. 

This is Nosey. She has been alone since at least 1997. More than 30 years ago, she watched in horror as the government of Zimbabwe slaughtered her family. She was then shipped to the U.S. to be sold for entertainment.
Speak up for these elephants and others in similar conditions by urging the facilities confining them to relinquish them to reputable sanctuaries immediately!

African Wildlife Foundation works every day to ensure that Africa’s most threatened wildlife is able to thrive in its natural habitat. In 2015, with your support, we successfully protected 24 wildlife corridors; brought 164 million acres of land under improved conservation management; and protected 36 critical populations of elephants, rhinos, carnivores and great apes through our Urgent Response Fund. Explore our 2015 annual report to learn what else we’re doing to protect Africa’s wildlife and lands. The interactive experience highlights the successes and challenges of the past year—and gives you a glimpse of what’s to come.

China’s Role in Conservation
China has historically been one of the top global markets for wildlife products, including elephant ivory and rhino horn. Recently, the tide is turning as the nation makes efforts to ban nearly all ivory imports and exports and provide direct financial support for conservation in Africa. AWF CEO Patrick Bergin provides a roadmap for China’s engagement in African conservation.

> Read the interview

Why You Should Turn Your Back on Elephant Rides. Elephants are some of the world’s most awe-inspiring animals. They are also among the most abused when forced to entertain the public by “giving” rides.

Whether they are born in captivity or stolen from the wild, elephants must be emotionally and mentally broken before people can climb onto their backs. Elephants who are destined for this grim fate are doomed from the day they’re born. Even though, in the wild, elephant mothers are highly protective and youngsters stay with their families for years (females for their entire lives and males until their pre- or early teens), baby elephants are taken from their frantic mothers so that their independence and spirit can be broken.
Handlers use force and domination to keep elephants afraid and submissive. Elephants are repeatedly hit with bullhooks—a heavy weapon with a sharp steel hook on the end. They learn to obey commands or face the painful consequences. Even though elephants are meant to roam with their families over vast distances, captive elephants are typically kept tightly chained and separated from their friends and loved ones.

Every fairgoer who buys a ticket or overseas traveler who books an excursion is responsible for this merciless cycle of abuse.

Scam ‘Sanctuaries’
Elephant camps throughout Cambodia, Thailand, Vietnam, and other Asian countries are notorious for duping the public into believing that their activities benefit elephants—often by claiming to rescue them or offer them “sanctuary”—but the reality is far darker. The international watchdog organization TRAFFIC has documented that wild elephants are being captured and broken to allow public contact. Young calves are taken from their mothers and tortured until they give up all hope and submit. Elephants are tightly chained when not being used for rides.

“In Myanmar, domesticated elephants are used to corral wild animals into pit-traps where older protective members of herds are often killed and the higher value, younger animals taken. The young are then transported to Thai-Myanmar border areas and then mentally broken and prepared for training before being sold into the tourism industry in Thailand where they are put to work at tourist camps or hotels.”
—2014 TRAFFIC report

You May Die
Denied everything that gives their lives meaning, elephants sometimes snap and rampage, potentially injuring and even killing those around them. A British tourist was killed after he was thrown from an elephant during a 2016 trek in Thailand.

Enough Is Enough

Elephant rides are archaic and cruel, and they offer no benefit whatsoever to the ever-shrinking population of these endangered animals. Only the most mercenary fair boards are still booking elephant exploiters like Have Trunk Will Travel and Hugo Liebel, who forces an ailing elephant named Nosey to travel the country. And international travel agencies, including Responsible Travel, no longer promote trips that include elephant treks, nor do STA Travel, the world’s largest student travel company; TUI Group, the world’s largest leisure, travel, and tourism company; Thomson Agency; and G Adventures. You can help elephants, too, by refusing to take rides on them when traveling.

Mia_ Sita and Rhea - Fall_ 2015.
We let you know about our plans to rescue Rhea from the circus, and to reunite her with her "sisters" Mia and Sita. The picture above shows the girls together last Fall. We can't wait to share a picture of this family together again, only this time with no chains, and living in a place where they will be protected and loved.

In the last 48 hours, the Wildlife SOS family of supporters has contributed $40,000! Add that to the $10,000 already pledged by A Hand to Give and we are nearly halfway to our 10-day goal of $110,000. Thank you! 

It's Time to Reunite Mia and Sita with Their "Sister" Rhea. For decades, they spent every day together in the circus. And while the three elephants weren't biological sisters, in every other way they were a family.
So, when we had the opportunity to rescue Mia and Sita last Fall, but found out we could not also save Rhea -- because we didn't yet have the legal permission to rescue her -- we thought a lot about what it would mean to separate this herd.
In the end, we decided that Mia and Sita needed urgent help (remember, Sita still cannot lie down, even now, months after her rescue) and that the opportunity to save them might never come again... or might come too late.

But we vowed to ourselves, and silently to Mia and Sita, that we'd one day be back to rescue their sister Rhea. And now that time has come.

After months of work, we've managed to resolve all but one of the legal complications that once prevented us from rescuing her, and we expect to have permission in hand very soon. we need your help.

Rhea is 53 years old, and has been performing in the circus for more than 45 years! She has significant problems with her feet, an altered gait, and is growing progressively more lame.

Bringing her home, and securing her future, will cost approximately $110,000. We already have a $10k pledge from A Hand to Give, which is a great start.

Our goal is to raise the remaining $100k in the next 10 days. Will you help?

Elephants form very strong social bonds with one another, and have amazing memories. So we imagine that Mia and Sita have been missing Rhea deeply, and wondering where she is. Thank you in advance for helping us to reunite this family.

Neglected Elephant Deserves New Home.
Target: Dr. Betty Goldentyer, Eastern Regional Director of the USDA
Goal: Close zoo and retire elephant allegedly enduring constant abuse to proper sanctuary.
An elephant has allegedly lived alone for years at an unethical zoo. We need to take action to ensure this elephant is retired to a proper sanctuary.
Asha the elephant is reportedly forced to give visitors rides daily. Sadly, the animal is also thought to live in a dismal state when not working, as she is said to have no contact with other elephants. Elephants are one of the most social animals, and they therefore need to interact with other elephants in order to maintain a healthy mental state.
Since the zoo has already been cited with 56 violations by the USDA in relation to the Animal Welfare Act, it is appalling that this establishment remains open. Just as disgraceful, the zoo is once again able to openly display their animals even though their permit that allows them to do so was previously suspended.
Demand this zoo be required to close its doors for good and that all animals, including Asha, be retired to proper zoos or sanctuaries where they will be treated humanely and given the chance to interact with other animals. Asha deserves to live the rest of her life in peace, not used to make greedy people larger profits.
Dear Dr. Goldentyer,
Natural Bridge Zoo in Virginia has been found by the USDA to violate many animal welfare practices. They allegedly continue to abuse and neglect a 32-year-old elephant. This elephant needs to be rehomed at a reputable sanctuary in order to ensure that future abuse will not take place.
It is reported that Asha lives alone and that she is forced to give guests rides on a daily basis. Such an environment is not suitable to the animal’s needs, as many scientists have concluded that elephants interact socially in the wild. Therefore, by not constantly allowing this elephant to be around other elephants, zoo owners are severely neglecting this animal.
Considering the zoo has been given 56 violations for breaking animal welfare laws and even previously had its permit taken away that allowed owners to put animals on public display, it is inexcusable that this place is still legally allowed to operate. I therefore encourage you to immediately require that this zoo be shut down and that all animals, including Asha, be placed in reputable zoological environments. Animals deserve better than to be constantly neglected and abused.
[Your Name Here]
Photo credit: Elephant Listening Project
Mariah Carey: Don't Traumatize Baby Elephants and White Tigers for Your Dream Wedding. Click Here To Help! - TARGET: Mariah Carey
Mariah Carey: Don't Traumatize Baby Elephants and White Tigers for Your Dream Wedding
Mariah Carey is planning on getting married to Australian Billionnaire James Packer on Barbuda Island where she will fly her guests in a private jet. She also wants to use her money to have clowns and acrobats, which is fine, but a friend has told a newspaper that she also wants to fly in baby elephants and white tigers to the island. 
Elephants and white tigers are decimated species and should be left alone and not used anymore as circus animals. Does she realizes how traumatizing it will be for these baby elephants to be separated from their mothers and be shipped on a boat to her dream wedding? If she is pouring money, why doesn't she use it to protect elephants from ivory poachers instead of turning baby elephants into circus animals? How many will make it alive to her dream wedding and will she pay to safely return them home after?
How We’re Empowering Villagers to Combat Poaching and Protect Endangered ElephantsWithout buy-in from people, especially local communities, conservation rarely works. In many parts of Africa, the jurisdiction of national wildlife authorities stretches across vast ranges, making it difficult for authorities to monitor and protect large, dispersed populations of wildlife. Because local communities live closest to wildlife, they often become the key partners involved in conservation efforts.

At the same time, these same remote communities can lack access to basic services: electricity, clean water, quality education, and employment. In addition, living with wildlife on your doorstep or in your backyard brings with it burdens for local people. Elephants trampling a year’s worth of crops or lions attacking livestock negatively impact people’s livelihoods, and create negative feelings toward elephants, lions, and other animals.

African Wildlife Foundation (AWF) works to not only include communities in conservation efforts but to help them benefit from their wild neighbors as well. This commitment to community conservation can be seen in a number of AWF’s areas of operation, from the grasslands of southern Tanzania to the forests of the Congo Basin.

Ownership of and Pride in Wildlife
The park infrastructure that exists in and around many of Africa’s national parks and reserves — entry gates, hotels, lodges, camps, and visitor centers, for example — help generate millions of dollars of revenue for the country. However, the communities living nearest these protected areas often see little-to-none of that revenue. This in spite of the fact that the elephants, lions, gorillas, rhinos, and other wildlife that tourists travel thousands of miles and spend millions of dollars to see depend on resources that may lie outside of a protected area.

Forests beyond protected area boundaries, for example, act as water catchments that help maintain rivers flowing into parks and reserves. Ungulates such as wildebeests and zebras move beyond parks for better grazing, followed often by predators.

Many of these migration routes and dispersal areas are on community lands. Working with communities to protect and maintain the connectivity of these resource-rich lands, as well as the animals themselves, is essential to the survival of wildlife. The creation of community-run Wildlife Management Areas (WMAs) provides the infrastructure for doing this and gives communities a sense of ownership over their wildlife resource and the ability to benefit from it.

In Tanzania, AWF helped establish five WMAs covering 11,531 square kilometers. The location of each WMA was chosen based on its ecological merits, and because it strengthened the integrity of a larger ecosystem in Northern Tanzania, one that encompasses Lake Manyara National Park, Tarangire National Park, Lake Natron and the area around Kilimanjaro.

WMAs are designed to help communities generate revenue from wildlife-based tourism, and to systematically map out areas for wildlife and human use, giving communities the means to negotiate and agree to how land will be managed and where wildlife movement will be allowed.
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What we’ve found is that the establishment of WMA’s has helped to slow the rate of land conversion. Whereas in many parts of Africa the conversion of land to agriculture, development, livestock grazing, and other human activities is one of the fastest growing threats to wildlife survival, the rate of land conversion in WMAs has shown to be considerably lower.

Poaching also tends to be lower in and around WMAs as the community deploys scouts to monitor the land and ensure that designated wildlife corridors remain intact and protected.

Together with AWF partners, the scouts conduct anti-poaching patrols, which has led to a dramatic decrease in elephant poaching and other types of wildlife crime.
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A good example of success can be seen in how elephants are faring in the northern part of the country versus the southern part. Whereas Tanzania has recorded a 60 percent decline in its elephant population over the last five years, much of the devastation has occurred in the southern part of the country. In the north, where there is more community participation in conservation through WMAs, the elephant population is increasing. In the Tarangire-Manyara ecosystem, the elephant population has increased by 64 percent.

By Boat and by Book
In the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), AWF’s conservation enterprise team has been working with communities to implement livelihood and economic opportunities, such as sustainable agriculture, livestock rearing or crafts. These initiatives help alleviate poverty and lead to improved health, education and a more just society — and in the process prevent communities from falling back on the forest for their primary needs.

Typically communities in this forested landscape live on the edge of society. As farmers, their livelihoods — and improvement thereof — is forever handicapped by the lack of an internal transportation system, which would allow them to get their agriculture goods to markets. In 2011, AWF launched the Congo Shipping Project, which helps farmers in the remote regions of the Congo Basin get their crops and products to markets along the Congo River via barges pulled by a tugboat. Over a four-month period, the tugboat hauls three barges loaded with agricultural produce, including maize, peanuts, and manioc, from the AWF-supported landscape to a port in DRC’s capital city Kinshasa.

On its return trip, the boat conveys cooking pots, bicycles, and other finished goods from the capital back to the landscape.
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But an increase in commerce is not the only AWF project aimed at improving lives and livelihood prospects in this remote part of Africa. Under AWF’s African Conservation Schools program, AWF constructed a new primary school for a local community last year, complete with airy classrooms, teacher, housing, and natural landscaping. And the investment in the school goes beyond brick and mortar .

AWF is working with the school to incorporate environmental lessons into the curriculum, lessons that are conducted inside and outside of the classroom.
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Environmental lessons are incorporated into the daily curriculum, and students spend time inside and outside of the classroom learning about the surrounding forest. Teachers  also receive additional training. Recently, the provincial education authority conducted an eight-day training seminar in which teachers learned about new teaching methodologies and how to better develop education materials. By drawing resources and attention to the school, the AWF school program helps improve the quality of education.

At the end of the day, for a prosperous, modern Africa to maintain its wildlife resource in perpetuity, the continent’s people must also thrive and prosper. Though every day we are presented with many challenges, these challenges can also present opportunities. Those opportunities, when seized upon, move us all toward a brighter future. All image source: African Wildlife Foundation.

This Inspiring 13-Year-Old Girl is Fighting to Ensure Elephants Are Still Around When She Grows Up. Taegen Yardley is only 13-years-old, but she’s already been to the United Nations, spoken at the Vermont Statehouse, and organized rallies to fight for endangered African elephants.

In the 1930s, 3-5 million elephants roamed Africa. Today, there are 350,000. The largest factor in this decline is poaching promoted by the illegal ivory trade. Elephant poaching is nothing short of an international crisis. For decades, elephants have faced the looming threat of extinction as tusks are savagely ripped from their faces to satisfy the global demand for ivory. This illegal trade is fraught with corruption on every level, and profits benefit dangerous terrorist groups. Demand for ivory is so high that an estimated 100 elephants are killed for their tusks each day. At this rate, African elephants may be completely extinct within 10 years.

To help ensure that elephants are still around when she grows up, Yardley has been fiercely pushing for an ivory ban in her home state of Vermont. Bill H-297 has passed in the House and is now in committee in the Senate. To make an even bigger impact, the teen joined the International Elephant Film Festival this year and produced a 12-minute video with her social studies teacher, Mark Cline Lucey. The video has already garnered 35,000 views on Facebook and has been shared by people from the U.S. Ambassador to Gabon to the World Wildlife Fund to actress and elephant advocate Kristin Davis.

Watch the inspiring video below:
This young teen’s words are a strong reminder that if we do not act now on behalf of elephants, these complex, gentle, intelligent animals will continue to see their families torn apart and killed for trinkets. The future of elephants is at stake and we must act now. Click here to learn how you can be a hero for elephants and learn more about Yardley’s work by visiting the A World With Elephants Facebook page. Image source: A World With Elephants/ Facebook