Monday, June 19, 2017

Vulnerable elephants need help, Traveling Exotic Animal and Public Safety Protection Act (TEAPSPA), Poachers, The David Sheldrick Wildlife and more in today's Elephant In The Room!

Ever since she was ripped from her mother as a baby, Pang Dow’s life was torturous. Passed from owner to owner, she was forced to walk endlessly while collecting money and giving rides to tourists. When it seemed things couldn’t get any worse for poor Pang Dow, she was sold to be used for lifting heavy logs, which is not only illegal but is also extremely grueling – even for a large animal like an elephant. 
At some point during her early life, Pang Dow also badly broke her ankle. As it has never healed, it is quite likely she was forced to continue to work with her injured ankle, in a constant state of agony.

One day, a passerby spotted Pang Dow limping pitifully towards him, dragging logs and being violently hit on the head to keep going. He alerted our friends at Boon Lott's Elephant Sanctuary (BLES). Had they not intervened, she could have quite literally been worked to death. 
Pang Dow (front) walks with others at BLES. Even today her ankle has never healed, which you can notice is disfigured.  

Sweet Pang Dow is now living at BLES, but is still at risk. While the staff does everything they can to keep the elephants safe, at night they are exposed and susceptible to poachers, hunters, and other external dangers.

World Animal Protection is hoping, with your help, to build night enclosures for BLES to keep Pang Dow and the other elephants safe throughout the night, when they are most vulnerable.

Why All of America's Circus Animals Could Soon be Free
After 146 years Ringling circus is putting on its final show. Lawmakers may unite to take all traveling exotic animals off the road.
Picture of scenes in the ringling circus
The curtain is about to fall for the last time on the self-dubbed “Greatest Show on Earth,” America’s biggest and longest-running traveling circus. On Sunday, after 146 years, the Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus will pump its caravan brakes permanently. Other traveling circuses may not be far behind.

Lawmakers on both sides of the aisle have joined forces on a bill that would ban the use of exotic and wild animals in traveling circuses and any other entertainment act on wheels. In late March, Representatives Raul Grijalva, an Arizona Democrat, Ryan Costello, a Pennsylvania Republican, and 22 other lawmakers introduced the Traveling Exotic Animal and Public Safety Protection Act (TEAPSPA) in the House. It would require the 19 traveling circuses in the U.S. with performing animals to to use only human entertainers—or shut down.

If the bill passes, it will end life on the road for more than 200 big cats, bears, camels, and elephants still working as circus performers. Thirty-four other countries have instituted similar bans, as have dozens of cities and counties in the U.S., including Los Angeles and San Francisco.

The welfare issues affecting wild circus animals are long documented and numerous. Animal welfare experts have found that it's grueling and stressful for animals to always be on the road, confined to tight spaces, and made to perform before screaming audiences.

Wild animals, even if they're born in captivity, retain all their natural instincts, which are completely thwarted when they are trapped in small cages and shuttled from city to city in trucks and trailers,” says Wayne Pacelle, president and CEO of the Humane Society of the United States.
Picture of scenes in the ringling circus
These stresses are exacerbated by the fact that the animals must perform unnatural physical acts: bears trained to prance on tightropes; elephants made to balance on chairs; tigers forced to jump through flaming hoops. The training, lifelong and relentless, is especially hard on performing animals.

It’s the same with any wild animal forced to interact regularly with humans. For an animal to be tamed, it must be “broken” early. For elephants that means being struck with bullhooks—sharp metal poles—from a very early age, until they’re docile enough to follow commands. For elephants in circuses, the training extends further. They don’t just have to be tame enough to give tourists rides—they need to twirl and balance on their hind legs. Every time an elephant doesn’t complete a perfect turn, it may be hit or otherwise disciplined. If a big cat doesn’t behave, it may be whipped and deprived of food.

“A hundred years or so ago, when we were ignorant about the intelligence and emotions and ability of a species to communicate, we might have had the excuse of our own ignorance that we treated these animals so badly,” says Jan Creamer, founder of Animal Defenders International and an advocate for TEAPSPA. “But we simply don’t have that excuse any longer. Wild animals in circuses don’t belong in an advanced, civilized society.”

After a 2011 Mother Jones investigation exposed pervasive cruelty toward elephants at Ringling Bros, a number of petitions and public interest campaigns demanded change. Ringling took notice and in March 2015 announced that it would no longer feature elephant acts. The circus since retired its 13 elephants to Ringling’s Florida-based Center for Elephant Conservation. The circus continued to feature big cats and other animals.

In the end, removing elephants wasn’t enough to save Ringling. In January, citing declining ticket sales and high operating costs, Kenneth Feld, CEO of Ringling parent company Feld Entertainment, announced the circus would close this year. It “had become an unsustainable business for the company,” he said in a statement.

Ultimately, Creamer says, Ringling may have endured if it had switched to human-only performances years ago. Cirque de Soleil is an example of a hugely successful circus that has never featured animals, she notes.

Creamer says that while Ringling’s shutdown is a win for wild animal welfare, the fight continues. It’s why TEAPSPA is necessary, she argues, even after the country’s largest circus closes its doors. According to Creamer, criminalizing the use of wild animals in circuses sends the message that the practice is wrong, and it will create a permanent solution.

“It’s unfortunate such legislation is necessary, but there are findings of systemic inhumane treatment that show a solution is needed,” Representative Costello says.

Abuse allegations continue to surface. A recent Humane Society investigation found that a tiger trainer who works with traveling shows, including the Carden Circus and Shrine Circuses, appears to have mistreated his tigers, potentially in violation of the Animal Welfare Act. The investigation, the results of which were released May 18, reveals ShowMe Tigers owner Ryan Easley on video beating his tigers with whips and sticks. One tiger was hit 31 times in two minutes.

TEAPSPA, if signed into law, would be a blow to the businesses of Easley and others who supply exotic animals to circuses. Repeatedly introduced in Congress in recent years, the bill has failed to gain broad support. Until now Ringling was the biggest organization lobbying against TEAPSPA, the “political protector of the circus industry,” according to Pacelle. Now that Ringling is out of the mix, the bill could gain momentum.

It has another thing going for it: Animal welfare has emerged as a unifying bipartisan issue in a contentious political landscape. Representative Earl Blumenauer, a Democrat from Oregon and a co-sponsor of the bill, says working for animal protections is “a little island of tranquility and civility.”

“Animal welfare is bridge-building,” he says. “It’s where our constituents are. It’s where more and more of our colleagues are. It’s hard to describe the satisfaction when you score a victory in this area.”

Opponents of TEAPSPA include The Cavalry Group, an organization that opposes “radical animal rights groups,” according to its website. The organization says the bill “would deprive countless Americans of the ability to experience endangered animals up close such as elephants and tigers.” They argue that doing so “fosters a love of wildlife in children that lasts a lifetime.”

Creamer encourages parents instead to take their children to view wild animals in places like sanctuaries that keep animals in natural surroundings.

Feld Entertainment has applied for a U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service permit to export 15 big cats—eight tigers, six lions and one leopard—to Zircus Krone, a circus in Germany. The cats were previously imported from Germany to perform with Ringling. The Animal Legal Defense Fund objects to the export, calling instead for the big cats to be sent to a sanctuary in the U.S. USFWS invites public comment on this petition until June 26.

The company's 13 elephants have already been retired to Ringling’s Center for Elephant Conservation, not without controversy of its own. Feld Entertainment isn't otherwise publicly disclosing where the Ringling animals are going.

Creamer says that although TEAPSPA has many things working in its favor this time around, people may need to encourage their own lawmakers to sponsor the bill to improve its chances of advancing. Many lawmakers simply don’t know how important animal welfare issues are to their constituents, she says.

The bill’s backers are hopeful. “Animal welfare isn’t a partisan issue, and I am proud to work across the aisle in order to prevent these abusive practices,” Representative Costello says. “Together, we can all take part in ending animal cruelty.” Editor's Note: This story was updated on May 26 to include information on a Ringling petition to export its big cats to Germany.

Elephant’s revenge: Big game hunter crushed to death by dying elephant

Poachers are using poison arrows to kill elephants. Poison causes such a slow and cruel death. And as I explained in my e-mail below, poison arrows are now the preferred hunting method by elephant poachers. That’s because they know that rifle shots will alert wildlife rangers and make it easier for us to locate them.
That’s why it’s so crucial that you join us in helping protect elephants from ruthless poachers. We need to make sure the officers in our tenBoma project are able to find and stop poachers before they kill!

Elephants’ lives are at stake – you can help protect them and all the animals that rely on us!

The poacher pulls back the string of his bow and shoots the arrow into the elephant’s knee.
The injured elephant shrieks in pain and limps away...but soon the pain is unbearable and he stands still to rest his injured leg.

The poacher now pulls a poison arrow from his pouch, sets it on the bow string, and takes careful aim at the elephant’s chest.

Elephants are being killed for their ivory at a frightening and tragic rate – an elephant is killed every 26 minutes – that’s 20,000 every year!

The poachers who kill the elephants are ruthless and expert hunters. Their weapons of choice used to be rifles, but the loud bangs would alert wildlife rangers.

So the poachers have begun using ancient methods to silently kill elephants: poison arrows. In fact, 70% of elephants poached in Kenya’s Tsavo National Park last year were killed by arrows.

I urgently need your help to make sure we can stop the killing, protect elephants from this deadly threat from poachers, and save animals everywhere we work.

You may remember me talking before about our tenBoma project, where we use military intelligence gathering techniques to track poachers and stop them before they kill elephants.

With your help, IFAW’s tenBoma initiative is the best chance we have to save elephants from poachers. To stop this poaching, we need to direct our enforcement partners to the places where elephants are most vulnerable.
I hope I can count on you today to help us save elephants from these deadly poachers.

The poachers’ change from guns to poison arrows shows that tenBoma is working. But it also shows that the poachers will adapt and continue to try to kill elephants and take their ivory.

Death by poison arrow is slow and excruciating. The poacher will shoot the arrow into the elephant’s chest and pierce its heart. The elephant will stumble on in pain, but once the elephant finally falls, the poacher will hack off the tusks and make his getaway.

With your help, our tenBoma project can gather and analyze more information from the field, investigate poaching incidents using advanced forensic science, and rush to potential poaching attacks before they strike.
Currently, there are more elephants killed every year than there are born. We must stop that trend and save them now! You can help protect elephants and all the animals that need us.

Elephant rampage: elephant in Sri Lankan Buddhist ceremony goes berserk, kills monk

Rescued Baby Elephant Who Had a Massive Spear Wound in Her Head Returns to the Wild!

Most people would agree that wild animals are beautiful and majestic beings to behold, but unfortunately, this wonder doesn’t always translate into respect for these animals. Elephants, for example, are the frequent victims of the ivory trade and their herds are killed and pillaged for their tusks. Sadly, adult elephants aren’t the only victims of this trade, the babies who are left behind are too plagued by this senseless industry.

Luckily, there are amazing organizations like the David Sheldrick Wildlife Trust (DSWT) who are working to help rescue these little ones. The beautiful transformation of Murka, an elephant found in 2010 with a spear embedded deep in her skull, is just one example of the amazing work DSWT does. Named after the area where she had been found, Murka was under the vigilant and loving care of DSWT until she finally returned to the wild.

Back in 2010 when she arrived at the sanctuary, Murka’s condition was critical. She was barely alive and had a spear lodged eight-inches deep in her forehead. The baby elephant was flown to the Nairobi Nursery where she immediately received the intensive care she so urgently needed to survive.
The wounds were so severe that they damaged Murka’s sinuses. Upon arrival at her new home, she collapsed several times, weak and exhausted from the pain. She could not draw water through her trunk and her breath could be seen through her forehead. In the picture, one of Murka’s carers demonstrates how the spear was used to wound the animal…
It took months of daily wound care for the injuries to gradually heal and for the poor elephant to finally be able to draw up water through her trunk again – first in very small amounts. Since she had experienced such unbelievable trauma, Murka needed a lot of time to start trusting people. But, finally, she learned to accept her human carers and, slowly, even like them.
As she was recovering, the baby was taken care of by the Nursery matriarch Suguta who made sure that other elephants were gentle with her. With time, Murka started playing with her new friends and was discovering all the little joys of her new life.
Fully healed, in 2011 Murka graduated to the Ithumba Reintegration Unit. There, she learned all the necessary skills she would need to live as a wild elephant.
Her incredible story came to a happy ending in 2016 when Murka was old enough to return to the wild. Together with a group of other elephants, Murka is now roaming Tsavo, an area protected by DSWT’s Anti-Poaching and Aerial Surveillance initiatives. But she has not completely abandoned the place and the people who had given her a second chance at life – she often comes back to say hello to her human family!
Murka got the most wonderful end to her story of transformation and healing. Even though she started out barely alive, gravely wounded, and in pain, she managed to come out of that terrible chapter of her life as unscathed as she could be after the trauma. Now, she has many, many years of happiness ahead of her!

To learn more about the David Sheldrick Wildlife Trust, click hereYou can support the organization and their work for elephants by donatingAll image source: The David Sheldrick Wildlife Trust/Facebook