They’re intelligent. They’re family-oriented. They have great memories. They are capable of feeling a wide range of deep emotions, from intense grief to joy bordering on elation, as well as empathy and stunning self-awareness. They create complex, supportive societies much like our own. Taking into consideration all of that and much, much more, what’s not to love about elephants? Still, countless elephants are brutally killed every year for their ivory by greedy poachers who then leave their carcasses to rot in the sun. As Graydon Carter, Editor of Vanity Fair, put it:
We admire elephants in part because they demonstrate what we consider the finest human traits (…) but the way we treat them puts on display the very worst of human behavior.
World Elephant Day is the perfect time to find out more about these amazing animals and what we can do to preserve and protect them so they do not go the way of the mammoth.
The History of World Elephant Day
World Elephant Day was created in 2011 by two Canadian filmmaker Patricia Sims and Thailand’s Elephant Reintroduction Foundation and was first celebrated on August 12, 2012. The initiative was greatly supported by film star William Shatner who narrated the documentary Return to the Forest, a fascinating 30-minute film about the reintroduction of captive Asian elephants to the wild. Currently, the demand for ivory is the biggest in China, with the price of ivory often exceeding the price of gold, something that makes elephants bigger targets than ever. Habitation loss is also a danger to the world’s elephant population as it deprives elephants of the hundreds of pounds of food they need every day, making it more difficult for them to breed and making it easier for poachers to track them down. Circuses and tourism are also serious threats to the animals’ well-being. Luckily, an increasing number of both celebrities and politicians have become interested in the cause, including Leonardo DiCaprio, Ashley Judd and President Barack Obama.
How to Celebrate World Elephant Day
The best way to celebrate this day is to take the opportunity to educate yourself about these magnificent mammals and share your knowledge with others. As ever, simply spreading the word about the dangers these magnificent mammals face via social media can actually make a real change. Thanks to your sharing a few of World Elephant Day’s Facebook posts, that old high school acquaintance of yours who is travelling to Thailand on her honeymoon this year may just decide to skip the elephant ride when she realizes that “training” elephants often involves tying and beating them daily for months on end. Watching the aforementioned documentary will only take half an hour of your time but is sure to be a real eye-opener, not to mention the absolutely stunning landscapes shown in it. If you want to get a bit more involved, you could choose to make a donation to a foundation dedicated to protecting elephants from poachers or relocating them to locations better suited to their needs.
Whichever way suits you best, make sure that you spend this day in a way that helps elephants the world over so we, in turn, can continue to marvel at them and their uniquely fascinating way of life.