Life · Travel writing

Happy World Elephant Day!

On August 12 World Elephant Day asks you to help conserve and protect elephants from the numerous threats they face. The elephant is loved, revered and respected by people and cultures around the world, yet we balance on the brink of seeing the last of this magnificent creature.

Elephants are my favourite creatures on the planet (including humans — no offence) and I have just learnt that 12th August is an annual celebration of all things pachyderm, as well as a renewal of the call to keep working to solve the enormous problems from which they suffer.

I just can’t get over how adorable they are. They embody all my favourite qualities in people: loyalty, warmth, emotional intelligence, calmness.

They are majestic, strong beasts — but they don’t eat meat. They raise their young for years, and baby elephants are so similar to baby humans. (Also: elephants can’t use their trunks for the first three years of life, so they have to use their mouths to drink). The females travel in herds together, keeping each other safe and remaining in a close unit of family and friends for decades. They have sophisticated and intelligent methods of communication, most of which is at a frequency below human hearing. They are matriarchal. They have deep, long-lasting emotions. And they grieve for their dead for years.

We admire elephants in part because they demonstrate what we consider the finest human traits: empathy, self-awareness, and social intelligence. But the way we treat them puts on display the very worst of human behaviour.

– From the World Elephant Day website

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I hate living in a world where these animals are being poached and killed, and I cannot bear the idea of dying in a world where they are extinct.

But there’s every chance that I will, at least for one elephant species.

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Makes me want to throw up.

And of the another elephant species, the Indian elephant — regular readers of this blog won’t need to be reminded of the fact that I worked with them in Jaipur for two weeks — and then came clean about how horrible the lives of working elephants are. At Angkor Wat in Cambodia, an elephant died in a recent heatwave, carrying tourists on her back back that was bent out of shape from a lifetime of servitude right up until her death.

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What gives us the right to turn powerful, intelligent, beautiful animals into toys to play with; into “little pets on a string“? I cannot think of any answer to this question.


Here is a website where you can donate to take care of India’s wildlife, including its elephants; they work a lot with rehabilitating elephants who worked in zoos, circuses, temples, or other places.

As for elephants in central Africa, I recommend you read this website for details of who best to donate to — they break it down into different types of aid, and list which organisations are most effective at each.