“When they are all gone, when every life has been stolen, how will you remember them? Extinction is forever.” – Claire Deaton
Many may not know, but the Asian Elephant species is now classified as endangered. This is mainly due to anthropogenic causes. Meaning, human impact is causing the elephant to follow down dark a path to pre-extinction. We have seen this happen to numerous others including species of bears, tigers, birds and countless more. These unfortunate extinctions are predominantly due to the human-induced warming climate or perhaps illegal poaching and trade practices. We should not put the burden of extinction onto innocent species around the world with our malpractices. Instead, we should be sharing this planet with all the billions of other species and take care of what we have before it becomes our ultimate demise.
Although easier said than done, awareness and education is key to the movement and change for the better. The better for the species we share our home with but also the better for us and the human generations to come. Let us not follow the steps of causing yet another species to fall into a memory of what once was.
The current status of the elephant species is an issue very close to my heart. I have always been intrigued by this majestic species and would read facts and information about them in my free time. This led me to obtain a degree in the Natural Sciences which allowed me to take numerous courses in Animal Conservation. From there, I went off to Thailand to work as an Elephant Conservationist to learn in the field and will be going back on-assignment in the near future.
Problems Affecting Elephants
There are several issues that are affecting elephants around the world. The Asian Elephant species is mainly affected by acts of tourism. Tourism involving trekking tours, riding camps, zoos, and circuses. Each of these misconducts is nothing more than human entertainment. Many may not realize the torture that goes on behind the scenes and are blinded by the entertainment potential and photo ops. Being oblivious though is not a free pass to do as you please – you are still taking part in the activity and are therefore part of the reason why these gentle giants are being tortured. It is best to educate yourself on ethicalities of an event before taking part.
Another huge issue affecting many different elephant species around the globe are poaching practices. Elephants with tusks are in danger to hunters killing them, cutting off their tusks, and selling them in the illegal ivory trade. The demand for ivory material directly links back to human demand. We need to pay attention to the products we buy and look at which materials they have been made with. The only way to end the black market ivory trade it to boycott the industry and STOP buying these products.
The Sumatran Elephant species has gone into a state of critical endangerment as over half of the population has been lost due to illegal poaching.
Working as an Elephant Conservationist
This year I had the opportunity to travel to Southeast Asia and live in Northern Thailand, working as an Elephant Conservationist. With this job, I was able to work every single day with these gentle giants, which was a dream come true.
As an Elephant Conservationist, I educated people on the importance of this precious species and their risk of extinction. I used my voice as a tool to fight for what I believe is right. In my downtime, I would stay with the elephants, following them through their day to day patterns. I would walk alongside the elephants as we trekked throughout the immense jungle, studying them and understanding them.
This chapter of my story helped me realize the importance of the elephant and how smart, wise, gentle, and kind they truly are. I would always have my camera ready in hand to capture the elephants at their most natural and free moments.
Looking back, I realize how important these photos are. I realized that not many people get to experience what I had experienced. I wish to use these photos to show people how magnificent these creature truly are, to share my experience with them, and to send a message to help me in protecting them.
Maerim Elephant Sanctuary
“Where Elephants are Loved and Respected”
The place I worked at was called ‘Maerim Elephant Sanctuary’ – a conservation program to rescue mistreated elephants and to give them a home as close to their natural habitat as possible.
As you will see in my photos, the elephants have ropes around their necks. This is for protection purposes only. As we have hundreds of acres of wild habitat, we cannot risk danger coming to them by potential poachers or kidnappers. Most of the time the elephants in the trekking/riding camps and circuses, have been taken directly from their natural habitat. Although our region is protected land, we cannot keep track of the elephants 24/7 – hence, the ropes act as a symbol of belonging. People around our region that may see our elephants wandering the forest will know that they belong to us by the rope around their neck and therefore cannot be touched without consequence.