CELEBRATING WORLD ELEPHANT DAY
Today we honour World Elephant Day! Join us in protecting and admiring one of the greatest existing mammal species on Earth
Words: Emily Georgieva
Photography: Jayakody Anthana, Florian Van Duyn, Harshil Gudka, Parsing Eye, Isabella Juskova
12 August 2019
Today is all about elephants – the world’s gentle giants. These beautiful creatures are a symbol of the ideology that there is more to anything than meets the eye. Their size and magnificent appearance are completed by their famous high level of intelligence.
Unarguably among the biggest animals on the planet, elephants are known to be incredibly kind-hearted, generous and uncompromising when it comes to family. In their natural habitat they stick together and take care of their own. People haven’t always treated elephants with the same compassion.
In a world where more and more organisations shine light of the negative effects of poaching, ivory trade and elephant riding, we hope that humanity is beginning to learn from our cruelty and past mistakes. We need to act together to make sure that our giant friends are safe and taken care of.
There are about 700 000 African elephants left in the wild, a figure that has dropped down from a few million at the end of the last century. The statistic is strikingly low in Asia as well. There are only about 40 000 elephants recorded in the wild, whereas just a few decades ago the estimate reached about 100 000 of the animals roaming the wild.
Even more shocking is that around 15,000-20,000 elephants are kept in captivity. Judging by the tempo of the situation, there is a high possibility that elephants could become extinct within this century. Humanity stands at the edge of facing a concerning future, we have the power to prevent.
The numbers of elephants in the wild are so low mainly because of poaching and ivory trading. It is no secret that ever since ivory was deemed valuable due its rear and unique origin, ivory trading was turned into a money-making machine and hasn’t slowed down or stopped since. Ivory is an asset, used for many things – from chess boards to trading, manufacturing pianos, billiard balls and even ending up as part of electrical equipment for planes.
About 100 elephants in Africa are recorded to get killed because for their ivory. Thankfully in recent years more attention is paid to this environmentally threatening problem. We are a bit closer to making a change with each individual and foundation that addresses the problem and work towards creating a safer environment where elephants can live freely and safely in the wild. Eliminating ivory trading has been the goal of globally renowned wildlife organisations, but every individual has an obligation to contribute in helping the preservation of our giant friends.
Travelling and tourism hasn’t been in elephants’ favour. Popular locations across Thailand, Vietnam, India and Indonesia offer people to pay for elephant riding. This has a harmful impact on the animals to say the least. To obey people’s commands, elephants undergo a special process that turns them submissive through extreme isolation and harm on their mental and physical health. We are hopefully on the way to banning this practice, but to do so more people need to find out and stand against it. There are companies that ban elephant riding altogether. Interpid were the first global company to do this back in 2014 and more organisations have followed their example.
We urge our nomads to travel consciously and to enjoy elephants by observing them in their natural habitat rather than participate in riding them for the sake of the experience. Booking a safari trip is a great way to see the wild side of places such as South Africa and be closer to animals without harming them.
While today we take time to appreciate elephants, there are cultures that celebrate them all the time. The elephant is a centre figure in several cultures where they have a strong presence. In Asia the elephant is praised for their wisdom, intellect and strength – all admirable qualities. The only predator that elephants have are humans. Even by the order of the jungle, where everything comes together in a tender composition to preserve the balance of the wildness, elephants are respected by other animals.
In many ways, the gentle giants reflect human characteristics. They never forget, which is an impressive quality and their wisdom grows with time. In the Hindu religion's pantheon, Ganesha is one of the most praised and well-known gods, which represents a human-like body with an elephant head. This god has been adapted in the Japanese Buddhism as Kangiten or otherwise known as "Deva of Bliss". Again, elephant headed, the Japanese culture unifies male and female pair to demonstrate the strength that comes from unifying opposites.
In other cultures, especially strongly represented in certain parts of Europe, the elephant is a symbol of luck, prosperity and good fortune. Catania, Sicily was known as the City/State of the Elephant during medieval Arab rule.
It is believed that if you keep a small statue of an elephant in your home, it will bring wealth and luck to the place. Elephants have a superstitious meaning too. Using the term pink elephant would translate to seeing something that isn’t there or in other worlds blaming something in one’s imagination. The idiom ‘the elephant in the room’ refers to something obvious that people usually avoid noticing or talking about.
Elephants are loved by many. They are used in carnivals like the Esala Perahera in Sri Lanka and they’re praised through man-made structures such as the elephant temple in Kerela, India. Once you see an elephant up close, it all comes together, and you are left in awe.
This World Elephant Day we invite you to join us not just to appreciate them, but also to make sure we show our love for all the other days of the year. We are all part of that delicate balance in the wild and taking care of our own, alongside our gentle giant friends and all other lifeforms we coexist with, is a subtle art we should learn to perfect.