Legislation

Today, 2 August, marks five years since Aaron Leider and Robert Culp, the late world renown actor, filed a case against Los Angeles Zoo and its director, John Lewis. It has been a long battle, but the ruling from 23 July shows it was worth it. Even though the court didn't close down the LA Zoo elephant exhibit, the ruling is highly critical of both the staff and so-called experts from LA Zoo and AZA.

Billy in LA Zoo. (©ElephantVoices)We are gratified that the landmark ruling for animals in captivity states that evidence presented by ElephantVoices' Joyce Poole was "the most credible testimony". The main point, though, is that a dedicated team, with attorney, David Casselman, at the helm, did a great job preparing and in court. Elephants need people to fight for a better tomorrow - the LA Zoo case demonstrates clearly the suffering caused by human ignorance, lack of competence and straight out cover up of the real issues concerning elephants in captivity.

From the perspective of elephants and their interests, there are many highlights in the ruling. While it is our opinion that the evidence presented offers a strong basis for closing down the exhibit, it also inspires us to further define scientifically sound arguments for why elephants don't belong in urban zoos. The headline, above all others, is the lack of space.

For the benefit of LA Zoo's elephants Billy, Tiny and Jewell, The Court has:

  • Banned the use of bull hooks and electric shock;
  • Ordered the City of Los Angeles and the Zoo Director to roto-till the exhibit regularly, consistent with the standards and recommendations of Dr. Oosterhuis and Jeff Andrews
  • Ordered the City of Los Angeles and the Zoo Director to exercise the elephants at least two hours a day, unless weather or emergency conditions make it impracticable.

We urge you to read the ruling, which is educational in itself.

Two quotes from the ruling speak volumes to the elephant cause - and there are many others:

  • "Contrary to what the zoo's representatives may have told the Los Angeles City Council in order to get the construction of the $42 million exhibit approved and funded, the elephants are not healthy, happy, and thriving".
  • “Captivity is a terrible existence for any intelligent, self-aware species. To believe otherwise, as some high-ranking zoo employees appear to believe, is delusional. And the quality of life that Billy, Tina, and Jewel endure in their captivity is particularly poor.

Letter Below you will find selected statements and testimonies in regard to elephant welfare. The facts and arguments presented are based on decades of scientific research.

You may also want to look through our Document Download Center, and visit The Elephant Charter.

Elephants in the wild

Elephants in sanctuaries

Elephants in zoos

Elephants in circuses

Joyce returned on 29 August from a hectic trip to Chicago where she presented her icon Testimony to Chicago City Council about elephants in Chicaco Zoo. (90.9 kB) regarding the proposed Elephant Protection Ordinance to Chicago City Council Committee on Parks and Recreation.

The ordinance, which proposes substantial increase in the space requirement for displaying captive elephants, would effectively make it almost impossible for zoos and circuses to comply in urban Chicago. There was wide coverage in the media including several TV channels and newspapers.

Joyce concluded that zoos would have to revolutionize their elephant exhibits in order to meet the interests and well being of elephants. Due to the size requirements this would probably mean that only a few "zoos" would be able to display elephants. If people want to see these magnificent animals, they would have to make a special effort, just as a huge number of Americans do to today to visit Yosemite National Park, Grand Canyon or other natural wonders.

Some media reports suggested that Joyce stated that zoos have no educational value. This is not the case, but Joyce did say that children can learn more about elephants through television documentaries than by watching elephants in a small enclosure engaged in very little natural behavior. She also said that with modern technology surely we could create a wild elephant-based virtual reality exhibition - rather than subjecting intelligent animals to a life of misery.

Greetings, Petter/ElephantVoices

Joyce is travelling to South Africa on 7th November to attend a workshop in Pretoria, South Africa, on 8th November to discuss the draft Norms and Standards that will set policy for future elephant management in the country. This workshop will be dealing solely with issues relating to captive elephants.

The workshop is being held by the Department of Environment and Tourism to provide the "elephant industry" (trainers and elephant back safari operators), animal welfare groups and elephant scientists a platform to present information and evidence to be considered in the setting of protocols. Joyce has been invited to participate as an elephant ethologist and will be presenting evidence as to why South Africa should outlaw the capture of wild elephants and put an end to the training of elephants for circuses and elephant back safaris.

Greetings, Petter/ElephantVoices

Hi all,

We thought you might be interested in reading a piece which appeared in The Sunday Independent (South Africa) on the culling of elephants, on May 11, 2008. See also this, and icon AERP 2006. Statement on culling of elephants. (127.02 kB).

SA government is misusing science to turn elephants into commodities

This month, the South African government will put into effect a plan authorising the lethal management of elephants. After a 14-year moratorium, culling - systematic killing - will be allowed in the name of conservation. The decision claims justification from a 476-page report drafted by a group of scientists convened to discuss the state of elephants. Yet this decision is based on a false reading of the evidence. Science does not support the assertion that elephants are imperilling biodiversity and are widely hazardous to human safety.

Unlike other African nations, almost all the elephants in South Africa are impounded behind fences in parks and reserves with little direct human contact. The report admits that elephants pose negligible threats to public safety. Far from destroying their environment, there is no substantive evidence that elephant effects on habitat and other species are other than localised and reversible. Indeed, more robust evidence shows that elephants play an essential positive role in maintaining ecosystem health and function. The claim that elephants are overpopulated is also spurious. Elephants are on the verge of being lost, their survival doubtful.

Humans have expanded into nearly all areas of elephant habitat. Present populations are merely a fraction of what existed before European colonisation and today, elephants exist only in meagre pockets. There is barely half the number of elephants in Africa than there were 20 years ago. Their devastation has gone so far as to trigger lasting genetic changes, including - in extreme cases - tusklessness. Humans have out-competed nature: mass killings and restricted space have created conditions that undermine elephants' ability to function normally.

Under pressure to resume ivory and skin sales and expand private ownership of live animals, the South African government has misused science and turned elephants into commodities. Treating science selectively to achieve political and economic ends is bad enough; worse is the disregard for those whom they are proposing to kill. "Whom" is accurate, for after decades of study the criteria once used to distinguish critically between elephants and humans and thus rationalise their subordination are not valid. Elephants, like humans, have culture, stunning intelligence, complex communication, vocal learning, episodic memory and show intention and self-awareness. They feel grief and other strong emotions. Tragically, we now know that elephants can even experience psychological disorders.

A year and a half ago the New York Times Magazine reported in icon Are we driving elephants crazy? (5.72 MB) that infant elephants who witness the death of culled mothers and family grow up to become unprecedented "serial killers", in separate cases killing over 100 endangered white and black rhinoceroses and attacking one another and people. As with human children who experience war, elephant orphans have been diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). Further, wild elephants are exhibiting other trauma-induced disorders that transmit and promulgate across generations. Stressed mother elephants show depression and indifference to their infants in distress.

When elephants and humans are put side by side, researchers are hard-pressed to come up with significantly meaningful differences in terms of brain, behaviour, emotion and mind. By force of its own evidence, science shows elephants to be sufficiently like ourselves to necessitate an ethical status rather than being treated as depersonalised commodities. Neuroscientists, ethologists, ecologists and psychologists concur that the proposal to commodify and control elephants through killing undermines conservation of the species and their ecosystems. The only urgent elephant problem in South Africa is the need to save them from certain destruction. There are multiple options and intermediate steps to improve life for elephants and their landscapes. These choices work with, not against, ecological processes for the renewal of elephant society as it once was: a great civilisation. The creation of protected corridors that allow elephants to move across landscapes is one way that would alleviate pressures on ecosystems in fenced, isolated reserves. Small private reserves are essentially large zoos resembling more closely captive conditions. Integration, not separation (a cross-species echo of apartheid), allows people to develop coexistence with elephants, as they did before colonial pressures and values subjugated both human and animal communities.

The decision to cull brings humankind to a momentous choice: do we defend science or do we allow it to be manipulated like the elephants under the guise of a righteous cause? We reel in horror from the legacies of human "culls" genocides, ethnic cleansing and wars that humans visit upon each other, also in the name of a good cause. In the face of our best and brightest research, can we knowingly inflict this on another species? Will we continue to lurch down the path of extinctions and violence? Or will we, once and for all, reject killing as an inevitable choice to solve our problems?

GA Bradshaw, PhD, The Kerulos Centre, United States
Keith Lindsay
, PhD, Amboseli Elephant Research Project, Kenya
Dr Dame Daphne Sheldrick, DBE MBE MBS DVMS, Kenya
Allan N. Schore
, PhD, UCLA, US
Cynthia Moss, director, Amboseli Elephant Research Project, Kenya
Joyce Poole
, PhD, Elephant Voices, Kenya
Lori Marino, PhD, Emory University, US
Ian Redmond, OBE, Ape Alliance, Britain
Marc Bekoff
, PhD, University of Colorado, US
Will Travers
, CEO, The Born Free Foundation, UK and US

Many of you have seen or heard that the South African Government has taken some major decisions regarding the future management of the country's elephants. These are detailed in a document entitled the Norms and Standards for Elephant Management in South Africa. The good news is that from 1st May 2008 the capture of wild elephants for commercial exhibition purposes, such as elephant back safari industries or circuses, will be prohibited.

In his speech on TV the Environment Minister unequivocally stated that they were "putting the lid" on the elephant back safari industry and that although no existing operation would be shut down, all operators would have to abide by standards for the care of elephants. The Minister has included a provision for an appendix to be developed in 12 months for "Minimum Standards" for the existing 112 or so captive elephants. Furthermore, the Norms and Standards will also prohibit the import and export of elephants destined for captivity, and will prevent artificial breeding of elephants in captivity.

Joyce and ElephantVoices have been involved in the discussions surrounding culling and capture/training of elephants in South Africa over many years. In 2006 Joyce and Petter were among signatories on a statement on culling by the Amboseli Trust for Elephants. Joyce has also been closely involved in the debate surrounding the capture and training of wild calves - first in the Tuli case, for which Joyce appeared in court in 1998 on behalf of the elephants, then in the Selati case in 2006. Most recently, Joyce was invited as an expert to attend a workshop in November 2007 held by the Environment Ministry to discuss the development of the Norms and Standards. She followed up with an open letter to the Minister.

The Ministry of Environment has agreed to many of the recommendations made. That they have prohibited the capture of wild elephants for the captive market, have prohibited the import and export of wild elephants destined for captivity, and have prohibited the artificial breeding of elephants in captivity is certainly a positive step for elephants. Furthermore, the Ministry has said that culling will be a management tool of last resort. Although the media is focused on the reopening of culling, we believe that South Africa's approach to elephants has come a very long way from the early 1990s.

The open process of discussion and the genuine change in outlook and opinions is a positive development, despite the fact that some conclusions of the document go against our wishes. The bottom line, in our view, is that until we, human beings, accept to draw real limits on our own population expansion and consequent resource requirements (and emissions), we will be forced into unethical practices. The culling of elephants is only one of many. Are we ever going to accept any limits on our behavior and use of resources?

Rumblings, Petter and Joyce

We are obviously happy to see that The Norwegian Ministry of Agriculture proposes to ban elephants from Norwegian circuses. We have been involved in this discussion since we moved to Norway in late 2004, partly by feeding the relevant authorities, including members of Parliament, with sound science.

We have for some time felt convinced that the government body dealing with this issue (The Norwegian Food Safety Authority!) would end up accepting that elephants should no longer be in Norwegian circuses, but we also knew that they might give the circuses some years to adjust to this legislation.

We are not happy with the 5 year transition period (until 1. January 2015), even though we are only talking about 2 to 4 elephants. The proposed ban means that the department has accepted that elephants in circuses suffer - it makes no sense to let this continue for another 5 years. The hearing deadline is 18. January 2010, and we will argue for a shortening of the "transition period".

The proposed ban is an important step forward for a progressive nation - and a victory for elephants. Hopefully we will soon be able to say goodbye to the last elephant in Norway... You can read more about ElephantVoices views on elephants in circuses here.

"They Don't Want To Be In Show Business"

This music video works well with the news from Norway - and related to circus elephants around the world: "They Don't Want To Be In Show Business". The song is about the plight of circus elephants & a call to end this exploitation!

Original song by Bill Dyer, sung by JoAnne Worley, edited by Sandra Mohr & produced by our friend and animal advocate Patty Shenker.

By banning all animals from circuses Bolivia has shown the way forward. There are other positive things happening in regard to animal welfare in other countries in Latin America, too. ElephantVoices intends to try to follow the situation in Brazil, inspired by the dedication of Junia Machado. Junia has volunteered to work with us to find out more about the situation for elephants in the country and to promote positive change.

Junia has recently spent quite a lot of time with the 26-year-old elephant, Teresita, who lives alone in the São Paulo Zoo. With our input Junia is collecting data to describe how this lonely female African elephant spend her time. This "activity budget" will give insight into how Teresita is coping in an appalling situation, and what the zoo is doing or not doing to alleviate her suffering. Junia is collecting information on Teresita's activities every minute on-the-minute which will basically summarize how Teresita spends her time. Our hope is that Junia's data, combined with solid science available on ElephantVoices.org, will provide the facts and arguments that are needed to convince legislators and others with power that radical change is required to improve Teresita's existence. We will be sharing Junia's findings with you and will follow up with the reaction of the zoo. The photographs below taken by Junia already tell a lot about her sad living conditions.

In April 2000, the attention of Brazil's lawmakers was brought to the issue of animals in circuses when a six-year-old boy was killed by a lion in the Vostok circus. At that time the lack of security was the main focus. Eight years later, national news reported a new case, this time referring to accusations of cruelty. In August 2008, the Brazilian Environment Agency (IBAMA) confiscated animals from "Le Cirque," accusing the circus of inappropriate space and inhumane treatment. A law banning animals from circuses was proposed as early as 2006, and three states, São Paulo, Rio de Janeiro and Pernambuco, and more than 20 cities in other states, have already implemented such bans. Since 2010 is an election year in Brazil it is quite difficult to know what will happen, but we sincerely hope we will see some progress after the general election in the beginning of October and Junia is in any case following up.

Junia's interest in elephants was triggered by a book, Marvelous and Mysteries of Animal World, published in 1966. Do read Junia's own words about her interest and love for elephants - and how she became so committed to helping Teresita. You will hear more from Junia and about elephants in Brazil during the months to come - and hopefully some good news about legislation and improved elephant welfare. There are currently 23 elephants in Brazilian zoos (519.25 kB) - we continue to look into how many circus elephants there are.

Teresita reaching through a hole in the cement wall to search for food. (©Junia Machado)



Teresita has several strange calluses on her head, most likely caused by having to press her head against the cement wall to stretch her trunk through the hole in the wall to try to attain out of reach food. (©Junia Machado)

From this location Teresita might be able to see some near by activity. (©Junia Machado)

Another grey and boring day for a sad Teresita; nothing
to do and no friends. (©Junia Machado)

Zimbabwe is probably responsible for more African elephants suffering in zoos and circuses around the world than any other single country. The American Zoological Association elephant “studbook

Many of you will have already heard the excellent news that the shipment of animals, including two elephant calves, from Zimbabwe to a North Korean zoo has been called off - thanks to concerted effort by many individuals and groups, both internationally and in Zimbabwe.

Our sincere thanks goes out to all of you - organisations and individuals – for adding your names to the weight of opposition to what would have been a disastrous arrangement for those animals!

The deal created an angry storm, and over 50 organizations from around the world signed our letter (180.02 kB) to the Director General Vitelas Chadenga of the Zimbabwe National Parks and Wildlife Management Authority. The letter was followed up by numerous media - some of the links are listed at the bottom of this page.

The Zimbabwean authorities have said that arrangement was genuinely intended to raise urgently needed funds for habitat conservation, in particular cutting fire-breaks in Hwange National Park, where most of the animals had been captured. Furthermore, they have stated that they do not intend to undertake another capture of this nature.

However, this Statement of Reassurance is still not confirmed in writing – it is something that, together with other organisations and individuals, we are trying to secure. We see it as vital that this objective is achieved, partly since it is known that several other countries have expressed their interest in obtaining wild animals from Zimbabwe.

In the meantime there was an urgent need to ensure that the majority of the captured animals were released back into the wild as soon as possible. This operation took place a week ago coordinated by the Tikki Hywood Trust. The giraffe and zebra are being taken to a private game farm within Zimbabwe.

Unfortunately, the two juvenile elephants cannot be released immediately. Instead, they are going to be integrated into a group of other rescued elephants, at Wild Horizons Wildlife Trust - with the intention of releasing the group to the wild when they are ready to survive independently. This may take several years.

Releasing/caring for these animals, and the two elephants in particular, obviously carries a significant cost. The total of US$27,000 is made up of:

  • Immediate release of most of the wild-caught animals $3,000
  • Two years care for the 2 young elephants $24,000 ($6,000 per annum per elephant)

Together with Born Free Foundation and Tikki Hywood Trust we are currently reaching out to people and organizations that might be able to help in covering these costs. If you are in the position to contribute PLEASE contact Shelley(at-sign)bornfree.org.uk, Andrina(at-sign)bornfree.org.uk or Stephen(at-sign)bornfree.org.uk.

Once we have the assurance that Zimbabwe is banning the practice of capturing and exporting wild animals, we will try to raise funds for the much needed maintenance of fire-breaks in Hwange National Park. Many thousands of wild animals could be affected by devastating fires in Hwange if these fire-breaks are not kept up - and due to financial constraints in Zimbabwe the wildlife authorities do not have the resources to cover these costs themselves.

We congratulate the Zimbabwean authorities for considering the lives of these animals and cancelling their export to North Korea. We urge them to permanently ban the practice of animal capture for captivity - doing so would win Zimbabwe significant goodwill around the world.

Bullhook - often called Guide by the zoos.Last week we wrote to the Fulton County Commissioners (Atlanta, Georgia) urging them to vote in favor of a ban on the use of bullhooks on elephants - Letter to Fulton County Commissioners about proposed ban of use of bullhook (71.96 kB). Wednesday we were disappointed to learn that the majority of Commissioners voted against banning the bullhook. They prioritized money over animal welfare, and based their decision on rubbish rather than sound science.

Do any of the Honorable Commissioners really believe that an animal as enormous and powerful as an elephant can be made to follow "guidance" by merely waving a small stick with a metal hook and point? The only reason why an elephant can be "guided" by a bullhook is because she was trained with its sharp steel point and hook and is reminded frequently of the pain it can inflict if she disobeys. By its very nature, a bullhook is a negative re-enforcer - causing the elephant to move away from the source of pain. Rewards are positive re-enforcers. In an article in The Atlanta Journal-Constitution after the voting Andrew Smith, of the Elephant Managers Association, demonstrates clearly that he does not know the difference between positive and negative re-enforcement. Strange.

Screenshot article AFP - Sunday Paper

Ever since our fascinating visit to Sri Lanka in 2003 we have been following the elephant situation on this beautiful island with increasing anxiety. Forgive us for naively thinking that a Buddhist society with a value system that recognises non-human animals as an equal life form would take better care of elephants than others. In truth, the way in which elephants in the wild AND in captivity are managed and cared for in Sri Lanka is in desperate need of improvement. Indeed, in August this year Sri Lankan wildlife veterinarians went on strike to protest the mismanagement of elephants.

In this day and age of Internet communication, every article published is in the global domain. The appalling stories appearing online do not give confidence in the Government of Sri Lanka's ability to either care for the well being of elephants held captive, nor to secure a future for the wild members of a species so culturally and touristically important to the country. Both the Minister of Economic Development, Basil Rajapaksa, and Minister of Agrarian Services and Wildlife, S. M. Chandrasena, must be informed that people all over the world care about what is happening and that, in addition to the purely conservation and ethical concerns, the continuing mismanagement and mistreatment of elephants has the potential to jeopardize Sri Lanka's tourism industry and must be addressed. The Ministers must also be informed that many of the human-elephant conflict interventions are merely exacerbating the situation. We believe both Ministers should be approached following a Cabinet reshuffle 22 Nov., since Minister Rajapaksa continue to be responsible for tourist-related issues, while S. M. Chandrasena's Ministry from the same date is responsible for Department of Wildlife Conservation.

The death of a Magnificent Tusker - and a call to action

This article and call to action is prompted by the terrible news of a magnificent tusker, "Parakrama", who was killed last week while being translocated, a practice that has led to numerous other heart-breaking elephant tragedies in Sri Lanka. Our readers may remember the story of "the lone battle of a four-legged Brigadiere," for example, who after being translocated, took to the sea, was towed in by the Navy, only to be found dead weeks later having fallen into a well. Like the "Brigadiere", the death of Parakrama has led to headlines around the world, and on Sri Lanka: Tusker tragedy prompts calls for safer transportation and Death of a tusker.

At the time of the incident, we felt that the news of Parakrama's death was just too upsetting to share through ElephantVoices. On reflection, however, and after many emails back and forth with our Sri Lankan colleagues, we decided to post one of many articles last week on Facebook. Parakrama, one of the country's few remaining tuskers, had been called a "National Treasure." His death is a symbol of Sri Lanka's many elephant conservation and welfare woes, and his passing at the hands of the Department of Wildlife Conservation must serve as a wake-up call. Accidents can happen, of course, but in our opinion there are far too many mistakes being made in the management of Sri Lanka's elephants.

No more superficial fixes - long-term solutions needed

More than 50 people and 228 elephants, an estimated 5% of the remaining wild population, were killed last year as a consequence of conflict. Translocating one elephant after another around the country, putting up fences that cause elephants to starve, and "resettling" elephants by driving them to new locations will not solve the problem. Human-elephant conflict is a land use issue that cannot be solved by piecemeal actions of the Department of Wildlife Conservation alone, especially when inspired by misled political pressure. There is an urgent need to come up with long-term solutions, which can only be found by engaging the country's many experienced conservationists, scientists, veterinarians and naturalists as well as individuals representing the Ministries governing land, settlement, agriculture, water and forestry. Lasting solutions must be found and new policies set for land use in order to halt Sri Lanka's further decline into a destructive cycle of violence between people and elephants - with elephants the ultimate losers.

Elephants will continue to try to live in the manner in which they have evolved. Therefore we urge the authorities to include elephant behaviour and movements patterns, and the role they play in maintaining healthy ecosystems, as a starting point. With open dialogue and a more holistic and compassionate approach Sri Lanka can find workable solutions for the country's wild elephant population that offers hope for a better, kinder, more sustainable future for people as well as elephants. With the current World Bank project focusing on these issues there is no better time than the present to formulate new policies.

Sri Lanka's elephants and the people of Sri Lanka deserve and need to co-exist in a mutually beneficial way. Parakrama's death must not be in vain.

Please write to Basil Rajapaksa and S. M. Chandrasena to express your concerns:
Basil Rajapaksa, Minister of Economic Development, Ministry of Economic Development
Presidential Secretariat Colombo 1 Office: Jagath/Aruna - for meetings/appointments, tel: +94-11-2333268,
Fax: +94-11-2438045, E-mail: arunakgap(at)yahoo.com), Political Secretary, tel: 94-777445560

S. M. Chandrasena, Minister of Agrarian Services and Wildlife, Ministry of Agrarian Services and Wildlife. Govijana Mandiraya, Rajamalwatte, Battaramulla, Sri Lanka, Fax #: +94-11 2887480 (direct).

 

Better treatment of captive elephants, no more exports

The Sri Lankan Government must also introduce legislation to protect elephants in captivity, as such laws are currently lacking. For example, the Pinnawala Elephant Orphanage has become a haphazard breeding ground for elephants without proper plans for the future well being of these individuals. People in high places have taken decisions that have led to these babies being abducted from their Pinnawala mothers and gifted to temples or individuals, or sent to the Dehiwala Zoo in Colombo.

Many of the privately owned elephants are malnourished, lonely and abused. Those in the Dehiwala Zoo stand restrained, on concrete, biting their chains, straining against them and swaying in stereotypic behavior. Some of these individuals have been routinely shuffled about between facilities while others have been exported to foreign zoos with callous disregard for the special bonds that exist between elephants.

Since 2002 baby elephants have been shipped to zoos in China, Japan, Croatia and the Republic of Korea; New Zealand is next in line. US Zoos, too, including the National Zoo in Washington DC, are now eyeing Pinnawala as a source of elephants to fill their new exhibits. Indeed Minister Rajapaksa, himself, handed over the babies in Korea. Are foreign zoos really an appropriate destination for baby elephants, an Appendix I listed species, who should be properly cared for on Sri Lanka? We urge the Sri Lanka authorities to address these issues putting the well being of individual elephants before profit and politics. Elephants are intelligent, emotional and social beings not mere commodities to "gift" and do with what we will.

These photos are taken in Dehiwala Zoo (National Zoological Gardens, Colombo) during the last two years, most of them in August 2010. The smallest elephant, Indi, was abducted from her mother in Pinnawala. Joe, the only African elephant, is separated from the others by a wall, which he must reach over to obtain the physical contact fundamental to an elephant's wellbeing. The photographs speak for themselves of the desperation and pain these individuals suffer day in and day out.

Photos provided by: Earl Jayasuriya, Sankha Wanniatchi, Pradeep Kirindage, Michelle Mendis.

Roads to destroy ecosystems

We advise those of ElephantVoices visitors interested in Sri Lanka to read two previous articles, linked through screenshots right and below. We furthermore recommend you to read this article from 21 November 2010 - Uda Walawe: Flaunting laws and fuelling human-elephant conflict.

Screenshot the Sunday Times, Sri LankaThe new World Bank project mentioned in the article linked from the screenshot to the right could very well be an important milestone in the efforts towards conserving Sri Lanka's elephants for future generations. On the other hand - new roads through protected areas without proper environmental assessment is yet another serious threat to Sri Lanka's elephants and sensitive ecosystems. As a side note it could be said that the title "The road to destroying natural ecosystems" easily could have been seen covering the ongoing discussion about a proposed new road through Serengeti National Park in Tanzania. Hopefully both the Sri Lankan and Tanzanian governments will realize what's at stake before it is too late. Both countries have a lot to lose!

On August 25 last year ElephantVoices' Joyce Poole and Petter Granli participated in a videoconference with Ricardo Tripoli - a Representative in the Congress of Brazil. Tripoli is actively working to promote Bill 7291/2006, which would ban the use of animals in circuses throughout Brazil. Viviane Benini Cabral, Fauna Projects Legal Coordinator for the Office of the Representative, and Junia Machado, ElephantVoices' representative in Brazil, also participated. The objective of this meeting was to create an alliance between the organization and Representative Tripoli to help approve the Bill. ElephantVoices, mainly through Junia Machado, and Tripoli continue to discuss this important initiative.

Terrible conditions for circus elephants

It is estimated that there are between 35 and 40 elephants in Brazil, 23 of them in zoos (519.25 kB) and the rest in circuses. There are pictures, videos and reports on some of these circuses, and the elephants are living under terrible conditions. As some Brazilian municipalities and states have already banned the use of animals in circuses, some of these animals are being rented out to circuses in other Latin American countries. Such transport over long distance only exacerbates their suffering. You can read some more about the situation for elephants in Brazil in a previous news piece here on ElephantVoices.

If Bill 7291/2006 is approved, Brazilian circuses will have eight years to give up these animals, either sending them to zoos, sanctuaries/reserves or releasing them into their natural habitat, if that is appropriate. Most zoos in Brazil offer conditions for elephants, at least, that are far from satisfactory. We are, therefore, discussing the need to develop a place(s) to rehabilitate these elephants. Such a "sanctuary", if you will, must have enough space for these abused elephants to roam freely, have a semblance of autonomy and be allowed to interact and form natural social groups.

The situation for elephants worldwide was also discussed during the videoconference, including their geographical distribution, the estimated number of elephants in captivity, poaching of elephants for ivory and the issue of sport hunting in some African countries.

"Animals in captivity are in a situation very similar to that of someone imprisoned for life. In the circuses, they go from the pen to the circus where they perform, and again back to the pens. For them, it is a sentence of life imprisonment", stated representative Tripoli. "We will certainly become much stronger with the support of ElephantVoices, obtaining a favorable vote in the Brazilian Congress. Together, we will achieve much more".

A ban important step for elephants - and Brazil

ElephantVoices will give full support to Representative Ricardo Tripoli in pursuing the welfare of elephants in Brazil, providing articles, scientific documents and information on their behavior, their needs and all the issues related to their confinement and use in circus spectacles. By providing this support, ElephantVoices hopes to make a contribution toward this very important step for the country and its elephants.

The environmental representative had a decisive role in the discussions about this Bill and was the head of a task force made up by the organized civil society. The Bill was approved by the Environment and Sustainable Development Committee and also by the Education and Culture Committee. He was also the leader in this Committee of a group defending animals, presenting a petition with more than 100.000 signatures in favor of this Bill approval. When the Bill was in the Constitution and Justice Committee, Tripoli was the spokesperson and stressed in his report the cruelty associated with the use of animals in circuses. The report was approved without amendments. He also made a request to include this project in the agenda and believes that the Bill will be voted in 2011. "This victory in the animal protection movement is the victory of life," stresses Tripoli.

The Representative states that the next step to take is related to people that have farms and want to keep wild animals, as "private zoos".

The video from the conference is produced by Ricardo Tripoli's office. The version to the left is with subtitles in English, the one to the right with subtitles in Portuguese.

About Representative Ricardo Tripoli

Ricardo Tripoli has played a very important role as the voice and the vote of all forms of life and environment in the Brazilian Congress. Besides his decisive participation in the discussion about the Bill banning the use of animals in circuses, he has been active in other fields:

Vice-President of the Environment and Sustainable Development Committee of the House of Representatives, the Fauna Coordinator of the Environment Parliamentary Group in the Brazilian Congress and Vice-Leader of his party, PSDB (Brazilian Social Democracy Party) in the House of Representatives. Tripoli had a key role in the consolidation of the National Policy on Climate Changes when he was the chairman of the National Congress Special Mixed Committee on Climate Changes.

As a State Representative, he authored the State Code on Animal Protection, Law n. 11.977/05 and obtained its approval. In the beginning of his term as Representative, Tripoli presented Bill 215/07, creating the Federal Code on Animal Welfare that is presently being analysed in the Federal Congress, a pioneer proposal that introduces the welfare concept to several activities involving animal breeding and animal experiments. "Animals do not speak, they cannot communicate, call the authorities nor defend their rights. It is our duty to speak and act on their behalf!"

More recently, Tripoli has become strongly opposed against the environmental setbacks included in the Government's proposal in the so-called "reform" of the Forestry Code. He was against the pardon granted to the ones who had already deforested their properties (biomes of brazilian biodiversity) and demanded that the Judiciary Power and the academia be heard, but unfortunately this did not happen and the final report that was approved benefits those responsible for the devastation. He is now getting ready to fight for changes in the final text when the subject is taken to the Plenary. Tripoli stresses that those responsible for this setback, the Government party and its allies, seem to forget that human life depends strictly on water availability. "Without the forest there is no water, without water there are no animals, without wild animals both the forest and the water will die. With no animals, forest and water, agriculture will also be impaired and human life will no longer be feasible".

Today, 2 August, marks five years since Aaron Leider and Robert Culp, the late world renown actor, filed a case against Los Angeles Zoo and its director, John Lewis. It has been a long battle, but the ruling from 23 July shows it was worth it. Even though the court didn't close down the LA Zoo elephant exhibit, the ruling is highly critical of both the staff and so-called experts from LA Zoo and AZA.

Billy in LA Zoo. (©ElephantVoices)We are gratified that the landmark ruling for animals in captivity states that evidence presented by ElephantVoices' Joyce Poole was "the most credible testimony". The main point, though, is that a dedicated team, with attorney, David Casselman, at the helm, did a great job preparing and in court. Elephants need people to fight for a better tomorrow - the LA Zoo case demonstrates clearly the suffering caused by human ignorance, lack of competence and straight out cover up of the real issues concerning elephants in captivity.

From the perspective of elephants and their interests, there are many highlights in the ruling. While it is our opinion that the evidence presented offers a strong basis for closing down the exhibit, it also inspires us to further define scientifically sound arguments for why elephants don't belong in urban zoos. The headline, above all others, is the lack of space.

For the benefit of LA Zoo's elephants Billy, Tiny and Jewell, The Court has:

  • Banned the use of bull hooks and electric shock;
  • Ordered the City of Los Angeles and the Zoo Director to roto-till the exhibit regularly, consistent with the standards and recommendations of Dr. Oosterhuis and Jeff Andrews
  • Ordered the City of Los Angeles and the Zoo Director to exercise the elephants at least two hours a day, unless weather or emergency conditions make it impracticable.

We urge you to read the ruling, which is educational in itself.

Two quotes from the ruling speak volumes to the elephant cause - and there are many others:

  • "Contrary to what the zoo's representatives may have told the Los Angeles City Council in order to get the construction of the $42 million exhibit approved and funded, the elephants are not healthy, happy, and thriving".
  • “Captivity is a terrible existence for any intelligent, self-aware species. To believe otherwise, as some high-ranking zoo employees appear to believe, is delusional. And the quality of life that Billy, Tina, and Jewel endure in their captivity is particularly poor.

In June, faciliated by the Humane Society International, I was invited by the Chinese Association of Zoological Gardens (CAZG) to attend a two day meeting of 47 Chinese Zoo Directors in Shenzhen, China. My invitation followed the bad press that China received in relation to the importation of baby elephants from Zimbabwe late last year. At least one of these babies died and another became seriously ill. Zimbabwe had earlier given assurances that it would stop the capture of baby elephants for captivity and the news of the shipment and deaths and rumour that more babies were awaiting capture and export, prompted an international outcry.

The CAGZ was eager not to be caught up in such exposure again and I was asked to give a 90 minute presentation on the topic of "The Importance of Animal Behavior in Import Decisions". The trip to China offered an excellent opportunity to also speak about another topic involving elephants and China and Petter and I decided that I should extend my stay to include Hong Kong and Beijing to talk about elephants, poaching and the ivory trade.

I arrived in Hong Kong on the afternoon 14 June and that evening gave a lecture on elephants and the ivory trade at the Royal Geographical Society and an interview with Jennifer Ngo of the South China Morning Post (click for headline). Jennifer’s article was picked up by The Daily Mail and also the New York Times and Asia News.

The following morning, 15 June, I was interviewed by freelance journalist, Kate Whitehead, and by Joyee Chan, who wrote an article for the Young Readers edition of the South China Morning Post published on 2 July.

That afternoon in a Starbucks in Kowloon was the first meeting of a loose group of people who are keen to do something to stop the trafficking of ivory through Hong Kong and into China. In the photographs below from left to right Christian Pilard (Eco-Sys Action Foundation), Joyce Lau and Victoria Chin (both Jane Goodall Institute), Alex Hofford (Conservation Photo journalist), Joyce Poole (ElephantVoices) and Iris Ho (Humane Society International). Alex took some photos while showing me a couple of ivory outlets in Hong Kong - I wasn't amused.

Celia Ho, the "Elephant Girl" arrived soon afterwards and we had a really nice meeting just the two of us, in which she presented me with an origami elephants with the words “Every Tusk Costs a Life, Don’t Buy Ivory” written on it.

The following morning, 16 June, Iris Ho and I took the train to the border and crossed into mainland China and on to the Zoo Director’s meeting in Shenzhen. I spoke to the Directors on 18 June, using the occasion to introduce the audience to elephant society and behavior, why the capture and importation of baby elephants is a very bad idea and why elephants don’t do well in captivity. You'll find my summary slide here. I also asked the Zoo Directors to educate their visitors not to buy ivory - but it is fair to say that they didn't particularly like the Every Tusk Costs a Life campaign artwork I showed them. I was forgiven, one of them said, for not knowing that the artwork spelled China in Mandarin...

On 19th I flew from Shenzhen in southern China to Beijing, where I spent the last four days of my China trip, primarily in the care of IFAW and, most particularly, Qi Zhang, or “Sabrina”. She came to meet me at my hotel that evening and took me on my only real touristic experience, which was a delicious meal at a classic Chinese restaurant, a visit to Tianamen Square and a drive through a hutong by bicycle rickshaw.

On the morning 20th I was met at my hotel by Chunmei Hu, a young Chinese student who has just graduated from Veterinary School and hopes to work in an animal rescue center. I had "met" Chunmei via email earlier in the year when the news of the death of the Zimbabwean baby elephant broke in China and made waves around the world. Chunmei and I have been corresponding since then about the plight of elephants in Chinese Zoos, and she wanted me to speak at a symposium of Zoo Watch China. She took me out to lunch prior to the gathering where I met some of her animal welfare colleagues including Prof. Ping Mang from the Academy of Chinese Culture.

Professor Mang coordinated the symposium which included several presentations on the state of elephants in Chinese Zoos as well as some of the legal problems related to the law - or lack thereof - for animal protection. The photographs and videos that were shown were completely heartbreaking. It may be a good thing that I didn’t see them before I gave my talk to the Zoo Directors. I had been given clear instructions not to mention any Chinese elephant welfare examples, to avoid embarrassing the Directors, but I don’t think I would have been able to keep silent had I seen the images first. The symposium was well attended by journalists and I gave a couple of interviews after the Symposium including with China Daily, also covered in it's US version and the Global Times.

The schedule of 21 June began at 10:00 a.m. with a meeting with the Head of the Department of Wild Animal Protection and the Head and Deputy Head of the Division of Wild Animal Conservation and Management to discuss the ivory trade. It took quite a bit of effort to achieve the meeting and I had been forewarned that this Ministry, which is home to both the CITES Managament Authority and the CAZG, is known for being very conservative on issues related to animal welfare and ivory trade. When I broached the topic of China’s involvement in the illegal ivory trade they responded with a list of arguments that can only be read as denial.

For example, I was told that since 1900 colonials killed 8 million of Africa’s elephants; that some 800 tons of ivory is being traded on the Internet by the United States and other countries masquerading as pre-ban ivory; China has very good law enforcement/regulations and, therefore, it is not China that is at fault, but her neighboring countries; rumors of the hoarding of ivory and rumors of high prices are killing the elephant, not China (i.e. it is rumor-mongering that is leading to escalated poaching not facts); and when I asked how they were going to meet CITES recommendation to reduce demand, I was told that China has good education to restrict people to purchasing just legal stock.

The meeting was useful in that I learned that to change the status quo we cannot rely on bureaucrats associated with China's CITES Management Authority. I was reminded again that CITES is an international body mandated to regulate trade in wildlife products; it is not a wildlife conservation body. These individuals are too pro trade to be able to admit that their Ministry is failing to control the ivory trade, nor to be able to see that that failure is ruining China’s reputation in the eyes of the world.

The meeting was followed by four interviews all organized by IFAW China - the first with CCTV, followed by a radio interview with China Radio International, then another with China Daily and, finally, an unusual and interesting interview with an engaging journalist, Gao Wenxing, of the China Philanthropy Times, which falls under the Ministry of Civil Affairs.

In the meantime, on the same day, far away in the Philippines, the crushing of a five-ton ivory stockpile was underway. This event was covered by the New York Times, which made mention of my trip.

On my last day in Beijing, 22 June, I gave a final lecture which was held in the Auditorium of the National Academy of Sciences. The event was organized by IFAW and their team coordinated by Sabrina did a fantastic job. Imagine my surprise when we pulled up to the Academy of Sciences and there, attached securely to the side of the building, was the most enormous banner announcing the lecture with pictures of elephants and me:-).

As I was speaking to the interpreter in a side room, the air suddenly began to vibrate with the sound of “Ele-Beats”. Sabrina had found it on our website and downloaded it for people to listen to as they registered. There was no need to check the sound system – the woofers were certainly fit for low frequency elephant rumbles! When I walked into the 300-seat auditorium I had my next surprise. The screen was enormous – stretching the entire width of the room and Sabrina and the IFAW team had put together a slide show of elephants and the history of Joyce. I was astonished!

As “Ele-Beats” played on and on (and on!), the auditorium gradually filled up with parents and small children, primary school and secondary school students, teachers, scientists, professors, members of the press and Li Bingbing’s assistant, Eline, whom I had been looking forward to meeting. And then it was time to speak to this vibrant crowd.

Grace Gabriel had organized a panel discussion afterwards and time for Q&A. So when I had finished speaking Grace, Jie Yu of the Nature Conservancy (who co-sponsored the talk with IFAW) and CCTV Host, Yue Zhang, (introduced to me as "China’s Oprah Winfrey" as I was to soon understood why!), joined me on stage. Yue Zhang spoke passionately about elephants and other animals and did a fantastic job of leading the questions and keeping the discussion lively. That hour-long Q&A was my next China surprise. I was blown-away by the caliber of questions from the audience – from both young and old, layman and professional. I have given many talks, but this was the most intelligent and compassionate audience I have ever had the pleasure to engage with.

So what did I learn and ElephantVoices achieve? And what can YOU do? I went to China not knowing what to expect. I, admittedly, went in despair over the elephant poaching horror and China's key role in it confirmed by facts and figures of ivory shipments from well reputed sources. The sad situation simply cannot be denied, even though many government officials are trying to do so. I am more convinced than ever before that ALL trade must be banned, to send the clear signals so much needed.

It is obviously impossible to know if my lectures, meetings and the many headlines that have followed have made any impression on those in power. However, having met so many outward and forward looking, curious people who care deeply about the world they inhabit, I have come away with more optimism.

We all know that the effort to educate people about the connection between the purchase of ivory and the killing of elephants needs to be widespread and massive. And we urgently need the Chinese government to be loud and clear in communicating that it is shameful and embarrassing for China to be seen by the global community as responsible for the buying of body parts that, accumulated, leaves tens of thousands of elephants dead in Africa every year. As a colossal investor in Africa, China has a lot to lose if the death and destruction continues. We can only dare to hope that those behind China's new "soft power" approach will take the lead in turning the fate of elephants around. We will all lose part of our pride, and our soul, if the killing of elephants doesn't stop.

You can be part of the tsunami needed to create change - to save elephants. You may not be able to inspire more diplomatic approaches, but you can write on Facebook, get a friend to post on Weibo, contact your politician, talk to a journalist - and participate in upcoming marches and other arrangements focusing on the ivory trade and what urgently should be done. In any way you can, try to ensure that the message is shared in a medium that can reach someone in China. Please include information that people should know about in that regard in the comment field below this blog post. Your suggestions and thoughts are welcome!

I'd like to send a warm Thank You to all my new friends in Hong Kong and mainland China - the hospitality and kind and efficient efforts by so many made a huge difference to my busy program. A special thank you to Jacqueline and William Furniss for hosting me in Hong Kong, and to the Humane Society International and International Fund for Animal Welfare for inspiration and support.

Trumpets,
Joyce signature.

Bullhook - often called Guide by the zoos.Last week we wrote to the Fulton County Commissioners (Atlanta, Georgia) urging them to vote in favor of a ban on the use of bullhooks on elephants - Letter to Fulton County Commissioners about proposed ban of use of bullhook (71.96 kB). Wednesday we were disappointed to learn that the majority of Commissioners voted against banning the bullhook. They prioritized money over animal welfare, and based their decision on rubbish rather than sound science.

Do any of the Honorable Commissioners really believe that an animal as enormous and powerful as an elephant can be made to follow "guidance" by merely waving a small stick with a metal hook and point? The only reason why an elephant can be "guided" by a bullhook is because she was trained with its sharp steel point and hook and is reminded frequently of the pain it can inflict if she disobeys. By its very nature, a bullhook is a negative re-enforcer - causing the elephant to move away from the source of pain. Rewards are positive re-enforcers. In an article in The Atlanta Journal-Constitution after the voting Andrew Smith, of the Elephant Managers Association, demonstrates clearly that he does not know the difference between positive and negative re-enforcement. Strange.

Screenshot article AFP - Sunday Paper