World Elephant Day: A call to end adverts for cruel elephant attractions

This week concludes with World Elephant Day and its global focus on the protection of the African Savannah elephant, the African Forest elephant and the Asian elephant. For wildlife charity Save The Asian Elephant (STAE), the week also started with a huge push to try and secure the future of elephants.

On Monday (6 August) I joined Vegan podcaster Evanna Lynch (aka Harry Potter’s Luna Lovegood) and one of my blog readers, the lovely Annabel Lever (who’s been helping out at the Nat Geo Kids‘ office this week), outside 10 Downing Street as STAE staff, trustees, volunteers and supporters gathered to deliver a petition to Prime Minister Theresa May calling for a ban on advertising and promotion of elephant-related tourist activities.

STAE Founder Duncan McNair, celebrity animal activists Peter Egan and Rula Lenska and STAE trustee Stanley Johnson were among the crowd gathered to deliver STAE’s Change.org petition of more than 200,000 signatories and over 2.6 million further petition signatures aligning with it, calling on the UK Government to take an active role in saving the highly endangered Asian elephants.

You may have seen my earlier blog post on the dangers that Asian elephants face in their native homes. Astonishingly, the surviving population of Asian elephants is barely 5% of that of African elephants — with a huge decline from estimates of a million or more in the late 19th century to scarcely 40,000 today! (Around 10,000 of these are captive). You can revisit that post here.

Elephant expert Ian Redmond OBE (pictured above), who’s also an ambassador for vEcotourism — which looks to promote virtual reality tourism over tourist practices which may be harmful to the native wildlife — is a trustee for STAE and was keen to support delivery of the petition.

Most holidaymakers are unaware that many elephants have been captured from the wild, trained through fear and beaten into continuing their work: often carrying heavy loads of 2-4 tourists on metal seats on their backs. Their tusks (only present on male Asian elephants) are often blunted with chainsaws; the ends removed in a stressful and terrifying ordeal.

The team from STAE also presented an open letter to the Prime Minister, explaining how a recent poll revealed large support for STAE’s policies.

The Asian elephant, which has been classified as endangered by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) since 1986, faces a bigger threat from the tourist industry then it does the ivory trade, as a lifetime of tourist rides are more lucrative than the one-off sale of its ivory.

Evanna Lynch and Duncan McNair, who recently visited Kerala in partnership with The Sun to raise awareness of the Asian elephants’ plight, emerged from Downing Street to applause from the crowd after delivering their message. According to a recent press release from STAE, their aim was to assert the following actions…

I was fortunate enough to be able to interview Evanna for National Geographic Kids’, about the importance of World Elephant Day, and why she’s proud to be a STAE ambassador. I was so impressed by her love and passion for elephants, and would definitely recommend reading the full interview here.

STAE supporters present at the event wore t’shirts highlighting the need to ban the process used to crush elephants’ spirit, supposedly making them more suitable for ‘working with tourists’. The breaking in process, known as “pajan” ends in the death of 50% of the elephants it intends to domesticate. It is also used to make elephants more suitable for use in festivals; something STAE has previously campaigned against.

To join STAE’s campaign this #WorldElephantDay, or add your signature to their petition, visit: stae.org

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