Why Elephant Conservation Is Important: Four Ethical Places to See These Gentle Giants
U30X staffer Jennifer DeSimone remembers her first time seeing elephants and how this experience impacted her passion for elephant conservation...
When I began to plan out my trip to Asia last year, one of the things I desperately wanted to do was see an Asian elephant. Since, first seeing an elephant in the wild in Ghana nearly 10 years ago, I have become more aware of elephant conservation and more in awe of their beauty.
As I began researching, hits for elephant riding kept appearing – and when I dug deeper I learned of the inhumane and brutal practice of “phajaan” which literally translates to crush or break.
Elephants are not meant to be ridden, and in order to put one human on top of an elephant, handlers use this technique to tame the elephants, many of whom are babies. Elephants are chained, caged, burned, hit in the head with spokes – continuously tortured until their spirits are broken and they submit to their captors.
It’s a brutal practice that needs to end
In order for such practices to be brought to the forefront, people must set out to see their creatures in either their natural habitats or in safe havens. I have been fortunate enough to visit each place on this list and I hope that you too will be inspired to learn more about the locations you visit and support local organizations ethical seeking to support its wildlife and environments.
Here are my favorite ethical locations to visit elephants:
Mole National Park – Ghana
My first trip to Africa was my first encounter with wild elephants. Mole National Park is the largest nationally protected parks in Ghana. Home to more than 90 species, the lions and elephants run wild, protected by poachers seeking their tusks. I took part in a walking tour and although nearly 10 years ago, I remember seeing an elephant in the wild for the first time as if it were yesterday.
She was majestic, her size larger than any other living creature I had ever seen, and her spirit was gentle. I left the park that knowing humbled by the elephants and wanting to see them again soon.
The David Sheldrick Wildlife Center – Nairobi, Kenya
One of my favorite non-profits, the Sheldrick Center is the premier orphan-elephant rescues and rehabilitation programs in the entire world! I don’t say this lightly...
The center’s responders are the first on site when a elephant or rhino poaching is reported, or when one creature is in some kind of distress, moving quickly to save the orphaned babies and bring them to safety. I’ve been fortunate enough to visit twice, and the babies, despite their traumas, are so carefree.
The Center allows visitors to visit twice a day and watch the elephants eat and play, and they are hysterical.
They splash in the water, push each other, and walk up to you for love. It’s a beautiful sanctuary with an impactful mission.
Maasai Mara National Reserve – Kenya
The Mara is home to the great migration, when nearly 1.5 million animals travel across the area for several months. While protected, massive loss of life of animals have been reported in recent years during to illegal poaching and over development of the surrounding areas.
Now more than ever is it important for people to support the Mara and its inhabitants. As our safari truck drove around in the early morning, we drove by herds of elephants, gracefully walking the ground. If the lion are the kings of the jungle, elephants are its queen, deserving of equal respect and reverence.
Elephant Jungle Sanctuary - Chiang Mai, Thailand
I visited the Sanctuary this month hopeful to be able to interact with an elephant instead of watching from afar. The sanctuary raises funds to but elephants from near by riding camps and also works to ethically breed elephants to help increase the number of Asian elephants.
It was one of the most special days of my life.
I not only fed watermelon to a pregnant elephants, but swam in the river with baby elephants. You know they were happy when they would lay in the water and throw water around with their trunks.
After spending time in such locations in the shadows of such gentle giants, I am more more than ever convinced elephants are to protected and respected, not exploited for human enjoyment. I invite you to continue supporting organizations and practices that are gentle to all creatures, both great and small.
Want to support this cause right now?
August 12th is World Elephant Conservation Day and I am so proud to continue raising awareness in support of this cause. One of the best ways you get involved with today is to purchase elephant chocolates from L.A. Burdick Chocolates. Proceeds support the Sheldrick Center and they are delicious! Trust me, I buy some every time I am in NYC.