December 9, 2018

BY KANDACE GALLANT

When people walk in my bedroom they immediately notice all my elephant figurines, my elephant pillows and the elephant painting hanging on my wall. Friends and family also comment on all the elephant clothing articles I have; a few shirts, elephant rings, bracelets and necklaces. This leads to the question, why are you so obsessed with elephants?

But my question to the asker is, why aren’t you?

Last year for Christmas I ended up fostering an elephant named Kora through the David Sheldrick Wildlife Trust (DSWT) in Kenya. My mom immediately starting pestering me about making sure it was a reliable and legitimate website. I had just found it by accident and honestly knew nothing about it. Once I started reading more about it, and more about Kora and all the other elephants that needed fostering, I was intrigued. I couldn’t look away. I couldn’t not fund one. So, instead of getting a hippopotamus for Christmas, I thought an elephant would suffice.

Kora is around 10 years old now, growing into a healthy and strong adult, but when he was a young calf, his family was chased down by a group of poachers. Luckily he was able to get away, but his family and his mother were not so lucky. They were found dead, their tusks taken from them, and blood sprayed all over the ground. Kora was found miles away running around lost, malnourished, scared and confused. The DSWT team was able to bring him into their conservation area and nurse him back to health. It took a while for them to gain his trust because the only other human contact he’d known was scary men chasing him with a big stick that had a pointy, uninviting end.

Seeing pictures of him now, which are sent every month over email outlining what he’s done since the last time they were sent out, is thrilling for me. I love knowing that my money is going toward helping out another living creature – one that had little hope and was facing death.

I look forward to fostering more elephants this Christmas.

I saved a kitten a few months ago and when I took her to our vet, Dr. Kate Flanigan in Guelph, she heard that I was a part of the DSWT and she was overjoyed. She couldn’t stop asking me questions about it because she wanted to start fostering elephants as soon as she got to a computer.

“It’s unimaginable,” she said as she started tearing up. “The way they’re slaughtered and their bodies are just left there to rot with blood everywhere. Elephants and humans are so much alike with the way they look after their young, the way they mourn the loss of their fallen herd member and visit their graves … it’s amazing, but a sad tragedy.”

Seeing someone else getting teary-eyed over the matter made me feel like I wasn’t the only one who was passionate about such an amazing creature. I felt like I wasn’t the only one who cared about bringing the ivory trade to a stop.

A couple of weeks ago Prince William spoke to millions of Chinese viewers on TV outlining the importance of ending the ivory trade, and earlier this week it was announced that there is now a one-year ban on all ivory imports and trade in China. I was glad that they made that decision, but at the same time I was fuming with anger. I don’t understand why it didn’t turn into a permanent ban. Elephants are an endangered species that are being killed off because of, what? It’s not a matter of needing their tusks at all. It all comes down to pure greed. But then again, what doesn’t?

I ended up buying the book The Last Chain on Billie. It talks about this elephant who endured so much pain and torture her whole life. She was taken from the wild, ripped away from her mother, and forced to start performing in circuses. She was traded back and forth a lot between different big-name circuses and many trainers took on the task of trying to tame her and get her to listen to their commands, but Billie wouldn’t have any of it. She didn’t like being near people or learning new tricks, and because of that she was punished with a bull-hook. I won’t go into detail, but believe me when I say I cried through the whole book. It made me change my views on zoos and circuses and the way they take advantage of animals that belong in the wild, not for our entertainment. I couldn’t believe some of the things that I was reading, and the information that was given to the author was, like my vet put it, unimaginable. Some parts were so gruesome that it made me cringe and I had to take a break from reading it.

So it seems to me that throughout history, these majestic, wild, beautiful creatures have never really been given a break. They’ve been used for entertainment since the 1800s, they’ve been slaughtered for their tusks, they’ve been taken at a young age from their mothers and forced into an environment in which they have never belonged … to the point where conservation areas have had to be made in order to keep them alive and well.

Can’t nature thrive without the constant negative interference of human kind?

As quoted by Daphne Sheldrick, founder of DSWT, elephants can teach humans a great deal about caring.

I encourage people to rethink spending their money on anything that may be made with real ivory. I encourage people to foster the orphaned elephants from the DSWT. You can also foster baby rhinos, since they are so scarce and near extinction. I encourage people to try and read The Last Chain on Billie and to gain knowledge on how animals are used for entertainment and what they go through.

I know that I may not be changing the world by fostering one elephant, or by writing this article, but when I’m passionate about something I don’t stay silent. And I also may be called the weird elephant-obsessed girl, but I wouldn’t have it any other way.

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