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Elephants, extinction and peanuts

 

I’ve admired elephants my whole life. My mother used to draw the backside of an elephant for me — she’s say it was her backside. I guess the intent was to be self deprecating, but I smiled and considered them a gift. My love solidified for elephants around the age of 10. I suppose it was after my mother died and my dad remarried. A memory of my mother and my new step mothers admiration for them provided fertile ground to learn more about them. I quickly fell in love with this animal. They seemed magical, wise and untouchable. Like a yogi, they possess a look of knowing, non-judgement and a deep, deep soul. This dimension in the animal world is found so often, yet in so many ways the elephant seems to be the grandparent of it all. Certainly their ancient appearance contributes to this with the wrinkled leathery skin — like a dinosaur. My step mother had a collection of elephant sculptures and figurines that I’d hold in my hands and study (most often when doing my weekly chores of dusting the shelves). It’s funny how a connection of chores and elephants could be one of the things that lead me to my love affair of animals and my advocacy for them. It was that weekly allowance that I earned for my dusting and mopping that allowed me the opportunity to help. Sending away money at a young age to such organizations as WWF or the Kenya Wildlife Association (now called Kenya Wildlife Service) empowered me — even if it was only five bucks. Elephants seemed to be the special charm that dangled from my heart. I might have been young but to help them I felt was my calling. By the time I was in university I was helping the Kenya Wildlife Association raise money by selling their t-shirts. The world seemed like an optimistic place back then.

elephant and baby

Elephant Love
Digital Art on Bamboo Tablet

Several years ago I read the book ”When Elephants Weep” by Jeffrey Moussaieff Masson (highly recommend). It’s collection of stories about different wild animals helped me glance inside the emotional lives attached to such wonderous creatures. I think it was from this moment on that animals became more of an equal to me than simply an animal in nature for humans to admire. It became evident that their depths were much deeper than I could have imagined and that indeed we were here as partners in the universe. The low hum of our dominion over such animals seemed diluted by a knowledge far too profound to ignore.

Thanks (or no thanks) to social media I’ve been witness to haunting imagery of elephants being slaughtered “for fun” and articles on threats of their extinction. This sadness hits me in my solar plexus — deep within. Is this really the world we are living in? Is it just my close circle of friends and animals advocates that seem effected by their plight? Are we the only ones that care?

Certainly my growing knowlege of zoos and circus’ have encouraged me to speak up on their behalf. And the movement to protect them seems to be getting bigger, yet still we run the risk of losing the elephants completely. Poachers are still killing elephants for a newly established demand on ivory. How can poachers still exist? Do they have no soul? I must ask, like so many environmental issues we face daily — are we blind? Do we not care about our future generations? This prevailing indispensible attitude shines light on our very obvious egocentricity.

elephants

Matt James lovely business card framed with birch bark – peanut erasers on top

Funny how the mind works, one thought leading to another and then you’re off on a tangent. Well, as I sat considering the elephant and the plight of the world, I glanced up to see a picture I keep framed on my office wall. It’s a framed business card of all things (I loved the image so much). The card is from the Toronto-based artist Matt James who is simply brilliant. The image is of an elephant with it’s baby. I had framed it a long time ago pinned on top of a sheet of birch bark. To be cute I placed three peanut erasers on the top of it. I figured elephants like peanuts and it was my offering to these wee elephants. Well, as I glanced at this illustration and its peanuts I thought — “Do elephants really like peanuts or is this yet another thing that humans have made up“?

With Google at my fingertips I started to search the answer. You know what I found?…they don’t eat peanuts. They don’t crave peanuts. They don’t seek out peanuts. They have nothing to do with peanuts. The whole connection to elephants and peanuts was of course human intervention during circus times. Peanuts being a snack of choice back then and sold at the circus. Why not train the elephants to eat the peanuts? Ugh! My offering of peanuts suddenly a slap in the face.

So now when I look at my elephants upon my wall and their peanuts I am reminded of all the work we need to still do. I hope the future does not conclude their existance on earth. I hope for their sake, for my grandchildren’s sake and mostly for the spirit of the universe’s sake. We’ve lost too many so far and I truly believe with every species lost the balance of the world tips in a direction that will ultimately force Mother Nature to eject anything that is the cause of her sickness — and humanity will be those that are ejected.

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