Puppy/Pachy Love

January 15th, 2009 12:28 pm by Kelly Garbato

Hat tip to my lil’ sis, who sent me a link to this video the other day.

CBS News reports on “The Animal Odd Couple”:

The so-called “odd couple” in this story is Tarra (an elephant) and Bella (a dog), both residents of The Elephant Sanctuary in Tennessee.

I say “so-called” because interspecies friendships aren’t exactly unheard of; heck, according to the AVMA, 43,021,000 American households “own” dogs, 37,460,000 “own” cats, 4,453,000 “own” birds and 2,087,000 “own” horses. While many of these relationships are more akin to that of master/slave, these numbers still allow for quite a few cross-species friendships between human and non-human animals. Personally, I count Ralphie, Peedee, O-Ren, Kaylee and Jayne among my bestest of friends.

Oh, but wait! In common parlance, humans aren’t considered “animals” – so interspecies friendships in which one half of the pair is human doesn’t register as an “odd” “animal” couple. Well, allow me to deconstruct further.

When 37.2% of U.S. households include at least one dog, and 32.4% include one or more cats, there’s bound to be some crossover. Interspecies friendships, in fact, aren’t as uncommon as you might think, human-animal relationships aside. Just Google “interspecies friendships” and you’ll get an idea of how rich and social the lives of non-human animals can be, especially when lived without human interference (such as isolating them from other non-human animals).

Of course, pachyderm/canine relationships are still somewhat odd, inasmuch as domesticated dogs and elephants don’t normally come into contact with one another. But you get my drift, yeah? – Namely, just because we (as in, the collective “we”) don’t take the time or effort to recognize the complexity of a species’ needs, desires and interactions, doesn’t mean they don’t exist.

We simply choose not to see the “humanizing” characteristics in non-human animals:

Because Dog forbid we recognize how closely animal sentience mirrors our own.

Anyway, back to the awesome Elephant Sanctuary. Founded in 1995, The Elephant Sanctuary

is the nation’s largest natural habitat refuge developed specifically for endangered African and Asian elephants. It operates on 2,700 acres in Hohenwald, Tennessee – 85 miles southwest of Nashville.

The Elephant Sanctuary exists for two reasons:

To provide a haven for old, sick or needy elephants in a setting of green pastures, dense forests, spring-fed ponds and heated barns for cold winter nights.

To provide education about the crisis facing these social, sensitive, passionately intense, playful, complex, exceedingly intelligent and endangered creatures.

Eighteen (relatively) lucky elephants currently call The Elephant Sanctuary home. Let me repeat that: 18 elephants live on 2,700 acres.

To put that into perspective, the Kansas City Zoo – which is the 10th largest zoo in the U.S.; was voted one of America’s best zoos in 2008; and ranked among the top 10 in the U.S. for pachyderms – has an African exhibit which encompasses 95 acres. (The entire zoo spans 202 acres.) Currently, they house seven female African Elephants on 4 1/2 acres. In the wild, elephants commonly travel 30 or more miles a day.

Elephants do not belong in zoos.

Tarra and Bella are just one example of why not – zoos simply don’t provide enough opportunities for social interaction to keep their animals sane.

Nor do they belong in art exhibits, circuses or the like.

Ned came to the sanctuary in November 2008:

On Saturday, November 8, an emaciated Asian male elephant named Ned was confiscated from Florida based circus trainer Lance Ramos by the USDA for failure to comply with the Animal Welfare Act and was placed by USDA authority with The Elephant Sanctuary in Tennessee. On Sunday, November 9th, at about 12:30 p.m., Ned arrived at The Elephant Sanctuary. Ned will reside only temporarily in his private facility at The Sanctuary until a permanent facility is ready for him.

TES documents Ned’s arrival in a video:

And offers an update in this New Year’s tribute:

Equally tear-jerking is this video of elephants Dulary and Misty, taking their very first swim in the sanctuary’s pond:

From the video’s description:

On July 5, 2008, best friends Misty and Dulary finally went swimming in Dulary’s Pond! For nearly a year they had been walking past this cool body of water (was it a mirage?), but on this hot summer day, Dulary suddenly stopped, looked down at the water, and then ran into the pond, splashing side to side with her trunk. Hearing the commotion, Misty looked down from the top of the hill and immediately joined her sister playing in the water. This was also the first time Misty had gone swimming since arriving at the Sanctuary several years earlier.

A reading of Misty’s biography offers another layer of meaning to the video:

Misty was captured from the wilds of India in 1965 when she was approximately one year old. Although little is known about her first decade in captivity, we do know that she traveled with circuses and became known as a dangerous elephant. In the early 70s, Misty was purchased by Ralph Helfer, who ran a company that provided trained animals for use in television, movies, and amusement parks. Ralph Helfer was the founder of Gentle Jungle, a company which offered internships to students interested in learning “affection training.” He is best known as the author of the book “Modoc.”

In July of 1983, Misty was one of four elephants performing at the now defunct Lion Country Safari in Irvine, California. It is reported that on July 25, Misty broke lose from her chains. A park zoologist was killed as he tried to capture her. After the accident Misty was whisked away and absorbed by the circus industry until 1988 when she was purchased by the Hawthorn Corporation. Misty maintained her reputation as a dangerous elephant until the day the Sanctuary staff took custody of her from the Hawthorn Corporation. Her parting shot was to strike John Cuneo, owner of the Hawthorn Corporation, across the chest with her trunk as he attempted to make her stretch out on her sternum so he could remove her chains.

Upon her arrival at the Sanctuary, Misty turned over a new leaf. She is playful, cooperative and most importantly non-aggressive, allowing keepers to form a close and safe relationship with her. Her playfulness is contagious and her affection for all she meets is obvious.

That’s right. Misty – the same Misty you see in the video above, frolicking contentedly in a pond with her friend Dulary – was once a “dangerous,” “rampaging” elephant.

With “The Animal Odd Couple” making the rounds, I hope viewers take a moment to consider The Elephant Sanctuary – to compare and contrast it with their local zoos and/or traveling circuses, and recognize how sorely lacking the latter are. Elephants do not belong in zoos, circuses, parks, or the like.

Please visit www.helpelephants.com to find out more and take action, and make a donation to The Elephants Sanctuary or the Performing Animal Welfare Society (PAWS) if you can.

(Crossposted to.)

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2 Responses to “Puppy/Pachy Love”

  1. June 20th marks the 1st International Day of Action for Elephants in Zoos » V for Vegan: easyVegan.info Says:

    […] and Elephant Conservation; Elephant Life in U.S. – Zoos vs. Sanctuaries, also from IDA; and Puppy/Pachy Love, a post I wrote about Tara and Bella of The Elephant Sanctuary in […]

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