Elephants have been a thread throughout my life. Early on, it was the cutesy knick-knacks that lined the warehouse-style shelves at the local resale shop my family frequented. Their wood and jade bodies filled me with questions. Did elephants come in green? Do they often wear jewels and headgear? Do they know that humans have made miniature statues of them to keep in their homes?
When I was maybe seven years old, I saw my first real elephant at the circus. While some questions were answered, more grew. Were they supposed to walk on two legs? Was it instinct to carry sparkly dressed women around the sandy ground of the big top? Why does that made keep hitting the elephant with a stick?
For me, the answers became clear when I looked past the show and pageantry to the sad and distant elephant’s eyes. Most elephants I’ve admired have a nervous tick, either rocking back and forth or sway constantly.
All this to say, a bit of good news crossed my computer screen this morning. Barnum and Bailey Circus retired several, and they cautiously joined the White Oak Conservation family. After so many years of forced showmanship, they’ll finally be free to roam, eat when they like, and just be wild animals.
I’m not an animal activist or a vegetarian, or a contributor to any rescue groups. Maybe I will be in the future. For now, I am simply a human that believes all living things deserve to live out their lives in a manner accustom to their instincts, within reason. Don’t cut down trees just because you can. Don’t store animals in tiny cages for entertainment. Keep wild spaces wild. Reduce the amounts of trash and noise pollution in the natural environment. Even a minor impact in these areas could help not only the elephants but also the humans live in peace.