Animal Lovers "Go Grey" in Celebration of World Elephant Day

The 3rd annual World Elephant Day
The 3rd annual World Elephant Day is August 12, 2014

August 12, 2014, is the 3rd annual World Elephant Day, an event to raise awareness and build support for African and Asian pachyderms. Organizers are asking for help for elephants, as they are currently endangered due to human greed: they are slaughtered for their ivory tusks and exploited as performing animals. On World Elephant Day, supporters will spread the word by wearing grey, using the hashtag #GoGrey on social media and changing their avatars to grey, and urging politicians to enact and enforce laws protecting elephants. For info on how to "Go Grey," the Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS) and its 96 Elephants campaign has a helpful article.

World Elephant Day was initially launched in 2012 by the Elephant Reintroduction Foundation and Canadian documentary filmmaker Patricia Sims. For World Elephant Day, supporters are urged to learn about elephants and take positive steps with actions such as refusing to buy ivory and refusing to support organizations like circuses that force elephants and other animals to perform. A list of what you can do to help, as well as a list of agencies that advocate for elephants, can be found on the World Elephant Day website.

On June 13, 2014, the Tsavo Trust announced that Satao, known as one of Kenya's largest elephants, was killed by poachers for his long tusks. It is estimated that there are less than 400,000 African elephants remaining in the wild. That might sound like a large number, but not when you consider that due to the demand for ivory, 100 African elephants are killed per day. The Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES) estimates that at this rate, "20 percent of Africa’s elephants may be killed in the next ten years if poaching continues at current levels." Some experts believe that all African elephants could be gone by 2025.

There are only 40,000 Asian elephants remaining; the IUCN (International Union for Conservation of Nature) Red List warns they are an endangered species. Along with losing their natural habitat, Asian elephants are poached for their ivory, meat and body parts, and calves are stolen from their mothers for use in the tourism trade.

On July 4, 2014, an Asian elephant named Raju was rescued by the Wildlife SOS charity. Raju was a tourist attraction who spent 50 years in deplorable conditions: he wore spiked shackles that dug into his flesh, he was repeatedly beaten and abused, and he was malnourished - veterinarians report he was eating scraps of paper and plastic to survive. Now permanently free of his chains, Raju lives at a Wildlife SOS sanctuary where he is well-fed, and he can move freely and socialize with other elephants.

Raju is just one of many majestic elephants who have been forced to live in inhumane conditions without the joy or dignity that they possess in the wild. In the United States, the Performing Animal Welfare Society (PAWS) acts as an advocate for animals who have been used for entertainment.

PAWS was featured in An Apology to Elephants (HBO), a 2013 HBO documentary that shows "the often-brutal treatment elephants undergo when they are trained to perform, the psychological trauma they suffer and the and the physical damage done by inadequate living conditions in some zoos and circuses."

We urge all of our readers to watch An Apology to Elephants as well as the videos on the PAWS website, and also The Secret Life of Elephants (available on iTunes), a 2009 BBC "documentary series revealing the emotional and dramatic lives of elephants in Kenya's Samburu reserve." In this series, we are shown how elephants are intelligent, sensitive souls who love each other, live in families, have lifelong friendships and grieve for their dead.

Please help spread the word about the plight of elephants and World Elephant Day by visiting the links we've shared in this post, exploring more on your own, and sharing the info you find with your friends and family.

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Posted on Monday, August 11, 2014