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An Elephant Never Forgets

We at Karmagawa are thrilled with our fast-growing community of people who want to make this world better and we want to get everyone more involved so we’re starting a new feature where we invite dedicated community members to share their thoughts on important world issues! Recently, we've been posting about the sad conditions that elephants are forced to live in:

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⚠WARNING GRAPHIC IMAGES⚠ THIS ANIMAL CRUELTY MUST STOP RIGHT NOW! Please share this post with your followers and tag people, celebrities and news media who need to see it to help us spread awareness of how poorly elephants are being treated in India! This is a photo of an elephant calf set on fire. This pic shows a people throwing firebombs, which are fire-soaked balls of tar, and crackers at the elephants to send them away from a human settlement which was nearby. The heat from the fire harmed their delicate skin as mother and child attempt to run away from people. In this, the mother elephant closed her ears as she was scared and wanted to ignore the crowd. Behind her, her calf baby screams in confusion and fear as the fire burns at her feet. Picture Credits: Biplab Hazra #savetheelephants #endanimalcruelty #karmagawa

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Emily is a student at NYU who recently came on a Karmagawa trip in Europe (stay tuned for details on that project coming later this year!), where she not only rocked our Karmagawa charity hoodie (which you can check out here!), she also told us all about her love of elephants so we're proud to share her essay below:

An Elephant Never Forgets  

By Emily Hime, New York University

 

One of my earliest memories is sitting on a tiny leopard print couch with my mom when I was two years old, watching the nature channel and trying to learn how to spell my name. I was intensely focused on the letters in front of me, how to perfect their curvatures and hoist them together and create a coherent word: Emily. My mom showed me the letters on a wooden board first, with a photo of a word that corresponds to each letter. An Elephant was behind the letter E. I asked her what the thing was on the board, and she told me it was an elephant, that the same creature was on the TV, that they were very smart, and that elephants never forget. In that moment, I dropped what I was doing and watched the Elephants on the screen, immediately and instinctually infatuated by their apparent wisdom and unexpectedly gentle glide through the desert. I wasn’t the first person to feel this way.

From their role as the renowned Hindu figure of wisdom and good fortune: Ganesha, the divine proprietor of fertility in Buddhism, or the wise and diplomatic chief in North African mythology; the elephant has been eulogized for its physical power and gentle soul since its initial documentation in ancient civilizations. In later centuries, these intelligent, gentle giants have acted as the central focus of cultural phenomenons such as Rudyard Kipling’s The Jungle Book, Dr. Suess’s Horton Hears a Who, paintings by Salvador Dali and Pablo Picasso, and Walt Disney’s Dumbo.

The elephant has been treasured by mankind for thousands of years, as their existence reaps evident spiritual and cultural realizations. However, as society “progresses” towards the digital, industrial, consumerist age, we no longer value these creatures and all of the divine guidance which they have provided to us and our ancestors. By the same premise with which we work to preserve Notre Dame, the Colosseum, or the Great Wall of China, we should work to preserve the lives of Elephants; as they are a highly significant figures in relation to the spiritual development of humankind. Their divinity is a force that our children and grandchildren deserve to experience, and their mystic souls are not ours to take.

Not only are elephants crucial spiritual figures, they also provide tangible ecological benefits such as paving grasslands, creating waterholes, and fertilizing massive stretches of land while in the process of migration. Scientists have concluded that the degree of endangerment of a given species should be determined not only by the quantity of animals alive to date, but also by their rate of decline and thus projections of that species’ livelihood. That being said, Elephants have declined by an incredible 80% in 25 years, and approximately 20,000 elephants are killed every year, making them highly endangered on the basis of projection.

Although the ivory ban in China has positively affected the supposed rate at which elephants are slaughtered, there is still a large underground market force which drives poaching in both China and Vietnam. Additionally, the WWF predicts that Chinese millennial's are the most inclined to purchase ivory products due to their wealth, and connection to their heritage as opposed to older generations. Thus indicating that the demand for or interest in ivory products is not conceived to end soon. As a result of the ivory ban, the number of poachings are in a state of decline. However, The Guardian’s article written by Karl Mathesein states that 90% of the ivory market is, in fact, and not surprisingly, the black market. Thus,  accurate statistics for the driving market force behind this tragedy nearly impossible to attain.

Currently, the WWF and TRAFFIC are collaborating on social media and news campaigns in an attempt to influence Chinese millennial's against ivory purchases. Examples of these campaigns are informing on the existence of the ivory ban, and explaining the threat that poaching has on elephant populations. In an attempt to sway the views of overseas buyers, campaigns dis-incentivizing ivory purchases are created on the basis of demonstrating a lack of social acceptability related to the ownership ivory goods.

Other foundations such as Karmagawa, Knot on my Planet, and David Sheldrick Wildlife Trust seek to preserve the habitats of elephants, and ensure their protection while they reside in those habitats.

Overall, elephant poaching is in a supposed path of decline, but the quality of the statistics supporting this statement are not substantial. Elephants are vital not only for the ecosystems which they contribute to on a tangible level, but also for their deep historical and spiritual significance for humankind.

In order to put this fantasy of preservation into reality, we must financially support these organizations, and continue to spread awareness regarding exactly why these creatures are a priority, and how to help preserve their continuation to coming generations.



Works Cited     
1. “Stopping Ivory Demand.” WWF, World Wildlife Fund, 
www.worldwildlife.org/initiatives/stopping-ivory-demand.
2. TRAFFIC. Demand Under the Ban - China Ivory Consumption Research Post-Ban 2018. Sept. 2018, www.traffic.org/site/assets/files/11150/demand-under-the-ban-2018-1.pdf.
3. Mathiesen, Karl. “Alone, China's Ban on Ivory Could Make Life Worse for Elephants.” The Guardian, Guardian News and Media, 6 Jan. 2017, www.theguardian.com/environment/2017/jan/06/china-ban-ivory-life-worse-elephants-poaching.
4. Scriber, Brad. “100,000 Elephants Killed by Poachers in Just Three Years, Landmark Analysis Finds.” National Geographic, 16 May 2016, www.nationalgeographic.com/news/2014/8/140818-elephants-africa-poaching-cites-census/.