Saturday, December 31, 2011

Records from the elephants database during 2011

Photo courtesy of Elefantasia

During 2011 submissions in the elephant database:
  • There was 66 elephants born 2011 in the database, 32 males, 20 females. 49 were born in captivity, 22 males, 17 females. (listings) 
  • 64 records of elephants deaths in the database during 2011 (Listings)
  • 105 transfers of elephants during 2011 in the database (Listings)

In The Elephants News, 359 headlines about Elephants was recorded during 2011 (Link)


Thursday, December 29, 2011

Return to Elephant Valley Project in Cambodia

Upon my return to Cambodia in December, I met  Jack Highwood, again, and he invited me to Mondulkiri to spend christmas there, and see the Elephant Valley Project again.

On christmas day we went out to the project, after passing by the new town office in Sen Monorom.

It once again strucked me, what a nice place Jack has found for the elephants within the project, and for himself and the project volunteers and guests.

The view from the lodge main complex, the sounds of wild birds, and the abscence of traffic makes the visitor forget about urban traffic and stress, and to open the mind for the nature.

The nature here is disapearing however, and Jack said, that he heard chain saws from the next valley, after the mountain to the right in the picture.

Money talks...

The area Jack is renting, is protected by the presence of the elephants and the economy support to the project, why this is not only an elephant sanctuary, but also a conservation project.

The area provides natural food, enough for a small herd of elephants, and natural shade and protection.

natural scratching posts...

Bamboo is abundant
A river runs through the valley...
to get a morning bath
The bull Bob is mostly ridden by his mahouts
while the cows are herded to the river, according to Jack, without hooks.

After bath a little skin care
natural feet without foot care
feaces from natural food

The mahouts gets their income, in a new way for them, with minor stress.

The richness of tannin in the food is indicated by an enlarged gland behind the ears
a result from a lot of branches, which most zoo, circus and sanctuary elephants lacks.
this could be a wild elephant leaving the river
and after some stomach scratching
start with breakfast

in good company
observed on polite distance without petting, hugs and kisses

the elephants can search out the food of their liking

like wild elephants do
So far, this is the closest to a real sanctuary I have seen, and it could be copied on more places.

In fact, I think Jack Highwood is slowly approaching a concept, which may successively become a project where captive elephants are brought back to wild nature, with as less manipulation as possible.

But with this type of sanctuary one can only provide an environment for rather healthy, and not aggressive elephants. And for people who want to contribute by voluntering, or just visit the project, this gives an alternative way of experiencing elephants, observing their daily life close but still safely, without interfering too much.

 Still, some interaction is possible, like washing the elephants and likevise. A concept which could be copied on more places.
At least Jack Highwood will try to do that, with some support.
Read more:

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Elephant Valley Project in Sen Monorom, Mondulkiri province, Cambodia. (March 2011)

A couple of years ago I came in contact with Jack Highwood through the Internet, and finally visited him in Cambodia in March 2011.

Jack grew up on his parents and grandfathers farm in England, and enjoyed working with animals as shepherd in his youth. His mother is a narcotic detector dog trainer. Jack became interested in elephants in Thailand, and worked as translator and administrator of elephant related issues in Surin and later at an elephant trekking camp in Koh Chang. He quit the job in Koh Chang when he felt that the elephants became over exploited and mistreated. 

 In Cambodia Jack founded the the Elephant Livelihood Initiative Environment (E.L.I.E) in 2005, with primary goal to improve the health and welfare of domestic elephants in Mondulkiri through a mobile veterinarian program and an indigenous community based organisation program.

Mondulkiri Province in eastern Cambodia mountains, has the largest concentration of the domestic elephants in Cambodia, with  thirty females and twenty-four male elephants present, most of which are old, and have ailments and injuries.

In 2007, Jack Highwood founded the Elephant Valley Project 20 minutes from the Mondulkiri capitol  Sen Monorum, which is 5-7 hours bus trip from Phnom Penh.

The elephant valley is an ecotourism project that provides an alternative approach to elephant care, rehabilitation and conservation, and combines captive elephant rehabilitation with forest protection, and by doing so, reducing the manipulation of the elephants to a minimum. Because of this, theres no ridings, and very limited interaction with elephants.

On the other hand, The elephant valley project provide a chance to observe elephants on short distance when they spend their day almost like a wild elephant would do.

Apart from being chained at night, and being herded to the river for a bath twice a day, the mahouts are just following and observing  them daytime, when they are browsing, and seing to they they dont enter neighbouring farmland. So far, 13 elephants have been bought or rented and kept at the sanctuary, and presently 9 elephants is involved in the project, including a mature bull, Bob. Elephant hooks are generally not used, except for the bull Bob. The elephant valley is open for short time guests and volunteers.

Volunteers work a 5 day week.
  • Learning about the project and the elephants.
  • Learning how to interact with the elephant.
  • Walking the elephants into the forest to forage.
  • Help bathe and cleaning the elephants.
  • Working with the local Bunong staff to improve the living conditions of the elephants.
  • Help to form and build the elephant sanctuary by maintaining banana plantations, doing light construction work, planting seedlings and maintaining pathways.
The combined meeting and dining room in the main complex.

Although remote in forest sourrandings, volounteers and guests stay in comfortable bungalows, labelled as hill tribe traditional Bunong style house with western interior, with electricity and tap water.

The lodges and main complex are located on the slopes of the elephant valley affording stunning views over the surrounding forest where many varieties of birds can be seen from eagles to hornbills.

The prime focus of the sanctuary is to rehabilitate older trekking elephants, and giving them as much possibilities as possible to just be elephants and exhibit natural behaviour, including long baths in the river and mudbathing.

But the project is also securing an alternative income for the mahouts, that previously were involved in different tourist riding operations in the area. Furthermore, the forest is protected against being exploited as farm land.

Its an interesting alternative to captive elephant management in Asia, and well worth visiting and supporting.

During christmas 2011, I returned to Jack in Mondulkiri to see his elephants again.

Elephants in Cambodia

There is between 400 and 600 wild elephants in Cambodia, and the country has also suffered a lot of deforestation, rubber plantations and mining being one of the growing industries that reduces the forest at fast speed, and removing natural environment for fauna and flora. The Royal Government of Cambodia is working on the assumption that 56% of the land is forested. However, current forest cover is closer to 30-35% of total land area - with total allocations to logging companies, if approved, of 35.6%. The RGC is therefore in danger of selling Cambodia’s entire forest area to foreign companies. (FAO: elephants in Cambodia.)

During the Angkorian period (800 A.D to 1431 A.D), when the mode of transport and wars and manpower were elephants, it was estimated that Cambodia had about 20,000 elephants in the wild. Dropping from 10,000 elephants before the Khmer Rouge in 1969, the wild elephant population was estimated to apr. 2000 elephants in 1990. (Santiapillai and Jackson 1990)

Mr. Chan Sarun, Minister of Agriculture, said DNA tests and analyses conducted recently indicated that Cambodia still has between 450-500 elephants in the wild.  Read more: FAO: elephants in Cambodia.

Light green color is protected areas with wild elephants

Wild elephants walk through a forest in Mondulkiri province
About half of Cambodias wild elephants live in Cardamom Mountains of Southwest Cambodia, the rest in small, scattered populations in Mondulkiri and Ratanakiri Provinces in eastern Cambodia. (Duckworth and Hedges, 1998) Read more: Asian elephant globally at IUCN red list.

Cambodias wild and captive elephants are are coordinated by The Forestry Administration, supported by international organisations like The Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS), WWF Cambodia and Fauna and Flora International (FFI).

There are some seasonal migrations of wild elephants which are not always considered.

Presently, a wildlife corridor in Mondulkiri is under threat to be transfered to rubber plantage, which will cause elephant-human conflicts,and probably reduce the elephant population.

The famous parade of elephants complete with their Khmer mahouts. were documented at Terrace of the Elephants at Angkor Thom,  in the Ankhorian period, showing elephants used in wars during the Khmer empire under king Jayavarman VII.

Elephants were also kept on the royal grounds during french colonisation.

 Jackie Kennedy pictured 1967, feeding royal elephants
McNeely (1975) gave a figure of 582 domesticated elephants in Cambodia; and Olivier (1978b) accepted that figure. Kemf and Jackson (1995), without citing a source, say, “There are still over 500 domestic elephants in Cambodia....”

During the Pol Pot regime, some domesticated elephants reverted to a wild state.

Very few wild elephants were captured during the period 1980 to 2000, according to local people in Mondulkiri.

 Most of Cambodias captive elephants  are privately owned by tribal peoples in eastern Cambodia.

Only the Jarai, Ede, Krung and Pnong still actively work with elephants. The Pnong people are belonging to the local indigenous Bunong (Phnong in Khmer, mening “people of the hills,” Osborne (1985) says, “Uplanders were moi to the Vietnamese, phnong to the Cambodians, and kha to the Laotians.) (FAO: elephants in Cambodia.)

There is today around 120 captive elephants in Cambodia,  most of which are old tourist trekking riding elephants, and have ailments and injuries. The consideration of the elephants in Cambodia is so low that these old and sick elephants continue to work and their numbers continue to decline with little attention paid to conservation. (Highwood 2009)

Angkor Wat elephants (Compagnie des Eléphants d’Angkor) has between 15 and 30 elephants which are used for tourist rides around the Angkor temple complex.

Elephant Valley project Sanctuary
Close to Sen Moronom In Mondulkiri, is two elephant trekking camps, Putang elephant camp and Phulung, where some 15 elephants are kept for tourist rides, as well as one kept for rides at Sen Moronom water fall.

Elephant Valley Project is a sanctuary outside Sen Moronom which keeps 9 elephants, bought or rented, in very natural sourrandings, where they are herded in the forest, and by this concept, also contrubuting to protection of their environment.

Outside Phnom Penh, Phnom Tamao Zoo and Wildlife Rescue Center house 5 elephants in Zoo conditions. Those elephants are daily taken for walks to a nearby lake, and they also have veterinary recources.

In Phnom Penh, Mr Sin Sorn keep the handicapped and abused elephant Sambo at Wat Phnom, and he rents out elephants to other organisations, like Elephant Valley Project.

One zoo in the south, owned by a government official, Kampot Teuk Chhou zoo keeps a pair of elephants in hands-off conditions.

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Can elephants suffer in elephant sanctuaries, as an effect of volonteers exploit and opinions?

A sanctuary by definition is any place of safety. The mission of sanctuaries is generally to be safe havens, where the animals receive the best care that the sanctuaries can provide. Animals are not bought, sold, or traded, nor are they used for animal testing. What distinguishes a sanctuary from other institutions is the philosophy that the residents come first. In a sanctuary, every action is scrutinized for any trace of human benefit at the expense of non-human residents. Sanctuaries act on behalf of the animals, and the caregivers work under the notion that all animals in the sanctuary, human and non-human, are of equal importance. The resident animals are given the opportunity to behave as naturally as possible in a protective environment. (wikipedia)

Road maps of good and bad can be less or more complicated.
The world is not black and white, and sometimes its difficault to say who is the good guy, and who is the bad guy. So, in order to make this clear people use labels. When we speak about religions, its not enough to speak about protestants and catholics, catholics believers are divided into Orthodox Catholic Church etc. Soon our various opinions makes us enemies in topic like religion and politics. Our stone age mind demands that there is good and bad, friends and enemies, and that someone define this for us, so we can be politically correct.

Does it mean there are only bad and good choices? And is it easy to identify what is bad and what is good? Can you do it by Internet forum discussions? And why is it so important to have opinions of a field where we actually lack personal reference? How many people are actually prepared to study something for aperiod of at least 5 years before having an opinion at all?

Today, its very important to be politically correct, and if we want to be accepted, we must follow different codes of ethic and political correctness. Often based on hypcrisy, theres rules for the child naive impression that theres "good" and "bad" things. And as with religions, the rules are not printed in law books, as a result of a democratic society,  they are forced upon other people, wrapped in different threats: if you eat meat, I dont like you, and I will punish you until you change your mind, and you will not be accepted by the community.

As a social mammal, we need to belong to a comunity. And the most effective way of controling other people, is to excpel them from the community, if they dont follow the rules. Stone age democrazy!

Animal Ringtsh Activists continue to manipulate their sisters on forums in Internet . This is a very woman dominated world, with hardly no men active. Its easy to study this on Internet ARA´s (Animal Rights Activists) forums. If you have wrong opinion, the threats comes within minutes; suggesting that you go somewhere else. Theres only room for one opinion, the politically correct one. And the activity on the forum is identifying the enemy, and make war strategies. Often the aggression goes further: "I wish someone would shoot that hunter, can someone whip the circus trainer?  In this environment its best never to question anything, facing the risk of being harassed, punished and expelled.  Its like the church in the medevial, where you were not supposed to question anything. If you did, you would get accused of blasphemy.

ARA´s (Animal Rights Activists) sometimes show similair patterns, and when it comes to elephants, it seems as if the elephants health and wellbeing is not the most important factor, its more important HOW the elephant is cared for, regardless if it may suffer from falsely interpreted or fabricated ideas on how elephants should be managed. Contrary to zoo keeper education which is based om animals most basic needs, subjects like the "soul", "heart" and love of the elephants are discussed, and the opinions are divided in wrongs and rights, and more or less based entirely on phantasies about elephants. The word "LOVE" is repeated over and over again.

Is this less exploiting than riding an elephant?
Now and then those "elephant lovers" actually meet an elephant in real life, and not only on Internet forums.  Only in Thailand, thousand of young westerners, pay millions of dollars in order to cuddle-and-kiss-elephants in a famous elephants sanctuary somewhere, as a Holy Sanctuary Elephant Lover Volunteer. And they teach each other what is "right" and what is "wrong", and the terms are defined as simple as possible, like they were used in the book Animal farm: "two legs bad, four legs good". They know more or less nothing about what elephants eat, or how their skin, or feet, or nail should look like, all they are interested in is give "love" to elephants, and be able to tell stories when they return home about how wonderful the elephant sanctuary they visited is, how they rescue handicapped elephants, and happy those sanctuary elephants are, and how bad all normal riding camps is that just have healthy elephants that are used for riding and worked, like any well cared dog or horse is in captivity.

This means kissing an elephant in a camp, is politically incorrect, since camps are considered bad. But kissing an elephant in sanctuary is considered OK, since sanctuaries are good.
Can the kisser even define the difference, in cathegorizing, except from that the word sanctuary is being used on a website? Are they in fact just searching for an identity, and want other people to confirm that they are good? And in order to do this, they are as much consuming elephants commercially as the one taking a ride?

To the right, you see tourists riding elephants during their "mahout school" at Anantara Golden Triangle Hotel in Chiang Rai, Thailand. They are not overworked, and the camp is scientifically supervised, including a full time veterinarian. Through the Golden Triangle Asian Elephant Foundation those elephants also contribute to different projects in Thaland, where money is needed, like mobile clinic, and medical assistans to elephants in northern Thailand. The elephants are in a very good condition, and walking and riding activities keep them healthy.

Since 1955, one of Asias largest elephant festivals is celebrated in Surin in eastern Thailand. Hundreds of elephants are brought there during some days in November, when they perform for visitors. Now an internationally recognized event, the Surin Elephant Round Up also includes elephant talent competitions, demonstration of the various techniques used to capture and train elephants, a presentation of ancient elephant warfare techniques, and a tug-of-war between men and elephants. It is part of the Surin culture.

Michele Shelley Franko, zookeeper at PAWS sanctuary in USA, wrote in November 2012:

"Some traditions, such as this, are meant to die. This is so disrespectful to these beings. At least there are those in Thailand who are striving to make a positive difference for these innocent and brutalized slaves.[...]  A lot of work is currently being accomplished throughout Asia to rescue and rehab Asian eles, while helping and educating mahouts to transition, and at least learn to handle their eles more humanely"  

Michelle wrote this 100 years after William Booth died in  20 August 1912!! People like Michelle actually believe this, that they are enlightening the savages? I think its cultural racism. No people have the right to judges other nations culture, as its not illegal in that country?

William Booth Jr was a British Methodist preacher who founded The Salvation Army and became its first General. He wrote:"We are a volunteer army" Often the beginnings in other countries occurred through "salvationist" activities by non-officers who had emigrated.  What they in fact did, was killing and wiping out ancient cultures armed with white man moral, religion, and non-tolerant attiude towards other peoples religions, cultures, habits, way of thinking.

Sanctuary volounteers often resemble the character of colonial missionaires, with less knowledge in anthropology or native culture, they put all their efforts in trying to destroy thousand years of tradtions and culture, because they think those cultures are "bad" and "wrong".
In 2012 the animal rights activist Jayna Milan started to campaign against elephant camps where tourists can ride an elephant in nature by using terror like method and pressure on Lonely Planet:. Lonely Planet: Urge readers to avoid elephant trekking. Promote Elephant Nature Sanctuary.

Many of those extrememists are members in, or support, PETA, or People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals, the most well-known animal rights group in the world.

PETA directly provides funds and support to two groups, ALF (Animal Liberation Front) and ELF. (Earth Liberation Front). The Earth Liberation Front, on September 4, 2002, made the following public statement: "In pursuance of justice, freedom, and equal consideration for all innocent life across the board, segments of this global revolutionary movement are no longer limiting their revolutionary potential by adhering to a flawed, inconsistent "non-violent" ideology. While innocent life will never be harmed in any action we undertake, where it is necessary, we will no longer hesitate to pick up the gun to implement justice, and provide the needed protection for our planet that decades of legal battles, pleading, protest, and economic sabotage have failed so drastically to achieve."

Between 1850 and 1950 riding an elephant in a zoo was a memory for life, for most people. In almost every capitol around the world, there were public elephant rides. Accidents were extremely rare, and the elephants were kept in strong and healthy condition by the work. Now Animal Rights Activists claim it is animal abuse.
When did riding an elephant become abusive? 400 kg was always in the past considered a weight an adult elephant could carry without a problem. Suddenly ARA´s claim an elephant can not have more than 100 kg on its back. What happened, is the elephants smaller today?

This started in the sixties during the hippie "peace-love-and-understanding-era: "Circus" is bad, "zoo" is good. Today its more like "Hooks" are bad, "Target" is good, "Camp" is bad, "Sanctuary" is good. (Sometime also "men" are bad, children and women are good. Unfortunately, the elephants insight in the difference of all those terms, and philosophies, is as limited as the laymen. But unlike the blondes, the elephants can not read the elephant lover Koran/Bible on Internet... Animal welfare is, at least by women, often also also sexy, and is now and then associated with a certain exhibitionism. But the half naked male circus lion trainer with a whip, is a macho="bad", and not sexy.If a nude woman attack a circus, naked is "good", and sexy. Often celebrities and pop-stars expose themselves for this cause.

pop star Kesha
In a radio interview pop star Kesha talked about the inspiration for her new song "Supernatural.":  "Yes, "having sexy time" means what you think it means: Her song is about the time she had sex with a ghost. "I had a couple of experiences with the supernatural. I don't know his name! He was a ghost! I'm very open to it....I was in Africa rehabilitating baby lions. I went diving with great white sharks, and just went on this crazy spirit quest. I got hypnotized, and I just really wanted this record to be really positive, really raw, really vulnerable and about the magic of life."

Young people are searching for an identity, they went to belong to a cultural elite, and they want to travel, and come back with a story that impresses the closest society they belong to. They are mostly uninterested in science, but as volonteers they want "to make a change", to "save" or "rescue" or "help" any animal that looks small and beatiful. Endangered species of snakes, snails, lizards and insects are not very interesting objects, while dolphin and elephants are  very populair to exploit for those young people, often women, who want to be regarded as "good" people, while they think that people with other opinions and ideas, are "bad". A large portion of antropomorfism and mysticism seems to be the base of their attitude to nature and animals, and mostly they find logic and science pretty boring and uninteresting. And to complicated, maybe. Very few of those volounteers seems to be really interested in biology and zoology. It seems their interest in animals is more based on philosophy and politics. And to get a confirmation that they are "good souls" and that they are making some sort of change.

The sanctuaries make BIG MONEY thanks to all those volunteers.

Many volunteers want to place their hands on the trunk and experience "understanding" of elephants,and feel the "love" from the exploited animal, after stuffing them full with tons of sugar rich fruits like bananas, pineapples oranges, melons etc. Many of those elephants seldom see a twig or branches, suffering from tooth problems and similar problems related  to the false diet. On average, some 20% of Asian elephants may carry Tuberculosis, which may be the elephants gift back to the volunteers,a and their boyfriends, children and their families, after their loving abuse of "hang-around-elephants/mahout-for-a-week/make a change: stuff kilos of pineapples into elephants.

They probably dont know that they are exploiting elephants. They probably have no clue that most elephants doesn't want to be petted, kissed and hold by people they never saw before. They probably never saw this film. 

You can see that the elephant in fact is not aggressive, it continue to eat after it hits the tourist. It just want to be left alone. What you see a totally natural reaction from a not handicapped elephant being approached by a stranger.
Those volonteers never learned how to spell tuberculosis, but with their money, they want to make a change. And instead of respecting mahouts from Asia who worked elephants for five thousand of years, the volounteers regard them as primitive, stupid and they think the mhouts should be salvated  by white people who ave better, and more "modern" ideas about elephant management. This attitude is no different than the missionaires 100 years ago.

They often have the opinion, that all those stupid mahouts could learn so much how from them about how to train elephants, and they often also give small pieces of "instructions" and advice the mahouts when they kiss and hug the elephant, while the mahout commands the elephant not to move or hit them, so the volunteers can satisfy their confirmation of being an animal lover. But the truth is, all those volunteers doesnt have a clue about elephant training. They never trained a single elephant in all their life. They know almost nothing about elephants.

Neglected nails on a sanctuary elephant
Most of those sanctuaries, are dependant on tourists money, and therefore depending on their popularity. This means, that even if some elephants suffer from lack of medical care, they dont get relevant threatment, because the elephants can not be controlled. Often they can not be told to put a foot in the air on command for one minut. Its impossible for the "sanctuary-not-hook-using-mahout" to make the elephant go through a normal medical examination that most zoos do on an every day routine basis, why they are dependant on risky anesthesia for threatment, but often it is simply neglected, and the more an animal seem to suffer, the more it satisfy the need visitirs to sanctuaries wants to satisfy.

Handicapped, malnutritioned, suffering elephants that had different kind of accidents, are more valuable, since the visitor "feel" more when then they look at them. An angry, healthy elephant that doesnt want to be kissed is not as attractive as a suffering one, that maybe would have been euthanised in a zoo. People enjoy looking on suffering animals especially if they can "help" those animals. To streangthen their identity, they want to belive that they are helping. Thats why the suffering puppy is so easy to sell. The sad puppy on the picture starts feelings, and especially women actually undergo endocrinology changes within seconds. A need to love, hug, kiss, help and save the puppy starts. It creates emotions, which some people will actually pay for.

Not seldom, it can be compared to when public could pay to look on physically or mentally suffering humans on display in "hospitals" some centuries ago.

Lets stop here for a second, and ask, could many of the displayed suffering people have been helped and cured? For sure, with modern medical science.
But what if the "hospital" earns more money, by not not curing the patients? By satisifying the needs for visitors who want to see suffer, and is willing to pay for it.

May this be the same for some elephants in sanctuaries? Is it even possible, that more "suffering elephants are actually being "produced" for this industry, and that the mahouts import them from Burma, to satisfy the demand, and sell to the sanctuaries? Most populair sanctuaries buy or rent their handicapped elephants, but the term "buy" is not used, those elephants are always refered to as "rescued". (Political labels again...)

Such elephants are perfect for sanctuaries, often handicapped, weak, in terrible shape, they dont display a normal healthy elephant behaviour.

Often being more or less powerless, they are seldom aggressive, so just about anyone can approach them without a hook and have an experience of looking into their mind, understanding them, and other bullshit people think they are experiencing when they look deep into the eye of a suffering elephant, whos pain could be released with euthanasia. Such an elephant is a good investment. (Photo is from the elephant sanctuary in Hohenwald, Tennessee, USA)

And once "rescued", they should be as spoiled as possible, but not spoiled with good care and good diet, they should be spoiled with everything that young female westerners with rich fathers think they need, and since most humans like sugar and fruits, but seldom branches, this is what elephants often are fed in sanctuaries, apart from sugar cane leaves and similair.

Often they are served all fruits by a bar, by the westerners, standing on a ramp, having pictures taken. Not having an idea which various bacterials the elephant may have in their trunk.

This was called elephant public feeding in Zoos, and was mostly prohibited during the seventies, of medical and behaviour reasons.

Elephant public feeding is a lot of fun for the feeders, but also creates wrong behaviour patterns, for the elephants that in the wild  search for food 16 hours/day. Elephants know how to eat themselves, they dont need to be hand fed. Both humans and elephants can carry diseases which are effectively spread by contact bewteen the hands and the trunk.

Road maintenance at Mwaluganje elephant sanctuary.
Not to forget, thcose foreigner want to work also, and since they have limited knowledge, they end up with alot of interesting activities which they would probably never do in their hometown

Sometimes they perform different activities for weeks, that a tractor and a driver could do in an hour.

Or they spend an hour cutting fruits in pieces for an animal whose molars can crush large branches.

And as they perform different kind of body labour, they think this is an ecological gift they give, not realizing that its the dollars that counts. They mostly return home and think they did something important.

And maybe it was to them. But not always for the elephant, because there is a price they have to pay, by spending time in this loving environment, where their care or not always taken care of, since work with hooks would lead to complains by the visitors.

Abcesses in ALL FOUR FEET on an elephant in Elephant Nature Park, Chiang Mai, Thailand, where elephant hooks are officially prohibited, leading to untrained elephants who can not anymore recieve normal veterinary care.
Abcesses like this in Elephant Nature Park can not be treated with blue spray, its simply not enough. They need to be cleaned and cured by veterinarians, and those vets will be dependant on mahouts that can control the elephant.

An elephant on a european circus, with such problems, would most probably become confiscated, unless medical care would be provided by the circus. But this elephant in an Asian sanctuary, is "loved" and will not get normal veterinary treatment, and the abcesses will not be cleaned, since this can only be made with traditional training methods.

So when we discuss animal abuse, it must not be forgotten, that animals are sometimes abused in "sanctuaries" who doesnt take full responsibility for their elephants, but value the dollars from volonteers more, and the neglect of the animals origin in the simple fact that the volonteers would stop sending money if the mahouts would use hooks. And a circle is closed.

Heres two films showing the extremely poor status of training the elephant has, the veterinarian is powerless, all he can do is trying to put some bluespray on the abcesses, which is far from enough. The elephant should have been taken to an elephant hospital long time ago.

Unsuccesful attempt to treat foot abcesses in all four feet on an elephant in an Elephant Nature Park, an "elephant sanctuary" in Chiang Mai, in Thailand. Elephant hooks are officially prohibited, why the control of the elephants by the mahouts is drastically radically reduced, resulting in almost no existing medical care of this elephant, and other suffering elephants in the sanctuary. If this elephant would have been located on an european circus, it would have been confiscated. Now, thousand of volonteers walk by this elephant every year, and believe that its the ideal way of managing elephants. Abuse of elephants has become the opposite for animal rights people, they rather let an elephant suffer, becasue of neglected medical care, than giving the elephant medical treatment, which need the use of elephant hooks.

Lets face it, most welfare people and volonteers cant see when an elephant is suffering, but they belive that an elephant trained with a hook does. They are not veterinarians, did not worked decenniums with elephants, they are just reapeting the anti-hook philosophy as a mantra. And they think that a mahout, who use a hook, can not "love" elephants. And they dont see a need for hooks, dont see the ned for that in order to fully control an elephant, and make it lift it leg, and put it on an object for foot care, and see to that the elephant stands still as long as it takes to manage the foot care.

Now, people may argue, this can be done with protected contact. And yes, upto a certain point, and never as effective as in free contact. And you need a lot of manpower. What takes one keeper to do in 10 minutes, when using free contact, may take 30-40 minutes, with 3 keepers.

Protected contact is very time and manpower consuming, and expensive, still it does not provide as high level of manegament as with free contact. Cologne Zoo and Copenhagen Zoo in Europe are examples of PC Zoos, whith high ambitions of management. They have more than 10 keeper each, educated in PC.

Is this really a relevant concept for Asia to imitate, just to satisfy demands of volonteers and sponsors?

 Animal rights people claim that elephants in camps does not come in first place, its second to the focus on commercial interest and satisfying the demand from their visiting tourists, and MAY compromize the elephants health during the process.

I say sanctuaries are as much focused on commercial interest and to satisfy the demands from their volonteers and their sponsors and MAY as well compromize the elephants health during the process.

Good is sometimes bad also? So does it mean that sanctuaries are bad?

An elephant gets proper medical treatment under scientific supervision
-No, but if the animals health should be given best possible care under whatever the circumstances, the management has to be based on scientific principles, not on the visitors feelings. In this world theres always different components that has to be considered, and for suffering elephants, with physical problems,  "feelings" are sometimes secondary to scientific knowledge and experience, in order to cure and rehabiliate an animal as fast as possible, reducing the suffer, and seing to that the animals health is improved ASAP.

Maybe some of those rescued elephants are in need to be rescued from the rescuer, maybe they would actually benefit of being transfered from the love-kiss-and-cuddle environment, brought to a place where a normal mahout work them normally with a hook, so they can be controlled even for medical care, or just something so basic as a normal footcare?

Now and then, it may be important to ask yourself, what is best for this animal, taken care of by experienced veterinarians and experienced keepers, that can control the animal effectively during an examination, treatment or operation, until its ready to be transfered to an environment that also satisfy the mental needs, or is it better to neglect the physical problems, while strictly following a no-hook using philosophy?

Is possible that sanctuaries sometimes abuse an animal physically, by following a strict rule, that is more associated with philosphy, than knowledge and experience¨, while the elephants health could be taken care of in minutes, following traditional methods?

Is it even possible that a sanctuary sometimes actually commercially exploit elephants, as much as the place it was rescued from? Can neglect ever be defended, arguing that it is following a politically correct philosophy?

I believe that a good sanctuary has to be run independantly of its sponsors layman knowledge.

They may be welcome paying visitors and volonteers, but visitors and sponsors should not run the show.

Wonderful work done, by competent people
And if a sanctuary make the visiting volonteers interpretations about elephant management the priority, rather than the animals real need, is it hen really a sanctuary? Can it be justified that a sanctuary let elephant suffers, because the management policy includes a good cause? Shall the animals real needs come first, or welfare people ideas about the animals needs?

If a sanctuary has an "animal friendly" policy, which restrict a good medical for some of their elephants, is it then really a sanctuary? I guess most people would think not. If an elephant could be helped, using traditional training methods, but its care is neglected out of pseudo-religious reasons, or new age philosophy, for sure this kind of abuse can be compared with the complains welfare people have against elephant camps.

And does even the elephant understand the difference? Is the elephant even aware of human labelling, and appreciating it is "loved" while it have pain in the feet, since the care is neglected?

Is the Sanctuary label just an abstract human invention, having no meaning for the elephants themselves?
And are sanctuaries indeed harmful for some elephants, that would get a better apropiate care somewhere else, by veterinarians, who have years of experience of curing, but are uninterested in new age philosphy, while being busy to satisfy the basic needs of the animal.
I think elephants are very basic, and in need of having the basic beeds satisfied, and that "love" is secondary. And I think that regardless if its an elephant camp, a zoo or a sanctuary, those labels are secondary and pretty uninteresting, they are just political expressions. And whatever label one uses for an any commercial elephant operation, satisfying the elephants basic needs shall not be neglected, even if one must use elephant hooks, chain restraint or other devices, unpopulair among welfare people, in order to give best care.

Because othervise we may end up with only "love" and politics in sanctuaries, while in fact, some elephants are abused, and would benefit from a confiscation from the "elephant lovers".

Also sanctuaries must take a full resonsibility for the animals under their care, even if the methods to do so, leeds to complains among their sponsors and volonteers. Othervise its not a true sanctuary, just using the label to attract donors. Or, its in reality, a bad sanctuary.

Something interesting is that many sanctuaries, also attack other institutions, critisizing alternative ways of manage elephants, and try to take monopoly on being the best place for elephants. At the same time, theres a tendency to avoid being compared to commercial operations, but on each sanctuary website you can read the words donate, support, sponsor, gift, instead of ticket price.

Elephants are not bought, but "rescued".
Sanctuaries seems to occupy themselves with alot of politics. Why?

Are there any good sanctuaries, and how can then a "good" sanctuary be defined?
And can we demand the same standard of quality of elephant management from a sanctuary, as we would do from a commercial  elephant camp with riding operations? Would it be better to send the worst medical cases to an elephant hospital run scientifically by veterinarians, insetad of exploiting them on some sandy field, just to satisfy the needs of  thousands of volounteers that pay enourmus sums to th sanctuary owners?

Many of those Asian sanctuaries make $ 5 000/ day, the "Elephant Nature Park" in Thailand makes over $ 10 000/day.
This is a lot of money for a concept, which is claimed not being commercial, and not making profit. Most of the sanctuaries does not have a transparent economy, and they seldom follow a scientific program in their medical care.