Monday, November 15, 2010

The fight between two beings

Sustainability cannot always be completely beneficial to this earth. The question is raised when we look toward Thailand- What is more important? The valuable forests or elephants, a symbol of the nation.

When commercial logging was halted in 1989, the trained elephants were left without a purpose. An article in E- The Environmental Magazine called "The Elephant Play Xylophone" states that once the elephants are trained, it is similar to a pet, they do not know how to live wild. Therefore, the elephants that were not massacred for their tusks and valued meat, were abandoned. The nation's symbol, the elephant, once sitting at 100,000, now only has a population of 4,000- 2,400 which remain captive.

The Thai Elephant Conservation Center is a 300-acre government run center that cares for elephants, providing them a hospital and a crowd to come and watch them. Tourists from all over come to watch the elephants bathe and 45-minutes shows. During these shows, the elephants balance on three legs, play a xylophone, move heavy logs, and paint flowers. These paintings, along with the elephants dung that is washed, bleached, flattened, and dried into various paper products, is sold at the store in Thailand or online.

This may seem fine to some, but to others spark an irritation of how these animals are treated. How can a nation turn their symbol for the wilderness into a captive showcase for humans to watch? There may have been a struggle between the trees and the elephants that initiated this battle of freedom, but now it remains humans versus elephant. The gigantic jump in human population and use of space for not only living, but more consuming- agriculture, has taken the elephants natural habitat and forced them into spaces like the TECC.

Elephants have not backed down easily, as an article by the National Wildlife Federation states:
Elephants are not giving up their homelands without a fight. On the once densely forested Indonesian island of Sumatra, the rampaging behemoths wiped out nearly 2.5 million acres of cropland--some $6 million worth of damage--between 1993 and 1995. (A year later, 12 elephants were found dead, poisoned by Sumatran oil palm plantation workers.) The most intense and dramatic conflicts take place in India, with 19,000 to 29,500 wild elephants living among a seething one billion humans. For many months each year, villagers across the country live in a state of siege, some spending every night sleepless in "watch huts" erected in the fields to sound warnings of approaching raiders. In years when attacks are especially frequent, they build tree houses. Last year two dozen tribespeople in the eastern state of Orissa were forced to spend several nights in the treetops when a 60-strong elephant herd caught a whiff of homemade rice wine and went on an extended binge.
Solutions to the problem are elusive, due largely to the animals' intelligence. Elephants rarely fall for the same trick twice, so firecrackers, drums, torches and similar measures ultimately prove ineffective. Some villagers have tried trenches and electric wires, but with limited success. When an electric fence was erected around the Holongapar gibbon sanctuary in Assam, for example, shocked elephants initially ran off screaming. But coming back to sniff and ponder later, they knocked down the posts and blithely walked over them. Rangers then took out many of the stakes, only to witness the animals grabbing branches with their trunks and beating down the wires.

Sometimes I forgot to take into account all aspects of sustainability- mostly the adverse affects. This growing problem of human consumption is taking finite resources, and finite beings. Like many issues, there are causes that have been created to help the elephants like The Elephant Research and Conservation Fund.

Along with the NWF, do you think these organizations have a chance to give animals a voice over humans?

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