It is clear that the elephant is quickly vanishing. Extended critical discussion on elephant conservation should contain clear and logical suggestions on how the average citizen can help elephants. There is not a great preponderance of researchers writing exclusively on elephants, and as the canonical literature grows it is apropos to present actual methods by which one can help the elephant. Many of the methods require no activity at all, save restraint from certain goods and activities which are clearly leading to the possible extinction of the three remaining species of elephants.
One does not have to go to Kenya, South Africa or India to truly help elephants. In fact, some of the most helpful methods can be done from the comfort of home. Primarily, avoiding all animal circuses is one of the easiest and most effective means. Due to the previously discussed intertwined problems of poaching, trapping, the ivory trade, and supplying young elephants to circuses, non-attendance is among the most active ways one can help. If circus attendance continues to wane, eventually running an animal circus will not be financially viable. Ken Feld has famously said he will only stop using animals in Ringling’s Greatest Show on Earth when people no longer show up. Since they do, he feels there is a public interest in his circus. People need to tell friends and family why the circus is ethically problematic concerning wild animals.
Also, never buy or own any product made from ivory. Poachers know the global demand for ivory is very profitable.. Despite the many years of the ivory ban, ivory poaching did not completely vanish. In many parts of Africa, rangers shoot poachers dead on sight. Being well known to poachers, this serves as an illustration of the significant profits that can be made from killing elephants and selling them piecemeal. Now, if the poaching ban is lifted or more one-off ivory sales are authorized, the ivory trade could once again begin decimating elephants.
Concerned persons can also donate to one of the two elephant sanctuaries in the United States. Both of them require huge amounts of hay, fencing, fruit, vegetables, exotic veterinary care, tools, vehicles, and other needs as well as formidable monthly payments on thousands of acres of land. The Tennessee Elephant Sanctuary has numerous ways in which citizens can help their ever-expanding herd. Donations are always accepted, and they offer memberships. More financially capable donors can engender an elephant endowment, and their “feed an elephant for a day” program is very popular, as is having produce delivered. Elephants love all manner of produce and they need, literally, tons of it. All non-captive conservative elephant facilities have numerous easy ways one can help. Also, one of the most rewarding ways in which one can help is to go to the facility and volunteer if one’s proximity permits. Volunteers perform all manner of activities for elephants and elephant facilities.
If one has the means to travel overseas, elephant voluntourism is a very exciting and viable option. In Thailand, the Elephant Nature Park ran by Lek offers rare opportunities to live and coexist near its herd of Asian elephants for very reasonable rates. Some of the Asian elephant parks offer elephant rides and are not as ethically consistent as they should be; however, Lek’s Elephant Nature Park is among the best and most ethical in the world. As for the African elephant, there are several protected areas in malaria-free zones voluntourists can travel and see elephants, sometimes very inexpensively. This eco-tourism money goes a long way for the African and Asian parks. For one example, Kenya collects around $50 million a year from elephant viewing tourists. Bringing in much needed income to these national parks, eco-tourism, voluntourism, and tourism are sustainable because they do not deplete elephant and animal populations.
Elsewhere, the David Sheldrick Wildlife Trust (DSWT) and other organizations have adoption programs. The DSWT, headed by Dr. Daphne Sheldrick, takes in rescued orphaned elephants and cares for them until they are released into the wild. Concerned elephant lovers can adopt one of these orphans by donating reasonable amounts of money and in turn the foundations will use the money to care for one specific elephant whose information and pictures will be provided to the benefactor.
Ultimately, however, it is paramount that the public gets educated on the plight of performing elephants and other performing animals. Children often love to see elephants at circuses and zoos. It is the difficult responsibility of the parent to realize that their child seeing a thoroughly depressed and restrained animal forced to do unnatural tricks for human profit does not foster true education and compassion for these animals. Some people feel anti-animal circus activists are trying to take away humans’ rights to see elephants. After all, the vast majority of humans will never see an elephant in person unless it is in captivity. Perhaps humanity has no intrinsic right to see elephants in person at all. Consider the ancient plight of war elephants and the long service of Man into which they were pressed. Still other uses of elephants as logging elephants in Thailand or temple elephants in India have not been discussed in this piece and also merit close examination. Nonetheless, consider what has been presented and consider the probably five thousand years in which humans have taken elephants from their natural habitat and forced them into service. If the only way to save the elephant is to keep them from most humans, then so be it. They deserve sanctuary. Once, millions of elephants roamed the entire continent of Africa. Now only a little over half a million are scattered in Sub-Saharan regions. They once spread vastly throughout Asia and are now only found in India, Thailand, Sri Lanka and China. It is time the world at large and the global scientific community took a close look at how to conserve and save the elephant and how to no longer profit from their might, power, body or for entertainment. It is time to save the elephant.