Wednesday, May 2, 2012

Alicia's love of elephants

Arguably my first love
I have always loved elephants. Always. When my sister liked Disney Princesses, I liked Dumbo. I watch the movie now and find it incredibly depressing, so I have to think it was  that lovable face and floppy ears that drew me in.  I know the story must have registered with me on some level, but there's a lot of "strange" happening in that movie.  And, well,  I've been known to fast forward through depressing moments. It's safe to say that Dumbo in Mom's trunk through the bars is probably the event that started that quirk.  I'm welling up just thinking about it.  Either way, it's clear that my developing brain was sucked in to all things elephant.  Whether I have Walt Disney to thank or the species itself, I was hooked from an early age.

The Hindu God, Ganesha
My favorite toy from childhood was a yellow stuffed elephant that played Brahm's Lullaby.  I have it to this day even if she's a little worse for wear.  I also have countless Dumbo figurines and stuffed animals. He was always by my side growing up, and one of the only things that stopped my epic tantrums.  I have earrings, necklaces and bracelets.  I have stationary and Christmas ornaments.  There's just something about them that I find amazing.

Whenever something speaks strongly to me, I'm always drawn to the symbolic meaning behind it. Perhaps it was being raised by a therapist or growing up with a sister fascinated by Greek Mythology,  Something rubbed off, and now I am fascinated by symbology and meaning.  According to what', the reason why I find elephants so attractive is very apropos.  The symbology "deals primarily with strength, honor, stability and patience." All attributes I have, or yearn for.  And then there's the Hindu god Ganesha.  He removes the obstacles that stand in your path, bestows luck and guarantees success and blessings.   Honestly, who wouldn't want to have this guy in your corner?

Nicholas at PAWS' ARK2000 Sanctuary
Every time I look into the eye of an elephant, I feel that they see the world differently than we do.  I was glued to the screen during the 60 Minutes segment about the extraordinary American scientist named Andrea Turkalo.  She has devoted her life to observing a group of wild African elephants.  Through her tireless devotion, she has begun to compile a list of their complex and subtle communications. She's turning these into the very first elephant dictionary. If you haven't seen this segment you have to watch it. I mean! Amazing! Click here to watch it.

The more I learn about these creatures, the more I see them as a giant allegory of our times. About removing the ways of the past without understanding the consequences. We're acting without thinking and not learning along the way.  Add to that the fact that elephants certainly look like creatures from another era. They look more like Wooly Mammoths than they do to any other living animal.  They are giant creatures that need companionship. Loving and supportive beings who have strong emotions like us. They raise their children like we do, mourn like we do and support each other like we do. There habitat is getting destroyed in the name of progress, and we're running out of time to stop it.  We have so much to learn from these animals, and I fear that we will lose them before we learn all there is to know.

So now, dear readers, I may have taken you to the murky place that Jessica calls ISD. This place makes me want to crawl under my covers and just cry and cry.  BUT that's not what we do here at What You Can Do.  We're here to give you simple one minute actions to help.  So, instead of burying your head, check this out.  One of our favorite organizations, Defenders of Wildlife, has a whole page that shows you what you can do to help elephants, and they're all easy 1 minute steps!

In honor of these beauties,  I'm unofficially dubbing this month - Alicia's obsession with Elephants month.  I don't think they'll pass it into law, but it seems natural as many of my activities will be focusing on these gentle giants.  Throughout May, I will contribute a few entries about various things I've learned and organizations we have worked with.

Mara at PAWS' ARK2000 Sanctuary
First of all - my very good friend Sam and I went to the PAWS Elephant Sanctuary in San Andreas this past weekend for their "Seeing the Elephant" weekend getaway.  It was amazing.  I learned so much about the conditions of circus elephants and how we need to educate people, so that they will stop using these animals as spectacle. Without getting on a soapbox, I'll write more about this wonderful sanctuary later.

Secondly, Sam and I are going to see Daphne Sheldrick speak at the American Museum of Natural History next Tuesday.  Dame Sheldrick founded the The David Sheldrick Wildlife Trust with her husband, David, in Kenya.  This foudnation rehabilitates orphaned elephants with the goal of releasing them back in to the wild.  It's a team effort between man and elephant (the graduates come back to help for the last part of the journey).   This place is amazing, and I will fill you in on the information that I learn from Dame Sheldrick after her talk.

Speaking of, did anyone see Born to be Wild?  It features Daphne Sheldrick as well Dr. Birute Mary Galdikas who works with orphaned orangutans in Indonesia.   If you haven't seen it, YOU GOTTA!! It's narrated by Morgan Freeman, so you can't go wrong there.  And for a nature film, it's uplifting and hopeful. Don't get me wrong, I cried at several parts, but not because of horror. It was a "good cry" if you will.  So this gives me another topic to discuss as well.

For now, I wanna know what you think?  Do you agree with me? Are elephants intoxicating?  What's your favorite animal?  And If you wanna get involved and help protect these animals right away, consider symbolically adopting one through Defenders of Wildlife.  It only takes a minute. Watch the video below to find out how.

love and elephants,

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