An independent research initiative seeking to reinvigorate the conversation on the shifting role of elephants from antiquity into the modern age. Asking the right questions to shine a light on the forgotten link between wild and captive elephants, between dwindling and emerging cultures, towards blending the best of innate indigenous knowledge with contemporary animal psychology and ecology to reach a holistic solution to the threat of extinction of the elephant in our time.
The Elephant Question: Holistic answers for a new paradigm.
All over the world elephants in the wild are threatened by poaching from ivory hunters and medicine-man suppliers; illegal capture for use in the tourist trade, circus, zoos, or a hard life in legal and illegal logging industries; and attacks from farmers and villagers on elephants that come to human settlements in search of food, or indeed when the human settlement encroaches on the jungle. Habitat fragmentation is making it more and more difficult for herds to survive with a healthy genetic diversity, something usually guaranteed by the wandering nature of bull elephants through vast areas of thousands of square kilometers occupied by several individual herds. The smaller territory means less food availability and increased risk of coming into conflict with humans.
The single biggest threat to elephants today is human-elephant conflict.
Captive elephants suffer greatly from poor management and husbandry, not to mention the rapid fading of 4000 years of innate, indigenous knowledge of mahouts who learned the way of life from their forefathers. A new age of the career mahout, who more often than not see the elephant as a part of their job and nothing more, has dawned. The role of captive elephants is shifting from the practical (agriculture, small industry, war) to the frivolous, the burden and the “cash-cow”.
The survival of the elephant species requires us to take up once again the link between captive and wild elephants and work together, across the globe, to improve the lot of all individuals. It will require a paradigm shift reaching down into the very culture that elephants played such a pivotal role in realising. It will require education as to the many factors that influence the current demise of the species, from tourist driven circus shows and zoos, to the low socio-economic position and lack of opportunity of mahouts, to governments shirking their responsibility for the continued flaunting of existing policies and their accountability for the unregulated abuses that go on within their borders.
The Elephant Question seeks holistic solutions to these issues, implementing engaged, locally supported, compassionate projects and, through successful outcomes, change the current discourse on elephants and discover their new role in this world, where they can belong safely.