sumstorm

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Horses have been artificially selected for performance purposes and elephants have not. Due to their long gestation periods, many elephants are wild-caught and then trained to perform completely unnatural acts (of course, then the response about how natural horseback riding is). The fact that electric prods, chains, and bull hooks need to be used just to manage these animals tells me that maybe they should not be circus performers.
Have you ever worked with elephants? If so, were they captive or wild? Which populations? What work were you doing?

Here is my background in elephants:
120 hour husbandry internship with asian elephants (ne indian subcontinent) at a zoo
90 hours anthrax testing elephant populations in europe at zoos, various origins
720 hours of round the clock elephant travel to treat livestock, including elephants, throughout N. Thailand and Laos. Included treating detusking victims, land mine victims, working injuries, abuse injuries, age related issues, disease and illness.
170 hours in AZA and AAPN service in Asian elephant SSP, including hot debates on whether sub categories of asian elephants should be interbred in captivity.

I don't think these animals should be circus performers, though I do believe they are capable of being such without any of the devices you mentioned. They are just as trainable as killer whales....which are not trained using aversives and force, and are routinely used for entertainment purposes in our country. Not once, in all of my time with elephants, domesticated, wild, Asian, African, did I see an animal contact require pain, aversives, force, duress, or cruelty.

Unless you have extensive experience with elephants in countries that have used them for work for centuries, how do you KNOW if they are comparable to horses? Have you ever discussed with a Karen mahout how you chose a bull for your cow? Did you know that some elephants are bred to be fast and agile traveling shockingly narrow mountain trails, while others are bred for strength? And even of those bred for strength, some are bred with the aim of hauling massive loads by dragging, others with strength for carrying loads, and still others for forward force and strength? Much like a rodeo bull's semen is used with a very different purpose thana dairy bull's. As the use of elephants for working purposes decrease, less are bred for that purpose, much like few people use specialized breeds of dogs for their bred purpose anymore.....but many are still around or are used for other purposes.

I only worked with three working elephants that were wild caught. One was due to its mother stepping on a land mine and not surviving. Another was tradiationally caught. the final one came from a mother that seemed to have lost her herd (possibly a released elephant) that was damaging villages. She was placed in a sanctuary, but her offspring was reared to work. Much like dogs or cats who are reared by humans, elephants then released will stay near human developments seeking what they need in terms of food, attention, bonding, shelter, and care.

I hear a lot of people who 'know' what is right or wrong about elephants but lack practical knowledge, or the willingness to consider that our 'elephants in zoos' view of the animals is not always accurate. I know that as well, since i was often responsible for creating zoo signage...and there was definitly intent to inspire visitors to see these animals as majestic creatures that we must protect in the wild.

Again, that doesn't mean that I believe using elephants for entertainment is right...or wrong. there are too many variables in each situation for me to be certain across the board, but I am 100% certain that trained/domesticated asian elephants do not need chains, electric shock, bull hooks, or abuse in general, to perform circus tricks, anymore than my dogs need those 'incentives' to run agility, herd sheep, or perform SAR work.
 

sumstorm

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The animosity toward PETA among many veterinarians is because their main concern is not animal welfare. It's animal rights. This includes the right to not be kept as pets. PETA also works to stop all animal based medical research, the results of which veterinarians use every day to help their patients.
I spent 4 years attending dog shows as a 'kennel attendant' after dogs were poisoned with antifreeze at a dog show in the early 80's. A group claiming to be members of PETA claimed responsibility, stating the animals were better off dead than in the slavery of humans. One single negative encounter can completly alter one's perception of an organization.

My other encounters have been equally unpleasant; PETA activists protesting the livestock shows at county fairs, showing young children photos of rendering plants. Where I lived, most of the kids showing also participated in butchering.
 

lyndaelyzoo

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Nov 9, 2008
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I am really not here to argue, but I thought selective breeding was involved in artificial selection and part of the domestication process that involves a change in the genotype. The animal is selected for certain genetic traits that are perceived as desirable. I know that elephants have been bred in captivity and tamed, but do not think that they have been selectively bred. Selectively bred populations are genetically different than the wild populations from which they derived. Tame circus elephants are not genetically different than their wild untamed relatives and have not been selected for certain phenotypes. BTW, I am not arguing with you about who has the most experience with elephants. Sumstorm just read your latest post about selecting elephants for strength or agility and in that case then they would be selectively bred. I had just always heard that most of the tamed elephants were wild caught because it takes so long for them to reach maturity. Your experiences with elephants sounds really interesting and thanks for clearing that up.
 
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Bill59

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I spent 4 years attending dog shows as a 'kennel attendant' after dogs were poisoned with antifreeze at a dog show in the early 80's. A group claiming to be members of PETA claimed responsibility, stating the animals were better off dead than in the slavery of humans. One single negative encounter can completly alter one's perception of an organization.
It's really disappointing. PETA is very good at raising money and are geniuses at marketing. When was the last time you saw the AVMA on the national news? PETA is in a position where they could do so much real good for animals, such as educating the public on homeless animals and puppy mills. Instead we get renaming fish as "sea kittens" and protesting the AVMA convention.

It's such a wasted opportunity.
 

1Vista1Grey

OkSU-CVHS Class of 2013
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Feb 15, 2009
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Here is my background in elephants:
120 hour husbandry internship with asian elephants (ne indian subcontinent) at a zoo
90 hours anthrax testing elephant populations in europe at zoos, various origins
720 hours of round the clock elephant travel to treat livestock, including elephants, throughout N. Thailand and Laos. Included treating detusking victims, land mine victims, working injuries, abuse injuries, age related issues, disease and illness.
170 hours in AZA and AAPN service in Asian elephant SSP, including hot debates on whether sub categories of asian elephants should be interbred in captivity.

You are so freaking interesting.. can I be you? Everytime I read a post by you, you make me want your life :)
 

lyndaelyzoo

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Nov 9, 2008
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Sumstorm, I am interested in how you became involved in the elephant husbandry internships and how prevalent poaching was when you worked in Thailand. I would like to learn more about the work that you have done...do you have a blog about your experiences? If not, you should develop one!! :D
 

sumstorm

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Selectively bred populations are genetically different than the wild populations from which they derived. Tame circus elephants are not genetically different than their wild untamed relatives and have not been selected for certain phenotypes. BTW, I am not arguing with you about who has the most experience with elephants. Sumstorm just read your latest post about selecting elephants for strength or agility and in that case then they would be selectively bred. I had just always heard that most of the tamed elephants were wild caught because it takes so long for them to reach maturity. Your experiences with elephants sounds really interesting and thanks for clearing that up.
You are correct if we are only examining zoo populations vs wild populations and if we are looking at African elephants. Asian elephants have a deep history in terms of working with humans, especially the Karen, as the elephants have a strong role in their animist beliefs. In SE Asia, there are debates over whether or not Indian and Asian elephants are the same species...and people there recognize several....I don't know the term, it doesn't translate well, but it means 'families' there. I tend to translate it as lineages, but as it was explained to me, it is a mixture of the belief of which populations of elephants lived where, what their special abilities were (including ability to work with humans) alond with some spiritual connotations.

Also, maybe my understanding is warped, but domestic dogs are a subspecies of wolves...but still the same species. Genetically they can breed and procreate without sterile offspring. At least, that was what I learned in undergrad. That was a decade ago, so maybe something has changed? And any species where the populations are seperated will develop genetic differences and experience some level of drift, whether that is through domestication, environmental differences, behavioral alterations, or random mutations. One of the issues that is apparent with attempts to release wild elephants is that they don't have a family unit, which is a part of survival for wild elephants, and much like releasing a siberian husky with a wolf pack, they behave differently....alienating themselves from wild elephants.
 

sumstorm

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Thanks, 1Vista1Grey, I get bored easily, so I do everything possible to stay busy...and the more I do the more opportunities I find to pursue interests. My life hasn't always been easy, but I love it!

Lyndaelyzoo, I set up the original internship during undergrad at a zoo a couple hours from campus. Twice a week I drove to the zoo and put in 8+ hours shifts. I negotiated for the position; I agreed to attend every torturous event and handle the kiddie carts (animal artificat demos) in exchange for working with elephants. The internship was during my junior year and it set me up for all the opportunities after that. I was offered a position on an anthrax team because of my volunteer involvement with the zoo....the head keeper heard about the opportunity (volunteer) through AZA and brought it to my attention. The zoo experience led to the Watson Fellowship which lead to the Thailand experience on the Jumbo Express in Thailand, where my previous elephant experience enabled a special opportunity for additional work with the vet on an additional month long elephant back trip to treat elephants, livestock, and people. That experience led to the SSP work and now I am trying to decide if, at my age, I want to pursue zoo medicine!

When I was in Thailand, poaching wasn't a major problem. Illegal logging was a huge issue, as were land mines along the N border due to mynamar's civil war. Elephants, especially domesticated ones, can be detusked. That was an issue. If an owner decided an elephant wasn't 'useful' he might detusk it, then abandon it. Kind of like removing the teeth of a dog then dumping it in the woods. If tusks are cut off, they can be treated and heal, though the animal will still suffer. If they are removed, it is like removing horns that are fully grown....from the skull. The animals don't seem to ever fully recover. There are other cruel things done to elephants, such as walking them into pits, filling the pits with mud/clay, then killing the elephant to obtain an unfractured skeleton.

Blogs weren't actually common when I was in Thailand....I wrote about my experiences and sent them, via email, to everyone I knew. I learned when I returned that several schools were tracking my progress, using it to teach children about culture and geography and such. That was weird....to be asked to talk to classes when I came back. Also, I was gone during 9-11, so I compiled my journals as a token american...one of hte few abroad following 9-11, including spending time in countries that were not favorable to americans. My husband has been encouraging me to re-write parts of what I did and make it available again...but it is a lot of work (I have legal file boxes of writing, photos, sketchbooks, records, etc to sort through.) I really haven't sat down long enough to do more than figure out what is where and start the process.

I am now blogging, but only what I have done recently (remodeling the house near vet school, a bonaire trip, bike commuting, etc...far less interesting) and I am in the process of trying to arrange some externships for next summer.

I realize most of what I wrote isn't really relevant to whether or not I support PETA's actions or the actions of the elephant handlers.... I just think it is important to remember that our perceptions and encounters with animals are colored by our cultural and societal boundaries. We don't have elephants working in the streets here....in Thailand Hill Tribes dogs never live in a house. Reframing what we know with people's experiences can help us to interpret what is actually occuring and to decide whether it is appropriate or not. Some people may see a cat burritoed for a procedure and determine that is cruel...and the vet is cruel while others see it as a safety issue for both humans and cat. I am just referencing the fact that I never saw elephants treated this way by people whose lives depended on them, or by the staff of zoos, because it was considered risky to treat a powerful animal that way, and that these animals have been handled throughout centuries of history, but at the same time, I do not know the exact events unless PETA provides uninterrupted documentation. While I consider myself a progressive and effective trainer, I do occasionally lose my temper with my own animals (the ones who live in my home) and shout, or crate them when it isn't necessary. It is a failing on my part. So, I am torn with stuff like this, because I don't trust any of the human parties involved.
 

Shanomong

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Mar 5, 2008
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Animal abuse makes me absolutely sick. There was a case in Baltimore a month ago where two teenagers poured gasoline all over a dog and lit it on fire. I can't believe people can knowingly do that to an animal.


On the other hand, I agree with the above...I strongly dislike PETA and refuse to support their causes.

That dog was actually transported to our clinic in PA... she ended up dying of renal failure as a result of her injuries :(. She was a really sweet girl, and a local rescue spent a ton of $$ trying to save her... they even drove all the way out there to get her. So there is, at least, a heartwarming side to the story...
 

StayingHopeful

UC Davis Class of 2013
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Jan 4, 2009
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I know this is not directly related, but it raises similar questions...

Some of the posts reflected being against the use of animals in circuses, which brought me back to a question I have been asked many times but wanted to poll the SDN-ers about. When people would find out I was pre-vet, they would often end up asking, "What do you think about the use of animals in confined spaces in zoos?" Since we are on the topic of non-domesticated animals being used for entertainment I thought it wasn't a far leap (and was a good chance) to ask.

Thanks in advance!
 

twelvetigers

stabby cat
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Mar 12, 2008
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I'm fine with animals that cannot be released into the wild being held in zoos. So, animals that some moron had as pets, or animals that were injured beyond repair and would die/be killed if released... animals bred in captivity, although that's kind of fuzzy... where else would these animals go?

I enjoy trips to the zoo when the animals are in spacious and appropriate enclosures, which most major zoos have. It's important to educate the public about animals and maybe spark some interest in conservation/protection for endangered species, and I think zoos are one of the best ways to achieve this goal.

Zoos aren't for entertainment so much as they are for education - circuses are only for entertainment and require the animals to do very unnatural things, often by force. I think there's a big difference there. Agree/disagree?
 
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