Elephant Cruelty Explored Through Circuses
There is no creature among all the Beasts of the world which hath so great and ample demonstration of the power and wisedom of almighty God as the Elephant.
~Edward Topsell "The Historie of Foure-Footed Beastes" (1607)
Elephants are currently suffering in two distinct ways. They are suffering as a species, and as individuals. The following essay will introduce elephants and their plight as a species, but will focus on the suffering of circus elephants. Circuses are major culprits of elephant exploitation. Elephants in circuses are not cared for properly and often experience abuse. The purpose of this essay is to not only point out these cruelties, but to discuss how we can change the fate of elephants in circuses worldwide. Elephantidae is the familial classification of elephants. There are two distinct species of elephants; the African elephant (Loxodonta arficana) and the Asian elephant (Elephas maximus). In the wild an elephant’s geographical location is synonymous with its name. The habitat of the African elephant is usually a wooded or shrubby area that is near a water source. Asian elephants have a greater range in habitat which can include rain forests, dry forests, and grass jungles. Together, elephants are the largest living terrestrial animals on Earth. Elephants are regarded as highly intelligent and social animals. They live in herds which are lead by the eldest and often the most dominant female elephant called the matriarch. Elephant families provide their members with knowledge, life skills, security, and companionship. Social learning is an important feature of elephants. They learn things like how to forage for food, communicate, play, attract a mate, and protect themselves from watching and the imitating behaviors of other elephants in their herd. Elephants are also well known for the ability to express an array of emotions. Emotions allow elephants to form closer bonds and to communicate with each other on a greater level. In terms of species status, the African elephant is listed as threatened and the Asian elephant as endangered. There are an estimated 400,000 African elephants and 35,000 Asian elephants left in the world. This includes both wild and captive elephants. A species that is listed as endangered is in serious jeopardy of becoming extinct. The title threatened is given to species that are likely to become endangered in the near future. The documented decrease in elephant populations are mostly attributed to loss of natural habitat and the intentional killing of elephants by humans. Expanding human populations have caused encroachment and alterations to lands that were once home to elephants on the continents of Asia and Africa. Overpopulation and the increased competition over resources have created the Human-Elephant conflict. People who live in close proximity to wild elephants are often fearful for the destruction of crops and of personal harm caused by elephant aggression and stampedes. Injuring or killing the elephant in question has been the common response in these types of situations. Elephant conservation organizations like The Amboseli Trust for Elephants are working with African governments and their citizens to spread knowledge and provide economic alternatives to poaching such tourism. Poaching elephants for their ivory tusks is widely banned, but is still a plight of the elephant. It is particularly a serious problem of the African Elephant. Both male and female African elephants have tusks and are susceptible to ivory seeking poachers. Even though plastics have replaced most of the traditional uses of ivory, ivory is still being used to make jewelry and decorative items. There is still a strong underground market for this “white gold”. A recent increase in the wild African elephant population has revitalized the illegal ivory trade. CITES (Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna...
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