Posts Tagged ‘elephants’

PEOPLE TO WATCH: LISA LEEMAN, DIRECTOR OF ONE LUCKY ELEPHANT

Thursday, April 5th, 2012
 
 
 
ELEPHANTS IN CAPTIVITY: DOES ANYONE GET IT RIGHT?

A CONVERSATION WITH LISA LEEMAN
 
ACCLAIMED DOCUMENTARY FILMMAKER AND

DIRECTOR OF ONE LUCKY ELEPHANT
 
 
 

 
“At its heart, this film asks – demands – that we reconsider our relationship to all animals” – Lisa Leeman
 
 
“Elephants are human animals; their emotional makeup identical to our own, their caring and compassion probably surpassing that of humans. They mourn the loss of a loved one just as deeply as we do, so it is not difficult to regard and love the orphans as one would one’s own child.”– Dame Daphne Sheldrick, The David Sheldrick Wildlife Trust
 
 
One of the best documentary films of 2011 – Roger Ebert
 
 
By Jonathan Arkin
 
 
 
EDITOR’S PROLOGUE
 
 
 
When Action Now+Network writer Jonathan Arkin mentioned that he’d like to interview his former USC film school instructor, Lisa Leeman, who had directed the recently released One Lucky Elephant, my immediate response was an enthusiastic “Wonderful!” I knew One Lucky Elephant was not only a moving human interest story, but an important film for its message about the emotional and physical perils of attempting to retrofit wild animals into our urban commercial world. This has long been a key issue for Action Now+Network, and has been expounded upon in numerous features on the site. This interview, I thought, would be another great opportunity to drive the point home. 

 
But what I didn’t know at the time, was that Leeman’s personal philosophy, which was shaped by the ten year gestation of the film, reflects much more than a view on the dilemma of bringing wild animals into our world. Rather, with this film, she “wants to open hearts and minds to the possibility that we should reconsider how we regard, and treat, animals, and ultimately, the earth herself”. This perspective enriches the experience of the film for the moviegoer on two counts: it gives us the impetus to revisit our deep connection to all sentient animal life, and it offers us a challenge to redefine our own humanity through a renewed respect for their nature, their habitats  and for their place on our planet.
 
In this context, Leeman’s interview is especially relevant because the elephants’  fate in our 21st century culture is so tragic. In the wild, they face near extinction at the hands of Chinese poaching cartels that have infiltrated the preserves and savannahs in central and east Africa, and the deforestation industries (logging and palm oil) in Indonesia. 
 
In captivity, with few exceptions, elephants are viewed as chattel, and despite their extremely high intelligence and their human-like range of emotions, they are subjected to a life that Arkin appropriately describes in the feature below, as animal slavery.  
 
The brutal methods used to capture and “tame” wild elephants for commercial work have been well documented both in film and in undercover video.   In the last few years, activist organizations have been especially vigilant in their exposure of inhumane conditions in which elephants are kept in zoos or trained for use in performing venues like circuses and films. Recent lawsuits brought against the notoriously cruel Ringling Brothers Circus and Have Trunk Will Travel, have graphically illuminated the abuses that take place.  
 
We know now that each ticket purchased for an exotic elephant trek or children’s ride, to a zoo or a circus or even to some films that feature animal “stars”, supports an industry that not only destroys the elephant family structure both physically and psychologically but it breaks the spirit of these gentle beings, just as surely as a life in chains and confinement would break a human.
 
An extraordinary exception to this heartrending scenario is the story of David Balding and his beloved Flora, so eloquently told by Leeman and her One Lucky Elephant production team. Balding adopted two year old, orphaned Flora, and  developed a remarkable and loving relationship with her – a relationship that inevitably forced him to ask the painful questions about their lives together and to make the ultimate sacrifice in order to value and protect her.
 
NOTE: One Lucky Elephant has been nominated in the best Documentary category for an HSUS (Humane Society of the United States) Genesis AwardBe sure to watch the Award show on Animal Planet May 5 at 4:00 p.m. EST/PST and May 6 at 8:00 a.m. EST/PST. If you haven't yet seen One Lucky Elephant, you can buy the DVD at this link.
 
Arkin’s enlightening interview follows below.
 
 
ONE LUCKY ELEPHANT: ILLUMINATING THE ESSENTIAL DILEMMA THROUGH A LOVING HUMAN-ANIMAL BOND

This past year has not been a particularly kind one to elephants.

While it was widely reported by the Indo-Asian News Service that 1,500 elephants were killed in 2011 for their ivory – 300 in the African nation of Cameroon alone  (other reports place the number at closer to 3000)– some of these large, majestic, intelligent animals are being subjected to a different kind of tragedy.  Various forms of captivity, or animal “slavery”, in which they are primarily used or  “trained”  to entertain audiences for profit, has been quietly decimating wild elephant populations in another way: through the forced attrition and confinement of herds.

Fortunately, there are some encouraging signs that their plight is being addressed: activist organizations, assisted by strong online support and visibility, are taking direct steps to assist elephants in danger.

But nothing is as effective as a good film with a strong message, as they would say at USC’s film school.

In late 2010, Action Now Network reported on documentary filmmaker Tim Gorski’s compelling How I Became an Elephant , his earlier The Elephant Lady and the efforts of animal rights advocates to move these captive elephants into dedicated nature reserves.

And now, documentary Producer/Director Lisa Leeman, a member of the faculty at University of Southern California’s School of Cinematic Arts, has had her decade-long study of one of the more positive human-animal relationships ever caught on film embraced by a major television network, Oprah Winfry’s OWN.



 
Lisa Leeman
Director, One Lucky Elephant, and Adjunct Faculty, Cinematic Arts,
University of Southern California
 
 
“I believe that real social change happens from the heart up to the head, not the head down to the heart” – Lisa Leeman, Director, One Lucky Elephant


“I’ve always been drawn to make films that have positive consequences for the planet and its inhabitants,” Leeman told Action Now Network. “The films I’ve made reach people through their hearts – I believe that real social change happens from the heart up to the head, not the head down to the heart.”
 

“[It’s] hard to think that maybe I’d made a mistake to take this elephant’s life and merge it with mine…..We needed another life for her. She needed to be an elephant. Not a dog. Or a daughter.” – David Balding, in One Lucky Elephant.
 


The Los Angeles-based director-producer always knew that films had the power to move people if the story and imagery were compelling enough.

“We need to get the word out about elephants,” Leeman said about her film, One Lucky Elephant, which was produced by three enterprising women – Cristina Colissimo, Jordana Glick-Franzheim and Miriam Cutler. “Our film helps audiences realize that elephants are remarkably intelligent, social, emotional creatures, with personality, who experience joy, sadness, are playful, mourn, get silly, etcetera. The more people that see our film, the better for elephants!”



 
Flora with Balding on his wedding day
 
Ten years in the making and released theatrically in New York and Los Angeles, then on the Oprah Winfrey Network late in 2011, One Lucky Elephant tells the story of Flora, an orphaned African elephant who was “adopted” by a man named David Balding and trained to work in a small circus.  The film traces Balding’s growing relationship with Flora, leading to an extraordinary bond that becomes a paradox as Flora’s craving for freedom also grows.
 
“[It’s] hard to think that maybe I’d made a mistake to take this elephant’s life and merge it with mine,” Balding says in One Lucky Elephant. “I guess I’m not one hundred percent rational about this.”
 

THE BIG PICTURE FOR ANIMALS IN CAPTIVITY: DOES ANYONE GET IT RIGHT? 
 
And this very struggle between what is right for the elephant and what seems right, raises what is perhaps the film’s dominant question: Does anyone get it right when making decisions about animals in captivity?

The obviously kind-hearted Balding is movingly honest in the film about his own mixed feelings, as he discovers that elephants face dangers from poachers even in so-called “protected” preserves.

“There really aren’t any good options,” Balding says in the film as he mulls over choices to leave Flora at various shelters and preserves. “I could give her to a zoo, but I want her to have a better life than that…we searched a lot of different places, and none of them seemed right for Flora.”

I learned how elephants live in the wild and how rarely elephants’ needs are met in captivity…watching David try to find the best home for Flora was to see, finally, that she’s caught between two worlds and belongs fully to neither.

The two “co-protagonists” in this “10,000 pound love story” were designed to draw attention to the plight of elephants not through didactic or melodramatic cinema, but by the creation of strong character and the deft use of camera work to magnify important emotions.
 


 
                    Baby Flora
 
 
Filmed in segments over that ten-year period, One Lucky Elephant follows the story of Flora and Balding’s poignant relationship. The film begins to focus on Balding’s realization that Flora would be better off in the wild, with her needs met and her instinctive social habits less curtailed. But as Flora’s career as a reluctant big-top star comes to a close, the dilemma over what to do, where to do it (and how), takes center ring.

Leeman calls One Lucky Elephant “a cautionary tale” about human manipulation of the natural world.

“As the story unfolded,” Leeman said in her director’s statement, “I learned how elephants live in the wild and how rarely elephants’ needs are met in captivity…watching David try to find the best home for Flora was to see, finally, that she’s caught between two worlds and belongs fully to neither. She was raised among humans, but they cannot fulfill her deepest needs; she needs to be with other elephants, but she hasn’t learned how to integrate with her own kind. She’s a fish out of water, whether with humans or with other elephants.”

One of the film’s more unsettling moments has Flora placed in a holding area near another, more dominant elephant. The sheer power that such large (10,000 pounds) animals exhibit becomes uncomfortably obvious as the two get confrontational–and yet another option for Flora has to be abandoned. A later effort proved more successful.
 

A CHARACTER DRIVEN APPROACH TELLS A UNIQUE STORY
 
Leeman, the director of innovative, intimate and probing documentaries such as Metamorphosis: Man into Woman and Out of Faith, says that she was not drawn into the project until actually coming into contact with Flora, and that the film did not begin to take its final shape until 2006, several years into the Balding-Flora saga.  That year, media features had just begun to turn the public’s attention to the deep familial and social needs of elephants in the wild and the damaging impact of human intervention on them. Tim Gorski released The Elephant Lady and an influential feature article in The New York Times Magazine called attention to an elephantine, human-caused version of post traumatic stress syndrome that had been taking hold in elephant communities.

One of the producers of the film – and its composer, who Leeman said was instrumental in getting the project off the ground and into the can – is Miriam Cutler, who says that her colleague, Leeman, is “driven” and “heartfelt” in her approach to this and other emotional subjects.
 
“Originally I was the one who knew about Flora, since I met her as a baby,” said producer Cutler, who at the time was also the music composer for the circus in which Flora performed. “In 2000, David said he was going to retire her and send her back to Africa, so I got really excited about capturing her story in a documentary film. Lisa was one of the first people I called, because I know that when she works on a film, she instinctively hones in on the heart and soul themes of a story. She is very heartfelt and intelligent about those issues.”

What we have come to understand is that we need to change the human dominance model of how we exist on this planet, this model which is not working. We must acknowledge that we are just one species in the web of life – recognize we are part of this greater ecosystem. Until we do that, we are going to be in trouble. –Miriam Cutler, Producer
 
While working on the film, we all learned so much about the harm that’s done to animals in captivity. They are incredibly sensitive creatures, and Lisa was adept at mining and articulating all of that.”

Producer Cristina Colissimo, who also coordinates relief and fundraising efforts for Flora’s continued care on behalf of the filmmakers, agrees.

“Lisa is probably the hardest working director I know!” Colissimo said. “She brings her editor's eye to her directing style, which is heaven for producers. She also does her homework, creating a palette of information and emotion to draw from when interviewing her subjects.”

 
 
 
“I felt from the start that Lisa was the only director to do this,” added Cutler. “Because I didn’t want it to be a manipulative story. I wanted to get it through the heart. I wanted this to be from the point of view of a real character who happens to be an elephant. We grappled a lot with how to tell this story, for me it was always very clear that this would be a heartfelt story in which people would learn about these issues by closely identifying with the characters, and Lisa was very on board with that from the beginning.”
 
The character-driven approach seemed to resonate with not only the women who drove the film forward, but with audiences.

“We didn’t feel there were any villains in the story, we wanted people to find their own way in,” Cutler said. “Flora is not just some animal. Lisa has this way of getting to the heart of things. It’s not black-and-white – there is a lot of gray area here. She gives the audience that access to the grey areas that are more nuanced. She is also analytical, highly developed in each area and is easily able to switch. She is my ‘Method’ director. She is able to stay with the heart of things, but she is still so thorough…trying to understand the different aspects of a story.”
 

WHY DOCUMENTARIES?
 
 

 
Flora at the Elephant Sanctuary in Tennessee
 
 
“It so interesting, this kind of work, it takes your entire life, so you want it to have meaning,” Cutler said. “That’s why people like us pick documentaries, ones that may have some impact.

What we have come to understand is that we need to change the human dominance model of how we exist on this planet, this model which is not working. We must acknowledge that we are just one species in the web of life – recognize we are part of this greater ecosystem. Until we do that, we are going to be in trouble. The more we try to control everything…to dominate, the more trouble we will get into.”

And the emotions that exist in the film seem to spill out to viewers as well, spiking fervent interest in the screenings of the film on OWN.

“Elephants are smart and emotional creatures,” Leeman said in a recent interview.  “One of my greatest joys connected to the film was when an audience member came up to me after watching the film and said he’ll never look at elephants in the circus or zoo the same way again.”

Now, with OWN airing her work, Leeman told Action Now Network about her personal feelings regarding animals in the wild, while she shares with her producing classes the pitfalls of distribution and the plight of women directors in a male-dominated business.

“Remember the quote attributed to Gandhi – ‘Be the change you want to see in the world,’” explained Leeman. “[My films] offer different ways to look at the world, different ways to be in the world…meditation, non-reactivity, a practice cultivating peace, happiness, equanimity…all of which the world desperately needs, as well as compassion, and realizing that all beings on the planet are interconnected and part of the same fabric of the being. That realization decreases aggression and the ease of seeing other cultures and other religions as ‘the other’ and the lesser.”

Leeman’s strong connection to meditative practice has also led her to focus on extraordinary individuals who teach and share, thus leading her to make her most recent films (Crazy Wisdom and Yogananda) about great thinkers and socio-religious struggle.

THE HUMANE SOCIETY AND ROGER EBERT: ULTIMATE ACCOLADES
 
One of my greatest joys connected to the film was when an audience member came up to me after watching the film and said he’ll never look at elephants in the circus or zoo the same way again – Lisa Leeman
 
Adding to the recent buzz surrounding Leeman’s film, One Lucky Elephant was just nominated for best feature documentary of the year at the 26th Humane Society of the United States’ (HSUS) Genesis Awards, which recognizes films that carry animal-friendly themes.

“I’m thrilled and honored that One Lucky Elephant is nominated,” Leeman said. “The Humane Society does such good and important work…to improve the lives of animals in captivity and the wild – and it’s great that the Genesis awards can bring further attention to [these] issues. We’re in great company [with the other nominees]. Being nominated will bring added attention to the plight of elephants. There are over 600 in captivity in North America, and most are living in circumstances that don’t meet their physical or emotional needs.”

She adds that those who have seen One Lucky Elephant have changed both their behavior and perspective after seeing the film, making her realize how important the cinema can be in raising awareness.

“I’ve said that the films I tend to make are ‘sideways social issue films, i.e., not necessarily straight-on advocacy films,” said Leeman, whose Crazy Wisdom is now in theatres, “but nonetheless, films that get at opening hearts and minds and helping us to see other people and other creatures unlike ourselves with compassion, understanding and acceptance. We’ve had so many people tell us that after seeing our film, they see elephants in a whole new light, and will no longer support zoos and circuses that keep elephants in captivity.”
 
Another special honor for Leeman was a nod from the preeminent film critic, Roger Ebert, who called One Lucky Elephant one the best documentary films of 2011. The film was also selected to be part of the American Documentary Showcase, a U.S. State Department cultural program that showcases American nonfiction films in countries around the world.
 

A CHARACTER DRIVEN FILM THAT ASKS US TO RECONSIDER THE WAY WE REGARD AND TREAT ANIMALS
 
Leeman is quick to point out that, although she is concerned with the welfare of animals and that her work has made her re-examine relationships with her own pets, One Lucky Elephant was not meant to be solely a “social issue film” but instead was designed to be character-driven. She believes that we need to self-examine our profound influence on nature much in the way David Balding does in the film.

 “[The film] doesn’t have ‘experts’ decrying the mistreatment of elephants in circuses and zoos,” she said.  “But at its heart, this film asks – demands – that we reconsider our relationship to all animals. I’ve become interested in more than simply showing that circuses and zoos are not good environments for elephants – I want to open hearts and minds to the possibility that we should reconsider how we regard, and treat, animals, and ultimately, the earth herself. That perhaps our impulse to dominate our surroundings, whether it’s one species or our environment, is misguided.”
 
Film helps spread the message. Activism helps get the information out. And much as we recognize the remarkable long-term memory of elephants, the message is not one that will be easily forgotten.


 

Flora arriving at the sanctuary
 
 
 
MORE INFORMATION ABOUT ONE LUCKY ELEPHANT
 


Find out more about Lisa Leeman at  http://www.lisaleeman.com

 

 
FACT: Elephants are one of the most intelligent, sensitive, highly social species of land mammal on the planet.
 
FACT: Elephants live in families led by a matriarch; the young bull elephants leave the family at the age of 12 or 13; the females stay together as a family unit for life.  They roam in the wild up to 30 miles per day.
 
FACT: Elephants live up to 70 years in the wild. Their gestation period is 22 months, and calves nurse for up to two years.
 
 
FACT: Elephants grieve for days over the bodies of their dead.
 
FACT: Elephants cry, play, have incredible memories, and make joyful gestures to one another!
 
FACT: Elephants have greeting ceremonies when a friend that has been away for some time returns to the group.
 
FACT: Elephants are essential to their ecosystems and are the major dispersers of seeds (in their dung) which replenish the Amazon forests.
 

FOR MORE INFORMATION AND RESOURCES ON ELEPHANTS, SEE:
 
 
 
 

 
ATTN:  HOLLYWOOD FILM AND TV INDUSTRY 

 
 

Jonathan Arkin is a graduate of the USC Annenberg School for Communication & Journalism.  He currently lives in southern California.

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SAVING ELEPHANTS BY CUTTING THE ILLEGAL IVORY SUPPLY CHAIN

Sunday, March 25th, 2012

SAVING ELEPHANTS BY CUTTING THE ILLEGAL IVORY SUPPLY CHAIN

 

By Fred O'Regan

March 21, 2012

INTERNATIONAL FUND FOR ANIMAL WELFARE

 

The illegal ivory trade starts with the slaughter of elephants, continues with wildlife traffickers smuggling ivory across international borders and ends with the under-the-counter sale of carvings, signature stamps and trinkets, in marketplaces in Asia and online.

The International Fund for Animal Welfare is working to cut the supply chain at all its major touch points by training rangers in anti-poaching techniques, lobbying politicians to take action to block the sale of ivory, collaborating with customs and law enforcement authorities to arrest black-market sellers and reducing consumer demand through out the world, especially China, one of the largest consumers of wildlife products including ivory.

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Ivory Trade: Elephant Tusk Seizures Reach Record Number In 2011

Thursday, December 29th, 2011

Ivory Trade: Elephant Tusk Seizures Reach Record Number In 2011  

 

 BY 

AP VIA HUFFINGTON POST
First Posted: 12/29/11 03:11 AM ET Updated: 12/29/11 08:35 AM ET

It's been a disastrous year for elephants, perhaps the worst since ivory sales were banned in 1989 to save the world's largest land animals from extinction, the wildlife trade monitoring network TRAFFIC said Thursday.

A record number of large seizures of elephant tusks represents at least 2,500 dead animals and shows that organized crime — in particular Asian syndicates — is increasingly involved in the illegal ivory trade and the poaching that feeds it, the group said.

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Record ivory seizures point to surge in elephant poaching

Thursday, December 29th, 2011

Record ivory seizures point to surge in elephant poaching

THE GUARDIAN

December 29, 2011

A record number of large ivory seizures have been made globally this year, pointing to a surge in elephant poaching in Africa to meet Asian demand for tusks for use in jewellery and ornaments, according to an international conservation group.

Traffic, which tracks trends in wildlife trading, said at least 13 large-scale seizures of over 800kg of ivory were recorded in 2011, compared with six in 2010.

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URGENT ISSUES: CAPTIVE ELEPHANTS

Saturday, August 20th, 2011

WILD ANIMALS BELONG IN THE WILD

 

This is typical elephant behavior in the wild.  Notice the family size and their response, when the infant falls into the water hole.  Notice also the texture of the savanna and its suitability for the elephants' feet and weight.

 

 



CAPTIVE ELEPHANTS

 

 


CAPTIVE ELEPHANTS: WORKING ELEPHANTS

 

 

Each time you take an elephant ride as a tourist seeking an indigenous experience, your dollars are perpetuating the untold suffering of an elephant.

 

Elephants are are highly intelligent, highly social animals that exhibit human-like behaviors : they care for their young, they are protective of one another, they (famously) grieve for days over the bodies of their dead. They live in matriarchal communities in which the females stay together for life. They can roam up to 30 miles a day.  Moreover, they are essential to their ecosystems – among other things, their dung carries seeds which cultivate the flora in the savannahs. 


Tragically, these peaceful gentle giants (vegetarians) are treated barbarically by humans for exploitive purposes: They are cruelly taken captive, separated from their relatives, and "broken" by humans who work them unnaturally in logging camps, or use them as spectacles in parades, circuses or in tourist ride attractions. 

 

 

This is a bull hook, the instrument used (liberally) to "break" and manipulate elephants for use on safari rides, and for other forms of entertainment. Photo courtesy How I Became an Elephant 


See Also:

 

TIM GORSKI: AWARD WINNING DOCUMENTARY FILMMAKER SPEAKS OUT FOR ELEPHANTS

 

WEBSITE: HOW I BECAME AN ELEPHANT


ELEPHANT VOICES


 

 


CAPTIVE ELEPHANTS: ZOOS AND CIRCUSES

 

ELEPHANTS ARE NOT ENTERTAINMENT.  

BOYCOTT ALL ANIMAL CIRCUSES:  NO EXCEPTIONS!

 

 

 

Most zoo conditions are inhumane environments for elephants.   Listen to this radio spot: it refers to pending decisions in the Auckland Zoo — but information is applicable to zoos in general

 


 

 

 

 

Worst, are the circuses, which often pull nursing calves away from their mothers, and use cruel methods to prepare them for their shows. Circus visitors have no idea of how these gentle animals are "trained" to perform for the big tent.  Do not patronize circuses that use animal acts.  A list of those circuses can be found in this link: http://www.bornfreeusa.org/facts.php?more=1&p=425

Billie, the elephant, shown in the video above, has been consigned permanently to the Los Angeles Zoo, despite public efforts to have him moved to a sanctuary.

But there is still time to help other elephants in desperate need:

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

WHAT YOU CAN DO 

 

HELP SEND QUEENIE TO THE PAWS SANCTUARY


TOP 10 REASONS TO FIGHT FOR ELEPHANTS IN ZOOS

 

THE TOP 10 WORST ZOOS FOR ELEPHANTS

 

 

TAKE ACTON TO HELP ALL ELEPHANTS NOW!  

 
 
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WILD ANIMALS BELONG IN THE WILD: CAPTIVE ELEPHANTS

Saturday, December 25th, 2010

 

 

This is typical elephant behavior in the wild.  Notice the family size and their response, when the infant falls into the pond.  Notice also the texture of the savanna and its suitability for the elephants' feet and weight.

 

 


And a wonderful clip on elephant behavior from the David Sheldrick Wildlife Trust.

 

 

 

 

 

CAPTIVE ELEPHANTS

 

 

 


CAPTIVE ELEPHANTS: WORKING ELEPHANTS

 

 

Each time you take an elephant ride as a tourist seeking an indigenous experience, your dollars are perpetuating the untold suffering of an elephant.

 

Elephants are are highly intelligent, highly social animals that exhibit human-like behaviors : they care for their young, they are protective of one another, they (famously) grieve for days over the bodies of their dead. They live in matriarchal communities in which the females stay together for life. They can roam up to 30 miles a day.  Moreover, they are essential to their ecosystems – among other things, their dung carries seeds which cultivate the flora in the savannahs. 


Tragically, these peaceful gentle giants (vegetarians) are treated barbarically by humans for exploitive purposes: They are cruelly taken captive, separated from their relatives, and "broken" by humans who work them unnaturally in logging camps, or use them as spectacles in parades, circuses or in tourist ride attractions. 

 

 

This is a bull hook, the instrument used (liberally) to "break" and manipulate elephants for use on safari rides, and for other forms of entertainment. Photo courtesy How I Became an Elephant 


 

Award winning, environmental filmmaker Tim Gorski flew to Thailand with 14 year old activist Juliette West and her father, to make the documentary film, "How I Became An Elephant", which graphically describes how these animals are "tamed"  and trained to become the working animals we see in Asia.

 

FACEBOOK PAGE

 

WEBSITE: HOW I BECAME AN ELEPHANT

 

ELEPHANT VOICES

 


CAPTIVE ELEPHANTS: ZOOS AND CIRCUSES

 

ELEPHANTS ARE NOT ENTERTAINMENT.  

BOYCOTT ALL ANIMAL CIRCUSES:  NO EXCEPTIONS!

 

 

 

Most zoo conditions are inhumane environments for elephants.   Listen to this radio spot: it refers to pending decisions in the Auckland Zoo — but information is applicable to zoos in general

 

 


 

 

 

 

Worst, are the circuses, which often pull nursing calves away from their mothers, and use cruel methods to prepare them for their shows. Circus visitors have no idea of how these gentle animals are "trained" to perform for the big tent.  Do not patronize circuses that use animal acts.  A list of those circuses can be found in this link: http://www.bornfreeusa.org/facts.php?more=1&p=425

Billie, the elephant, shown in the video above, has been consigned permanently to the Los Angeles Zoo, despite public efforts to have him moved to a sanctuary.

But there is still time to help other elephants in desperate need:

 

 

 

 

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SUPERSTAR HERO: 15 YEAR OLD ELEPHANT ACTIVIST, JULIETTE WEST

Friday, December 17th, 2010



 JULIETTE WEST

15 YEAR OLD ELEPHANT ACTIVST AND STAR OF

 “HOW I BECAME AN ELEPHANT”


 

 Everyone can make a difference –even small things can make a big difference.  

Just passing on a circus ticket will be a big help for the elephants.

 

 

Juliette West’s animal activist journey began at the tender age of eight, when she asked her family and friends to make donations to the local animal shelter in lieu of – – gifts for her birthday.  Little did she know that six years later, that path would lead her to a starring role in Tim Gorski’s documentary film, “How I Became An Elephant”, which screened to a rapt crowd of over 400 at the Hollywood Activist Film Festival at the Egyptian Theater on December 2, 2010.  

Without giving away  too much of the story, the film centers on Juliette’s quest to rescue a badly injured female elephant from a forced breeding camp in Thailand, and transport her to the famed Elephant Nature Park sanctuary, to live out her life in peace.   In Thailand, and in other parts of Asia, elephants are used extensively for work and entertainment, and most famously, appear once a year at an “Elephant Roundup”, a public display where they thrill the crowds with elaborate circus tricks and rides.  The manner in which the elephants are “tamed” for these spectacles is a large part of the story.  By the end of the film, we learn a lot about elephants, what life is like for captive elephants in Thailand – and just why it is so important that elephants remain free and wild.

 


 



Buy why elephants?  What led to Juliette’s passion for elephants? 

Billy the elephant at the LA Zoo was her first inspiration.  When she was 12, Juliette heard about the movement to retire Billy, the lone elephant resident of the Los Angeles Zoo elephant to the PAWS  (Performing Animal Welfare Society) sanctuary.  Billy was suffering from arthritis and foot disease due to the substandard enclosure in which he was kept.  He was also lonely and cramped in a small enclosure where he rocked back and forth in a rhythm called stereotypies which signals extreme mental distress.  Stereotypies is commonly seen in captive elephants– in zoos, and especially in circuses.  It is never seen in the wild where elephants live freely with their families and roam up to 20 miles per day.

Juliette began to educate herself on elephants – how they live in the wild, what they need to live successfully in captivity.  She wrote to City Council members and to friends on Billy’s behalf, asking for their support.    She went to visit the PAWS Sanctuary, as well as to the Oakland and Oregon Zoos to see the conditions in which the elephants lived.  These fateful trips led to important meetings: the first,  with Oregon Zoo Deputy Director, Mike Keele, a leading U.S. expert on Asian elephants; and the second, with film producer Michael Tobias, who was impressed with Juliette’s passion and determination.  Tobias called Tim Gorski, a documentary filmmaker and an outspoken animal advocate to meet Juliette.


 

Within months, Juliette found herself at the Annual Animal Rights Conference, taking place in Los Angeles.  There, she met Tim Gorski, who was speaking at the conference.  Gorski was looking for a way to bring his message about elephant conservation to a younger group of people.  Juliette proved to be the perfect spokesperson.

Juliette, in person, is articulate and self possessed far beyond her years.  She spoke with Action Now+Network about her role in the film, and the message she hopes we will take from it.

 

Action Now+Network:   What was the most challenging thing about making the film?

Juliette West: This was my first time on camera, and it was difficult – I had to learn how to relax in front of the camera.  I had to leave school for two weeks, when we went to Thailand, and it was an adjustment.

 

A.N.N: What do you hope this film will accomplish?

JW: I would like people to understand the history behind the safari tours and circuses –the elephants don’t just appear there willingly doing these awful stunts.  Elephants don’t normally balance on their head.    I want people to stop and think before they take an elephant ride – what had to happen to this wild elephant, to get it to perform or to carry someone on its back. How much beating did it take to become so submissive and lose its spirit?   I hope it (the film) will educate people about what is happening in Thailand –about how the elephants are “tamed” for the safari tours – about the abuse that occurs. 

When I went to the Elephant Nature Park, the sanctuary, it was heartbreaking to see some of the rescued and retired elephants there.  They had been so abused.   One elephant had a broken back.  The elephant we saved in the film had a broken hip from a forced breeding program. 

 


ANN:  What do you see yourself doing in the future?

JW: My hope is to become an activist in some way, an animal rights activist.  I’d like to open people’s eyes as to what is happening behind the scenes when they go to a circus – what their money is supporting.

 

ANN:  What is the one thing you’d like readers to know about your experience?

JW: I’d like people to know that everyone can make a difference – and that even small things can make a big difference.  Just passing on a circus ticket will be a big help for the elephants.

 

 


  

For more information on Juliette and “How I Became An Elephant”, see the following links:

How I Became An Elephant (website)

Palisadian Saves Elephant in Thailand 

Tim Gorski, Award Winning Filmmaker and Animal Protection Advocate Speaks Out For Elephants in His New film How I Became An Elephant 

How Juliette West Became An Elephant, Change.org


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Elephant Voices: Elephants Captured And Sold

Thursday, December 9th, 2010

ELEPHANT VOICES

Historically, the capture of wild elephants for wars and ceremonies and other human endeavours caused precipitous declines in populations of Asian elephants. Today, the capture of wild elephants continues, albeit on a much smaller scale, for the commercial sale of elephants to elephant-back safaris, zoos and circuses, causing the breakdown of complex relationships, lasting trauma and aggressive behavior.

The process of capture and training was, and still is, gruesome. Infants, calves and even adults were rounded up, separated from family and associates, hobbled and subdued through a process of physical and emotional abuse and reward. Similar capture, using helicopters, vehicles, immobilization drugs, ropes and winches, continues today. Photographs, video and eyewitness reports of the training of recently captured elephant calves show horrible abuse – calves are often held alone chained or in small cages, access to food and water may be withheld, and they are coerced with winches, or by pokes and jabs from a bull-hooks and other device. Check also ATE 2006. Statement on elephant capture. (168.97 kB)

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INTERCEPT KENYAN WILDLIFE POACHERS: HELP FUND A DNA FORENSICS LAB

Wednesday, December 8th, 2010


  • ELEPHANTS ARE BRUTALLY SLAUGHTERED BY POACHERS FOR THEIR IVORY.  

 

  • CONSUMERS: YOU CAN HELP SAVE THESE PEACEFUL, GENTLE ANIMALS.  

 

  • BOYCOTT ALL IVORY SALES.  

 

  • EACH PURCHASE OF IVORY PROPELS THE POACHING TRADE.  

 

  • IVORY AND BUSH MEAT SALES KEEP POACHERS IN BUSINESS.

 

  • HERE'S WHAT YOU CAN DO TO INTERCEPT THE BUSH MEAT TRADE:



Ken Bernhard and Bill Clark, Chief of Interpol Wildlife Crimes unit, are raising money for a DNA Forensics Lab to be headquartered at the Kenyan Wildlife Service.

 

A DNA Forensics lab will identify poached bush meat sold in local Kenyan storefronts.

 

Contributions for the DNA Forensics lab can be made to The Charles A. and Anne Morrow Lindbergh Foundation (Lindgergh Foundation), with designations to the Aviation Green Investment Program-DNA Forensics Lab.

 

Checks can be mailed to:

Lindbergh Foundaton

2150 Third Avenue North

Anoka, MN  55303

 

Or via credit card at: http://www.lindberghfoundation.org.  Use the Donate Now button and select Aviation Green

 

E-mail info@actionnownetwork.com for a copy of the Proposal developed by the Kenyan Wildlife Service.

 

For additional information, contact: 

Shelley L. Nehl, Managing Director/Grants Program Administrator
LINDBERGH FOUNDATION
phone: 763-576-1596

snehl@lindberghfoundation.org 

 

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PEOPLE TO WATCH: TIM GORSKI, AWARD WINNING DOCUMENTARY FILMMAKER

Monday, December 6th, 2010

 

 

TIM GORSKI, AWARD WINNING DOCUMENTARY FILMMAKER

AND ANIMAL PROTECTION ADVOCATE

SPEAKS OUT FOR ELEPHANTS

 

"HOW I BECAME AN ELEPHANT"


 

 “people just don’t think about it, when they see an elephant balancing on their head, rolling tree trunks to clear a forest,

or serving as a novelty attraction for tourist groups…  These animals are savagely abused in order to “break” them for the crowds”

 


YOU WILL NEVER VIEW ELEPHANTS IN THE SAME WAY AGAIN

 

If you have ever:

·        been on an elephant ride or trek as a tourist in Asia,

·        watched video of an elephant work camp (logging or forest clearing) ,

·        been to a parade or a circus which features elephants that are dancing, balancing on a body part, or spinning hula hoops,

you must not miss Tim Gorski’s powerful new film, How I Became An Elephant, screened in Los Angles on December 2 at the Artivist Film Festival.  You will never view elephants in the same way again.

How I Became An Elephant documents the compelling real life story of 14 year old Juliette West, in her quest to rescue a deeply injured female elephant from a forced breeding camp in Thailand, and take her to the Elephant Nature Park sanctuary to live out her days.   In the process, the viewer learns the horrific back story on the captive elephant trade—how these animals – one of the most complex, intelligent, gentle and highly social species on earth, are “broken” and trained to work and entertain.

 

 

A  “TAKE NO PRISONERS” ANIMAL ADVOCATE

Tim Gorski, an outspoken animal rights activist and seemingly fearless documentary filmmaker, is a man with a mission.  For more than fourteen years, he has traveled the globe, filming and volunteering in humanitarian, animal, and environmental projects, often at great risk to his own life.  He’s a new breed of documentary filmmaker with a “take no prisoners, tell it like it is” style.  More than once, he has exposed the dark underbelly of the hunted and captive animal world. 

 

 

 

 

After getting his MFA in Film from Miami University of Art and Design he worked both in film and television, taught production and animation at the Art Institute of Fort Lauderdale, and along the way, collected 14 Best Documentary Awards, two Best Cinematography Awards, and one Telly award.

Through his not-for-profit production company, Rattle The Cage Productions, Gorski turned his camera on subjects that few other filmmakers would touch: a sole captive orca living in a tiny Miami Seaquarium enclosure, forced to perform twice a day, seven days a week  (Slave to Entertainment);   a voyage with (then) little known Captain Paul Watson, on the controversial Sea Shepherd (Edge of the World).  Gorski’s films garnered award after award;  Edge of the World ultimately inspired Animal Planet’s Whale Wars.

 

 A PROMISE MADE

So, how did Gorski come to his passion for elephants?

It all began in 2004, on a fateful holiday on Kho Phi Phi, an island off the coast of  Phuket, Thailand, where he had hoped to spend time for a well needed rest. He had just finished his Masters degree, and was exhausted physically and emotionally.   As fate would have it, that holiday was not to happen. 

Within days of his arrival, he found himself fighting for his life, as the Tsunami devastated the beach resort, leaving more than half the population (2400) dead.  Gorski was one of the lucky ones who, against the odds, managed to survive.  Working with fellow survivors on the rescue effort, he met Lek Chailert, the famed Elephant Lady of Thailand, who has devoted her life to rescuing elephants from abusive working and performing environments.  She founded the Elephant Nature Park in Chiang Mai, as a sanctuary where these traumatized animals could live out their days in a peaceful, natural habitat. 

 

 

Lek offered Gorski refuge, educated him about the reality of the elephant trade and the extent to which these extraordinary animals are under siege by multiple groups that exploit, torture and kill them for financial gain.  Poaching cartels mutilate and kill them for their ivory;  logging and trekking companies, as well as circus and parade operators, typically tear nursing calves from their mothers, chain, cage and beat them in order to “break” them for human use.  Some, like the elephant rescued in the film, are used for forced breeding, and suffer broken ribs and ankles when offered repeatedly to the bull elephants.

 

 

“The fact is that people just don’t think about it, when they see an elephant balancing on their head, rolling tree trunks to clear a forest, or serving as a novelty attraction for tourist groups.  People just don’t think about what it takes to get a wild animal to do these things.  These animals are savagely abused in order to “break” them for the crowds.” 

 

 

 “When I left Thailand, I made a promise to Lek, that I would make a film about her elephants and her sanctuary. “

 

A PROMISE FULFILLED

In 2006 Gorski released The Elephant Lady, a short film about Lek, her rescue and rehabilitation of abused elephants, and her Elephant Nature Park.   This was Part I of the promise fulfilled, but he was not finished yet.

Flash forward to 2009.  Gorski was speaking at the annual Animal Rights National Conference, held in Los Angeles, California, where he met 13 year old animal activist, Juliette West.   Juliette had become passionate about elephants the year before, when she joined the advocacy effort to retire the lonely and injured Los Angeles Zoo resident, Billy the elephant to the PAWS (Performing Animal Welfare Society) Sanctuary, where he could live out the rest of his days in peace and freedom. 

 

 

 

Gorski had been looking for a way to reach out to younger people, to let them know that they could make a difference with elephant rescue and conservation.   Juliette had the grace, the charm, the maturity, and the screen presence to become the star of his next film.   Shortly after meeting Juliette and her Dad, Gorski met up with them in Thailand where they met Lek, toured the Elephant Nature Park and began filming. 

 

 

The rest is history.   How I Became An Elephant screened in Los Angeles to a riveted crowd of four hundred.  A more compelling, heartwarming film experience would be hard to find. 

How I Became An Elephant is Part II of Gorski's promise fulfilled.   Lives are changed with each screening; and hopefully, the fate of the Asian elephants will be changed as well.

 

***************

 

How I Became An Elephant: Produced by Tim Gorski, Jorja Fox, Juliette West and Michael Tobias.   Directed by Tim Gorski.  Brilliantly edited by Synthian Sharp, whose work brings clear focus to the powerful truth of the film.

 This is a must see film for everyone who loves animals and especially for those who think they might at any time in the future, attend a circus, an elephant parade, take an elephant trek or endorse the use of elephants as working animals.

 

OTHER LINKS:

 

How I Became An Elephant (website)

Rattle The Cage Productions

The Elephant Nature Park

Juliette West, Superstar Hero

Palisidian Saves Elephant in Thailand 

 

FACTS ABOUT ELEPHANTS

 

FACT: Elephants are one of the most intelligent, sensitive, highly social species of land mammal on the planet.

FACT:  Elephants live in families led by a matriarch; the young bull elephants leave the family at the age of 12 or 13; the females stay together as a family unit for life.  They roam in the wild up to 30 miles per day.

FACT:  Elephants live up to 70 years.  Their gestation period is 22 months, and calves nurse for up to two years.

FACT: Elephants care for their young; if a calf is in distress the entire family will rush to touch and caress it.

FACT: Elephants grieve for days over the bodies of their dead.

FACT: Elephants cry, play, have incredible memories, and make joyful gestures to one another!

FACT: Elephants have greeting ceremonies when a friend that has been away for some time returns to the group.

 

FOR MORE INFORMATION AND RESOURCES ON ELEPHANTS, SEE:

Elephant Voices

The African Elephant Conservation Trust

 


 

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