Learning the wild way: A trumpet for compassion on World Elephant Day

August 12, 2021

Mali, the only elephant inside the Manila Zoo. Photo from Save Mali the Elephant Facebook page

It must be their size. It must be gentle despite the size. It must be their anatomical eccentricities. It must be the biology behind these eccentricities. 

I’ve never been sure how this fondness started but three things are for sure, today is “World Elephant Day,” 55 elephants are slaughtered every day in Africa, and there are less than 40,000 left in Asia.

Humans share a lot in common. One of which is living the same childhood where there is acculturated amusement for circuses and zoos. 

I should know, for it was the only way I could see an actual and the only elephant in the country. That day when I finally saw one in the flesh could easily be the happiest in my light-up-shoes-and-jumpers era until we all fast-forwarded into adulthood, getting wiser by the day, learning and regretting about these whims and blissful ignorance. One of which is that Mali deserves better.

The elephant species is not endemic to the Philippines. The superstar of our capital’s zoological park was but a present from the Sri Lankan government. 

Since 1977, she has been living within the concrete limits and on cemented grounds of her enclosure in the company of her own loneliness. 

Elephants are social and travelers in nature. Mali has been deprived of all these.

These animals deserve freedom as much as the human race could enjoy, but we were so used to racial superiority that we never bow to the truth that we are not the only ones having skin that bleeds and a heart that beats. 

We grow up finding amusement in the unusual, but they don’t get on unicycles with ruffles around their necks on their own. They don’t leap into burning hoops just for fun. They don’t hold brushes and paint a picture because they need sales to survive. They don’t carry people on their backs and circle the same paths every day. They don’t tremble to whips, to bullhooks, or to a human finger.

We may not be the biggest movers of change in this cause but we can ignite the change from our simplest decisions. Never arrange for an elephant ride in your next Southeast Asian trip – the 46 likes on your #travelgoals entry on Instagram do not save them from 46 pierces of the bullhook.

Always opt for a nature-friendly experience and sustainable tourism. Do not support the poaching industry by snubbing ivory (elephant tusk) products. 

Boycott films that star live, captive elephants. Sign petitions on your mobile phones; “Free Mali.com” and WorldElephantDay.org, for instance. 

Mali, the only elephant inside the Manila Zoo. Photo from Save Mali the Elephant Facebook page

Too much weight of attention on elephants for now but this entails the betterment of all wildlife captured for human entertainment. If there’s wildlife in captivity, turn your back. 

Lastly, spread the word! It’s about time you put social media to good use. We can keep our children and grandchildren from having another dodo in the books.

I learned compassion not from my own race but from the wild, and that it in fact doesn’t choose which breathing body deserves it more. 

It is neither the elephants being gentle giants nor their unique anatomy that make today worth the special mention, but this is to finally talk about the real elephant in the room – lack of compassion, for all.

Happy World Elephant Day. Happy Compassion For All Day.

World Elephant Day is an international annual event on August 12, dedicated to the preservation and protection of the world’s elephants.

Vicente Cajilig, Jr. was born on the island of Tablas in Romblon but grew up with his eyes diverted to the mountains and heart towards wildlife. A big pop culture fan, “JR” is a former contributor to a popular online magazine in the country.

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