Ulara Nakagawa of Elephants in Japan taught me today about elephants in captivity. She specifically focuses on helping elephants who are in solitary captivity in Japan, but her organization teaches about elephant welfare all over the world.
She shared a helpful analogy:
An elephant, in captivity alone, in a small concrete zoo, is like a human being, being locked into a bathroom, not being allowed to talk to anyone, and being kept there for 60+ years.
It puts it into perspective, doesn’t it? Elephants are increasingly known as sensitive, smart, and compassionate beings who need significant stimulation and space to roam. They show signs of stress through deeply repetitive coping behaviors such as bobbing, walking back and forth, or flipping over the same toy in the same way, again and again.
Ulara’s investigations have not only uncovered torturous conditions in zoos in Japan but ways to make things better in the short term, midterm, and long term for each elephant. Her findings pertain to elephants in captivity everywhere, and we can all read, learn and spread the word around us.
Start with the simple ideas below.
9 Simple Ideas to Help Elephants:
1. READ “SOLITARY ELEPHANTS IN JAPAN”. This informative report is an easy read and will teach us about the conditions of elephants living in captivity in Japan, their physical and psychological state, and things that can be done to improve life for them. These ideas can be used for elephants in captivity everywhere. Follow up with the 2021 update.
2. READ WORLD ANIMAL PROTECTION’S ELEPHANT FRIENDLY TOURIST GUIDE. This guide educates the public on the best way to interact with elephants. Thousands of elephants are currently suffering in the name of tourism, and we can change this. Share this guide, and use it to book experiences when we travel.
3. EDUCATE OURSELVES. Follow more of the links below and go down the rabbit hole for a while. Learn enough to speak intelligently on the topic of elephants in captivity and find the best ways to help.
4. SHARE WHAT WE LEARN WITH THE PEOPLE AROUND US. Take this information and share it. One of the worst plights that elephants face is a lack of understanding, even in people who love them. We can change so much by talking about what we learn and sharing resources.
5. SIGN PETITIONS. Ulara taught us about the power of a petition today. The list below includes multiple petitions that can be signed in less than 2 minutes to help elephants around the world.
6. FUNNEL OUR ANGER & FRUSTRATION INTO GOOD. Helping these elephants is a very emotional experience. But without humans who will speak up for them, they don’t have a voice. We do need to act. Join a group, volunteer, write a petition, post on social media. Take a tiny action that feels doable.
7. TINY ACTIONS. Changing just one minute of another living being’s life for the better is worth it. And it does matter. We may not be able to free an elephant from confinement, but we may be able to get them more time with a keeper, or an enriching activity to do. Keep going, making one minute of life better at a time.
8. PRACTICE SELF-CARE. Compassion fatigue and burnout are all too real. Ulara urges us to stay focused on the tiny steps that are possible within our daily lives and surround ourselves with a community to support us.
9. MAKE A PLANT-BASED MEAL FOR A FRIEND. Ulara mentioned that she does this often, and it gives her the chance to share something she loves while advocating for animals simultaneously. Sharing a meal also includes conversation, and as we’ve mentioned, conversation can go a long way.
Links mentioned in this episode:
- Solitary Elephants in Japan – Dr. Keith Lindsay’s report with short, medium & long term recommendations to improve the lives of captive elephants
- Hanako’s story of captivity in Japan
- World Animal Protection Elephant Friendly Tourist Guide
- Fuko the elephant shows stress by pacing back and forth
- Elephant Freedom Fighters Facebook group by Rita Claessens
- Elephant Refuge of North America – Georgia sanctuary by Carol Buckley
- Zoocheck – Canadian based organization that fights for wildlife in captivity
- PAWS (Performing Animal Welfare Society) – California wildlife sanctuary where abandoned or abused performing animals and victims of the exotic animal trade are rescued
- Born Free Foundation – an animal charity focused on wild animal welfare and compassionate conservation
- Global Sanctuary for Elephants – modeling a “good sanctuary” in Brazil and spreading this model around the world
- Elephant Haven – European elephant sanctuary in France
- Animal Protection in Japan with Maho Uehara Cavalier – podcast interview with a mutual friend of Ulara and mine
Elephant petitions to sign right now:
- Help Miyako from Utsunomiya Zoo in Japan
- Fuko from Nagano Chausuyama Zoo in Japan
- Sunny from Nomi Ishikawa Zoo in Japan
- End Happy The Elephant’s 10 Years of Solitary Confinement
- Petition to End the Cruel Treatment of Elephants in India – by Save The Asian Elephants
- End Trafficking of Endangered Animals and Free Captive Elephants: 10 Petitions You Should Sign to Help Animals This Week
- Petition: Send Captive Elephants From World’s Worst Zoo to a Sanctuary
- Save Elephant Calves from Abuse and Exploitation
- Stop torturing elephants for the tourism industry!
WATCH THE EPISODE:
Closed captioning transcript included in video. Subscribe on YouTube.
Ulara is the founder of Elephants in Japan, a global organization working to improve the welfare of captive elephants. She is a communications professional who’s worked with organizations including Hootsuite, Care2, Blue Horizon Group, The Economist and more. A former news editor and journalist, Ulara has written for and inspired coverage in outlets including CNN, BBC, WSJ, National Geographic, Entrepreneur, Business Insider and many more.
- Elephants in Japan is a global organization whose mission is to investigate and improve the living conditions of captive elephants, and to educate the public about elephant welfare.
- The After Animals Podcast features interviews with the world’s top purpose-driven founders and companies making scaleable and innovative solutions for animal-free food, fashion and entertainment.
- Center for Contemporary Sciences (CCS) is a nonprofit advancing human-specific research methods and testing to improve lives through education, funding and championing scientific innovation.