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Born Free USA Blog

Born Free USA Blog

A Sad Day at PAWS

Published 04/14/08
By Susan Trout, Program Assistant

All animals intrigue and fascinate me. Horses speak to my soul and cats, well ... I wear the title “crazy cat lady” with great pride and affection. But elephants leave me awe-inspired. It’s not their size — though they are truly imposing — but their incredible intelligence and profound sense of family and devotion to one another that speaks to me. Elephants are family-oriented creatures and are fiercely protective of their members. Did you know elephants purr when contented?

I remember seeing an elephant outside a circus tent as a child. I felt very sad for that elephant as the handler forcefully poked and prodded her with a hooked club as she carefully carried several small children on her back. It wasn’t a good experience and left me with a strong aversion to circuses.

I have since had the honor to visit the Performing Animal Welfare Society (PAWS) where the elephants live free. I watched the head caretaker coax two elephants, Winky and Wanda, to come for their foot baths. No whip or cruel bullhook — he simply said, “Soak, Wanda, soak” ... and that huge creature slowly and carefully lifted her leg and placed it into a large rubber tub filled with warm, medicated water. Tears welled in my eyes.

Years of standing on cold, unforgiving concrete took their toll on poor Winky and Wanda’s feet and legs. How utterly cruel to take these creatures from their homelands, destroy their families, and constrain them to live unnatural and frustrating lives in captivity — simply for our amusement! It makes me think of Henry David Thoreau’s words. ... “most men lead lives of quiet desperation and go to the grave with the song still in them.” Captive elephants lead lives of quiet desperation, too, and we take their songs from them without even asking.

Monday, April 7, was a very sad day at PAWS. Poor Winky’s hind legs collapsed under her. Despite the efforts of veterinarians and caretakers, her hind legs could no longer support her. Surrounded by all who loved her — including her loyal companion Wanda — Winky was gently released from her discomfort. She is dearly missed.

Thankfully, Winky enjoyed a good life at PAWS. But too many captive elephants aren’t as fortunate. Learning more about elephants and their behavior, we are convinced that keeping them in captivity for human entertainment greatly shortens their life-span and diminishes their quality of life. The more I know about elephants, the more persuaded I am that mankind must find a way to protect them and preserve their habitat in the wild. If we fail to do this, we face their possible extinction. I don’t know about you but it would be unthinkable to live in a world without elephants. Learn more about what you can do to help.

Blogging off,


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