Critter Alley

Critter Alley

Thursday, December 4, 2008

Water for Elephants

There was a blurb on this morning's news about a California zoo and the problems they are encountering due to insufficient space for their elephant. The debate rages over whether the zoo should start very expensive renovations or if it would be best for the animal to go to a sanctuary.

This issue has been a battleground for years, as evidence mounts that elephants deserve much better treatment than what they've received at the hands of man. Organizations such as Elephant Voices have devoted themselves to identifying the plight of elephants and working for change.

There are numerous factual and fictional accounts on the lives of elephants. After research on the subject, I don't think even the stoniest of hearts could remain unmoved by what these exceptionally intelligent creatures have endured.

In 2007, I read a wonderful novel called "Water for Elephants" by Sara Gruen. The story is told from the perspective of an elderly man who is in a skilled care nursing facility. The tale goes back and forth from present to past as he remembers his time with a traveling circus. As you might expect from the title, an elephant plays a large (no pun intended) and poignant part in his life. Gruen's meticulous research and ability to get inside the heads of her characters, be they human or animal, makes for an intense and satisfying read. The book received both popular and critical acclaim. If you haven't read it, run, don't walk, to the bookstore or library and scoop up a copy. Gruen knows elephants.

And meanwhile, for another elephant somewhere out in California, I can only hope that this time man makes the right decision.


The Word Place said...

Animals were meant to live free. Unfortutnately, in many cases, we've taken their living space for ourselves. If it comes to a choice between a zoo and a sanctuary, I'd vote for the latter anytime.

Anonymous said...

I think more enlightened zoos have made every effort to provide better facilities for these huge, intelligent creatures. The nearest zoo to us is called Chester Zoo and they have a relatively new Elephant facility that combines the three elements the creatures need for a happy life. They have a large, open space to patrol and ramble around. They have a huge enclosure where they can take shelter, have their babies and feel safe. Best of all, they have an area with water to wallow in and play with. There is a fantastic elephant 'shower' they swiftly learned to use and it is hard to know who gets the most fun from it, the elephants or the visitors.