Monday, 5 January 2015

Elephant No. 94: Feature Artists Vanh and Max

For my birthday a few weeks back, my next-door neighbour Samantha commissioned some birthday art for me from her twin sons, Vanh and Max.

Despite the fact that they are identical twins, Vanh and Max have very different personalities, and their art was very different as well.

Vanh drew me two amazing elephants in red.

Max created a multi-page story about a zoo.

In my opinion, both boys show great artistic talent—which probably makes sense, as their grandfather was a very talented watercolour artist, and both parents are artistic as well.

This was definitely one of the nicest presents I received. Thanks again, Vanh and Max!

Elephant Lore of the Day
Although zoos sometimes seem like miserable animal warehouses, a well-run zoo is often an animal's best hope for survival. Loss of habitat is one of the key threats to animals everywhere on Earth—to say nothing of despicable practices such as poaching, which may render both the elephant and the rhinoceros extinct in the wild within less than 20 years. Some estimates suggest that a more likely timeframe is 5 to 10 years.

Dire predictions like these make zoos and wildlife parks essential to some species. Breeding programs are already bringing some species back from the brink, and every live birth of an endangered species is cause for celebration.

Good zoos also excel at animal enrichment. While keeping endangered animals safe and away from those who would destroy their homes or do them deliberate harm, a well-run zoo also knows that it is important to give animals things to do.

Elephants, for example, are often given puzzles to solve and tasks to learn, such as how to find hidden treats, or how to recognize themselves in a mirror. For a creature as intelligent as the elephant, lack of mental stimulation drives them slowly insane. The swaying back and forth—or "weaving"—seen in many captive elephants is a sign of boredom, stress and anxiety.

For all the excellent zoos and reserves in the world, however, there are also many bad ones. Some zoos and wildlife parks keep animals such as elephants and bears solely for the amusement of visitors. They are taught tricks using metal hooks and sharp sticks, and are often underfed to make them more receptive to treats.

A good zoo can save a species. A bad zoo can make an animal as sad as the little caged animal at the end of Max's birthday story.

African elephant born at Tampa's Lowry Park Zoo, December 2012.
Lowry Park Zoo has an active African elephant care and
conservation program.
Photo: Dave Parkinson

To Support Elephant Welfare

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