The life story of a “barely-tamed” elephant, which is in need of more care.
“It is one of the few elephants I have worked with that has a bit of a temper,” says one of her handlers, “and she can be really aggressive towards people and other animals.”
The elephant is one in a group of at least 40 elephants that live in the Elephant Sanctuary of the National Trust for the Protection of Animals (NPTPA) in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.
The sanctuary is dedicated to protecting the welfare of elephants in their natural habitats, and is one reason why elephant travel agencies such as Elephant Travel, Elephant & Oryx, and the National Elephant Sanctuary (NERSA) have gained a reputation for caring for elephants.
“We are the only ones that have actually been trained to handle elephants, and so we are trained to deal with them in a safe environment,” explains NPTPA’s director, Carol Pang.
“So, to be able to care for these elephants, they need a safe and loving environment.”
Pang’s group is dedicated not only to elephant travel, but also to caring for the elephants at the NPTSA sanctuary.
“When we started working with the sanctuary, the first thing we did was to look at other wildlife organizations that we knew were working with elephants,” she says.
“They all had their own problems with animals.
And we saw how much suffering elephants go through every day.”
The group also looked at the animals that live at the Elephant &s; Orys Safari Park, which has a number of elephants, including one who had an elephant shot after it bit its leg.
“It was very painful for her to have to walk in a straight line for the first six months of her life, and then she had to go to a veterinary clinic every six months,” says Pang, “but it wasn’t all bad.
She would come in with a clean wound and a healthy calf.”
Elephant travel agency Elephant Travel has been operating in the Philadelphia area for almost 30 years, and Pang is proud of the work they have done with elephants.
“When you have a dedicated team, and you can put them together in the right place, and they are trained in the correct environment, then they can take care of the elephants for longer,” she explains.
“You see the effects they have on the animals themselves, as well as on the environment and on the wildlife.”
The elephants that reside at NPTPSA are all part of a family of four elephants that are born as male elephants, but the males are usually kept as females.
Pang says that while the majority of the animals are kept in the sanctuary to ensure they do not get injured, there are also male elephants that have been left in the wild for the sake of tourism.
“There are a lot of guys who will just go and take their family with them,” she adds.
“I think a lot [of] people just go there just to have a look, and sometimes they do come back.”
Picking the right travel agency is crucial for elephants and can be difficult, Pang explains.
“I have seen the problems that come up when you have too many people in a travel agency,” she states.
“One of the problems is that they are trying to be so close to the elephants.
You see people come in to look after them.
They are not allowed to have contact with the animals, so they have to just leave them alone.
They need to know that they will always be safe and secure in their habitat.”
The main issue for elephants in the Sanctuary is the lack of social interaction.
“The animals have to be socialised,” says Tanya Voss, a staff veterinarian at the sanctuary.
“There are only a couple of social interactions that are allowed at the Sanctuary, and that’s with people and their animals.
You can’t just come in and be with a group, you have to go in and meet the elephants.””
We can’t have them sitting on each other’s shoulders, and having conversations with each other,” she continues.
“The only time we have contact is when they are in the presence of a vet, but it’s not always enough.”
Voss has worked with elephants for more than 20 years, including working as a staff vet at the Wildlife Clinic at the Animal Health and Welfare Institute in Atlanta, Georgia, and as an elephant trainer at the American Zoo and Aquarium in Atlanta.
“Elephants are very intelligent animals, and it’s hard to manage them when they’re isolated in one area,” she recalls.
“If you don’t have people around them, they are not able to interact.
If you have an elephant that’s living in a large enclosure, then you need to be really careful.
There is a lot to do in that area.
There are no roads, so the animals have got