ou got seventy bucks to spare? Looking for a new hobby that just might make the world a marginally better place?
Have you considered adoption? I have. Signed the papers, paid a nominal fee and took in a sweet, little orphan named Anna.
Well … little is perhaps not quite accurate. Anna’s chubby, truth to tell. She’d tip the scales (if you could get her on the scales) somewhere north of 1,650 kilos.
But that’s not morbidly obese for an elephant.
That’s what Anna is — Elephas Maximus Sumatranus, if you want her proper name.
She’s an elephant, wild but endangered, living in the jungles of her native island of Sumatra.
I didn’t adopt her just to have some gossip fodder at cocktail parties; it’s a matter of life and death. Anna has found herself in the crosshairs of the international marketplace which, like some ravening junkie vampire, combs the planet looking for new sources of natural resources to suck up and exhaust. Great globs of tar sand in northern Alberta, diamonds in South Africa, bauxite in Jamaica, mahogany from Africa … the Hoovering of our Earth goes on and on.
And now it’s Sumatra’s turn. The forests of Sumatra are being clear cut and turned into palm oil and pulp and paper at breakneck speed. Good news for timber tycoons; nice — if temporary — jobs for Sumatran tree cutters and their families.
But nobody told the elephants.
Their habitat is disappearing. The elephants are hungry, trampling fences that never used to be there in their search for food.
They raid coconut plantations, invade villages and injure, even kill villagers.
But not as fast as villagers are killing them. Elephants are getting shot, trapped and poisoned faster than momma and poppa elephants can make baby ones.
Which is where The International Elephant Project comes in.
It’s an Australian initiative and the premise is simple: for $69.44 Cdn you can adopt a Sumatran elephant. You can’t take it home, but thanks to a GPS collar which each adopted elephant wears, you will receive regular updates on the status of your ‘ward’.
The collars also allow project managers to track each elephant and to herd them away from potential conflict zones before they get killed. Your seventy bucks helps pay for the monitors.
I’m not Anna’s only adoptive parent — it takes more than seventy bucks to keep a full-grown elephant wild and free. But they reckon there are only 1,500 — maybe as few as 1,000 — Sumatran elephants left in the wild.
So far, only five of them – Anna, Bella, Cinta, Dadang and Elena — have been certified for adoption, but it’s a start — and we have to start somewhere.
Reminds me of the time I was walking along a beach near Parksville, B.C. when I saw a young kid pick up a stranded starfish and toss it back in the ocean. I was touched by his naiveté.
“You know,” I told him, “there are thousands of kilometres of beach in this province and millions of stranded starfish on them. Do you think throwing one back in the ocean makes any difference?”
And the kid said to me: ‘It does to the starfish.’”
Visit International Elephant Project: email@example.com.