You earthlings (not Martians like me) are famous in the rest of this universe (I don’t know about the others) for having invented two unusual things (and unimaginable for other living beings): torture and hypocrisy. Two aberrations that go hand in hand with the way you treat animals. Among the synonyms of slavery are submission, oppression and tyranny. And in those of slavery we have captive, prisoner or vexed. Although you are horrified when someone does such cruelties to a human being (“They treated them like animals!”), you will remain unmoved if the victims are animals, which you will call simply cattle, or you will say they are domestic animals.
Pets are usually luckier, but they are rarely given the opportunity to taste something as essential as freedom of movement anyway: “Hey, I’m going for a walk and I don’t know when I’ll be back. Seeing that you behave like this without considering the fear, pain and sorrow you suffer, I have come to the conclusion that you are insensitive, primitive and, furthermore, a little bit stupid because in the long run it will harm you. Take it with the fucking humanity!
This reflection appeared yesterday between my eyebrows when I visited with my Valencian friend the farm that the NGO “Stand Up 4 Elephants” has on the outskirts of Sauraha, next to Nepal’s Chitwán National Park. There, amidst rice fields and mustard plantations, four compassionate and charming people lovingly care for an elephant named Iba, who spent a lot of time with them until they rescued her.
Michael is a fifty-year-old Canadian globetrotter whose life took a turn the day he came to Sauraha, as he fell in love with this great garden and also with Floriane, a French woman who had worked in a zoo in his country. Floriane showed him the suffering that domestic elephants went through when they were used to walk tourists, carrying a sadistic cornaca sitting on their necks and beating their heads with a metal bar. They both decided to do something about it, and with the help of a Belgian woman named Annik and my young local friend Vicky, they set up their own NGO. I met Vicky when he was a ten-year-old boy; now, in his twenties, he has become a young entrepreneur.
Before we go any further, I will make it clear that the owners of domestic elephants in Nepal (the vast majority of whom are from Sauraha) form a powerful secret guild that will not easily accept anyone, especially if they are foreign, interfering in their affairs. In fact, all the NGOs that try to help this country are faced with the same problems, because corruption is rampant and cuts off the wind everywhere.
Michael and his companions’ first steps were to get them to allow them to medicate elephants suffering from infections or disease. Later, they began to promote themselves and invented the “Elephant Happy Hour”, an activity in which responsible tourists, instead of dazzling the elephants with their weight, hire their services for one hour in which they are allowed to graze freely without receiving sticks or orders.
After obtaining financial contributions (among other donors is the “Brigitte Bardot Foundation”), they focused on buying and releasing one of these poor elephants, whose price ranges from thirty to seventy thousand euros.
When they reach an advanced age and are no longer suitable for the tourist business, they are sold to some temple in India to be used as decoration. They are also of great economic value after death, as they can pay up to twenty thousand euros for their bodies, from which every bone, every tooth and every inch of their skin will be used. It was then that “Stand Up 4 Elephants” discovered the existence of the elephant owners’ guild, which put all sorts of obstacles in their way, even to acquire an elephant like Iba, who was forced to walk by tourists, despite having a terrible infection in her left front leg.
Michael and company were negotiating for countless months until they managed to become the new owners of poor Iba. By this time, his paw infection had worsened and it took him many hours to travel in slow motion the six kilometres between Sauraha and the farm where he now lives.
Elephants usually live to be seventy. They usually starve when they lose their teeth and cannot chew. During their lifetime they renew their teeth five times. Iba is thirty-five years old, and now, as she watches in amazement as she is medicated and fed and pampered, I suppose she must feel as if she had gone to Heaven after being in Hell. However, due to his physical condition he still remains continuously standing because if he were to lie down (which is his natural way of sleeping) he would be unable to get up and would die quickly.
This information about the good work done by Floriane, Michael, Annik, Vicky and the temporary volunteers who help them, would not be complete if I forgot to mention that Iba, by receiving sticks since she was separated from her mother at an early age, became a very careful warrior and killed three of the cornacas who were martyring her. You couch potato heroes, would you dare to take care of her?
If you are interested you can contact “Stand Up 4 Elephants” at: www.su4e.org
Shall we get on with the wildlife?
A turtledove that was pecking at my feet in the garden of this boarding house, rushed to seek refuge in the branches of a tamarind at the sight of an eagle flying above us. The number of eagles in Sauraha has increased dramatically this year. They are of different races, and one afternoon I counted about twenty of them planning together as the vultures usually do. Yesterday I had a great time watching a good-sized one that did real balancing by clinging upside down to the eaves of a building to peck at the remains of a wild beehive. A circus show that also interested four of her sisters who were watching her closely.
Last night, while my Valencian friend and I were having dinner at the “Friend’s Café” restaurant, the waiter warned us: “Look, a rhinoceros! Indeed, an impressive rhinoceros was quietly advancing through the center of the bazaar as someone looking at the windows would do (you can see the full video in the outstanding RINO of our instagram @conmochilagram account). People were moving out of the way and vehicles were patiently following them, following their slow pace as if they were in a traffic jam. In the end, the rhinoceros disappeared into the meadow outside, where, shortly after, a motorcyclist hit a wild boar.
This is Sauraha, a village where the ambient sound is provided by the birds, like the peacocks with their horn-like song, or the hornbill’s din, the minah’s chatter and the crows’ croak!
Don’t you think that putting a wild animal in a town, a zoo or a circus is similar to releasing a city man in the middle of a tropical jungle?
I will conclude the issue of rhinos by saying that there is currently an overpopulation of rhinos in Chitwán. The cause is the migrations that have taken place in recent years from other national parks, caused by the strong monsoons. I think I’ve already explained to you that 605 of them have been counted. Logically, this fact has also led to many more rhinos dying a natural death: ten in the previous six months, and one female three days ago.
An estimated 10,000 Red Pandas remain worldwide, of which 1,000 are in Nepal. Several villages in Rolpa district are now working to conserve biodiversity, to take care of those who live in their forests. Good!
SEE WHAT I THINK.
I just remembered an old Hindu saying: If you don’t do what you believe, you’ll end up believing what you do. I really liked the low-budget Spanish series “Malviviendo”, and I laughed at ease when one of its out-of-control protagonists made an absurd tirade against the Mormons, but confused and mispronounced Bourbons. Goats are rustic. A school teacher has to be a good speaker.
And that’s all for today, my dear nincompoops. Bom Bom.
The Cosmic Chronicle, by Nando Baba