Marching for Elephants (on World Animal Day)

October 4, 2013 | Tita

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Today is World Animal Day, originally designated as a day to highlight the plight of endangered species, although it is now used to celebrate all the world’s animals. Oct 4 was chosen because it is the Feast Day of St Francis of Assisi, the patron saint of animals. World Animal Day is celebrated in different ways around the planet, usually with no regard to nationality, faith or political ideology.

So when a group of elephant lovers wanted to hold an international march to draw attention to the fact that if current slaughter rates continue, elephants will be extinct in 12 years, it made sense to choose World Animal Day as the day. The David Sheldrick Wildlife Trust, through their iworry campaign, has initiated the first ever International March for Elephants –- and today is the day of the March in 40 cities around the globe. In Toronto, you can join other Canadians at Bell Trinity Square starting at 11 am (registration) with presentations at 11:30. The March leaves at 12.

But this is a library blog, so we of course want to help you learn more about the topic and show you what we’ve got to help you advocate on behalf of animals. This month’s Who’s Reading What? participant, Linda Bronfman prepared a great book list of her favourite titles, many of which relate to elephants and other animals.  Check it out. Want more?

Of course you do. Start with The Elephant Whisperer. When the author of this book died in March 2012, after spending his life rehabilitating elephants and advocating on their behalf, a group of 20 elephants walked more than 12 miles to get to his South African home to presumably pay their respects as elephants are known to demonstrate many forms of eerily human like, social behaviours. For example, when one of their own dies, other members of their complex community will attend the body for a brief period to (dare I say it) say goodbye and mourn (sadly a fact that poachers take advantage of –- all they have to do is kill one and wait 'til the rest show up to finish off a family unit).

Beg Savanna Paul Armark

Human lust for elephant ivory to make trinkets and chopsticks kills other innocents too. From the best-selling authors of Cry of the Kalahari, we have Secrets of the Savanna: twenty-three years in the African wilderness unraveling the mysteries of elephants and people, the dramatic story of Mark and Delia Owens's last years in Africa. They write of elephants but also of gangs of ivory poachers there who were not only shooting the elephants, but virtually enslaving local villagers. 

The DVD Battle for the Elephants is a National Geographic undercover piece exposing the criminal network behind ivory's supply and demand; more recent media following last month's shopping mall tragedy in Nairobi reveals a connection between terrorism and the killing of elephants for their ivory tusks.

Interested in the cold hard facts about elephant conservation from a lifelong expert? Noted zoologist Dr. Ron Orenstein wrote this Canadian classic in elephant conservation and the fight to save the species in 1991 –- The Deciding Decade. Dr. Orenstein's new book, Ivory, Horn and Blood: Behind the Elephant and Rhinoceros Poaching Crisis (co-authored with Iain Douglas-Hamilton) just came out; library copies have been ordered and should be in the branches soon! 

If you want to brush up on other animal advocacy issues in honour of World Animal Day, we have lots for you. Our initial contact with animals for many is our relationship with companion animals including cats and dogs. Beg: a radical new way of regarding animals outlines one author’s transistion in thinking via her relationship with her dogs. Animal Rights by Mark Rowland offers an introduction to the topic, issue by issue. For an in-depth look at one of this generation’s long-time and more outspoken advocates, Captain Paul Watson: Interview with a Pirate tells the story of this activist’s interest in animal protection from the ripe old age of 11. Now a modern day classic, Thanking the Monkey: Rethinking the Way We Treat Animals offers a more playful way to re-examine our relationships with animals in a manner which isn’t so heavy on the guilt or over-analysis.

We hope to see library lovers out at the March today at noon. Too late or don’t live in Toronto? Join one of the other 39 cities around the world or the Virtual March. And more importantly, please write your elected officials at the federal level demanding action (of course we can help you find out more about the democratic process and the way laws are made too –- all you have to do is ask). Make animals count this World Animal Day, and every day.