While we are waiting for Covid 19 to slow down and hopefully end and we are able to travel again, there are a few things to think about and ponder.
No one knows today what side effects this pandemic will have. For us humans, it has been a horror that is not yet completely over. Many have lost a loved one and many have hovered between life and death, others have hardly noticed anything.
Some positive side effects is that for our nature and wildlife there has been a pause and to some extent a recovery. The air is cleaner, turtles have been given the peace to lay their eggs on previously overcrowded beaches and more live baby turtles survive etc.
Worlds attention to wet-markets has increased and hopefully the outside world can influence and shut down the wildlife trade altogether.
For anyone who cares about animals, nature and the environment, it continues to be important to further educate and pay attention, all single individual contribution can help to change.
When I was a kid and went to the zoo, I was not among those who were thrilled even if I had a great interest in animals, but I thought it should be like that and did not think much more about it. The only thing I could see was stereotypical behaviors and sadness from the wildlife.
Many years later, when I was in Thailand for the first time, I paid attention to animals in markets where you could pay to be photographed together with wildlife.
I saw elephants standing at roadsides fully clothed with the carrier, lean and swinging back and forth with their proboscis. I still didn't understand the extent more than that I felt sick and got a lump in my stomach. When I talked to others who have been away they meant that the animals are well and are well cared for, I had a bit difficult to completely agree that lion cubs that are photographed with humans do it without being affected in any way or the monkeys in chains in the markets who had flapping and stressful movements thought it was okay.
The second time in Thailand all my doubts burst, me and my husband do not go to zoos when we travel and when we had a day left before the return trip back to Sweden and we was not allowd to dive because of the waiting hours after the last dive, had arranged some other activities. We would watch temples, bamboo rafting, and swim in waterfalls, everything was in in a package with a guide all day. We had a great time…!
... until our guide wanted to show us that little extra... we walked behind a temple where there were small concrete cages with different animals, ranging from crocodile to kittens. Many of the different animals were probably dead due lack of water.
At a downed stump of about 1 meter was an orangutan fixed in a chain. He hit himself, screamed, banged his head in the stump, and so on. I was so upset and tears were spurting. Now our Thai guide understood that things had not gone well and explained that when people got tired or didn't want an animal anymore they left them to the temples. And according to Buddhism, you cannot kill, which makes it better for the animals to die by themself.
When I got home, I started googling and finding as much information as I could about wildlife and tourism. It was scary to see how much worse it was than I thought. I read and learned about something called Phajaan and are practiced by anyone who uses wildlife in tourism.
The most famous is phajaan on elephants.
Phajaan is called "crush" in English and means crush/break. It's a method in how to get an animal to lose will, not resist and do what they're told to do whether they're scared or if it hurts and is totally against their natural instinct. The option of disobeying will always be worse.
The method used is pure psychological and physical torture where you first forcibly take the elephant cub from his mother, in some cases while the cub sees his mother killed. The kid gets chained for days to weeks in a cage so they can't move, without water, food and sleep to speed up the process while shouting commands, hitting with sharp piles, sticking nails in your ears to slowly and methodically break down the animals own will. If the Baby Elephant should meet her mother after this treatment, the baby would not recognize her.
I heard about an Elephant Sanctuary in Chiang Mai Thailand where a woman named Lek started an Elephant Sanctuary in 1996. Lek has saved Elephants from the forest industry and tourism. In the forest industry, elephants are forced to eat amphetamines in order to work around the clock.
I read about one of the elephants on the sanctuary called Jokia and had been rescued from the forest industry.
She had been pregnant and had to work around the clock and gave birth while pulling a log up a hill. Her baby died in the fall! Jokia lost the spark of life completely and the workers failed to get her to work and sold Jokia to the sanctuary. Jokia was at that time completely blind as the workers used to enjoy shooting with a slingshot on her eyes.
The use of elephants in the forest industry was actually banned in 1989, but up in the north the police do not go and they use the elephants as much as before. In tourism, trekking and other entertainment of elephants are still common.
My two children chose to go to this reservation to see what it looks like and how they are taken care of. The elephants live in a quiet place where tourists get to dress the same as those who work there, help to prepare food for the elephants, walk with them down to the water where they are bathed. It is difficult to know how the elephants with their trauma feels in this constellation and whether it is good enough for the elephants with that form of tourism but I understand that money needs to be in to be able to buy more land, save more elephants and inform tourists.
It should now be clear that Phajaan does not only apply to elephants. This applies to all captive wildlife used for tourists.
Tigers that are taken from their mothers when they are very small, been carried around and photographed with tourists for several hours a day. Showing the slightest aggression, they are abused and even tourists are encouraged to do the same if they show the slightest reluctance. Even as they get bigger, they are used for photography and in some places walking with tourists. Drugged and afraid of being beaten.
The rest of their time they spend in small cages with concrete floors.
In Thailand alone, over 800 tigers are kept in captivity, abused and used for tourists today.
The macaque is a popular monkey in Asia for dance and entertainment. The neck chain is fixed when they are very small and it usually grows into the skin with painful infections as a result. To not risk the monkey biting any tourist, they pull out all teeth. Even here, beatings are used to make the monkey obey.
Other species such as trapped sea creatures crowded by humans, sloths etc, are also used to amuse tourists.
It is extremely important not to benefit any of this and never pay for a few seconds with these wildlife.
Now I thought it ended there and that Sweden might be a little better even though my zoo visits have not always been in the best interests of the animals. I discovered that even our famous zoo that provides dolphins is part of horror and death. I immediately got anxiety and guilt that I had once been there and probably marveled at the dolphins like all the other visitors.
I was told that there are two variations on how dolphins come to a dolphinarium:
One is the hunt which consists in the dolphins being chased by loud racing boats and chased into shallow water. There humans choose which dolphins they want and hook them up with nets in the boat. Some dolphins have during the hunt got water into the blowhole and later die of pneumonia, many of the dolphins that are pulled up in the boats die during transport to the dolphinarium due to. Stress and trauma.
The second way is that dolphins are born in captivity, which is also not healthy and complication-free both surface and chlorine. In a natural state, dolphins swim over 100 km a day, our pools can never compare with that.
The captivity results in skin disorders, fungus in the bladder hole, weight loss, antisocial behavior, aggression and ulcers of stress. . They won't be as old as if they were living in the wild.
Kolmården has also been involved in hunting and capture until the mid-1990s and over 60 dolphins have died since its opening. To avoid conflict, aggression, stress and bullying, dolphins are usually medicated to avoid fights.
Today I have reconciled myself to have done things in ignorance, the important thing now is to spread the knowledge and be able to put an end and not be a part to make the hunting profitable, stop bad treatment and trauma on our wildlife, find ways that promote the economy of countries that make it more important to protect and preserve life in its natural state.
The photos above are from the Elephant sanctuary in Chiang Mai.
Feel free to google phajaan for pictures and more info about wildlife and tourism.
Manta is an enigmatic and fantastic creature. The first time I saw it, it was almost like the heart stopped. I saw the big creature come floating, I wished it would like to get close, play and show off, but she wasn't so impressed with us at the time, took a praise on us and then hovered away like a shadow. Though the small moment, I was so happy and overwhelmed…
Knowledge about Manta have been very thin and researches have only been done for a few years and have shown a lot of amazing things. For example we know that there are two species and unfortunately both species are now red listed as vulnerable. One species likes to stay close to the coast and coral and the other is more out in the seas and can go down to great depths.
There are several major threats that put Manta at risk.
Partly they get caught in fishing nets and become part of a by-catch. It is also caught for its gills and meats when used in Chinese medicine.
Because they do not reproduce so quickly, they have difficulty recovering.
Thanks to tourism and diving, some countries have realized that the economic value of a living Manta is greater than a dead, which has increased their chances a little more.
The largest species of Manta can be an impressive 7 meters between the wing tips.
The manta cannot be still and resting but must constantly move in order for the water to pass through the gills and be able to breathe.
Mantas has filter just like whales and eats plankton. They are counted as a fish, are very intelligent, curious and behave like whales. They love to play and would love to come and swim near divers if they are in a playful mood. On their underside they have individual drawings as a fingerprint.
They are pregnant for one year, have babies every two or three years, and give birth to living babies.
Gran Canaria - Arguineguin
Ghost net and plastic...
Romme Alpin- Borlänge