Friday, January 20, 2006

Friday Headlines: Elephants, Kenya, Ibsen and Lilly

Lots o' links edition:

Nebraska State Senators Ernie Chambers and Marian Price have introduced a bill that would outlaw the use of bullhooks in training, disciplining, and intimidating elephants. Behind the scenes of many circuses and zoos, bullhooks are routinely used to force elephants to learn tricks, to go where trainers want them to go, or simply to "teach them who's boss." After enough of this, the mere sight of a bullhook can be enough to frighten them (or, in some cases, enrage them). Many of the elephants at Hohenwald were mistreated in this way, some of them sustaining permanent injuries. Hopefully the bill will pass, and be only the first.

Speaking of Hohenwald, a group of University of Arizona law students are campaigning to have two elephants at the Reid Park Zoo sent to the sanctuary. Here's a link to their campaign.

In Britain, welfare groups are seeking an outright ban on animals in the circus.

Elephants drinking vodka to stay warm? I don't even know what to think about that one.

In South Africa the elephant population is doing so well that the Department of Environmental Affairs and Tourism is considering a cull. (Culling is essentially a "controlled" thinning of the herds, and it's a highly controversial form of elephant population management, banned in SA for the past ten years.) Interesting quote from that article: "If South Africa culls its elephants, it will bring down the wrath of armchair conservationists in Europe and America who have threatened to discourage tourism to any country that kills elephants." (For the record, I do not own an armchair.) I recognize that what, from here, are majestic and sensitive animals might look quite different if they were tearing up my crops and knocking over my house. Nevertheless, I reserve the right to be sickened at the thought of hunting them down with machine guns and helicopters. Yesterday, a panel of scientists recommended against lifting the ban.

In India, elephant jams on the Dehradun-Rishikesh route. Also: all hail Guruvayoor Padmanabhan, King of the Elephants.

Compare these stories: one child killed, and another. Notice any difference in emphasis?

Rhinos! They're being relocated from Nairobi National Park to the Meru Conservation Area. There are still, sadly, hardly any of them left.

The Kenya drought: here we go. It's a mess. It's being called Kenya's worst drought in 22 years. The government has waived import duties on relief food (gee, how nice of them), but this hasn't stopped government officials from stealing said food for themselves. Herdsmen have moved about 10,000 grazing animals into the Mt. Kenya forest. That's about twice the amount the area can handle. You can't blame the pastoralists, though; they're desperate. A battle last Friday between nomadic herdsmen--one group from Ethiopia, another from Kenya--left 38 dead.

The drought has also left elephants and humans fighting over water and crops; a recent study provides some perspective on this. The drought is hitting hippos especially hard; 60 to 80 of them have died in the Maasai Mara reserve over the past six weeks.

You may have heard about this: British environmentalist and filmmaker Joan Root was killed at her farm in Kenya. Was it murder or assassination? Four suspects are in custody so far.

Kenya is talking about lifting its ban on sport hunting. Elephants would still be protected due to the ban on ivory trade, but it would be open season on lions, buffalo, and antelope. This kind of sport tourism has been a success in some places, creating economic incentive for citizens to provide for wildlife welfare. Which is not to say that I don't have mixed feelings about it, or worry about a slippery slope. On a related note, here's an interesting editorial from a Kenyan sports writer who's changed his mind about the idea of hunting elephants.

"[T]he Kenyan ministry of education . . . [has] identified [school based HIV/AIDS prevention programmes] as a necessary step towards protecting the general population from HIV/AIDS infection." Better late than never, I guess. Meanwhile, Britain will help fund Kenya's new Free Compulsory Education program.

In Norway: this past Saturday was the centennial of Henrik Ibsen's death. Events to come in the next year include "a performance of 'Peer Gynt' next to the Pyramids outside Cairo on October 26." (OH MY GOD would I love to see that. "Peer Gynt" tops my list of Ibsen faves, primarily due to the weirdness, although I also love "The Wild Duck," "Hedda Gabler," and "Ghosts.")

In soccer (yes, football) news, the U.S. Women beat Norway 3-1 behind Kristine Lilly. Have I ever mentioned my collective crush on the U.S. Women's Soccer Team? Now I have.


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