Dear Friends of Massachusetts for Elephants:
So much has happened since Earth Day 2020. More than 141 million people have contracted Covid-19 worldwide. More than three million people have died. Our collective worlds have been turned upside down. We hope that you and your loved ones are safe.
Life for elephants has not been easy either. The pandemic has essentially ended eco-tourism and, with it, the economic benefits for communities that depend upon it. Poaching is on the rise. African Forest elephants are now listed as “critically endangered” and African Savannah elephants are listed as “endangered.” Asian elephants are also endangered as they face ongoing habitat loss and continued use in tourist attractions and other working roles. The 2021 Vigil4Elephants, of which MAFE was a co-sponsor, mourned the more than 50 elephants who died in captivity in 2020, many in horrific conditions.
The news, however, is not all bad: African Forest elephants and African Savannah elephants are now recognized as separate species. This opens the door to actions to address the distinct challenges faced by each species. Despite formidable threats, the belief among conservationists is that these designations will provide new opportunities for study and new resources to create a more vibrant future. Here in the United States, the Non-human Rights Project (NhRP) won a landmark victory in the case of Happy, an elephant held alone in a Bronx Zoo exhibit. Bronx (NY) Supreme Court Justice Alison Y. Tuitt agreed with NhRP that Happy is “more than just a legal thing, or property.” Happy is not yet free, though the language in this opinion represents significant progress.
Here in Massachusetts, a bill to end the use of elephants, big cats, primates, giraffes, and bears in traveling exhibits and shows has again been introduced in the Legislature (S.2251/H.3376). A bill to end the trafficking of ivory and rhino horn has also been reintroduced (S.576/H.903). Each bill has attracted a promising number of co-sponsors and has been assigned to committee, the first step toward passage. We are grateful to the senators and representatives who are moving these bills forward.
A year ago, the future looked uncertain. On Earth Day 2021, we at MAFE are hopeful. Covid vaccines for humans are rolling out, signaling a return to some version of normal life in the not-too-distant future. We are energized. We are redoubling our commitment to work on behalf of elephants, locally and worldwide, in the year ahead. We invite you to join us:
Contact your state senator and representative to ask them to support S.2251/H.3376 and S.576/H.903. If they are among the co-sponsors, be sure to thank them.
Check out our newly redesigned website (massforelephants.org) where you will find updates on legislation and our other activities. We welcome you to get involved.
If you are like us, the past year has been a time for reflection on what is most important, gratitude for all that we have, and a greater appreciation for the complexity and fragility of the world around us. We believe that humans will not long thrive in a world where wildlife cannot flourish. There is no time to lose, and the efforts of all of us are needed to restore well-being to the planet. Species and eco-systems hang in the balance. This year, celebrate Earth Day with us by committing to taking action all year long.