"The Blue Elephant"
Written by Hank Hammatt
Elephant Care International
A few weeks after my mother died and almost four months after Hurricane Katrina destroyed our house in 2005, Susan and I were walking on the beach near our former home in Mississippi. Hurricane debris was everywhere.
As we walked we discussed our recent years together. In 2000 we had gone to Indonesia to evaluate the captive elephant situation in government-run camps. We then made a decision to resign our positions, sell our home, and move to Indonesia to improve the healthcare of elephants and train local people.
After three years in Indonesia, it became apparent that certain government officials were not cooperating to improve healthcare, and were actually hiding injured and dead elephants. Worse, they refused to change procedures proven to cause the deaths.
We had documented a death rate of more than 85% among new captures and went to higher officials seeking support for change. Rather than helping, the government began harassing us and we were compelled to escape to avoid jail or extortion (common in Indonesia).
Upon returning to the U.S. and re-grouping, we again felt the compassionate need to help elephants. To best accomplish our goals, we decided to build Elephant Care International into an official non-profit organization.
So here we were walking the beach in the small town we had come to love. Only now, our home, our town, all of our records, all of our elephant books, and much of our lives had been destroyed. While in Indonesia, our Belize rainforest property with its thatched-roof hut was also destroyed by a hurricane.
It was December, 2005 and we were still awaiting government approval of our non-profit status. "Perhaps we reached too far," Susan said. "Maybe we need to abandon our dreams and get jobs to try and recover our financial footing."
At almost that very moment, I looked over, and there, half-buried in the sand, was something bright, blue and somehow compelling. I walked over and pulled out of the sand a child's toy -- a wet, dirty, stuffed blue baby elephant! How often would one find an elephant on a beach in Mississippi? Our spirits lifted immediately.
This is a true story. The elephant above, after a trip through the washing machine and dryer, is the one we found. Elephant Care International received non-profit status in late December, 2005.
Though these early months challenged us, we are proud of the work we have done for elephants in subsequent years. With your help, we have built an organization that will help elephants today, tomorrow, and long after we are gone.
Please support the elephants by making a donation through our secure site. Thank you!