An Open Love Letter to the Sumatran Elephant
by Allison Ledwon To my dear Sumatran Elephant,
We have never met, but I have always admired you from afar. Something about your face and your trunk have always fascinated me. Just watching the way that appendage can move and grasp takes me back to when I was five and watched my first Animal Planet special on your African cousins. It was sort of like being set up on a date; my knowledge of them led me to you. When I got a little older, I started to understand your home a little more and the troubles you face there, but we’ll get to that later. You’re more than just your problems.
Weighing in at five tons, you’ve shown the world that big is beautiful. There aren’t many of you left, only 2,400 to 2,800 in your home according to the folks at the World Wildlife Foundation, but you have just as massive of an impact now as you did in time gone by. You help shape the world around you, something I want to do too. I want to shape the world by the things I accomplish, you shape the world by eating lots of plants and spreading the seeds all around Sumatra and Borneo, creating a stable ecosystem. If that isn’t the coolest way to make an impact, I don’t know what is.
You’re so intelligent. That’s what I love about you the most. You’re relatable. You remember one another, even after years apart. Your matriarchal leader (Girl Power!) remembers the same migration route year after year, just like we know the route to our best friend’s house, even after months apart.
Yet, you’re an absolute powerhouse. You can lift over 700 pounds, using only your trunk. It’s crazy.
Strength, though, cannot protect you from everything. It won’t protect you from palm oil plantations and the deforestation that goes with it. This is the root of so many problems in Sumatra and Borneo. It effects not only you, but also orangutans, tigers, rhinos and others. With people clearing the land, you’re losing your home and your migratory paths. I know this is confusing, and often results in you getting into trouble with farmers who then hurt you. The worst part is that they aren’t even half as scary as poachers who only want your tusks.
You are so much more than just a problematic creature or a money making machine. I know that, you know that and I think a lot of other people know that too. If not, at least they do now.
An Elephant Enthusiast
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