Mo Orr is passionate about animals and their welfare. By creating a display in her local Queensland library, she has helped educate hundreds of Australians about the working conditions of Thailand’s domesticated elephants. Elemotion Foundation is proud to highlight Mrs. Orr’s efforts. Her display is an excellent example of how one person can make a difference. Interview below (April 2011):
EMF: When and how did you first decide that you wanted to get involved in Asian elephant welfare?
I was looking for a holiday with an animal connection and a friend suggested the Elephant Nature Park, a park where visitors may enjoy an up-close experience with elephants who do not have to work. I heard Lek Chailert (founder of Elephant Nature Park) speak with passion and love for elephants and it changed my world. I became aware of the plight of Asian elephants. I learned about the cruel training methods and the suffering of working elephants. I knew then that I needed to speak out about the abusive practices that so many animals have to endure, from elephants used in tourism to circus animals, and even zoos.
Most people would not willingly support animal cruelty. If they were made aware of the brutal training methods and the ongoing pain and distress of working elephants, they would put the welfare of elephants before their own pleasure. Given the choice between seeing an elephant at work or an elephant in a sanctuary, I believe they would choose to support sanctuaries where elephants are treated with compassion and respect.
EMF: Why do you think it is important to help?EMF: Why did you decide to create this display in your local library?
I asked our city library if there was a place where I could leave a few Elemotion brochures. The librarian suggested I do a display since the topic was a community message, and thus the opportunity to do a display was offered.
EMF: What did you include in your display?
On the main display board was the information on the true lives of elephants used in tourism. There were also brochures on a table for library patrons to take. There were two styles of brochures, one style about the mistreatment of elephants used in tourism, and the second style from sanctuaries where tourists can get up close and interact with elephants in a manner that is humane and fair to both elephants and tourists. I believe it is important to cover both the why and the where of ethical tourism.
I also displayed various elephant books and dvd’s in a cube.
EMF: What kind of reaction have you had from the display?
Our library has approximately 55,000 people go through its doors per month. The display was up for two weeks (although one week only is usually offered). I phoned the local newspaper and they did an article on the display in the community paper.
I base the success on the number of brochures that were taken. I had 6 different styles of brochures, including Elemotion, Friends of the Asian Elephant Hospital, Elephant Nature Park, Boon Lott’s Elephant Sanctuary, and others. In all, I had around 200 brochures. Before the display closed two weeks later, all but 1 brochure had been taken.
I also stood back and watched as patrons saw the elephant photos and came up to the display. Most of them would read the main display board and then take one or two brochures before moving on. Sometimes I would chat to people about the message on display and each time I was made aware thatthe lack of knowledge plays a major part in the elephant tourism ‘industry’.
EMF: What is the main message that you would you like to give to the general public?
I believe that the main message is for people to look beyond what they see. Be aware of the suffering endured by elephants disconnected from the lives they were born to live. And, they need to promote ethical elephant tourism, where elephants get to be elephants, doing elephant things.
The adult elephants doing tricks in shows may be entertaining, and the baby elephant entertaining guests at a local beachfront hotel may be cute, but this is where we need to step back and think about what we are seeing: how were the elephants trained, how do they live when they are not performing, how old is the hotel greeter baby, where is her family, how many hours a day is she chained, was she put through the phajaan.
EMF: Can you recommend other ways that people can help?
An easy and effective way to help is to get people talking and thinking about elephants used in tourism. Every time I see an elephant (statue, gift, painting, t-shirt) I go into the store and comment. If the elephant is performing, I talk to the store owner about the elephant suffering and leave a brochure. If the elephant is in a natural surrounding, I tell the store owner how good it is to see ethical elephant promotion, and leave a brochure! Hiking stores and travel agents are good places to leave brochures. At the very least the person who takes the brochure from you will read it, and at the very best, they will act positively and take the message on board.