Elephants in India: 3 easy tips for how we can help by Chelsea


Asian elephants greeting each other by inter-twining their trunks By jinterwas - [1], CC BY 2.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=22849407 Asian elephants greeting each other by inter-twining their trunks, by jinterwas – [1], CC BY 2.0

It’s simple to be cynical. When I travel, it’s easy to regard those different from me derisively. When I point at others, as the old saw goes however, the majority of my fingers point back at me.Living in the prosperous United States as I do, it’s tempting to ignore how our politics hurt ourselves and other countries. If it was ever possible to do — now amid our police brutality of innocent people, during these perilous times of COVID19 — how can anyone overlook how intertwined and interdependent everyone everywhere is?

Blogging has gifted me the unexpected delight of a number of followers from India, a huge country I’ve yet to visit, but obviously multi-faceted and amazing in countless ways. For one thing, they’re home to the amazingly evolved creatures called elephants!

Globetrotter Chelsea, a native of Northern England, is based out of Barcelona, Spain. On Chelsea’s blog, along with epicurean insights, she offers her unique take on various lands. Here’s a slice of her visit to NW India and her insights about how we can all become part of the solution when it comes to helping animals. The main organization she discusses, Wildlife SOS, is an award-winning charity founded by and administered by Indians…

Blogger/traveler Chelsea was profoundly moved by her visit to India. Blogger/traveler Chelsea was profoundly moved by her visit to India.

Elephants in India: 3 simple ways to help by Chelsea

It was my love of nature and animals that led me to Wildlife SOS India. Today I’d like to tell you all about the encouraging work of this fantastic conservation non-profit, particularly with regard to elephants, how COVID-19 has affected wildlife, what you can do to help, including other organizations.

What’s Wildlife SOS?

It’s a conservation non-profit set up in 1995 to protect and conserve India’s natural heritage, forest, and biodiversity. It is currently one of the largest Wildlife Organisations in South Asia. Its main missions are:

  • Conservation and protection of wild populations and habitat.
  • Rescue of injured and displaced wildlife, and to look after the welfare of captive populations.
  • Research into better protecting and caring for wildlife.

WSOS leads a massive variety of projects: battling illegal animal trading and poaching, advocating for wildlife within the legal and legislative systems, mitigation of human-wildlife conflict, and organising awareness workshops, to name just a few.

And the projects are just as diverse as the huge variety of animals they rescue every year ranging from snakes illegally captured by snake ‘charmers’, peacocks poisoned by pesticide, sloth bears forced to ‘dance’ for entertainment, and elephants enduring a life of cruelty in the tourism industry.

Love elephants? Read on!

Although WSOS is internationally known for its pivotal role in eradicating the practice of dancing bears, they are becoming increasingly well-known for their rescue and rehabilitation of elephants.

Their Elephant Conservation and Care Centre was created in 2010 to rehabilitate severely abused and exploited elephants, and nowadays houses over 25, many of which were rescued from a lifetime in captivity where they were forced to beg on behalf of their abusive owners, work as temple elephants, perform in circuses and give rides to tourists, among countless other atrocities.

Elephants in captivity face a life of cruelty and abuse, starting with being poached from the wild as babies, isolated from other elephants, and beaten until they can be coerced to do anything. (Note from da-AL: the video link that follows is truly upsetting.) The taming’ method for an elephant usually goes like this: baby elephants are kept in a small cage similar to those used in intensive pig farming, and they are tied up with ropes so they can’t move. The elephant will then be subject to repeated beatings with nails, sticks, chains, and bullhooks. In a process lasting several weeks, the animal is starved of food and water while enduring sleep-deprivation, until they submit to their owners, who can then use them for financial gain.

This cruel practice is aptly called phajaan or “breaking of the spirit”.

All captive elephants will go through at least some form of this vicious ritual. Next time you see an elephant used to give rides or appearing in a film, the signs of abuse will be easy to spot. Shredded ears where they have been torn by bullhooks, nasty skin conditions, lacerations all over their body, and tears in their eyes are all indications of abuse. It’s simple really — no wild elephant would voluntarily paint pictures, perform in the circus or let people ride them.

Only a creature that has had its spirit crushed through abject torture would submit to such unnatural behaviour. While in Europe, you’d be hard-pressed to still find a circus with real elephants, it is estimated that there are approximately 2,700 captive elephants all around Asia that are still actively subjected to some form of exploitation.

Such abuse is particularly sad when we consider that elephants are among the most intelligent of all land mammals. Elephants exhibit renowned cognitive skills and share many behavioural traits with humans. These sensitive souls exhibit grief, altruism, compassion, cooperation, self-awareness and have excellent memories. They remember other elephants and humans they had met briefly decades previously, and they will certainly never forget the anguish they endured all their captive lives.

As visitors to the Agra Elephant Conservation and Care Centre, it was heartwarming to see elephants which had endured a lifetime of cruelty finally be able to spend their days in peace, enjoying long relaxing mud baths, receiving a nutritious diet and veterinary care, as well as enjoying a daily stroll in the open fields with their friends.

Some phony ‘sanctuaries’ are more like petting zoos and little other than dressed-up tourist traps where the mistreatment of animals is commonplace (here’s how to spot one). In total contrast, at Wildlife SOS’s rescue centre in Agra, only small groups of visitors are allowed to come on a prearranged visit, and no touching of or direct interaction with the elephants is permitted. Elephants are in no way made to perform for visitors, and riding is, of course, banned. Although these elephants would not be able to survive in the wild again following decades of captivity, they are well cared for and live as natural a life as possible in the centre.

Indian elephant bull in musth in Bandipur National Park , by Yathin S Krishnappa - Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=24916395 Indian elephant bull in musth in Bandipur National Park, by Yathin S Krishnappa – Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0

How to visit Wildlife SOS

I was deeply impacted by the life-changing work Wildlife SOS is carrying out and would wholeheartedly recommend that anyone visiting Agra should carve out a firm place in their itinerary to visit both WSOS centres in Agra to see the projects first-hand. We hired a driver and visited the Taj Mahal, the Agra Bear Rescue Facility and Elephant Conservation Centre all in one day, with time to get the 5pm train back to Delhi, so it’s definitely possible to have this eye-opening experience on a day trip!

For more information, check out Wildlife SOS’s website to find out more about how to visit the Elephant Conservation and Care Center. Make sure to get in touch in advance by sending an email to visit@wildlifesos.org to organise a customised visit. It’ll be the highlight of your trip to Agra!

Refuse to Ride Elephants sign by Chelsea. Photo by Chelsea.

How has COVID-19 affected Wildlife?

The current COVID-19 crisis is making its effects felt universally and is forcing us to reexamine our relationship with wildlife and nature.

Now confined to their homes, people are increasingly realising the benefits and importance of spending time in nature, notoriously polluted cities like New Delhi are enjoying some of their first blue-sky days in a long time, and wild animals have been venturing into urban city centres now devoid of the usual throngs of people and heaving traffic. Wild boars have even been spotted taking a stroll around the metropolis of Barcelona!

Another silver lining of the current pandemic is that it has shone the spotlight on the illegal global wildlife trade. There is more awareness than ever of the risks that exotic animal markets pose to human health and increasing pressure to close them down for good.

At the same time, wildlife tourism is being severely impacted by restricted international travel. On the one hand, this is good news – the lack of tourists will be a relief to elephants who are otherwise forced to give rides all day. On the other hand, rescue centres like Wildlife SOS will not be able to welcome visitors whose entrance fees go towards the animals’ upkeep.

Ultimately, whether it comes as a blessing or a curse, COVID-19 has come as a wake-up call, and one thing is certain: we need to seriously rethink how we treat the natural and animal world around us.

3 Easy Ways Everyone can help — Wildlife SOS and beyond… 

  1. Visit the WSOS site for everything from how to spread awareness, fundraise, volunteer, and sponsor an animal, to opportunities to assist children in Kalandar. In addition to learning more about their groundbreaking conservation work, visit their bear and elephant facilities in Agra, if you’re in Bangalore, South India.
  2. Here’s a WSOS link if you’d like to sign a petition to ban riding elephants, to ban the use of animals for medicine and food, this one to protect India’s wildlife from open wells, and this one to outlaw the use of elephants for tourists to ride.
  3. Donate elsewhere: every little helps, especially now during the COVID-19 crisis with food shortages looming.

My visit to the elephant centre left me emotional, and a lot of tears went into writing this article. The way humans treat their fellow living creatures is disheartening, to say the least. We call people ‘animals’ when they act aggressively, brutishly, and uncivilised, but really, animals don’t hold a candle to the depths of fiendishness us humans are capable of on a regular basis. In fact, it’s animals who time and time again surprise us with their altruism and affection towards humans. Here are examples of our wonderful dolphin friends!

But I’m also optimistic. Yes, there is still an enormous amount of needless animal cruelty going on today all over the world in the name of entertainment, medicine, food, or whatever other reason you can find a justification for, but there are also beacons of hope like Wildlife SOS.

As more people shun the use of animals for their own perceived gain, I like to think we can stride in the direction of a world with a little less suffering, and a lot more love and compassion.

Sending you sunshine and positivity, Chelsea!

Dear readers, please weigh in…  

Guest Blog Post: Save the bees and the farmers by Stella, oh, Stella


Thank you, Freeimages, for this bee-utiful photo!

Bees — including the tiny not-so-flamboyant ones easily mistaken for pests — need global support. The most important step is to minimize poison in our lawns, gardens, and farms.

Here Birgit of Germany, who blogs from Denmark at Stella, oh, Stella and has been our guest here and here, tells us about the bee-utiful activism of India’s lauded environmentalist Vandana Shiva — which we can all learn from, wherever we live…

Vandana Shiva: photo by Elke Wetzig (Elya) – Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0

“Save the bees and the farmers: Vandana Shiva becomes protectress of this citizens‘ initiative” by Stella, oh, Stella

The European citizens‘ initiative, “Save bees and farmers,“ just got prominent support!

The winner of the alternative Nobel Prize, Vandana Shiva, has officially assumed patronage of the initiative. We are calling for a gradual EU-wide ban on chemical-synthetic pesticides, measures for the recovery of biodiversity, and an EU agricultural policy that supports farmers in sustainable farming.

During her lecture tour through Bavaria, the Indian scientist and seed activist publicly declared her support for the campaign:

“If we don’t save the bees and insects, the farmers will also be lost. But we are also fighting for our next generation with the initiative. With great pleasure, I, as a godmother, will make an active contribution to making the European Citizens‘ Initiative a wake-up call to politicians in Europe to finally be consistent and courageous. “

Europeans — join Vandana Shiva by signing the European Citizens‘ Initiative now. Almost 160,000 people have participated. If we can collect a million votes across Europe by the end of September 2020, the EU Commission is legally obliged to deal with our demands. Can you help us save bees and farmers?

Everyone else — please do what you can to protect, to educate, and to get the word out!

How important do you think it is to protect bees?

Happy New Year Everyone from da-AL!!!


Wishing each of you and your loved ones the very best ahead — peace, health, and happiness!!

Anni-Frid “Frida” Lyngstad (l) & Agnetha Fältskog (r), “Abba – The Last Video (Official Video)” on YouTube.

A heartfelt thanks for your visits to Happiness Between Tails — for ‘Taking a Chance’ on this little blog. Never, when I started it a few years ago, did I anticipate that I’d meet so many wonderful people from so many interesting distant places.

Björn Ulvaeus (l) & Benny Andersson (r), “Abba – The Last Video (Official Video)” on YouTube.

Let’s each of us ‘Take a Chance’ on making this world a better place for ourselves and each other, hairy, scaly, feathered, muddy, and all the rest. Hope this makes you smile — keep an eye out for Cher!…

A plea and a solution for food sellers by da-AL


My dear blog reader, if you or anyone you know agrees with the letter below, won’t you please share it, hashtag it, copy/paste it, add your name to it, and do whatever you like to get the basic sentiment out there? (And read on for an additional message to you that follows it.)

Dear Trader Joe’s, as well as other grocery stores and processed food manufacturers,

Food, glorious food! I love your stuff, and I adore it all the better when you sell it in containers that are healthy and easy to re-use.

Rather than cans and near-impossible-to-recycle (let alone repurpose) plastic vacuum-sealed boxes, sell us stuff in containers like these!…

Something delish…
Tastes better when it’s in something useful…
Like how this keeps a snack fresh!

Here’s the kind of jars I love best — think healthy, easy-to-clean, and uniform in which to store my beans, grains, flour, pasta, and such:

  • Straight-sided and where I can easily reach in wash clear down to the bottom.
  • Labels that require just a quick soak to remove.
  • Better yet, no labels at all, as in the case of the adorable drinking glasses illustrated after this letter — how sublime that the Welch’s name appears only in fine print!
  • Interchangeable sizes and lids would be extra classy!

The mustard sauce in the photo is great — and is all the better for the jar!

Yours truly,

da-AL — a customer who I doubt is alone

P.S. Don’t think you can get away with overpricing products with super-cute holiday gift-type containers and expect us to think you’ve done anyone a favor.

Back to you my dear cyberland friend,

As you can guess from above, I’m asking businesses to go beyond using less plastic. It’s lovely when grocers sell us food in glass jars. Let’s encourage them to take it up a gazillion notches by doing something that’ll benefit us while making us more loyal to them!

I hope you’ll share this with anyone who’s as upset as I am with how impossible it is to get away from plastic. Share this with individuals as well as with businesses. Even small gestures can go a long way when they’re multiplied. As consumers, our wallets wield immense power.

Every time I turn around, I read more scary stuff about how corrosive plastics are to our bodies, and downright catastrophic to the environment. There may have been a time when we deluded ourselves that plastic was better than glass, but these days, we know better.

When I was small, my family ate Welch’s jam. Why? Sure, it was tasty, and we needed something not too expensive for our toast — but with all the jams out there, Welch’s outsmarted the others! Theirs was in glass jars meant to be repurposed into drinking glasses! Customers wanted to collect the cute freebies while getting decent jams at the same time.

In the stone-age, harhar, jam came in these. They were great to drink out of and made shoppers want to go buy more to collect them!

Win-win joy here, there, everywhere!! Pardon me while I do a little jig at the keyboard! Why the heck don’t all stores and all brands continue to do something like what I described?

For crafty readers and those of us who enjoy looking at stuff we’ll never do — here and here and here and here and here and here and here are some links. Key search words: repurpose and up-cycle.

Are you concerned about plastics?…

Guest Blog Post: Wash instead of throw away by Stella, oh, Stella


Facial dabbers with a holder for them are easy to make!

Making beautiful, useful things out of stuff that would otherwise get tossed does everyone a favor! Birgit, originally from Germany, blogs in both English and German from Denmark about everything from nature and cooking to gardening and books. On her Youtube channel, she plays music with her husband and shows us beautiful outdoor sights like this one (watch to the end to get a glimpse of her lovely smile). Read on for how to turn old towels into new makeup removers — and even how to crochet a holder that can be used to machine-wash them…

Stella, oh, Stella

Diese Idee habe ich von Youtube, ich weiss leider nicht mehr, von welchem Kanal. Es ging darum, dass man als Frau oft viel Watte benutzt zum Abschminken, Gesichtswasser auftragen etc.

… This idea I found on Youtube. I don’t remember on which channel, unfortunately. It was about all the little cotton-wool balls that women often use to remove makeup or to put on facial tonic.

Anstatt nun Watte zu benutzen, die man hinterher wegwirft, hatte jemand die grossartige Idee, runde Pads aus Baumwollgarn zu häkeln, die man waschen kann.

… Instead of using cotton-wool, which one throws away after use, somebody had the great idea, to crochet little dabbers of cotton-wool yarn.

Da ich aber welche hier und jetzt benötige, habe ich ein altes Handtuch, das ich nicht mehr benutze, von dem ich mich aber nicht trennen kann, weil es von so guter Qualität ist, auch wenn es jetzt einige…

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Video: Craters of the Moon, New Zealand by da-AL


Crater at Craters of the Moon, Taupo, New Zealand.

Nowhere is it more evident that New Zealand owes its geography to tectonic uplift and volcanic eruptions than at any of its geothermal parks. Our visit there began with Auckland and Rotorua, then the Redwoods and Huka Falls, plus Taupo and Pirongia, as well as Hamilton Gardens. (Later in Australia’s Gold Coast, we visited familyand birds of Australia Part 1 of 2 plus Part 2 of 2, then we marveled at the Spectacular Views in and Around Gold Coast, enjoyed a delicious meal on the beach, saw some wild things and cute things at Currumbin Wildlife Sanctuary, had fun with Rita Rigby, met the beasts of Brisbane and the beauty there, and enjoyed Sydney this much and that much, as well as the purring there!

Steaming burbling craters galore behind Khashayar and da-AL at Craters of the Moon, Taupo, New Zealand.

Along our drive to Taupo, (before we’d view the Waitomo Glowworms Caves) we stopped at the aptly named Craters of the Moon.

Straying from the path isn’t advised at Craters of the Moon, Taupo, New Zealand.

Heat and steam from below percolate up to uncork land, leaving behind jagged craters, some of them huge. Visitors are told, not asked, to keep to the trails, lest they become boiled and billowed…

Do you have craters near you?

Happy Sounds Video, New Zealand Redwoods and Corrugated Pets by da-AL


Turn your sound up high to listen to the ASMR happy sounds of redwood trees creaking in the wind, sounding like old-fashioned rocking chairs…

Most people know of the redwoods of California, where trees are so awe-inspiring that they’ve got names and their Avenue of the Giants. But did you know that New Zealand has its own redwood forest? For our New Zealand vacation, we’d seen a bit of Auckland, then Rotorua, later Huka Falls and Craters of the Moon and Waitomo Glowworms Caves, then Taupo and Pirongia and Hamilton Gardens. Later in Australia’s Gold Coast, we visited family and birds of Australia Part 1 of 2 plus Part 2 of 2, and then we marveled at the Spectacular Views in and Around Gold Coast, enjoyed a delicious meal on the beach, saw some wild things and cute things at Currumbin Wildlife Sanctuary, had fun with Rita Rigby, met the beasts of Brisbane and the beauty there, and enjoyed Sydney this much and that much, as well as the purring there!

Now we got out of our car and hiked up, up, up…

da-AL strolls up to New Zealand’s redwood forest.

Back in the early 1900s, New Zealand officials admired our redwoods — and then planted some of their own! — resulting in the Redwoods Forest of Whakarewarewa. New Zealand soil is so dense with nutrients that the trees grew faster there than they do in the U.S. Like California’s, New Zealand’s big trees provide homes to an abundance of wildlife, including endangered creatures.

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Trees actually talk to each other, creating an ecosystem among themselves that feeds everything from below their roots to far into the air! Redwoods can live for thousands of years — unless humans cut them down or pollute them to death. Alas, the largest was felled around 1945. The most massive tree on earth now is the General Sherman, at 83.8 meters (275 ft) high by 7.7 m (25 ft) wide. The world’s oldest tree lives in California too — a bristlecone pine that’s 5,068 years old. Let’s hope we don’t kill them or their kin.

A little further along, we stopped to pet corrugated animals in the city of Tirau!…

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What’s the biggest tree you’ve ever seen?

Willie Nelson: Vote ’em Out VIDEO by da-AL


That’s what election day’s all about!

(Left) Nelson, 1949, high school (Right) Nelson, 2016, Topeka, Kansas
(Left) Nelson, 1949, high school (Right) Nelson, 2016, Topeka, Kansas

Willie Nelson (born April 29, 1933) is an American musician, singer, songwriter, author, poet, actor, and activist.

Willie Nelson – Vote ‘Em Out lyrics

[Verse 1]
If you don’t like who’s in there, vote ’em out
That’s what Election Day is all about
The biggest gun we’ve got
Is called “the ballot box”
So if you don’t like who’s in there, vote ’em out

[Chorus]
Vote ’em out (vote ’em out)
Vote ’em out (vote ’em out)
And when they’re gone we’ll sing and dance and shout
Bring some new ones in
And we’ll start that show again
And if you don’t like who’s in there, vote ’em out

[Verse 2]
If it’s a bunch of clowns you voted in
Election Day is comin’ ’round again
If you don’t like it now
If it’s more than you’ll allow
If you don’t like who’s in there, vote ’em out

[Chorus]
Vote ’em out (vote ’em out)
Vote ’em out (vote ’em out)
And when they’re gone we’ll sing and dance and shout
Bring some new ones in
And we’ll start the show again
And if you don’t like who’s in there, vote ’em out

[Outro]
Vote ’em out (vote ’em out)
Vote ’em out (vote ’em out)
That’s what Election Day is all about
The biggest gun we’ve got
Is called “the ballot box”
So if you don’t like who’s in there, vote ’em out
If you don’t like who’s in there, well vote ’em out

Did you vote yet?

Huntington Library, Art, and Gardens by da-AL


da-AL at The Huntington, sitting on a bench in rose garden

What better way is there to celebrate a special occasion than with an all-day excursion of gorgeous weather, strolling an array of gardens that span rainforest to desert and Japanese to Australian to more, seeing the worlds’s stinkiest (and amusingly phallic) plant, eating international fare, admiring fine art museums, and ending it all with a high tea?

My honey and I spent our special day at The Huntington Library, Art Collections, and Botanical Gardens (a collections-based educational and research institution) located in San Marino, California. Tap photos for captions…

da-AL and her honey having high tea at The Huntington

What’s your favorite way to celebrate a special day?

Guest Blog Post: Six Warm Piglets by Cecilia Mary Gunther


photo of piglets feeding

Warning: reality check, then Cuteness Overload! It’s not for nothing that the human star of the glorious pig movie, “Babe,” went vegetarian…

thekitchensgarden

If you were hanging out in the Kitchen’s Garden Lounge of Comments yesterday you would have read that a piglet was lost in that first cold night.  I found him dead on Poppy’s side of their quarters.  Being the Lady Pig Farmer is not always easy. All our focus these first few days is keeping the babies safe and well fed. This task feels mutually exclusive at times.

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