Less than a couple of weeks ago, it was World Elephant Day (on August 12th) and considering how much I love elephants and safaris, I didn't want to pass it up to share one of these stories.
All of a sudden I noticed the presence of 'elephant talk' with so many social media posts, a special movie and story shared by a favorite vendor of mine, and then the discovery of this second unbelievable story from right here in the U.S. All of them about elephants!
I absolutely felt compelled to write this even though it's not directly related to travel. Elephants are one of my favorite animals and also such a vital part of one of my most preferred travel options, that is African safaris, in particular.
This story is one that actually happened right here in the U.S. many years ago. It's actually a horrible start to the story with the town of Erwin in Tennessee being the only one known to ever publicly execute an elephant. This happened back in 1916 when a circus came to the town.
What prompted this elephant's hanging was when poor Mary, the elephant, noticed a pile of watermelon rinds and decided to stop suddenly and veer off track for a snack. The new, badly trained rider struck her in the head with a large metal hook so Mary wrapped her trunk around the man and threw him into a drink stand and then stepped on his head and killed him. While many of us who love animals 'get this' because she was just trying to fend for herself and was likely pretty darned pissed off, the townspeople were furious and many called her "Murderous Mary".
They decided she had to be executed and so she ended up being strung up by a crane on a 100-ton derrick railroad car in the town of Erwin, Tennessee. Not everyone was happy with this spectacle and many were embarrassed and upset over the incident and still to this day resented the fact that their town was still known as 'the town that hanged an elephant'.
It's such a macabre incident that shocked me when I learned about it as well. Elephants are such wonderful animals but, of course, as circus animals, many of them were abused and tortured and it's absolutely not something that should ever be done to these incredibly beautiful, gentle, loving, family-oriented creatures.
Interestingly, a citizen of Erwin named Jamie Rice, having grown up hearing about the story of Mary, decided to start an organization called 'RISE Erwin' back in 2016, the 100th anniversary of Mary's death. She raised money through this organization and supported the wonderful "Elephant Sanctuary" located in Tennessee. This sanctuary is the home of retired elephants from zoos and circuses.
They have provided refuge for 28 elephants and currently have 10 residing there with room for more. They have more than 2700 acres of property for these animals. What's wonderfully sustainable about this property is that it's closed to the public so that these animals are able to live their lives out in the most natural way possible.
The cool thing is that they have 'elecams' enabling people to watch them and learn about them. They teach hundreds of schools and community groups around the world through Distance Learning. If you want to check out these cool cams, here's the link: The Elephant Sanctuary in Tennessee.
Elephants truly are amazing, emotional animals and there are so many stories about how concerned they are for their families by taking care of weak or injured members and showing grief over dead companions.
World Elephant Day was launched back in 2012 to protect and preserve this much loved and respected animal. Their numbers have dropped by 62% over the last decade and risk being mostly extinct by the end of the next decade. They deserve our help because wouldn't it be horrible if at some point they didn't exist in our world?