Keith: “It is sort of like they just did not realize what they have missed until they were exposed to a different life.”
Scott: “In many cases, yes, because it becomes about survival.”
Keith: “You not only provided sanctuary but you actually went out and rescued elephants. Is that right?”
Scott: “Yeah, you know, the term rescue is widely used for any animal that comes to a better situation in most cases and we had elephants… to date The Elephant Sanctuary in Tennessee accepted 24 elephants. They came from every facet of captivity, with privately-owned, from zoos and circuses and for a gamut of reasons; some were rather ill, some were aggressive, confiscated.
Some were from progressive zoos saying ‘You know, we realize we cannot properly care for these elephants in captivity, we need to do more for them & our space, no matter how much money we put into it, is going to still be too limited’. So, these zoos had made decisions to move their elephants to sanctuaries as well.
Some of the rescues if you… were confiscations, were probably the biggest rescues where we were called, essentially with little notice, saying ‘the elephants needed to come out of really bad situations‘ and, you know, irrelevant of where they came from, whether it would be a planned process over a number of years or a short term rescue, every one is miraculous all on its own. Every one has a journey and a story and, uh, and it is highs and lows. You know, sometimes elephants go through struggles when they arrive but, you know, when they come there it is just… there is almost no words to describe, you know, the the difference that it makes in these lives.”
Keith: “Did you also have African elephants or are they primarily Indian elephants?”
Scott: “No… we started with just Asian elephants and we were going to remain very species specific and we were also going to start… be with just female elephants because they are Matriarchal, Matriarchal society. And we also know that these elephants were coming in already very physically and emotionally compromised. So, we did not want to encourage breeding and procreation on an already already compromised elephant. Plus, where all our money and focus go to… also be going toward raising elephants versus rescuing more and we have wanted to keep our doors open to rescue and receive as many elephants as possible.
Over time as we evolved and we started growing and expanding our property we realized there was an opportunity to take African elephants as well. And we were contacted by two individuals asking us to please take their elephants, their African elephants and that is what kind of triggered us to consider this possibility. And at this point they have taken three African elephants and 21 Asian elephants.”
(unintelligible, both host and guest talking)
Keith: “Now do they co-mingle?”
Scott: “No, they do not. They are in separate facilities. They have mingled across a common barrier on occasion but when the African elephants first saw our Asian elephants they thought they were Aliens from another planet and they ran away from the fence as fast as possible. But this is part of… this partly defines the difference between African and Asian elephants. Asian elephants are a little bit more passive, a little bit more introspective and African elephants tend to be a little bit more reactionary, a little bit more high-energy.
They can co-mingle. They can co-exist but oftentimes in a captive environment it causes compromise for both. More so for the Asian elephants because they are not accustomed to this high-energy physical play and oftentimes that can be perceived by… for an Asian elephant, that can be perceived as aggression. So, you have an African elephant saying ‘Hey, I want to play’ and the Asian saying ‘Hey, I do not want to fight’. You know, so, even though they can get along just their nature can cause conflict. So, we wanted to allow them to be who they are to the fullest degree possible and the best way to do that is to keep them as separate herd environments.
We did have two Asian elephants that grew up with African elephants in zoos and both arrived with this very physical nature and both were actually aggressive to some of the other elephants when they arrived and actually aggressive to each other for quite a long time because they brought a different mentality into the Asian herd than most of the Asians were accustomed to.”
Keith: “So it is almost like they had a different culture than their, uh… the other Asian elephants.”
Scott: “It is a completely different culture. It is a completely different way of being. Their dietary needs are a little bit different. We jokingly said there is, you know… the similarities are four legs and a trunk but it is not too far off.”
They are all dynamic. They are all incredibly intelligent. They are all emotionally sensitive. So, there is a lot of similarities that way. But in terms of the culture of both species there is a lot of differences between them.”
Keith: “Wow, that is just amazing because uh, no, I have seen them both as most people have but never really gotten an opportunity to hear what the differences were.
Keith: Now, hey Scott, you left Tennessee Elephant Sanctuary in 2011 and what caused you to make the decision and what did you do for the next few years?”
Scott: (Laughs) “It was probably the most difficult decision I ever made in my life was to step away. But the reality is there comes a time, I think, in all of our lives where we realize that it is time to make a change. This is all I had done, from the time I was 16, 15 years old, I had worked with elephants. From the time I was 22, uh, is when we had started the sanctuary and my whole life had been, you know, basically 24/7 and living this life of sanctuary and it was remarkable. It was a phenomenal life, completely blessed in so many ways. But there is… with changes that were happening in the sanctuary and the new leadership and also the core staff that we had there at the time it seemed like an opportunity for me to move on and see what was going to be the next phase.
Initially we slowed down for a little while. I had wanted to get a quote unquote “normal job” (laughs) but we actually spent some time with family and within the first three months, two months after leaving we actually got a call right away saying ‘Will you come down and rescue an elephant from Chile?‘.
It was the last circus elephant in Chile and they had already tried to move her two times, away from the circus. But the circus was not willing to help them move her at all. And the people that were trying to move her were not skilled in doing so. Uh, so, we actually got a phone call on, I think the day before Christmas, saying ‘We expect to get a call from the judge with little notice that we can move Ramba‘ and indeed two days after Christmas they got a call saying ‘We have ten days to move Ramba‘ and they said ‘Can you come move her out of the circus? We have a temporary facility for her at a small safari park’ And this was going to be a transitional place for her where she could be assessed before moving to The Elephant Sanctuary in Tennessee.
So, we actually went down and this kind of threw us right back into the elephant world and we were supposed to have multiple days and and a lot of support and we got there and we had basically one day to move her and not a lot of support, (both laugh and acknowledge that) it was actually a hostile environment. And we were surrounded by, uh, I think, uh, at the end of the day we had almost 25 police officers because the circus tried to attack us and they said ‘You have to move her today’. We were actually able to move this remarkable elephant out of the circus.
She remains at this safari park in a temporary facility. It is actually better than a lot of elephants. She was not able to come to the Sanctuary in Tennessee for a couple of reasons. But we hoped for her to be one of the first elephants to come to Brazil. But after this experience with Ramba we started immediately talking to others about, you know, wh… the scenario with captive elephants and what we need to do for captive elephants around the world.
And we did settle into a small town for a while but it was a wonderful part-time job, I mean, a wonderful job but it was a… kind of a part-time scenario in our life where even though I was at work we were still thinking elephants all of the time and quickly realized that we have too much to offer to the world of captive elephants and that is kind of what led us to starting the newer organization.”
Keith: “Wow, that… what a story. And, uh, we need to take a break right now, Scott, and all you listening stay with us because when we return Scott will share us with the pioneering work Global Sanctuary For Elephants is undertaking in Brazil and, uh, we will be right back…
To Be Continued: Elephant Expert Shares His Amazing Story of His Life With Captive Elephants, His Appalling Discovery of the Mistreatment of Those Elephants and His Vow to Provide Sanctuary & Healing For Captive & Performing Elephants Worldwide : Part 4
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