About Our Project
As yogis and yoginis we have been taught that yoga is more than just exercise, but rather a way of thinking and living. In Yoga Sutras, asanas, or the poses that we associated with yoga, take a backseat to the yamas and niyamas, the ethical precepts that allow us to be at peace with ourselves, our family, and our community. One the first principles is Ahimsa, which is compassion for All Living Things. Extending this compassion to all living creatures is dependent on our recognition of the underlying unity of all sentient beings. When we begin to recognize that the streams and rivers of the earth are no different from the blood coursing through our arteries, it becomes difficult to remain indifferent to the plight of the world. We naturally find ourselves wanting to protect all living things.
At the beginning of 2014, Funky Yoga founder Juliano Echeverri visited the province of Chiang Mai, in Northern Thailand, and went on an Elephant Tour and was sad to see how they were being treated. In Asia elephant habitat is being destroyed every day, and elephants are still-hunted or poached. Some elephants find refuge in conservation sites throughout Asia while some serve more practical purposes as work animals or entertainers.
The Asian elephants live in 13 countries ranging across South East Asia and South Asia. Used by humans for over 4,000 years, a significant number of individuals are found in captivity throughout the majority of range states. Thailand possesses an estimated 1000-1500 wild individuals, most of which occur in protected areas and Wildlife Sanctuaries. However, contrary to most other countries, Thailand holds a higher number of captive individuals than wild ones, the former comprising approximately 60% of the total population. The wild and captive elephants in Thailand fall under different legislations. The wild population essentially comes under the government protection and granting it a certain level of protection from any form of anthropocentric use. The captive population however comes under the somewhat outdated 1939 Draught Animal Act, classifying it as working livestock, similar to cattle, buffalo and oxen. Internationally, the Asian Elephant is classified as “Endangered” on the IUCN Red List (1994) and is thus protected under the CITES Act, restricting and monitoring international trade. Habitat loss and fragmentation have been recognized as the most significant threats to wild elephants in Thailand.
Elephants are incredibly intelligent and kind animals, and that is the reason why many Elephants in captivity are overworked and abused. In the shows for tourists Elephants play soccer and score goals, they are force to do many un-natural poses, like standing in two legs, and even forced to paint with their trunks over canvas with an incredible accuracy. It takes hundreds if not thousands of hours of hard work for both elephants and men, and a lot of imposed suffering of baby and adult elephants for many years are needed in order to achieve those perfect tricks. There is no disguising that the elephants are sad, as they are always chained when tourist are not present. Training by the mahouts involves poking them over the head with a metal axe repeatedly. Elephants have been treated all over the world as workforce for thousands of years or used in Circus but there is no need for westerners to see how elephants play soccer, paint drawings with their trunks or perform any other circus acts. When we practice Ahimsa, it becomes difficult watch elephant in cruel circus for entertainment, for each act becomes an act of violence toward ourselves as well.
Thailand relies heavily on tourism to fuel their economy. As Westerners and consumers have the power to decide where we want to spend our money. We have the power to say yes, or not. So with that in mind, and respecting all Asian sacred traditions and ancient culture we are setting a goal, firstly to advice all travelers going to Thailand not to participate in these tours or shows but to join us on the support of humane treatment and care of Asian Elephants in captivity. Fortunately, there are few organizations in Thailand and Cambodia that do amazing work in saving these magnificent animals. We are currently working on a collaboration project with one of the elephant sanctuary in Asia to help to take a better care of the animals and create a worldwide awareness of this situation.
If you resonate with us on this project please stay tunned as we develop this program into its full manifestation !