Filed under: Change Caravan, Stop climate change, Thailand | Tags: c2c, change caravan, Climate Change, Copenhagen, elephants, Global Warming, un copenhagen climate summit, un general assembly on climate change
September 12, 2009
Om Jai Shri Ganesha! As is the practice amongst millions of believers, especially the Hindus, the blessings of the elephant-headed god, aka Ganapati, the remover of obstacles and god of all beginnings, were sought today to launch the Chang(e) Caravan near the famed UNESCO world heritage site, the magnificent rainforests of Khao Yai National Park.
Later, sitting amongst hundreds of school children, watching the ancient ceremony of Wai Pakam, being performed by mahout elders of the Kui tribe, calling upon the spirits for protection of all life in the forests, I was amazed by the simple animist beliefs that have persisted despite the disappearance of the forests , thousands of species and the traditional way of life.
Before the arrival of man, Southeast Asia, a region that today comprises of 11 nations and is about half the size of USA, was completely covered by forests with the exception of its beaches, tidal flats and top of some high mountains.
More than 100 plant families with several thousand tree species thrived in these forests that one time, according to naturalists, was home to over 50 percent of all species on earth.
Only a few patches have survived the onslaught of man and his greed, but I was reassured by my friend, Dr. Alongkot, a leading elephant conservationist in Thailand and Caravan Manager of the audacious Chang(e) caravan, that these remaining rain forests of Southeast Asia are still a refuge to almost 20 percent of surviving bio-diversity on the planet
Chang, Thai for Elephant, the most charismatic mega-fauna, its largest member. All of which is under unprecedented threat with the dual and inter-related cause of deforestation and climate change.
The Asian Elephant, is divided in 3 sub-species, the elephants of Sri Lanka (Elephas maximus maximus), the Sumatran elephant (Elephas maximus Sumatranus) and all the elephants of the continental mainland (Elephas maximus Indicus).
According to Dr. Alongkot , nowhere in India or Southeast Asia there exists, what biologists call a ‘minimal viable population’ that can breed in perpetuity without harmful genetics efforts caused by ‘pocketed herd phenomenon’ due to forest degradation and loss of forest corridors.
Thailand has about 1500 wild elephants with the biggest concentration (200-300) in Khao Yai National Park and along the border with Myanmar. Thailand presently has about 2500 elephants in captivity. With the closure of logging industry , many of these elephants and their mahout families have been rendered jobless, reduced to begging on the streets of Bangkok.
Five such elephants, rescued and rehabilitated by Thai Elephant Research and Conservation Fund, will lead the people’s caravan for change, raising awareness on climate change, collecting and broadcasting the voices of thousands of impacted people in the region to call upon world leaders especially President Obama to take decisive action to combat climate change and stop deforestation.
Von Hernandez, Greenpeace Southeast Asia’s Executive Director, in his opening remarks said that the letter ‘e’ in chang(e), stands for ‘empowerment’. Given the elephantine task ahead for the Chang(e) caravan crew and also the world leaders who will meet in New York for a special session of UN general assembly on climate change, we hope that the wisdom of the elephants will prevail.
After all, to quote Mahatma Gandhi, “The future depends on what we do in the present.”
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