December has been particularly busy for me. I’m a full time musician who happens to love elephants and has dedicated all my free time to running this educational awareness blog. With holiday gigs, I haven’t had a lot of time to write posts, but I have been busy sharing ele-news on Elephantopia’s facebook page (if you haven’t LIKED it yet, head over there now!) One of the news items I want to post is about Raja’s birthday coming up next week, December 27 (the same day as my husbands!) But in order to stem any potential misunderstanding, I thought it best to dedicate a blog to the topic.
You see, Raja lives at the St. Louis Zoo. There are a few different groups of ele-advocates, some that are like zoos, and some that detest zoos. This post isn’t about being pro-zoo or anti-zoo. It’s about Raja. And how this Christmas elephant from my past has shaped my love for elephants in the present.
This love affair with elephants began at the young age of six when, living in Memphis, I visited the elephants with a “backstage pass” getting to stand right next to the giants to feed them some carrots! A few years later I moved to St. Louis where Raja was the first elephant to be born at the St. Louis Zoo. My family had a zoo membership, so of course I participated in all the festivities leading up to his birth December 27, 1992. I still have a small figurine of Raja that I purchased!
This month Raja, who holds a dear place in my heart, is turning 21. This video of his life brought tears to my eyes watching it. I thank him for being born in St. Louis when I was there at a formative age in my life. Because of Raja, I was introduced to elephants. Because of Raja, I became connected to these animals in a larger-than-life sort of way. Because of Raja, I learned about conservation efforts for Asian elephants. Because of Raja, I vowed that one day I would help elephants as an ele-activist.
Do I think they are the best place for animals? Of course not. The best place for animals is in the wild. Do I think some zoos mistreat their elephants? You bet - elephants need SPACE and FAMILY and not all zoos provide these two critical elements. But do I think zoos play an important role in educating the public on conservation matters while eliciting deep & lasting connections between humans & animals? Yes, because my experience with Raja did that for me.
Again, I know this post will probably evoke heated responses from people. But I can’t deny how important Raja has been to my life. And so I face Raja, the elephant of my Christmas past, with a thankful heart and with hope for the future as I continue my study of elephants with efforts to help others find a spot in their hearts for these most amazing animals.