“You can’t reason someone out of a position, in which they were not reasoned into”

Finally after a long protracted battle 18 African Elephants are in the air and on their way to 3 of the United States top zoos! This is after a litany of tricks and delays that the activist groups went to, including an eleventh hour lawsuit to prevent the movement, but ultimately the good guys prevailed this time.

Yesterday, I saw anther zoological industry person post that the people who didn’t want the elephants imported cared about them just as much as those of us in the zoological community do. I naturally am skeptical of that argument, but lets for a moment assume that it is true, but then one would have to suspend reality in order for their arguments to hold weight. Those of us in the zoo world have to live in reality, we work with animals to educate the public and fight extinction every day. While the activists live in a fantasy world where the wild is still a safe place, and elephants roam the plains in big herds not bothered by man. This thought  process, is very dangerous, because it ignores the facts on the ground. As the old saying goes “The path to hell is paved with good intentions”. So even if well intended these people are dangerous for elephants and all the animals that they “fight” for.

To provide a little background on this group of elephants, in case you are not familiar with their story. These 18 elephants are from a privately owned and managed game reserve in Swaziland. Swaziland is experiencing historic droughts and thus the reserve is out of food for the elephants to survive. Also the overpopulation of elephants in this area in putting pressure on the critically endangered Black Rhino, so a deal was struck to send these 18 elephants to US zoos to allow for their lives to be spared from a culling and to free up space for Rhinos, as well as raise funds for rhino conservation. Seems pretty straight forward doesn’t it? They call it a win-win situation, the US gets much needed elephant genetics and the game reserve gets money for Rhino conservation and the elephants are not killed. Call me crazy but I think that elephants are much better off alive than dead in a cull, but not all the activists feel that way.

So after the move was announced yesterday I went on the Facebook page of one of the groups opposing the move and made the mistake of trying to reason with them and provide them with facts, not feelings, about why these elephants are lucky to move to the US. Well as you can imagine it didn’t go well at all. This is where the quote at the top of the post come in, “You can’t reason someone out of a position, in which they were not reasoned into”.  Now since I put my views and posts out there to the general public I occasionally receive hateful messages and mild threats, but last night was a whole different level of crazy. These people who supposedly love elephants so much, looked at my personal FB page that I was commenting from and saw pictures of myself with Ringling elephants from my time working at the Center for Elephant Conservation. They then proceeded to tell me that they hoped that “my circus elephants kill me”, as well as calling me horrible names, and wishing all sorts of deplorable things would happen to me that frankly I don’t feel comfortable repeating here.

The moral of this story is that people who think only with their emotions and not logic or facts can’t be reasoned with. These people are not well, they have taken their perceived love of animals, in this case an elephant, and turned  “saving them” into their identity. My hope would be that these people are less aggressive and hateful in person, but if you have ever seen a SeaWorld or Ringling protest you know that is generally not the case.

So what this means is that all we can do as animal people and those that support the work we do is keep fighting the good fight to prevent extinction, but we can’t expect to reason with zealots. We have reached a point in our society where the facts no longer matter to many people, but that does not mean that we should stop giving them. There are animal people that I know, who have it 1000x worse than I do, that receive very serious threats on a regular basis but they keep doing their work. Why? Because we love our animals and there is nothing more important than preventing the loss of elephants, rhinos, birds, frogs, from the planet forever.

Be sure to support the three zoos that had the courage to import these elephants, The Dallas Zoo, Omaha Zoo, and the Sedgwick County Zoo. These facility put the elephants first, and were willing to stand up to activist criticism, something that not all zoos are willing to do. If you can please thank these zoos, and reward their efforts by going to visit these elephants at their new homes this summer.