Competition vs. Collaboration (Hint: One of these things will kill us)


Are you a winner?

MandaLao Elephant Rescue (Photo. D. Rutter)

In Western culture, particularly here in the US, we are raised from a very early age, to view competition as the ultimate human endeavor. Our entire society, economy, most of our emotional relationships (if we care to admit it) are riddled with or even based on the idea that in order to accomplish anything we need to compete for it and win it.

Think about it: from spelling bees in grade school and a place on the winning softball team, to vying for career advancement and seducing customers in a crowded market space. Visit a singles club on any given night and you’ll see big time competition in action in the arena of love and relationships.

Animal rescue is hardly immune from this omnipresent desire to compete. Years ago, when I had a lot less wrinkles, and my drive to rescue animals was in it’s infancy, I made a valiant attempt to volunteer with several kitten rescues in my home town. I had assumed, in my naiveté, that different groups of people, all with one goal in mind (to rescue kittens) would all be working together to achieve the same objective. Boy was I in for a rude awakening. Not only did disparate groups not have any desire to work with the other groups but they sure has heck didn’t want volunteers coming over to their rescue from another, (obviously lesser) rescue. Heaven forbid Kitten Rescue A would attract donors and siphon donations away from Kitten Rescue B.

Elephant rescue too has its share of competition. In places like India having a temple elephant chained at your temple can be an economic advantage, likewise European zoos, and renaissance fairs in the US tout their elephants to attract customers in a massive and inhumane game of, you guessed it, competition.

In the wild, as resources grow more and more scarce, elephants (and all wildlife) are increasingly engaged in a life or death competition with humans for resources, from land to water, and it’s only going to get worse as we continue to encroach on their space.

So. Much. Competition! OUCH~

We are so used to being inundated with the constant fervor of competition that when we see something or someone that steps out of the game it can, quite literally, rock our world!

Recently, Arte for Elephants was fortunate to attend “The Gray Event”, a fund raising gala for Elephant Nature Park, and it’s founder, Lek Chailert.

This event was filled by a veritable who's who of “elephant luminaries”. Scott Blais from Global Sanctuary, Philip Price from Saving Ganesh, Ed Stewart from PAWS, acclaimed Elephant Artist and Filmmaker, Matt Shapira (Roaming Elephant). Not to mention the guest of honor, Lek Chailert whose “lifting the veil of secrecy off of elephant training “has rocked the entire tourism world to it’s core, and many more!