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When Hope, Work, Love, Prayers and Money Just Aren’t Enough

“How do you keep going? She’s the first one I’ve lost.”

The desperate text came through my mobile phone as I rushed through a check out line at the grocery store. Hurrying to get home in time to participate in a global candlelight vigil for an ailing elephant named Pelusa who lay, dying, at the La Plata zoo.

Pelusa at La Paz

Pelusa passed away peacefully later that evening. Her death hit the elephant rescue community like a sucker punch to the gut. She was so close. Steps away from rescue. To have her pass at exactly that time seemed unusually cruel. She’d survived so long, why now?

Why indeed.

Few elephants epitomize the universal suffrage of captivity more than Pelusa.

Born to a captive mother in a European zoo in the early 1970’s. Shipped as an infant to a small enclosure a continent away, there to spend the next 50 years alone. Bereft of elephant companionship, pacing endlessly on hard packed soil, her feet exploding with a mass of rot and decay. Until finally, when her body and her spirit could no longer keep going, she lay down and died.

And for what, exactly?

So that visitors to the zoo could stop, wave! “Hi Elephant!” and on they go, free to live the life they were born to, while Pelusa waited, day after day, decade after decade, for a rescue that never came.

So, how DO we keep going?

I’ll tell you how.

We light our candles, dry our eyes, roll up our sleeves, shake our fists at the universe and shout,


For every Pelusa, Mohan or Hanako, elephants for whom rescue was too late, there is a Ramba, a Lucy, a Kavaan. Elephants still very much alive and still, imprisoned in zoos around the world.

This, my friends, is our watch and we who care have been entrusted with a sacred mission. To free every, last one of these innocent souls from the torment of captivity.

So I challenge each and every one of us to take a deep breath and jump back into the fight.

Let every action stand as our powerful statement.

An elephant named Pelusa lived on this earth.

She had a heart, a soul and a life.

In her name we dust ourselves off and keep going.

We owe her that much, at least.

My Pelusa's Spirit

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