The Elephant in the Room

By: Ainsley McKinley, Jane Ni, Julia Sloan, Nicolo Villasis, Andrew Winer

Explore the intricacies of balancing human-elephant coexistence

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“Welcome to “The Elephant in the Room,” a special magazine issue that seeks to explore the intricacies of human-elephant interactions throughout the world. When you think of elephants you may think of strength, intelligence, and gentle giants. As we may see parts of ourselves in elephants, humans view them with amazement in a variety of contexts ranging from awe to religious worship. However, adoration for elephants does not match the way many people treat elephants today, in various realms including poaching, tourism, circuses, zoos, and more.

We take a deep dive into human-elephant interactions and the potential solutions to rectify our relationship with the great elephant. In the “Biology & History” section, we first cover how the unique biology and cognition of elephants frames the issues surrounding the conservation and capture of elephants. We later discuss the historical relationship humans and elephants have had, from prehistory to the present day. In “Poaching & Ivory,” we look at poaching from a variety of different perspectives including biological, economic, and the perspective of the poachers themselves. Finally, in “Modern Elephant Dynamics,” we will cover elephant ethics in the entertainment industry as well as the cultural ties to elephant welfare in India and Thailand. We will also explore elephant violence against humans as the violence is not only done by humans against elephants; there are cases of elephants presenting a physical or economic danger to humans.

We hope to bring in perspectives from other countries as well as our own to encapsulate a holistic view of the different issues that arise in human elephant interactions and the perspectives of various stakeholders that care about these problems.

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