Dream Out Loud Diary: Life After Kickstarter

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We can’t believe it’s been just over a month since the DO Elephants Go To Heaven? kickstarter ended. The team at Dream Out Loud Productions have been so busy since the campaign finished so we wanted to take a moment to tell all our friends and generous supporters what we’ve been up to…

We were absolutely delighted to have smashed through our initial $50,000 goal and even more so, to have secured a supporter base of more than 580 people to come on this journey with us. With such fantastic backing behind us we knew we were well positioned to make this documentary the enormous success it needs to be to help save elephants. But, with great power becomes great responsibility and so, skipping a celebration (we’re saving that for release day!), we got back to work.

Sourcing and making plans to deliver our Kickstarter rewards has been a huge undertaking and one met with excitement and terror in equal measure! It really is a small team effort here propped up by volunteers, friends & family lending a hand. Even Director Louise’s eighty year old mother was recruited to help package and post the DO Ubuntu Bracelets. We have had to make the difficult decision to remove the Tribal T-shirt from our rewards package as with only nine orders we could not make a print run economically viable. We would like to thank the backers at this level for their understanding and generosity of spirit in this matter. We are so pleased to be able to give something back to our generous donors and are on track to deliver the remainder of the rewards on time by August 2015 – probably before! Watch out for alerts on Facebook and keep checking those mailboxes!

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Did you know your purchase of a bracelet not only supports DO Elephants Go To Heaven? but also AIDS orphans in rural South Africa?!

The Director’s Club Private YouTube channel has been set up and all those who backed at this level will receive a notification by email when we have uploaded our first video. This will be around the time of our first post kickstarter ‘on-location’ shoot…

Our initial plan was to fly out to Africa to film almost as soon as the Kickstarter campaign had finished. We have decided to postpone our flights by a few weeks as we have a lead on a captive elephant, now living in The United States, who was imported from the wild in Zimbabwe many years ago. We believe that filming this elephant, now in terribly ill health both mentally and physically, will allow us to better tell the story of the current crisis-situation facing Zimbabwe’s elephants and demonstrate why elephants must not be sold into captivity.

Alongside working to secure this shoot we have been continuing to build our network of international supporters and contributors and have a number of exciting locations, projects and elephants to film with in South Africa and Zimbabwe. We have also been in contact with the International Fund for Animal Welfare (IFAW) and discussed the prospect of incorporating their augmented reality elephant, Laura, into our documentary. We believe augmented reality elephants can replace living elephants in a captive setting and offer even greater stimulus for visitors and learners. The benefits are greater still when you consider that what you see will be the true representation of a wild elephant; an elephant in captivity is a shadow, a whisper even, of it’s wild counterpart.

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We want to show that all captive elephants could be replaced with augmented reality ones like IFAW’s Laura.

We have also added two very exciting new members to our team. Lynn Webb has joined the team as a Producer. Lynn brings with her many years of expertise in producing documentaries and feature films and will be a fantastic asset to the Dream Out Loud team.

As well as an animal communicator we will be working with a former Veterinarian and vibrational healer. This unique combination of sensory animal communication, behavioural study and veterinary knowledge will allow us to gain greater insight into the fascinating world of elephants from a previously undocumented perspective.

All that remains to say for now is thank you for supporting us and following our journey. This stage of production does not appear to be very eventful from the outside looking in but rest assured we are beavering away behind the scenes to ensure this documentary delivers on its promise. Stay tuned for more updates, join our mailing list or follow us on Instagram where we will share photos from the field.

 

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An Elephant Funeral, Burkina Faso.

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DEGTH?’s Harriet caught up with DJ Schubert, Wildlife Biologist at the Animal Welfare Institute to find out more about their important work. During the interview a fascinating story came to light…

Burkina Faso, 1984-1986, whilst serving as a US Peace Corps Volunteer.

“I did have the fortune of witnessing an elephant funeral. It was a Saturday, I remember that, and I’d gone out for a hike not knowing what I would find and off in the distance I happened to see the flap of an elephant’s ear, so I worked my way over there, climbed up onto a pile of rocks and immediately I knew something was different because there were probably 100-150 elephants together in the clearing. For Burkina Faso and West Africa that was very unusual, we never saw big groups of elephants like that. There was one group of about six or seven elephants closest to this rock pile and I quickly noticed that there was a baby elephant right in the middle of this group and a large female, which I assumed was the mother, standing over this baby. She was standing over the baby and she was rocking back and forth, she would take her foot or use her trunk to try to stand the baby up, but the baby would fall down immediately and let out this wail, and the other elephants were stroking the mother’s back. Some of them came and they intertwined trunks with her and would put the end of the trunk into her mouth, sort of like a kiss in some ways, and I was very intrigued by this because I’d never seen anything like this before.

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I was there for an hour and a half and then the elephants had figured out I was there, I think maybe the wind had shifted and they could smell me but I didn’t want to stress them, so I left and I came back a few hours later and the same thing – there was still the stroking going on there was still the intertwining of the trunks. Sadly it was now apparent the baby had died because the elephants had covered the baby with sticks and twigs and dirt and the mother was standing over the baby and rocking back and forth, so at this point I’m going “oh my gosh”, this is an elephant funeral. There’s no other way to describe it. The mother stayed all night and into the next day, standing over the baby and rocking and stroking. The next day some of the workers went out and they were able to recover the baby elephant’s body and they determined that she had died as a result of an infection in her umbilical cord. It was undoubtedly the most amazing thing I saw in regards to elephants in my two years in West Africa, and again it demonstrated to me how similar elephants are to humans. Everyone’s heard the stories about elephants mourning and finding old bones of other elephants and carrying them around for days, visiting places where their relatives have died, but I was able to see it up close and personal, and was able to see the compassion that the elephants had for each other. It was quite a unique experience and made it clear to me that these are just absolutely special and unique animals.”

For us, this story encapsulates the emotional capabilities of the elephant in a way rarely seen or told. DO Elephants Go To Heaven? explores the consciousness and plight of the elephant from a unique perspective, calling on the experiences of safari guides and animal intuitives, to compel people to act to save elephants!

Please join our journey, for updates via email join our mailing list or visit our Facebook page.

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Where Have All The Pangolins Gone?

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First Rhinos, then elephants and now Pangolins. Time to throw some light on another of Africa’s most endangered wonders.

The pangolin is the world’s most hunted animal and sadly we look again to the East for the culprits. According to Traditional Chinese Medicine, the pangolin boasts a whole host of miraculous abilities including curing cancer, preventing asthma and keeping evil spirits at bay. Those seeking such mythological cures have now rendered the prehistoric pangolin the most illegally traded animal on earth! And so, despite it’s ‘battle-ready’ appearance, the pangolin is becoming increasingly vulnerable.

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Part of Prehistory

The pangolins we share the earth with today are the result of eighty million years of evolution. There are eight species extant today and of these, two are listed as critically endangered. However, all eight species of pangolin now feature on the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN) Red List of animals threatened with extinction. Due to the solitary, predominantly nocturnal and highly secretive nature of these animals, relatively little is know about them. It is therefore difficult for conservationists to assess the extent of the crisis they face or how drastically their numbers are declining.

 

Pangolin Portrait

Pangolins are native to Africa, India, Southeast Asia and Indonesia. Often referred to as the ‘Old World Anteater’, they are the only mammal on earth that is covered in scales, scales made of keratin – the same substance as our fingernails or a rhino’s horn – that are too hard even for a lion to bite through. Pangolins have exceptionally sharp, strong claws which allow them to dig for ants and termites, they do not have teeth and cannot chew but their sticky tongues, which can be longer than their body, collect their insect prey. Stones and keratinous spines in their stomach aid digestion! Pangolins are predominantly nocturnal but have very poor eyesight, instead locating termite mounds and ant hills with a strong sense of smell and hearing. As a form of defence, pangolins roll up into a tight ball, protecting their faces and softer underbelly with their tough scales. They also emit a noxious smelling liquid similar to a skunk. Out of this world hey!

Out of the world maybe but IN this world they must stay – you can find out more about these exceptional and unique creatures and do your bit to help the organizations trying to save them by visiting the IUCN Pangolin Specialist Group or Save Pangolins websites.

Keep up dating on all sorts of wild news by joining our mailing list.

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Ringling’s momentous decision: One week on…

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Feld Entertainment’s momentous decision to phase out the use of elephants in both their Ringling Brothers and Barnum & Bailey circuses, left activists, lobbyists and elephant lovers both surprised and elated. 

Now that the news has sunk it, what’s the word in the herd on this shock decision? DEGTH? finds out…

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Image: lePhotography/Flickr

On Thursday 5 March Feld Entertainment, parent company to the Ringling Brothers and Barnum & Bailey circuses, announced that it would begin phasing out the use of elephants in its live shows. The thirteen elephants currently travelling on the road with the circus will be relocated to the Ringling Centre for Elephant Conservation in Florida by 2018, joining twenty-nine elephants already living there.

This decision brings an end to over 130 years of the practice and I believe reflects the paradigm shift occurring in how humans see elephants. “There’s been somewhat of a mood shift among our consumers,” Alana Feld, executive vice president for Feld Entertainment, said. “A lot of people aren’t comfortable with us touring with our elephants.”

The company’s President, Kenneth Feld stated in an interview with the NY Times that the financial resources previously taken up by tackling ‘anti-circus’ and ‘anti-elephant’  legislation could now be put into elephant care and conservation, “We’re not reacting to our critics; we’re creating the greatest resource for the preservation of the Asian elephant.” Whatever the official line, there is no doubt that this decision comes in response to newly enacted restrictions on performing elephants in certain states and the people behind such restrictions are the critics and elephant advocates!

Until now Ringling Brothers have been the the real weight fighting off ‘anti’ legislation, now that they will not be adding their weight to the ring it stands to reason that future anti-legislation stands a much better chance.

The ink barely had time to dry before activists, including PETA, called into question the timing of the decision. “Many of the elephants are painfully arthritic, and many have tuberculosis, so their retirement day needs to come now,” wrote Ingrid E. Newkirk, president of People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals, in a statement. “If the decision is serious, then the circus needs to do it NOW.”

But unfortunately, one week on and despite fervent criticism, Feld Entertainment does not appear to be budging on its original schedule. Their defence calls upon practical considerations, stating it will take at least that amount of time to prepare the Florida facility for their arrival. “Each elephant requires a certain amount of space and a certain amount of barn area,” said Stephen Payne, Feld’s spokesman, “permits, drainage issues and other logistics must be worked out”.

So whether it be one, two or three years from now, what does the future look like for these long suffering elephants?

We are led to believe that initially the conservation center will be open only to researchers, scientists and others studying the Asian elephant. Sadly, it seem unlikely the elephants will be left in peace. The centre currently runs an Asian Elephant breeding programme with 26 calves born in the last 20 years and also loans elephants to zoo breeding programmes. Chairman and CEO Kenneth Feld already foresees an expansion “to something the public will be able to see.”

But while our gut reaction as elephant advocates may be to balk at elephants continuing to be a public spectacle, consider this… it may be better for the elephants to be under the scrutiny and inspection of the public-eye rather than shut away behind gates only for Ringling to ‘buck up their act’ and hide the bull hook, once every blue moon for a planned inspection!

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An elephant calf born at the RIngling Centre for Elephant Conservation in Florida. Credit: Ringling Bros.

Whatever future faces these elephants it has to be preferable for them than being dragged about in trucks, loaded and unloaded, dressed up, cavorted on and made to perform unnatural stunts, all the while fearing the bull hook! Unfortunately it’s not such good news for the lions, tigers, horses, and camels that Ringling will continue to exploit in its live shows.

With this major precedent set, attentions will undoubtedly turn to the smaller circuses still clinging on to their elephant acts –  but clinging they are, and with the foundation stones removed we hope it won’t be too long before the rest come crashing down!

Here is one circus elephant you can help:

Nosey is a 32 year old African elephant, captured from the wild in Zimbabwe as an infant and exported to America. She has the misfortune to be owned by Hugo Liebel of Florida State Family Circus, and has been dragged from state to state to perform since 1989. The US Department of Agriculture has clocked up nearly two decades worth of Animal Welfare Act (AWA) violations for her but to no avail. A sanctuary has offered to take her but the Liebels are stubborn and unrepentant, and are not about to let her go willingly. In response to Ringling’s March 5 announcement, Mariska Liebling posted to instagram “It’s a sad day for circus world”. Sign this petition to have Nosey confiscated and sent to a sanctuary.

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DO Elephants Go To Heaven?, currently in production will explore the devastating effects that living in captivity has on elephants. For such emotional, intelligent animals and socially complex animals, being held captive in zoos or circuses is tantamount to you living your whole life in solitude in an area the size of your bathroom! Read more about the documentary here, connect with us on Facebook or tweet @dolfilms.

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Ode To The Elephant

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HAPPY WORLD WILDLIFE DAY

On this day, 3 March 2015, we’d like to share with you this beautiful ode to the elephant.

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ODE TO THE ELEPHANT  

You whose feet pounded the earth,

the hard earth into powder in ancient times,

so that green things may grow.

You are the protecting spirit of Africa.

You are the whisper of our stories in the wind that has forgotten its heritage.

I salute you,

elephants of the plains of Africa.

Bayete, elephant!”

Credo Mutwa.  Dedicated to Space For Elephants Foundation

Help us save elephants through film by donating to our Kickstarter today! Only ONE DAY LEFT!

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