Each of our elephants came to us as shadows of their potential selves. Their accompanying stories describe their rescues and detail their histories, but it is impossible to relate just how traumatized and devastated each elephant was upon arrival.
“I want to rescue an elephant” is an easy declaration to make, but its reality is something few people truly understand. To some extent, the term “rescue” has been glamorized. “Rescue an elephant” embodies a romantic image that doesn’t begin to account for the mercenary factors involved. The rescue of elephants is a dangerous, clandestine, and unpredictable commitment. Negotiating a sale is complicated and delicate. If cash isn’t provided immediately, owners become suspicious and are quick to change terms and demand more money.
Possible rescue candidates are identified through a variety of means — from alerts by good Samaritans to owners contacting BLES directly. When a possible rescue
candidate has been identified, Katherine and Anon approach the often-elusive owners to initiate discussions. This can take months as the owners may equivocate, change payment terms, and in the case of street elephants, frequently go into hiding for fear of governmental reprisal.
Once a price has been agreed upon, Katherine must locate the funds, a constantly demanding undertaking. BLES does not have a storehouse of savings, so each rescue initiates a global outreach through phone calls and e-mails. Timing is crucial, and despite Katherine’s ardent efforts, the funds are not always forthcoming. For every elephant BLES has successfully saved, two have been lost. Sometimes the owners get a better offer. Sometimes the funds just don’t come. Sometimes the elephant dies. It really is that simple. If we don’t have the funds, we can’t save the elephants.