Book Description: Successful Spiritual Waiting — the 7 Maxims

As I mentioned in my blog post last month, my new book will be published soon through KDP (Kindle Direct Publishing).  I will let you know immediately when it’s available for sale on Amazon – possibly next month (May 2022). When the paperback is published, the eBook will likewise be available, if you prefer that format. 

My book’s title is Successful Spiritual Waiting: the 7 Maxims, with the subtitle: “Transformative guidelines that reveal the positive perspective.”  It is a very attractive paperback, measuring 5.5 by 8.5 inches, precisely 260 pages in length (252 pages of content and eight pages in the front section).  My book will be listed under the categories Self-help/ Spiritual. So this month, I am posting below the complete Book Description as it will appear on Amazon. One more detail: here is the link to my Amazon author page –

Lee Cuesta Author Page.

Book Description

Such a fresh and unique approach to waiting on and for God has never been published before. Lee Cuesta draws upon 40 years of experience to unpack the deepest, fullest meaning of waiting, along with why and how. With lively and upbeat guidance enabling the reader to implement these principles, he shows that waiting is a positive spiritual practice that delivers success while reducing stress. Cuesta defines “success” as achieving and fulfilling one’s life purpose, and he describes in detail how to succeed in the area of spiritual waiting.  The book is rich with Cuesta’s autobiographical adventures and lessons as he implemented waiting on God, and for God, in his own life.  He’s an ordained minister, and served as a missionary for over 14 years. Due to his own ecclesiastic background, in this book he uses the Bible as his basis, exploring the lives of preeminent spiritual waiters, such as David, Abraham and Noah. But the truths are universal, and Cuesta also quotes from the Tao Te Ching and the Bhagavad Gita. So followers of all faiths and spiritual traditions likewise will benefit from Cuesta’s insights. He relates the experiences of more recent historical waiters, as well, such as William Carey and Nelson Mandela. Lee Cuesta is the author of two previous books, as well as multiple articles, including two about waiting for God, in both English and Spanish. Throughout his career, he has observed that if the topic of “waiting for God” is written about at all, it is usually with a negative connotation. Other writers bemoan, “Why does God make me wait so long?” This book departs diametrically from that point of view. A maxim is a concise expression of a fundamental moral rule or principle. It is generally any simple and memorable guide for living. Immanuel Kant said that a maxim is a principle of action that one gives to oneself, and Lee Cuesta’s in-depth and compelling explanation of these 7 Maxims reveals the lifestyle of successful spiritual waiters.

Lee Cuesta

P.S. And more good news:  Seven Viking Days, my full-color children’s book, illustrated by Mia Hocking, will soon be available again (also via KDP and for sale on Amazon)!

 

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Afterword

Note: In this blog post, I am reprinting the Afterword from my newest, about-to-be-released book. In fact, I already have uploaded the book to KDP (Kindle Direct Publishing), and I will soon be reviewing the proof copy — the actual print version of the paperback. This will go live on Amazon in a few months from now, along with the Ebook. One reason I haven’t been posting on this blog recently is that I’ve been busy completing this book — in addition to the episode described in the following “Afterword.” The title of my new book is Successful Spiritual Waiting: the 7 Maxims, with this subtitle: “Transformative guidelines that reveal the positive perspective.”

Afterword

I spent the first week of the year 2022 in the hospital. Eight days. My wife called 911, and when the paramedics arrived, they said they either transport me to the hospital as fast as possible, or I’ll die. Snow covered the ground and roads. I remember seeing it as they pushed my gurney across the front yard. The night’s darkness amplified the flashing emergency lights; two vehicles had responded. Inside the ambulance, I heard the driver say, “I’m goin’ red.”

My oxygen saturation was around 84 percent, according to the pulse/oximeter on my fingertip. At that level, my survival was unlikely without intervention. In the emergency room, the doctors told me that if I refuse intubation and my heart fails, they will not resuscitate. The reason was that reviving the heart is of no value when the lungs aren’t able to function. And the X-ray showed that my lung capacity was approximately 50 percent. The covid test came back positive.
With my consent, they administered a steroid and monoclonal antibodies, which have FDA approval for emergency treatment. I needed the monoclonal antibodies, daily shots of the steroid, plus a medication to prevent blood clotting. In addition, supplemental oxygen was vital in the ICU, in my hospital room, and even after going home. Without these, I would not have survived.
How does this relate to waiting for the Lord? The very first Maxim: “If God doesn’t do it, it won’t get done.” In other words, if we had tried to do it ourselves — i.e., treat my illness — I would be dead now. We had to call 911, and let God take over.
A huge prayer team was mobilized. Thanks to my wife, my daughter, my sister — I don’t know the full extent of all the people involved — a multitude of prayers and directed consciousness were being sustained on my behalf. As a result, my healing and recovery were 100 percent miraculous.
God had to do it. Allow me to reiterate: if we had tried to treat my illness ourselves, I would be dead. If God doesn’t do it, it won’t get done. In a way, I had to go to the hospital in order to generate and mobilize that level of prayer support. I definitely had to go to the hospital to receive the medicine and treatment that I needed to survive. God heals. After my experience, I know that healing is always a viable probability.
This experience has a wider application; namely, any time we try to confront life’s crises by ourselves — i.e., whenever we try to resolve life’s supreme challenges on our own — the result can be devastating and catastrophic. The outcome would have been catastrophic for me if we’d tried to treat my illness without intervention. A catastrophic result is not inevitable in every situation, as it would have been in my case. But the risk is high that the outcome won’t be optimal if I stubbornly refuse to acknowledge that the circumstance requires skills and resources that are external to myself.
Remember how I restated the first Maxim? It won’t happen unless God does it.
This is not to say that I was removed from all responsibility during my healing and recovery. To the contrary, as I wrote in Maxim 5, the waiting process requires work. To regain my health, I had loads of work to do, both in the hospital and afterward: wrestling to hang on; concentrating on my breathing; physical therapy exercises. While in the hospital, I realized I must never permit myself to slip back; I must always keep fighting forward. When there is good progress, I cannot rest; I must capitalize on that strength to move farther ahead.
So God had to do it; otherwise I’d be dead. BUT ALSO I had to contribute my full effort to keep forcing myself forward to survival; never allowing any step back or retreat. My daughter wrote in an email to me, “I too definitely believe that your recovery was miraculous but I also strongly believe that your intentionality and dedication to meditation and mindful breathing is what allowed you to make such an incredible recovery and so quickly.”
During my time in the hospital, I received the realization that my will to survive was not for my sake, but for the sake of my family: for my wife, for my children, and for my grandchildren. I was to survive for them. As if to reinforce this realization, on my first day in the hospital my wife organized and sent to me a blue notebook with photos of these family members, along with notes from them. And I didn’t solicit this; as usual these days, my wife and I are on the same intuitive wavelength.
Following my discharge, my wife and I started meditating together nearly every morning at sunrise, facing east, which in Feng Shui represents health and family life, which I know now are vastly interconnected.
Hearkening back to what I wrote concerning prayer in Maxims 2 and 5, I further realized that in itself — or, by itself — prayer isn’t the power. The power of prayer is that it summons and directs the Universal Power. Prayer is the directing/ focusing/ concentrating of the Infinite Universal Power (God’s power) into a spotlight and a laser. So clearly, they work in tandem. Universal Power is wielded in response to fervent prayer.
In addition, like the ringing of a gong or a bell, this experience appears to toll a permanent death of my vision to go to India. In the hospital, especially after seeing the X-ray they took in the Emergency Room, I sensed very strongly that my lungs are so essential and vital, yet so fragile and finite. At first, this brought me to tears. I juxtapose this with the extreme air pollution and overpopulation of India’s urban areas.
One of the wildlife rescue organizations, which includes elephants, and at which I had hoped to volunteer, is located in the Mathura district adjacent to the city of Agra. Agra is in the Indian state of Uttar Pradesh, a densely populated state of approximately 241,066,875 people. That’s over 241 million. By contrast, New York State population in 2021 was estimated to be only 19.8 million. California’s 2021 population was over 39 million, which means that Uttar Pradesh has six times more people than California.
This dense population contributes to the transmission of disease, while the air pollution fosters weakened lungs.
I had also planned to spend time in the south of India, such as the states of Karnataka and Kerala, where human-elephant conflict is escalating. This is due in part to the close proximity of the Bannerghatta National Park to Bengaluru (formerly Bangalore), the capital and the largest city of the state of Karnataka. And Bengaluru, a city of more than 8 million people, continues to expand closer to the park’s boundary. One of my sources in India stated: “This is perhaps the only national park in the world (Bannerghatta) that has a wild tiger and a wild elephant so close to a metropolitan city.”
In this southern region, the population and pollution are less severe. The air may be cleaner, but there is no opportunity for hands-on interaction with the elephants. So my plan seems to be changing. Perhaps I will be traveling to Sri Lanka and Thailand instead.
In the meantime, I am waiting for the Lord. Although I am still in my “death of a vision” phase, he may resurrect and fulfill my vision supernaturally in a way — and with a destination — that I cannot foresee.
I was discharged from the hospital on Thursday, January 6, 2022, which is Epiphany, or Kings’ Day, which we celebrated while living in Mexico. That is the day to exchange gifts, instead of December 25. This was my greatest Kings’ Day gift.
My post-discharge follow-up appointment with my doctor was at 11 AM on 1-11 (January 11). With that pair of elevens, I knew that my life and I are in perfect alignment.
This experience was like halftime, as in the football game, and now I’m back on the field to play the second half. Now every day is such a source of joy and inexpressible gratitude. New beginnings; better than before.

Lee Cuesta


Copyright © 2022 by Lee Cuesta. All rights reserved.

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Covid culture shock without ever leaving our city

by Lee Cuesta

I have lived and worked on two continents, and in multiple countries. Culture shock is inevitable. I remember a cab driver in London, and even though she was speaking English, I could not understand her! I remember seeing bull fights on the television screens in the Mexico City airport. In Guatemala City, I remember cockroaches on the bus, and slugs on the floor inside the house.

Culture shock is the feeling of disorientation experienced by someone who is suddenly subjected to an unfamiliar culture, way of life, or set of attitudes. It’s when the novelty and excitement wear off, and the reality sets in.

We are feeling culture shock, but we didn’t go to a foreign culture; the foreign culture came to us.

In Mexico City, just the simple sound of the truck engines reminded me that I was in a foreign culture — along with all the crazy traffic and the smell of air pollution. Or listening for the truck to arrive in your neighborhood, ringing its bell, which meant it was time to bring out your trash — and give the workers a tip.

Typically, one experiences culture shock when he or she travels to another culture. In our current situation, however, it is reversed: we are experiencing shock because the different culture has come to us. So we are seeing signs of anxiety, stress and confusion — and feeling them ourselves — which are symptoms of culture shock.

This is due, of course, to the rapid social changes that are occurring. The covid culture has arrived, bringing these already familiar circumstances: Weddings and karate classes online. Playgrounds closed with yellow caution tape. Suspicions that elicit action from contact tracers.

Where I live, I feel like I woke up at the masquerade party. Face masks are now mandatory, and so at the home improvement superstore the other day, I saw customers with full facemasks, covering their entire face; one looked like Chewbaca. Great for the shoplifters.

Lines on the floor require social distancing at the check-out counter, but none of this is required for rioters and protesters. However, the rioters have discovered the benefit of wearing masks to conceal their identity. Watching the civil unrest in our own cities, or on TV or mobile devices, we feel like we live now in some sort of Middle Eastern culture.

Today, in our society, multitudes experience culture shock without ever leaving their homes — literally — because their own culture is changing before their eyes. When we do leave our homes, it’s like we’re living in a foreign country. We are feeling culture shock, but we didn’t go to a foreign culture; the foreign culture came to us.

In addition to culture shock, our day-to-day society now exhibits symptoms of future shock. This is the title of a book by Alvin Toffler published in 1970. Future shock is now defined as “physical and psychological disturbance caused by a person’s inability to cope with very rapid social and technological change; any overload of a person’s or an organization’s capacity for adaptation or decision making.”*

Every day we are witnessing the inability to cope with very rapid social and technological change. There is deep personal and social uncertainty, plus an inability to move ahead with future plans. The future is too uncertain.

Future Shock sold millions of copies at a time when society was in churn, amid riots over the Vietnam War, the maturation of the civil rights movement and the growth of centralized mass media. Toffler defined the phenomenon as ‘too much change in too short a period of time.'”**

“Too much change in too short a period of time:” this creates instability in our society. So we worry: when will it be stable again? Yet when our culture does stabilize, it will not be the same culture that we remember. It has changed permanently. It is a foreign culture. And perhaps it is impossible to regain stability. Perhaps instability is the new normal, which provides little hope for escaping these feelings of culture shock.

Footnotes

* https://www.dictionary.com/browse/future-shock
** https://www.nbcnews.com/news/us-news/alvin-toffler-future-shock-author-who-predicted-disconnection-modern-world-n601501

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Copyright © 2020 LCEA. Permission is granted to reprint this article in its entirety, or in part, with the condition that its source (this website) and its author (Lee Cuesta) are both acknowledged.

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Solitude and quietness in a tranquil zone accessible only by kayak

Also:  How to disembark without acting clumsy

Lee Cuesta kayak in Catherine Creek wetlands of Lake Cassidy.

I realize it seems like a cliché to say it was a perfect day of kayaking.  But then I realized that every day kayaking IS a perfect day!  And so that’s how it was on Lake Cassidy today, the second Monday in May.  Lake Cassidy is located in Snohomish County, east of Marysville.

Recreational areas reopened in Washington state as restrictions during the co+ vid controversy (henceforth referred to as co-con) are beginning to loosen.  So first I bought our annual Discover Pass, now available again, which had previously been unavailable online because of the co-con.  When you purchase it online, you’re able to print a temporary pass, and the permanent one is delivered via USPS.

Now, the big, main point of this blog post comes at the end of our outing on Lake Cassidy.  So if you want to skip to the end, feel free.  It has to do with the device I built of PVC, which shows up randomly and occasionally in the photos in this post.  Keep reading if you want the highlights of our outing, which includes an adventure in the marshy wetlands where the lake feeds into Catherine Creek.

Lee Cuesta kayak in Lake Cassidy.

The day was sunny with high clouds.  Temperature was pleasantly warm, not a scorching heat, but rather more of a radiant warmth, perhaps enhanced because I was wearing compression sleeves, primarily as a sunblock.

We saw a very blue Great Blue Heron, flying low over the lake twice.  Not only him, but also the sky appears much more blue, thanks to the co-con restrictions, which, in turn, causes the lakes around here to be more blue.  This heron looked quite large — huge wingspan, of course — with his legs curled up beneath him.  Lake Cassidy also is home to a family of eagles.  While bicycling along the Centennial Trail, we had previously identified their nest, which today was occupied by two juveniles, while their parent was searching for their meal.  (In this not-too-clear photo, the eagles’ nest is visible to the right of center.)

We heard the juveniles calling out to the parent.  First we saw him (or her) soaring above the lake.  But then, oddly, we found him prancing on the ground on the northern shore.  To us, this seemed like unusual behavior.  We kept our distance on the lake, to not disturb him, while I tried to capture this on video.  We speculated that he had just captured his own meal, perhaps a rodent, and was consuming it.  Eventually he took off and soared away to catch the next prey that he would take home to the nest, and his hungry offspring.

There are almost no houses or buildings along the northern or eastern shores because there is essentially no solid shoreline.  Instead, it is very marshy with cattails, lilypads and other water plants.  So mostly there are modest, older houses set far back, with long docks stretching beyond the marshland to the lake.  Thus, Lake Cassidy is not overdeveloped, unlike most of the lakes around here.  Two geese flew low together across the lake; the remainder of their flock was resting on a long front lawn at one of the houses.  And I saw one lonely duck, while my paddling companion was investigating whether there were any frog eggs in the marsh along the shoreline.

Catherine Creek wetlands

Lee Cuesta kayak in Catherine Creek wetlands of Lake Cassidy.

Several birdhouses are mounted on poles along the lake’s southern shore, and they appear to be occupied.  Exploring this southern end of Lake Cassidy is the highlight of this outing.  “Fed by Little Martha Lake, Lake Cassidy drains southward to the Pilchuck River via Catherine Creek.”* My paddling companion was ahead of me, and as I headed through the water-lillies and into the tall bulrushes and coontails, I could no longer see her.  She was completely hidden.  In this wetland area where Lake Cassidy converges to form Catherine Creek, narrow channels meander through the marsh.  I paddled into a wider area among the tall reeds by myself, but soon decided I should find my companion.  It was so much fun exploring this secluded area.  We continued following the creek, noticing a slight current, until we came to a bridge crossing it.  That’s when we agreed to turn around and head back into the lake.  This adventure allowed us to discover perfect solitude and quietness in a tranquil zone with bird sounds and dragonflies, accessible only by kayak.

Lee Cuesta kayak in Catherine Creek wetlands of Lake Cassidy.

In case you were wondering, how does Lake Cassidy compare in size to one of our favorite lakes, Blackmans Lake (that’s right, no apostrophe) in Snohomish?  Well, Lake Cassidy itself is roughly twice as big, and its watershed is approximately five times bigger.  Here are the stats: 

“Blackmans Lake is located within the City of Snohomish, just east of Hwy 9. The area of the lake is 62.9 acres with an average depth of 14 feet. The watershed, or the land area that drains into the lake, covers 510.7 acres and about 50% of that land is developed.”

 “Lake Cassidy is located north of Lake Stevens and three miles east of Marysville. The lake covers 131.0 acres and has an average depth of 11 feet. The watershed, or the land area that drains into the lake, covers 2,649.6 acres and about 18% of the land is developed.”

I never realized before how shallow are some of these glacier-formed lakes.

Lee Cuesta kayak in Lake Cassidy.

How I now disembark

And now for the most important and final event of this outing!  Perhaps by this point you’re wondering how that PVC contraption works, the one you’ve noticed in the photos.  As usual, I paddled hard and fast in order to beach my kayak on the gravel launch area.  I laid my paddle aside, tethered to my kayak with a lanyard.  Then I began to remove my new PVC device from its cargo location.  Once free, I inserted it into the cabin.

The two long arms in the front, which you can see in the photos, extend inside the cabin toward the bow.  Then I take the T-shaped leg and insert it into the top of this piece.  By the way, that T-shaped leg is dual-purpose.  I also used it to push off when launching my kayak at the beginning of the outing.  Then I attach the brace between the cross-arm and the leg, forming a strong triangle structure.  (The purple piece in the photos is not part of it.  It’s only there to support it for the picture, which isn’t needed when it’s inside the kayak.)

At the current age of my current body, and after my legs have been dormant for approximately two hours, I’ve discovered that disembarking from my kayak is the most difficult chore of the outing.  So this PVC apparatus permits me to pull myself up, and then stand with stability.  Slowly (being a Tai Chi master) while holding the device for support, I lift one foot and place it outside the kayak.  Still gripping the device, I lift my other foot out, and I have successfully disembarked using my new device!

At that point, I feel super good about disembarking without being clumsy.  It really worked!  I was elated.  So of course, my new device has a patent pending, and if somebody else tries to sell you one who claims that “one size fits all,” don’t buy it. Each style of kayak is unique, and so my device must be custom built.  Of course, kayak manufacturers could make these for each of their kayak styles.  Licensing agreements are available.  Or, after this co-con is over and relegated to the inglorious section of our global history, I’ll come over to your house and build one for you.  Feel free to contact me if you have any questions.  And to all you Baby Boomers like me:  have fun again!

Lee Cuesta

Footnote:

*https://snohomishcountywa.gov/DocumentCenter/View/62592/cassidy

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Urinalphobia and The New ADD — My Top 2 Pet-Peeves

(Note from Lee Cuesta: I am offering this light-hearted guest post amid this temporary national emergency with the intention that it might bring some humor and levity to your periods of self-isolation and social-distancing. As noted at the end, you have my permission to reprint this in your publication or on your website if you’d like a short, humorous piece for your audience.)

Guest post by Don Delfeen*

My first pet-peeve:

The New ADD (Attention Deficit Disorder)

People who are starved for attention; i.e., people who believe that nobody pays them enough attention: these people are classified as having Attention Deficit Disorder. They are people who suffer from an attention deficit. So what do they do? They go overboard trying to generate more attention for themselves. This is the new definition for ADD. Some examples:

⦁ well-to-do retirees in muscle cars or hot-rods. Although they want me to smile, nod and acknowledge their fancy wheels, my passive-aggressive nature forces me to look the other way.

⦁ the customer who walks into the home improvement superstore with a large tropical bird, either brightly colorful or pure white, on their shoulder. They are begging the public to admire their bird, and by extension, to notice them as well. They are starved for attention.

⦁ insecure individuals covered with tatoos, or the ones with ultraviolet hair. They are silently screaming, “Look at me!”

⦁ people who sigh heavily, expecting me to acknowledge them for this reason.

⦁ people who laugh because of something they see on their smartphone, expecting me to ask, “What are you laughing about?”

Finally, there are people who ask me “How are you?” solely because they expect that I am going to turn it around and ask how they are, because they have some sickness or ailment or medical procedure they want to tell me about. So I will never reciprocate with that question because I don’t want to know how they are, and I refuse to open the door for them to tell me.

As I just said, my passive-aggressive nature forces me to look the other way and ignore all those are starved for attention, who suffer with the new ADD. When you hear about this new disorder later, remember that you read it here first. Thanks. I need the attention.

#2. Urinalphobia

What’s up with the modern masculine male identity? In the restroom at the home improvement superstore, there are two urinals separated by a wall, which is one of those restroom “partitions.” Nevertheless, if I am already standing at one of the urinals, other men will inevitably go into a stall to use a toilet, even if only to urinate.

Now, there does seem to be an age factor in this characterization. In general, the older gentlemen — around my age — exhibit no inhibition while they walk up beside me and unzip their flies. On the other hand, younger guys — such as Millennials and younger — will never walk up to the urinal beside me.

It is as if they’ve been feminized and domesticated so thoroughly that they don’t even know what a urinal is. Either that, or they are so self-conscious and shy that they cannot comprehend standing next to another man with both their penises exposed. They suffer from urinalphobia, but what are they afraid of?

In the restroom of a local grocery store that is part of a regional supermarket chain, the urinal is one of those old-fashioned styles that goes all the way down into the floor, and there is no partition between them. Now that might feel intimidating to some insecure punk.

Here is the main reason why I find this urinalphobic behavior so annoying. The sit-down toilet in the stalls is an AquaVantage HET (high-efficiency toilet) by ZURN, and it consumes 1.28 GPF (gallons per flush). Plus, using motion detectors, they flush automatically every time. This is very wasteful for eliminating only liquids. So I want to photocopy this statement and post it inside the stalls, which these urinalphobes will clearly see and read as they are standing there pissing:

“If you are facing this note, then you are peeing.
Don’t be a wasteful moron.
Next time, use the urinal, and not this toilet.
This toilet wastes 1.28 gallons every time it flushes, even to simply remove your liquid pee, you moron.
The urinal uses only 0.125 gallon per flush. That’s why it is called The Pint.
So next time you pee, be a man and walk up to the urinal.”

On the other hand, at my current age, I must admit it is kind of nice not to have one or two other younger guys come and go at the urinal beside me while I’m still standing there waiting for my penis to finish its business.

* A three-minute open-mike performance featuring comedian Don Delfeen
can be seen at the leecuestalive channel on YouTube.

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Text & Artwork Copyright © 2020 by Lee Cuesta Enterprises and Associates (LCEA). Permission is granted to reprint this article in its entirety with the condition that its source (this website) and its author (Don Delfeen) are both acknowledged.

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Where are they now?

The next step in my journey brings me to a town called Tualatin, in the state of Oregon, USA. I’ve gone kayaking on the Tualatin River many times. Nearby, in the marshy ground, the partial skeleton of an ancient mastodon was unearthed in 1962.  These bones are now displayed at the Tualatin Public Library.

This mastodon became the inspiration for a beautiful sculpture that is exhibited outdoors.  This work of art was created by renowned sculptor Brian Keith. Many of his sculptures include children or youngsters, participating in a playful or fanciful moment.  The Tualatin sculpture features a boy gazing at the juvenile mastodon. And as I gazed at the boy who was gazing at the mastodon, I wondered if the time is coming when the only reminder we’ll have of elephants will be a statue like this one.  In other words, when this fictitious boy in the sculpture grows up, will his only image and memory of elephants be a statue?

I am especially concerned about the long-term survival of the Asian elephant population, and its subspecies, the Indian elephants, whose numbers have been receding, and are classified as endangered.  Now, I understand that mastodons are related to modern elephants only insofar as they both belong to the order “Proboscidea,” as follows –

Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Chordata
Class: Mammalia
Order: Proboscidea
After this, mastodons belong to the Family “Mammutidae” and the Genus “Mammut,” whereas Asian elephants belong to the FamilyElephantidae” and the Genus Elephas.”  In this way, the Asian elephant is more closely related to the mammoths, who likewise belonged to the FamilyElephantidae.”

But my point is this:  Once upon a time, there used to be mammals of the order “Proboscidea” on the North American continent.  Where are they now?
.

The fact that the Indian elephants face possible extinction was confirmed in a conversation I had with Kartick Satyanarayan, co-founder of Wildlife SOS.  I spoke with him while conducting research for my full-length article about Gajraj that I published on my blog in August, 2017, which is available here.  Kartick told me, “So basically, if you look at the whole world, we’ve lost 98 percent of the wild population of the Asian elephants.”  I asked him, “Do you think that it depends upon this generation or the next to prevent their extinction?”

Kartick responded, “Absolutely. It is really this generation or the next that can do something if there is to be hope. Otherwise, in five years, we could have no elephants. Our children and grandchildren might have to be shown elephants on photos and videos and Youtube, and there wouldn’t be any elephants left in the world.  That is not a distant chance; it is a very real possibility if we are not careful.” He added, “It is frightening and it shows how much on the edge we are, and it’s a very fragile system and a very fragile state for this planet and for its denizens.”

I recently watched the Context talk on YouTube by Mr. Avinash Krishnan entitled, “Postcode Elephants,” in which he affirms that the final opportunity for the survival of the Indian elephant population may reside in the Brahmagiri-Niligiri-Eastern Ghats landscape, located in southern India, which includes  Bannerghatta National Park.

For this reason, I will be traveling to southern India this year to conduct firsthand interviews and investigation, probably involving volunteer work.

Although at this time I am not at liberty to divulge the content of the outline for my new book, these themes are central to it:

  • How will the Indian elephants survive and thrive in an increasingly urban landscape (the outskirts of Bangalore in increasing proximity to BNP), and in the face of habitat loss and fragmentation, which leads to human-elephant conflict (including intelligent and strategic crop raiding)?
  • How has the elephant lost its spiritual and sacred status?
  • Since mitigating HEC is elusive, how is it to be achieved?
  • What is being done by groups such as A Rocha, the Elephants and Bees Project, and the Asian Nature Conservation Foundation, in southern India (Karnataka, Kerala and Tamil Nadu)?
  • What strategies are successful (such as Beehive Fences; safe migration corridors; etc.)?
  • Why isn’t it possible for elephants to be cared for, treated and trained humanely (target training), like domestic horses are, with love and compassion?

Lee Cuesta

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Chili-Tobacco Elephant Barrier Experiment in Southern India: Ten-Year Update

By Lee Cuesta

Being the last month of 2019, I’d intended this blog post to be a ten-year update about the Chili-Tobacco Barrier (CTB) mechanism in southern India.  This refers to the Elephant Barrier Experiment that was spearheaded by A Rocha India in 2009; hence, my idea for the ten-year update. In fact, an excellent video about this was published on YouTube on June 18, 2009.  It describes the plight of farmers living close to Bannerghatta National Park whose crops are often raided by Asian elephants (Elephas maximus). These are marginal farmers with less than an acre of land for themselves.  Their principal crop is Ragi, or Finger Millet, which also is a delicacy for the elephants. Ragi is a whole grain that is gluten-free and a staple in South India.*

The Barrier Experiment was conducted in the village of Sollepuradoddi, where human-elephant conflict is at a peak.  The barrier consisted of a mixture of chili and tobacco powders in motor oil that was smeared onto a thick rope, which was suspended around the ragi fields.  For this reason, the workers with A Rocha became known as Haggadavaru (the Rope People).  Based on an elephant’s sense of smell, and thus their strong reactions to chili peppers and tobacco as an alternative, natural deterrent, this barrier mechanism was originally tested in Africa.

It proved very successful where it was implemented around Sollepuradoddi. Elephant footprints (pad marks) and dung deposited by nighttime raiders revealed that elephants would not enter fields surrounded by the CTB mechanism, whereas neighboring fields, unprotected, were ransacked, and full of elephant dung and the pad marks.

Mr. Avinash Krishnan told me, “The farmer in the promo video was one of the chief advocates, as the CTB had nearly 90% efficacy in his farm (test-plots).”  Here is what this farmer says: “Before erecting this chili-tobacco barrier, elephants used to enter my crop fields.  After erecting this fence, the elephants still do come, but because of the smell of chili powder and tobacco powder, the elephants have no chance of entering, all because of the smell.  Even though they come close, they just walk alongside the chili fence and go off. They’ve never entered the crop field.”***

So I contacted A Rocha India via email with specific questions concerning the CTB mechanism and its long-term effectiveness.  However, it’s not the type of ten-year update that I expected. The following information was provided by Mr. Avinash Krishnan, currently the Sr. Research Officer at A Rocha and head of all the Science and Conservation programs.  He began his reply to me by stating: “I’m happy to know of your interest in the CTB mechanism that was piloted in Bannerghatta NP to understand its implications of HEC (human-elephant conflict) resolution.”

But then he writes:  “The project was discontinued after 2010, with a last survey done in the mid of 2009, due to the lack of funds to support the farmers of  the area where the pilot tests were conducted.”

You may be wondering why I wanted to write a ten-year update on a project that was discontinued so soon after its inception.  It is because the website, while upholding the barrier experiment as a success, makes no mention of the fact that it was abandoned soon after it was tested.  So the curious inquirer or the serious researcher assumes that the CTB mechanism is still in use.  But this is not the case.

He continues:  “Therefore the long-term efficacy of this barrier system wasn’t assessed systematically and a few farmers discontinued the barriers due to the lack of resourceful for immanence.  (There are) no data on CTB efficacy, as it was discontinued post the initial survey.

“Sollepuradoddi still remains a high conflict zone for elephant raids; however, through A Rocha’s other conflict mitigation initiatives we have been progressing, trying to resolve crop depredations, mainly reducing human deaths due to retaliation.”

I asked him to identify and explain these “other conflict mitigation initiatives,” and he replied:

“Our latest project using technology to mitigate HEC is testing the long-term efficacy of the MATAM (monitoring and trip alert mechanism) early-warning system for human-elephant conflict management in Bannerghatta NP. This is a novel initiative in Bannerghatta and is aimed at improving the existing system of breach detection. Apart from this we have been consistently assisting the forest department  in identifying conflict hotspots for erection of physical barrier systems, such as the railway fence.”

So I asked him, has HEC been mitigated?  In other words, is there greater harmony between humans and elephants?

He wrote: “There cannot be a fool proof mitigation approach to any human-wildlife conflict scenario. Harmony is very subjective, but needs continued engagement and conservation efforts to increase tolerance of people towards wildlife that causes harm to their life, crop and property.

“Our community-based conservation model ‘Bangaloreans for Bannerghatta,’ a citizen outreach initiative, is aimed at curating programs and monthly events to bring in CBC’s to the farmers of the landscape to look at alternative/supplementary livelihood options and also sensitizing them about importance of forests and wildlife through media such as art, natural history and eco awareness.”

HEC is becoming an increasingly potent issue in this region of India, especially as Bengaluru increases its proximity to Bannerghatta NP.  In fact, Krishnan states during a lecture that was recorded and posted on YouTube: “This is perhaps the only national park in the world (Bannerghatta NP) that has a wild tiger and a wild elephant so close to a metropolitan city.  Nowhere else. Nowhere else in the world will you find these two charismatic animals, that are the flagship for conservation, so close to (an urban area; i.e.,) Bangalore. So we are looking at these two species competing with eight million people; … you can imagine the kind of pressures that could exist on this important landscape, an important ecosystem.”

The CTB mechanism “has been implemented in several regions of India (Tamilnadu, Assam, Karnataka and parts of Kerala adjoining elephant habitats), but due to its limited success and long-term involvement of communities for maintenance, it has been mostly discontinued in most of the elephant conflict zones, for other ‘social’ barrier systems. (The) bee-hive fence is the most popular and sustainable method. Its implication for Bannerghatta NP is currently being explored.”  Bee-hive fences as a barrier mechanism will be the topic of a future blog post.

HEC mitigation must recognize the problems and challenges of both the humans and the Asian elephants.  That is why I will be traveling to India in 2020, for my next book: how will these barrier mechanisms contribute to the Indian elephants’ survival . . . or their extinction?  How do they interface with habitat fragmentation? Or migration corridors?

During the test period for the CTB mechanism in 2009, their source for the chili and tobacco powders was “local markets around Bangalore city.”  In order to properly maintain the rope barriers, “the deterrent mixture should be smeared on the ropes at least once a week for great efficacy as understood by our research.”  However, “We do not have any (photographic) content to show elephants near a CTB fence as camera traps where not in development around Bannerghatta NP during the time of testing.”

Have the villagers become autonomous in implementing this mechanism?

“Nope. And can never unless the costs are sustainable for maintenance.”

Therefore, A Rocha India no longer is known as Haggadavaru (the Rope People), but rather “as ‘elephant people’ in a more generic sense.”

So the ten-year update about the CTB mechanism in southern India is that it was discontinued ten years ago.  You’ll want to keep this in mind if you watch any of the videos in various venues online.

Nevertheless, A Rocha India has been “continuing to monitor and manage Asian elephants in this landscape since 2003, using science, education and outreach methods for conservation. The focus now is to expand our work into other elephant landscapes of the country.”  The primary landscape to which Krishnan is referring is called the Brahmagiri-Niligiri-Eastern Ghats landscape, per his YouTube lecture.**  He states: “This is a very important landscape.  And this is probably the only place in India that can ensure the future survival of elephants.”

(Author’s Note: The purpose of this informal blog post is to spark questions and dialogue.  I acknowledge that this post is very informal compared with my full-fledged, crafted and edited articles.  But I felt vindicated when I read this quote from the book entitled Because Internet: Understanding the New Rules of Language, likewise published in 2019: “It’s not that edited, formal writing has disappeared online [there are plenty of business and news sites that still write much like we did in print], it’s that it’s now surrounded by a vast sea of unedited, unfiltered words that once might have only been spoken.”)

Footnotes:

https://food.ndtv.com/food-drinks/benefits-of-ragi-a-wonder-grain-1400676

**https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=e9gHnwMq3iY

***https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=B3_dXOMcRqM

-30-

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Lake Roesiger: Like paddling on both a “river” and lakes in one, single outing

We finally did it!  And this is our last paddling trip for 2019.  It is the last Sunday of October, the perfect autumn day, something we experience almost every year in the Pacific Northwest:  an “Indian summer,” gorgeous summer-like days after the initial rainy autumn storms subside. There is a break in the gloomy weather, and for a week or two, the sunshine and its warmth return. You can depend on it.  Sometimes we go to a solitary beach along the Pacific Ocean.

This year, instead, we finally took our kayaks paddling on Lake Roesiger (pronounced RAW-si-gur).  What a contrast from the last time I was there! It was in January, 2017, and there was thick ice on Lake Roesiger right up to the shoreline and boat ramp, where today we are launching our kayaks. Not the entire lake was frozen over, but the southern section still had thick ice, as you can see in the video that I posted on YouTube.  Here’s the link:

Ice on Lake Roesiger

Today is just the opposite:  60 degrees, clear blue sky; fall colors: red, yellow, orange leaves against the backdrop of mostly evergreens: Douglas firs and cedars.  Because the lake is uniquely configured in three sections, connected by narrower, shallow channels, I am describing today’s outing in terms of “outbound” and “inbound,” rather than merely circling the perimeter of a lake.

OUTBOUND:

The boat launch is secluded; it is actually located on Middle Shore Road, off of S. Lake Roesiger Road, on the eastern side of Lake Roesiger’s southern tip.  This morning, as we launch, the lake is super placid; there is no breeze, and so the lake’s surface provides a bright, clear, colorful reflection. A prominent mountain peak rises in the background, to the north, which I’m not able to identify.  As we approach the northern edge of this southern section, a small house with a bright red metal roof is our landmark to head into the first slender, shallow channel, veering to the west and north.

This outing is like kayaking on both a lake and a river because shallow channels — where it is easy to see the bottom, and the vegetation growing there — connect the three sections of the lake.  We see ducks flying, a bald eagle soaring, and a large flock of geese on somebody’s lawn and sitting on a long fallen log protruding into the water. Nice houses snuggle right up to the lake’s edge; however, the narrower, river-like channels are less densely populated.  In this constricted area, buoys mark the navigable channels and no-wake zones. Also, the lillypads here are dense, even at the end of October; so what would they be like in the summer?

We are the only kayakers on this outbound leg.  Entering the lake’s second section, we encounter a small fishing boat, with two fishermen.  Powered motorcraft are permitted on this lake. The northern part of Lake Roesiger, though, is the largest, and when get out onto this main portion of the northern section, the wind begins to kick up and I wonder two things.  First, what happened to the placid lake with no breeze? And second, are we going to make it safely to the other side? It is a challenge paddling in this wind, and the waves are formidable. I look back to make sure my companion is OK.

We cross all the way to the lake’s northern cove because I couldn’t remember exactly the contour of the lake, and so I don’t know for certain if this is the northernmost segment. There are two coves, to the west and to the north.  Entering this quiet cove, the water is tranquil, with debris such as leaves and fir needles floating on the surface. We can see now that we’ve reached the end of our outbound journey. As we rest here for a few minutes on this still water, we eat some of our protein snack with apple slices.

INBOUND:

Beginning our return trip, I am briefly disoriented at first.  I realize that for some reason, I am paddling due east when I should have headed to my right, or south.  So I wind up almost at the center of the lake. My paddling partner patiently waited for me. While I am out here, though, in the middle of the lake, the darkness of the water stuns me, and I wonder how deep it is.  One website states: “The lake has three distinct areas with the center area being shallow and the northern part of the lake being the deepest, with depths to 115 feet.”

Now I put on my sunglasses, and I feel considerably warmer as we are facing the sun on this inbound leg, headed due south.  We are passed by a couple of speed boats that are going very slowly, causing no wake. I can hear their engines rumbling, and I look back to see them approaching, only crawling.  One man greets us from his house on the shore: “It’s a beautiful day to be on the lake,” he says.

Several families are in their yards along the lake; a couple of guys stand on their deck high above, grilling and laughing.  Low sunlight comes from the south; at one point, we could make out no houses on the shore, only the trees, backlit, almost in silhouette.

Then we notice something very peculiar.  At first, in the distance on the water, I can see something large with a couple of headlights coming slowly toward us. We are nearing one of the narrow channels marked by buoys.  We paddle away from the channel to let it pass. What we are seeing is this: coming in the opposite direction, it is a floating wooden dock with a small outboard motor that’s being controlled by a guy wearing a blue sweatshirt and jeans sitting on a low beach chair with his dog.  He is towing a large flat, gray pontoon party boat with a man and woman coming through this channel in the shallow section of the lake.

We see many fish jumping; earlier it looked like one of the guys in the small fishing boat had one on his line. “The lake holds rainbows, silvers, and spiny rays including bass,” according to the same website cited earlier: Lake Roesiger details

Two women are paddling in separate kayaks on the southern section of Lake Roesiger.  As we beach our kayaks beside the boat ramp, and climb out, one of the speed boats is being pulled onto a trailer.  I realize that, except for the small, fishing boat with two men, the only other boat traffic we encountered has been on this inbound trip; it has been a tranquil, solitary day.

Approximately two miles from south to north, this has been a four to five mile round trip.  We finally did it, after anticipating it for over two years. And this was our last paddling trip for 2019.  Now our kayaks are winterized, one hanging in the garage, and three others under a tarp in the backyard. There they will stay until next spring, and family get-togethers in the summer, when we’ll visit this lake again, and explore Panther Lake for the first time.   As I mentioned earlier, I think Lake Roesiger is really fun because it feels like being both on lakes and a river in the same outing.

Lee  Cuesta

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King of the Elephants Regains His Freedom in India

By Lee Cuesta

In 1953, a baby boy was born—weighing roughly 176 pounds (80 kilograms)—in the forests of India.  Using their trunks, his mother and the other females assisted him to his feet so that he would begin nursing.  He didn’t know yet how to use his own trunk. It dangled without purpose, and sometimes he tripped over it.

A few years later, this strong, young bull was full of exuberance and imagination.  He was a free soul; he had no name because he belonged to no one.  He enjoyed the dappled sunlight through the forest canopy, and relished the soft cushion of the jungle floor.  His favorite foods were moist, tender roots and dark green leaves.  Now his trunk was a mighty tool that he could wield with precision.  His mother and “aunties” had raised him well, and in several more years he would begin his solitary life, or join together with a few other bachelors. When he was old enough, he would find a matriarchal herd in order to mate and reproduce.

Gajraj takes his first steps of freedom at the Elephant Conservation and Care Center.

But all of this abruptly changed. Suddenly one day he was captured. He heard loud explosions like he’d never heard before. The entire herd began to run in chaotic directions.  He couldn’t keep up.  His eyes expressed the terror and confusion he felt.  What was happening?  Where was his mother?  He wanted to protect her, just as she had protected him many times.

Capture and Training

Kartick Satyanarayan, co-founder of Wildlife SOS in India, confirms the plausibility of this scenario. During a recent interview via Skype, he told me: “The poachers for live elephant trafficking try to target herds where there are female elephants with very young calves. If they have very young calves, they cannot move very far because the calves cannot walk long distances, and their speed is very limited.  So the herd moves very little. The aunts and the mother actually look after the calves; so they move a few kilometers, and they wait there, near a water hole or something. Their movement is rather restricted. So then, the poachers target those herds, and they try to use both firecrackers and loud sounds to drive the herd in a direction where they get separated from the calf.  The calf falls into a pit because he’s not able to keep pace with the rest of the herd. So then they can steal the calf and separate it, and harvest the calf out of that herd, and move away. Of course it leaves the complete herd distraught, highly traumatized. And the calf is also traumatized by being separated from its mother at such a young age.”

Now they gave him a name.  This strong, young bull was no longer free; he belonged to humans.  With cruel irony, they called him Gajraj.  “His name means ‘The King of the Elephants,’” according to Nikki Sharp, Executive Director of Wildlife SOS in the USA.

Kartick continued: “Then these little elephant calves are put through a very brutal, painful, and barbaric process of training.”  The owners tie them up and beat them to teach the calf who’s boss.   The trainers often use spears and sharp objects, and keep the calf chained for several months on end, on hard concrete in order to have the spirit broken, Kartick explained.  “And once the spirit is broken, then the animal is trainable and ridable.”

He added: “When people want to buy an elephant—illegally—they place an order, and then somebody causes the elephant calf to be poached from the wild. And then that elephant calf is tied up in the middle of the jungle somewhere, in a hidden location, beaten for several months, and in about a year it’s trained to do certain, basic things. Then it’s sold off. Wherever it goes, they subject it to further training, which means further cruelty and pain and suffering.”

Spiritual Significance

So Gajraj became a temple elephant.  Kartick said, “And a lot of the public who are devotees or temple visitors, who have faith in these temples, do not understand what is the background of the elephant.  They want a blessing from the elephant, but do not understand that even for the elephant to lift its trunk and give them a blessing, it’s been trained to do so through a very cruel and painful process. Everything is negative reinforcement only, and there’s only two tools that are used in the traditional methods of management in India to train Asian elephants, and that is pain and fear.”

Gajraj was sent to Ujjain, an ancient city beside the Kshipra River in the central Indian state of Madhya Pradesh. An important Hindu pilgrimage destination, the Bade Ganesh Temple is located there, which houses a colorful statue of Ganesh (or Ganesha), the elephant-headed Hindu deity.  When I asked Kartick about the spiritual significance, or value, placed upon the elephants in India, he replied: “Ganesh is our elephant god, and he is the god of good beginnings.  He’s got a human body and an elephant’s head. He can have four, eight, and two arms—sometimes even more.  And in each of those arms he’s probably holding something, or he’s holding it in a certain position; that indicates something spiritual or religious.  Most people in India believe in Lord Ganesh, at least all the Hindus do.  And they think that the elephant itself is an embodiment of that god.”

Kartick continued: “A lot of temples try to get an elephant into the temple, and keep it there, captive, because then it adds to the value of the temple, increases the visitation to the temple, and also increases revenue to a certain extent.”  Kartick agrees that it’s a total contradiction to view the captive elephant as the embodiment of the god, and yet treat it so cruelly and inhumanely.

Then in 1965, at the age of approximately 12 years, Gajraj was given as a wedding present to the Queen of Aundh on the day she married King Bhagwant Rao. So he was made to travel 800 kilometers from Ujjain to Satara, Maharashtra, which took almost a month and a half, according to hindustantimes.com.

As the god of good beginnings, Wikipedia states, Ganesh is honoured at the start of rites and ceremonies, and so as a wedding gift, Gajraj represented a tremendous blessing upon the marriage. Wikipedia also calls Ganesh “Obstacle Remover.” A statement from Wildlife SOS says, “Gajraj played a vital role in the celebration. Ever since, the elephant has been a star attraction at the temple of Aundh, playing an important role during annual festivities and temple processions. Temple devotees see Gajraj as an icon of worship, as explained in the words of the Queen herself.”

Gajraj in captivity at Aundh prior to his retirement.

Care During His Captivity

“Often, people offer sweets and other artificial snacks to the elephant to seek blessings. However, for Gajraj, it is no blessing but a curse, as such foods can cause intestinal complications as well,” said PETA’s India director of veterinary affairs, Dr. Manilal Valliyate. Members of PETA (People for Ethical Treatment of Animals) found Gajraj chained near popular tourist spots like the Shri Bhavani Museum and Yamai Devi temple in Aundh, Satara, according to hindustantimes.com.  “Being chained for most of his life has had a detrimental effect on Gajraj’s health. He has lost weight and has nutritional deficiencies,” said Dr. Yaduraj Khadpekar, senior veterinarian with Wildlife SOS.

During his half century in captivity, “standing on unnatural surfaces for long periods of time has led to Gajraj’s footpads wearing out, which can be exceptionally dangerous for an elephant – making him prone to developing wounds and abscesses underfoot,” states a report from Wildlife SOS.

In addition, according to a statement from Save The Elephants, “Gajraj’s tusks have been chopped over a period of time without taking any permission from the forest department under the Wildlife Protection Act, 1972.”  Kartick commented: “I am not sure of the details of what happened to the ivory, but I do know, I can see—it’s quite visible—that he has had his tusks chopped off.”

His chopped tusks are visible in the photos that accompany this article.  The redness that appears at the ends of his tusks is not an injury, but instead the color of vermilion, which is red paint that was applied by the villagers because he was a temple elephant.  Nikki Sharp told me that “what appears to have happened with this particular elephant is that his tusks were growing and criss-crossing; so he wasn’t able to lift his trunk up. So actually, they were doing the right thing; they shortened the tusks so he could lift up his trunk. But I’m not sure if they did it in a humane way or not.”

According to hindustantimes.com, “Gajraj developed partial blindness and a toenail abscess which could spread to the bone. He also has abscesses in the hip and his foot pads suffered severe degeneration.  In April this year, the state government-appointed veterinarians said that the elephant was suffering from weakness and untreated prolonged abscesses on his hindquarters and elbows, as well as other painful foot conditions, and that his custodian had failed to maintain basic health-care records.”

Retirement for a Geriatric Elephant

Gajraj entering the Wildlife SOS Elephant Ambulance in July.

For these reasons, Gajraj was taken to the Elephant Conservation and Care Center (ECCC) in Mathura, Uttar Pradesh, near Agra.  This occurred last month (July, 2017), with permission from the royal family of Aundh.  The royal family did not protest against any of the removal operation. In fact, they bid Gajraj farewell. “I am happy that the elephant is going to the rescue centre and I am confident that he is in safe hands,” said the Queen of Aundh, Gayatri Devi Pant Pratinidhi (according to hindustantimes.com).  The ECCC is a collaborative project of Wildlife SOS and the Uttar Pradesh Forest Department.

“Gajraj was seen as a religious icon by local devotees, but his removal won’t necessarily cause disruption in the community’s cultural and religious fabric. The temple still exists and so do their religious beliefs,” stated a spokesperson from Wildlife SOS.  “Gajraj (is) suffering from severe ailments and in need of expert veterinary care. The royal family of Aundh willingly handed him over to us for lifetime care as they understood that it was in his best interest to do so. Gajraj was with the royal family for decades and he is still very precious to them; so it is unlikely that he will be replaced by another temple elephant.”  In a way, their relinquishing of Gajraj was a convenient way for the royal family to extricate themselves from an escalating liability.

“With advancing age, Gajraj was found to be suffering from several medical issues like foot and hip abscesses, severe degeneration of foot pads and partial blindness, making him a candidate for geriatric lifetime care.  The Wildlife SOS Elephant Conservation and Care Center is equipped with veterinary facilities for elephant treatment and is currently providing lifetime care for over 20 rehabilitated pachyderms.  Gajraj can now live a retired life for the rest of his life; however long his geriatric body can support him,” according to a statement from Wildlife SOS.

There is some disagreement about Gajraj’s actual age.  A press release from Save The Elephants calls Gajraj “a 63-year-old ailing elephant.”  The writer of a Hindustan Times report is confused: in the first paragraph, the reporter states that Gajraj is “a 70-year-old male elephant;” yet in the next paragraph writes that in 1965 at the age of 12, he was given as a gift to the queen at her wedding—which places the current age of Gajraj at 64 years. Kartick told me, “Our assessment of Gajraj is that he looks like he’s between 70 and 75 years old.”  Either way, this bull elephant is close to the end of his life, with lots of health concerns.

“PETA did a good job with getting the story out there and letting people know about what was happening with that elephant,” Kartick said. “So we’ve had thousands of emails and requests asking us to step in and help. So when the Forest Department finally got to us and asked us if we could help, we did.”

How hard is it to remove an elephant from a temple?  Kartick replied: “It can be excruciatingly painful and challenging, and can be extremely dangerous because contrary to what many people think, a lot of the Indian public is largely ignorant about what happens to an elephant before it becomes a temple elephant. They do not understand that every single elephant in a temple has actually been removed from the wild, separated from its herd as a little calf. And then these little elephant calves are put through a very brutal, painful, and barbaric process of training.”

Now Gajraj safely resides at the ECCC in Mathura. Baiju Raj, Director of Conservation Projects for Wildlife SOS, stated: “It is a tremendous responsibility to take care of a geriatric elephant like Gajraj. We will provide him the best of care.”  Geeta Seshamani, co-founder of Wildlife SOS, said: “Gajraj will be provided long-term medical treatment and lifetime care at the hands of our experienced team at the Elephant Care Center.”

Gajraj takes his first dust bath at the ECCC in Mathura.

Kartick added: “Within a few short minutes of stepping into the centre, we could see a marked change in the behaviour of the elephant. He immediately took to the new surroundings, gorging on fruits and taking dust baths.”  In a July 24 update, Wildlife SOS reported: “Last week we held a ceremony to remove Gajraj’s bell as a symbolic way to complete his journey to our Elephant Conservation and Care Centre (ECCC) in Mathura, ushering in his retirement and fully closing the circle on his previous life.” In a photograph, Kartick smiles for the camera after removing the bell.

Kartick smiles after removing Gajraj's bell.

Soon Gajraj will once again enjoy the dappled sunlight through the forest canopy, and relish the soft cushion of the jungle floor. Of course, it will remind him of his abbreviated childhood in the forests of India, so many years ago. According to a statement from Wildlife SOS: “After his initial period in quarantine, Gajraj will soon start going out on walks with his mahout, and get a chance to explore the sights and sounds of his new home beyond his spacious enclosure. This couldn’t come at a more perfect time, with the rains just beginning in Mathura, and the elephants’ walks covering a vast expanse of lush green vegetation, and an array of exciting flora and fauna for Gajraj to discover and investigate! While the concerns regarding the condition of his feet might keep Gajraj from going on long walks immediately, we know that when the time comes, he will take as much delight in the free space to roam and wander just as much as all our other elephants do.”

Gajraj entering his pool.

Meanwhile, Gajraj has discovered the joy of his very own, private pool in which he can lounge and relax. “Although he was initially wary about entering the water, we eventually managed to coax him in with bananas and muskmelons, and once inside, he was quick to realise just how wonderful it feels to be completely submerged in the pool – not just because the water is cool and soothing, but because of the weightlessness he probably experiences that takes the strain off his legs and extremely worn out feet,” states the Wildlife SOS website. In addition, the vermilion on the ends of his tusks has gradually washed away as a result of these baths.

It continues: “Gajraj is still getting a large amount of the staple diet he was used to in captivity – sugarcane – and we are gradually introducing other varieties of fresh green fodder crops into his diet. He also gets a delicious array of seasonal fruit including mangoes, watermelon and bananas, as well as corn and pumpkin. Gajraj has been prescribed nutritional supplements by our vets that he receives daily to complement his diet and promote his recovery.”

Furthermore, the ECCC staff is “introducing him to the safe and humane process of target training which will in the future allow us to easily treat Gajraj’s feet and carry out a host of other treatments with his happy and willing cooperation. Gajraj is an extremely smart elephant and has taken quickly to the basic stages of target training, so we’re proud to say that we can see him progressing pretty fast in his training – which will soon make it much easier for us to treat the abscesses under his feet.”

A Legacy for the Future

The retirement with the royal family’s permission of one geriatric elephant—and his relocation to a sanctuary—may seem to have little, or merely symbolic, significance.  But Gajraj represents an elephant population that faces extinction, and the young ones continue to be poached for live elephant trafficking.  “So basically, if you look at the whole world, we’ve lost 98 percent of the wild population of the Asian elephants,” Kartick stated.  I asked him, “Do you think that it depends upon this generation or the next to prevent their extinction?”

Kartick responded, “Absolutely. It is really this generation or the next that can do something if there is to be hope. Otherwise, in five years, we could have no elephants. Our children and grandchildren might have to be shown elephants on photos and videos and Youtube, and there wouldn’t be any elephants left in the world.  That is not a distant chance; it is a very real possibility if we are not careful.”  He added, “It is frightening and it shows how much on the edge we are, and it’s a very fragile system and a very fragile state for this planet and for its denizens.”

While Wildlife SOS is not in the business of collecting elephants, as Kartick says, but rather in the business of educating the public concerning conservation for multiple types of Indian wildlife, they are buying land for the sanctuary to accommodate more elephants that they rescue. “Yes, we are in the process of doing that, and it such an uphill battle,” he said.

The land will cost over 1.7 million dollars, and so far, they have raised half that amount with contributions.  I asked, do you need additional funding?  He replied, “Absolutely; it is a tall order that we have. We have to raise a lot of money in order to make this possible.  So if your blog can incorporate some of this and help us attract some investors, because this is a social investment.  If people come forward and understand that we would all live a life, and we would consume and consume and consume all our lives, reproduce, and then die, and be gone. But we will not leave anything behind if we go at this rate. So we really need people to come forward and join us in making this a legacy for the future.”

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Permission is granted to reprint this article in its entirety with the condition that its source (this website) and its author (Lee Cuesta) are both acknowledged.

(All photos are used by permission from Wildlife SOS.)
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Two Ways That Millennials Have It Right In The Workplace

I used to get really annoyed whenever I would see those of the younger generation at work doing something on their smart phones — whether texting or checking Facebook or playing some game — as well as taking frequent and prolonged breaks. But then I finally realized that I’m getting annoyed because I’m a Baby Boomer, and we have a different work ethic. In fact, I tried to fit something about “work ethic” in the title of this post, but nothing sounded good. But the point is that millennials have really figured out the correct work ethic. As a Baby Boomer, my mentality is that I go to work TO WORK. My mind is very compartmentalized. I leave family and phone calls and entertainment and hobbies outside and away from my workplace, whether it’s an office, a retail situation or a garden center, whatever. As long as I’m there, I focus on my job, and nothing else. That’s because I’m a Baby Boomer.
Millennials, on the other hand, don’t approach life with these different compartments. Their lives are blended together. That’s why, when they are on the job, they can work and send a text at the same time. And then they can receive a text and read it. Perhaps chuckle, or laugh out loud. And then reply. And check Facebook, and hopefully YouTube and Snapchat. And they can do this WHILE they are working. I just read an article about millennials on Forbes, which states: “It’s very much the phenomenon of FOMO, ‘fear of missing out.'”** Something might happen and they might miss it during the eight hours while they’re at the job. So their job and their life are not divided into multiple, separate compartments. They are blended and intertwined. They can move to the next level of the game that they’re involved with, and also do their job — at the same time! Now, rather than feeling annoyed, I admire their ability to manage multiple facets of their lives — while at work — and I am trying to emulate them.
The other way that millennials have it right in the workplace is that they have learned how to increase their hourly wages. Again, I didn’t understand this at first because of my work ethic as a Baby Boomer. But millennials have learned how to work less in order to increase their hourly rate. For example, suppose he or she gets paid 12 dollars and 50 cents an hour for eight hours. But of those eight hours, they only WORK six, it means that they are really earning 16 dollars and 67 cents an hour. So all that time they spend on their smart phones, as well as taking frequent and prolonged breaks, and walking slowly, actually increases their hourly wage by 4 dollars and 17 cents. Pure genius. And that’s only one example. Suppose a minimum wage law goes into effect. Rather than making 15 dollars an hour, they will actually earn 20 dollars an hour by working only 6 out of the 8 hours they spend at their jobs. And that’s only two of the ways that millennials have it right. I am Lee Cuesta.


Footnote:
** https://www.forbes.com/sites/sap/2017/03/10/the-one-thing-millennials-struggle-with-most-in-the-workplace/#5ab571c826f5

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