Pittsburgh Zookeepers “keep it natural” with pachyderms.
All it took was one person to make a difference in the lives of the Pittsburgh Zoo elephants. When Zoo President, Dr. Barbara Baker, attended a Parelli Natural Horsemanship workshop she found the answer to the question she had been pondering: How to work with an 8900 lb animal safely and humanely?
Willie Theison, elephant mgr. & head keeper of the Pittsburgh Zoo
Traditionally elephants in captivity are trained with harsh, even abusive, methods. Occasionally one will rebel with tragic results. Dr. Baker had witnessed the special relationship one of her handlers had with the elephants and the Parelli methods encapsulated those techniques in a reproducible recipe that could easily be taught to other handlers.
Parelli methods use a combination of psychology and body language to build a language bridge between the species. This method has worked wonders on many thousands of horses. Parelli Professional, Jesse Peters, who took on the challenge, believed it could work equally well with elephants, as they like horses, are prey animals.
Thus far the experiment has been hugely successful. The elephants are responding with enthusiasm and lives are being changed. Click here to view the full story from Good Morning America.
As a Parelli enthusiast I was quite excited to see the methods translated to elephants. But as an animal communicator I was naturally curious to see what the elephants had to say. When I sat down to communicate with them, I found they had very strong opinions and were not hesitant to share.
What the elephants had to say:
“What fun. We enjoy having playmates rather than taskmasters. You want us to respect you, but do you give us the same courtesy? Respect means that some days we may not want to engage while others we may want to go for the gusto and thoroughly engage. We enjoy the mental as well as the physical exercise. Elephants are thinking creatures and too often in captive situations we are not given the option of thinking and expressing our opinions. We are told ‘go here do this… now.’ When you allow us to have an opinion it is far easier for us to go along with your ideas. Being asked feels good. Being told doesn’t.”
“If you ask and allow us to freely participate we may just surprise you with our ideas and creativity. Together we may create an experience far beyond what you ever thought possible. We are excited about this new dimension to our lives. Because we live in captivity we are necessarily stifled. This opens the door and gives us back a piece of our dignity and free will. Thank you for taking the time to acknowledge that we are sentient beings capable of having our own thoughts and ideas, not to mention opinions.”
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