Type of project: Documentary
Description: As we should all ‘know,’ working in co-operation will always yield a better longer-term result for all parties concerned, engendering mutual respect and loyalty. On the other hand, dominance, intimidation, threats and violence yields ‘results’ of a different kind - breeding contempt, duress, leading ultimately to the mental and physical destruction of the abused party. The human abuser can also become conflicted with shame and a need for atonement, but with some sadly lacking any such compassion of course. Now imagine a young elephant, taken into a life of captivity, chained so its movements are restricted to the point where the elephant’s limbs can become permanently malformed, scarred, injured and infected. This same elephant’s will is drained from repetitive beatings with bars, sticks and metal ‘bull hooks’ to subjugate the elephant into obedience. Sometimes an abused elephant’s eye is hit and maimed, leading to blindness for life. All this brutal cruelty and depravity to ‘train’ an elephant for a potential 60 year life expectancy subject to man’s behest – to provide elephant riding safaris perhaps, or even circus performances as human ‘entertainment,’ the subject elephant’s back, limbs, senses bombarded and abused daily. Then, the elephant chained and denied even the temporary respite of freedom of movement. “Unchained” follows the work of Carol Buckley (Elephant Aid International (EAI)) and her team, to enhance captive elephant welfare in Nepal, showing by gentle persuasion and example that there is a ‘better way’ to treat elephants in human captivity. Carol’s is a phased, pragmatic approach to change attitudes; encouraging co-operation, not a confrontation between Nepalese elephant handlers (mahouts) and their ‘essential’ elephant assets, upon which the mahouts rely to sustain themselves in an environment bereft of options. Carol promotes co-operation between man and elephant by ‘positive reinforcement,’ not dominance and cruelty – indeed a ‘better way.’ “Unchained,” tells the story, as Carol and her dedicated team make progress in Nepal to relieve the captive elephant’s immediate suffering one case at a time, pioneering a more humane connection between man and elephant, shifting the emphasis and acknowledgement towards elephant welfare and dignified treatment – a noble pursuit that these truly magnificent, intelligent ‘gentle giants’ undoubtedly deserve. “Unchained” needs to be seen. Its message, that through pragmatism and persistence, there is hope that ‘captive’ elephants will gain improved respect and welfare. Ultimately, there will be a transition away from abusive elephant training for ‘entertainment,’ burdening ‘tourists’ on their spines, to an ‘educated‘ tourist spectacle of herds of unchained ‘captive’ elephants to admire without intrusion; the elephants’ mahouts able to look on with pride, dignity and we hope at long last, a deeply felt mutual respect – a potential atonement indeed.
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