Have Trunk Will Travel's "Save A Species-Ride An Elephant" campaign started with a splash - literally - by holding an early morning press conference in the waves at Del Mar's Dog Beach. Support came from not only the San Diego news media who donated nearly $400 on the San Diego County Fair media day, but elephant riders, curious spectators and even a college football team who challenged the elephants to a watermelon-eating contest.
"It was a fantastic experience," stated Hakau Pilcula, a linebacker on the Southwestern College "Jaguars" football team who jumped at the chance to raise awareness about the disease. "It's great to participate in something so important for elephants. Who knew we can make a difference just by eating watermelons?" The elephants won the contest by eating 10 melons between them (including rinds) versus just eight by the players.
There are fewer than 35,000 Asian elephants in the world making them an endangered species. Have Trunk Will Travel is a founder of the International Elephant Foundation which channels the donations to research facilities including the EEHV lab at Smithsonian’s National Zoo, Johns Hopkins University, Baylor College of Medicine and College of Veterinary Medicine at Cornell. According to the Smithsonian National Elephant Herpesvirus Laboratory, “Elephants in captivity and in the wild have been affected by EEHV, which has been responsible for about half of the deaths of young elephants in zoos."
"We are grateful to the San Diego County Fair and their guests who were eager to help meet our $5,000.00 goal. The donations go directly to research Elephant Endotheliotropic Herpesvirus (EEHV), to lessen the devastating effects it has on young elephants and threats the disease poses to the species' survival," states Have Trunk Will Travel's Kari Johnson.
Have Trunk Will Travel provides the public with up close, tactile access to the Earth's most amazing animal - the Asian elephant. One-hundred percent privately-funded, income generated by America's Elephant Ambassadors giving rides, participating in special events such as parades and weddings, and acting in Hollywood feature films and television commercials is used to care for the five elephants, increasing Asian elephant awareness and participation in species survival through both breeding and clinical research. To date, Have Trunk Will Travel has succeeded in producing six elephant calves.
The International Elephant Foundation (IEF) is non-profit organization dedicated to conserving African and Asian elephants through conservation, awareness and scientific programs that enhance the survival of elephants and protect their habitats worldwide.