Liv Baker and Rebecca Winkler, Asian elephant rescue, rehabilitation and rewilding


Baker & Winkler’s critique of Asian elephant tourism and conservation in Thailand has convinced me that this was “an industry with too many victims.” Yet I fear that B&W’s proposed remedy of returning to past elephant husbandry by Karen hill-peoples has little likelihood of improving the lives of the elephants for long. Who can predict whether the Karen will live up to this hope? B&W advocate for the Karen, but not for “an abolitionist stance on elephant-human relationships.” In my view, whether we discuss elephants or the wild mammals that carry SARS-CoV-2, abolition of many human uses of animals is needed to save our planet and ourselves. Are Karen elephant-keepers that different from the bat-hunters who seem to have brought the pandemic to our doorsteps? Both eke out a marginal living in traditional ways exploiting animals. Human survival does not depend on sustaining “wet markets” or elephant tourism or eating meat every day. What we really need is fundamental reform of our relationships with animals, starting with the human governance of the nonhuman world that sustains us all. Elephants and pandemics expose the myth of limitless human freedom.

Author Biography

Adrian Treves, Professor of Environmental Studies, University of Wisconsin–Madison, and founder of the Carnivore Coexistence Lab, is a researcher and advocate for future generations and for science. His research is on ecology, law, and human dimensions of ecosystems in which crop and livestock ownership overlaps with the habitat of large carnivores from coyotes up to grizzly bears. Website