LOS ANGELES (CBSLA.com) — A Pacific Palisades teenager is trying to herd the world toward better awareness of elephant abuse.
KNX 1070’s Diane Thompson reports for Juliette West, every day of her 16-year-old life has been Elephant Awareness Day.
“My passion for animals has been my entire life, it was just something I think I was born with, and my love for elephants has kind of spiraled on from there,” said West.
The Harvard Westlake student and producer of the 2009 documentary “How I Became an Elephant” began advocating for animals at age 9 and has since sought to raise awareness of the abuse and cruelty suffered by elephants around the world.
West said the three biggest threats facing elephants are ivory poaching, abusive treatment in lumber camps and isolation and loneliness as part of a circus troupe.
“That is so different than what an elephant would be doing in the wild,” she said. “When in the wild would an elephant be standing on their head?”
At age 13, West joined the campaign to free Asian elephant Billy from the Los Angeles Zoo — an effort with which West is still involved today.
But it wasn’t until she traveled to Thailand to take part in a rescue operation that became the focus of the “Elephant” documentary that West began to understand the challenges involved.
“It was tough for me…it was so great to be saving that one elephant, but it was tough to remember that so many of the other elephants would never get the chance to live in a sanctuary,” she said.
West’s efforts also inspired City Hall to officially declare August 3 as Elephant Awareness Day, when the Los Angeles Zoo holds a a weekend celebration of special activities and educational sessions to honor elephants both locally and in the wild.
From August 3-5, the Zoo is inviting guests to download a picture of an elephant from the Zoo’s website which they can color and bring to the Zoo, which will in turn donate $1 for every picture received towards key elephant conservation programs in Sri Lanka and Cambodia.
For West, however, the day also serves as a reminder to the public that there is always work left to be done.
“I think that having Elephant Awareness Day is definitely a step in the right direction, and maybe a step in the direction to someday get Billy out,” she said.
For more information on Elephant Awareness Day, visit the Los Angeles Zoo website.