- The Washington Times - Sunday, October 1, 2000

A memorable moment from my youth found me atop a trained elephant that was traveling around the country with a carnival that had set up in a local mall parking lot.
When I look back on a photo of this event, I realize how stupid we have been in our treatment of our fellow creatures. Wild animals should live in the wild, not in cages, put on humiliating display or made to do tricks.
A haven founded almost six years ago, the Elephant Sanctuary in Hohenwald, Tenn., has similar beliefs and uses its 222 acres to let old or sick pachyderms live out the their lives in a safe, quiet and protected environment.
Its Web site highlights the group's work while allowing visitors to explore the life and times of one of Earth's mightiest endangered creatures.

The Elephant Sanctuary

Site address: www.elephants.com

Creator:

The Elephant Sanctuary, a nonprofit organization co-founded by Carol Buckley and Scott Blais, was established in December 1994.

Creator quotable:

"The site was created so the public could be made aware of the plight of old or sick Asian elephants living in this country. It describes how the Elephant Sanctuary provides a hospice for some of these elephants and educates the public about elephants living here and in Asia," says Carolyn Stalcup, Web master.

Word from the Webwise:

The site uses most of its pages to chronicle the efforts of the Elephant Sanctuary, the nation's only natural habitat refuge for endangered Asian elephants. Its pages introduce the Web world to its seven residents: Tarra, Jenny, Barbara, Shirley, Bunny, Sissy, and the newest to the herd, Winkie.
Through nicely developed multimedia avenues, visitors can learn the stories of these beautiful creatures such as Sissy, a 38-year-old elephant who had an incredibly difficult life.
Sissy, also known as Gerry II, was born in Asia and was captured and separated from her mother and family at the age of 2, according to the Web site. Shipped to America, she became the favorite attraction at Six Flags over Texas amusement park's petting zoo.
After her stint with Six Flags, she traveled to other zoos across Texas, survived a flood in 1981 by holding onto a tree with her trunk, purportedly killed a trainer at the Frank Buck Zoo and endured a beating administered by trainers at the El Paso Zoo. This final incident convinced officials to get her moved to the Elephant Sanctuary, where she showed up in January very frail, frightened and with a phobia of water.
But this sad tale has a happy ending, highlighted in photos and a notebook found in Sissy's section. Over the past several months she has joined in trumpeting with the other elephants and ventured out of her barn to roam the preserve. It's incredibly touching to read these entries and know this animal will finally get to enjoy her life.
Of course, how can one maintain an elephant site without delving into the creature in the spotlight. "All About Elephants" is a short but concise history, loaded with nuggets of knowledge.
I had no clue that modern-day elephants' ancestors roamed the planet between 45 million and 55 million years ago, nor did I know that 150 different species existed and these multiton creatures can reach speeds of 25 mph.
Other interesting pages include a visit with a veterinarian checking up on the gang; a photo gallery loaded with incredible pictures; a live video broadcast, the Elecam, showing the elephants eating; and information on how a class can take a virtual field trip to the sanctuary.

Ease of use:

The Elephant Sanctuary effectively combines numerous streaming video plug-ins, simple page layouts and Adobe Acrobat files to offer plenty of reasons to visit and stay a while. Computer users will need patience when downloading the Acrobat files and watching the video clips.

Don't miss:

If it wasn't cool enough to see the elephants feeding and playing together, the Elephant Sanctuary offers a 360-degree look at the park using IPIX technology. Now showing is "Tarra and Bunny out in the Back Sixty." Visitors can move around or zoom in on areas with the click of a mouse.

Family activity:

A handy "Curriculum" section offers two Adobe Acrobat files geared toward classroom projects for children in kindergarten to third grade and fourth to eighth grade. Each offers a well-rounded history of the sanctuary and uses some of its residents to help students or families understand an elephant's life. From a visual understanding of how much hay an elephant can consume to understanding animal sizes, the printable sheets come complete with coloring pages and the tools to get the education process in motion.

Cybersitter synopsis:

Understandably, the site pounds visitors over the head with a "please donate" message. The site does present plenty of interesting stories, however, and is a noble effort, well worth a stop by any child.
Family fun factor: 90 percent

Overall grade: A (for Absolutely inspiring)

Remember: The information on the Internet is constantly changing. Please verify the advice on the sites before you act to be sure it's accurate and updated. Health sites, for example, should be discussed with your own physician. Have a cool site for the family? Write to Joseph Szadkowski at Webwise, The Washington Times, 3600 New York Ave. NE, Washington, D.C. 20002, call 202/636-3016 or send an e-mail message (joseph@twtmail.com).

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