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Christie Brinkley Honored for World Elephant Day

In honor of World Elephant Day, on August 12, Veterinarians International is hosting two benefit events celebrating the preservation of elephants and raising money for their Asian Veterinary Care Program, which focuses on the needs of Asian Elephants. Bridgehampton supermodel and staunch elephant advocate Christie Brinkley will also be honored.

All proceeds will go to Veterinarians International’s Asian Veterinary Care Program, which will bring a disease surveillance program, medical services and two mobile elephant clinics to elephants in Thailand’s Surin Province and Boon Lott’s Elephant Sanctuary.

Founding President/CEO of the New York-based Veterinarians International, Dr. Scarlett Magda, believes her organization’s job is to offer improvements in countries that need better care for both animals and humans. The organization seeks to help prevent inter-human and animal diseases and support wildlife and animal conservation. Measures used to bring better care to animals and humans include bringing new levels of expertise to needy areas, as well as training and providing whatever resources clinics need to raise their programs to more acceptable levels of care. In order to support these regions, Veterinarians International must conduct a needs assessment which will reveal specific deficiencies so they can equip countries with vital resources, such as medical supplies and training.

Elephant preservation is a central issue around the world, according to Dr. Magda, who points out that elephants are on the brink of extinction, especially in Asia. Since many people focus on preventing African elephant hunting, there is a broad ignorance toward the dissipation of the Asian elephant population. African elephants are assaulted for their tusks, but Asian elephants also suffer abuse.

The first of the two Veterinarians International fundraisers, “A Night of Chefs and Champagne for Elephants” on August 12 (World Elephant Day) is a cocktail reception to honor Brinkley for her animal advocacy efforts and humanitarianism. Brinkley, who was one of the first marchers in the annual Elephant March in New York City, is a strong advocate for elephant preservation. She is passionate about the banishment of ivory poaching and has visited South Africa in order to help support this cause. Brinkley vehemently supports animal welfare organizations, and she uses her elevated profile to spread awareness about them.

At the second Veterinarians International event, on August 14, the organization will take a closer look at Asian elephant extinction by screening When Elephants Were Young, a documentary exposing the abuse and disrespect these elephants endure from their trainers, called mahouts. The film features a man and his elephant roaming the streets in Bangkok, threatening the elephant’s survival, until the animal is offered to be released into the wild. This film spotlights the issues and controversy surrounding the relationship between Asian elephants and their trainers, and what can be done to save the species.

The film will be screened at The Castle Barn at Nova’s Ark Project and Sculpture Park (60 Millstone Road) in Water Mill. Following the screening, Dr. Magda and elephant experts Richard Lair and Patricia Sims will host a panel discussion and Q&A.

Christie Brinkley Elephant Kenya
Christie Brinkley and Bai Ling in Kenya, facebook.com/christie.brinkley

Dr. Magda provides background for When Elephants Were Young, explaining that elephants in various Asian countries are considered to be part of the family unit. Elephants are wild in nature, but they are often captured as babies in order to become domesticated. After an elephant reaches toddlerhood, a middleman will capture an elephant and then torture and tame it. This process, called a Phajaan, helps to crush an elephant’s undomesticated spirit before selling them to tourism industries. Throughout the Phajaan process, a mahout, which is an elephant trainer, breaks the elephant through negative reinforcement.

Dr. Magda suggests that people should attend this event in order to notice the humanity in animals, explaining, “Animals and people are really not that different,” she says.

A Night of Chefs & Champagne for Elephants honoring Christie Brinkley will take place on Friday, August 12 (World Elephant Day) at the Baker House in East Hampton from 7–9:30 p.m. Limited general admission tickets are $1,000, while VIP benefactor levels can be purchased for $2,500-$5,000.

The When Elephants Were Young screening, discussion and reception takes place on Sunday, August 14 at The Castle Barn at Nova’s Ark Project (60 Millstone Road) in Water Mill from 3:30–7 p.m. Tickets are $175.

For information and tickets for both events, visit vetsinternational.org.

Healing elephant with honey
Healing elephant with honey, Photo: Courtesy Veterinarians International
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