In front of the Asian elephant viewing area at the Smithsonian’s National Zoo, a kiosk asks visitors to donate money to a conservation program called Elephant Trails, the goal of which is to breed and grow a multi-generational herd. The zoo is is currently building a new habitat for its three Asian elephants, an endangered species numbering approximately 30,000. Looking forward to the new home, no doubt, is Kandula, the first Asian elephant born of artificial insemination (in 2001 at the Zoo). Zoo admission is always free, so one might expect the donations to flow.
There are three window slots to choose from–and where you put your money is essentially a vote for your favorite project, where you want your donation to go. The three options are: Track Wild Elephants (“help us figure out how many Asian elephants are left and where they like to live”); Make Elephant Babies “(help us study elephant reproduction and improve female fertility”); and Prevent Conflict (“help us prevent conflict between people and elephants in communities in Asia”). On a recent visit, the slots for Track Wild Elephants and Make Elephant Babies were filled nearly to the top with dollars. The Prevent Conflict option had received two bucks.