Photo by David Siu.

Photo by David Siu.

With only 10 days left to go before our 300-mile bike ride, Claudia and I are busy busy busy with our final preparations. We’ve got travel arrangements to finalize and last minute gear to stock up on. (Arm warmers, anyone?).

And through it all, we’re still fundraising our hearts out to help the world’s last elephants. That’s why we got into this whole thing to begin with, and that’s where our passions lie.

Today, I’m happy to report that we hit a huge milestone! In total, Team Elephant has now raised more than $5,000! It’s extremely exciting that we’ll be having such a big impact towards our cause.

We couldn’t have gotten this far without the truly outstanding, awe-inspiring support of our family, friends, and other supporters. There aren’t enough words in the world to say thank you!

But don’t forget: we’re ambitious. If we’re going to be sitting our butts down on a bike and pedaling for 5 days straight, 8 hours a day, we want every mile to count. And we want it to count a lot.

The bigger our donations, the bigger impact we’ll have on a big crisis. Because of illegal poaching, elephants are now being killed faster than they’re being born. The tipping point is here, and the clock is running out. Let’s do everything to stop it and save these majestic creatures while we still can.

Our next fundraising goal is $6,000 total. That’s $200 for every mile we’re riding for the elephants.

Can you help us? We only have 10 days left to go before our epic journey begins!

Please donate what you can, and share our challenge with everyone you know.

Donate Today!

Thanks again to all for being on our team!

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Elephants actually love that stuck-in-the-mud feeling. Me..? Not so much. (Photo by Clive Reid.)

Elephants actually love that stuck-in-the-mud feeling. Me..? Not so much. (Photo by Clive Reid.)

What does it mean to reach your breaking point? And what does it mean to then… push past it? To defy it? To turn things back around again, when they seem at their worst, and when progress seems impossible?

These are questions I’ve never really asked myself before, but I’m thinking about them a lot lately — both for my training for this challenge, and for the elephant crisis I care about so much, too. Here’s what I’ve learned.

Long-Distance Training Means Flirting With That Point of No Return

Since I’m a new cyclist, and have never trained for a long-distance athletic event before (or taken on a fundraising goal this big before), I was never expecting this process to be easy. But I’ve found it’s been difficult (and rewarding) in ways I didn’t quite expect.

Physically, yeah. It’s been tough! Let’s keep in mind that my previous sport of choice before I signed up for this challenge was Netflix marathoning, heh. But I’m getting stronger every day. And I was prepared for that one.

The surprise for me has really been the mental aspect, as they call it. Every time I’ve pushed myself harder than I have before in training, I’ve found myself getting to this point (usually somewhere between 50-75% of completing my goal) where I’ve come so, so, SO CLOSE to just… giving up.

My first metric century (100 km+) bike ride! It was a fun tour of several major trails around DC.

My first metric century (100 km+) bike ride! It was a fun tour of several major trails around DC.

Take this past Saturday for example. I am super proud to announce that I rode my first Metric Century! Also known as 100 km, or 62+ miles in a day. Yeah!!

(Actually let me take another moment to say, Yeah!!!!!)

The best part of that ride was that I felt totally fine the next day.

The worst part was, that moment, about 50-75% in there, when I almost completely convinced myself that I couldn’t do it.

I was heading north on the Capital Crescent Trail, after having already ridden around say 40 miles at this point. My riding partners (who were awesome, by the way!) had gone on ahead and would be waiting for me at our next meeting spot. It was hot. I was tired. Some big hills on an earlier portion of my ride had made my legs a little wobbly.

And the trail was blissfully shaded, and lined with these gorgeous trees, and these little stretches of lush, green grass… My eyes were drooping… and literally all I could think about was pulling over and lying in the grass and taking a 3-hour nap.

It was so seductive. It was calling to me. I started planning ahead the things I would text my riding partners so they wouldn’t wait for me anymore. I started planning how I’d rationalize it to myself afterwards so I wouldn’t feel guilty. “Maybe you were a little too ambitious. It’s ok. You’ve still made a lot of progress. You can stop now.”

But… then, at the same time, there also was the part of me who said, “Wait a minute, Audre. You’ve been here before.

“Remember that time you were doing that 50 mile ride by yourself, and around mile 35, you had pretty much 99% decided you were going to call Uber to drive you home the rest of the way? You literally had the Uber app open on your phone and you had already calculated what the fare would be.”

“Or, remember that time you did your first 40 miles (seems so long ago!), and you burst into tears halfway through because your head hurt and your back hurt and you were so tired and you thought there was no way you could ever finish this ride, let alone the entire challenge?”

“And then… remember how you were wrong?

Because, yeah. Each time I’ve felt myself reach that breaking point in previous training sessions, I’ve forced myself to keep going.

And the amazing part was, it got better. Almost right away, in fact. If 50-75% of the way through the ride has been my worst, then that last 25% to the finish has been the best. It’s like a smooth sailing dream. Yeah, I’m tired, but mentally, I feel great.

And then the way I feel at the end? When I’ve accomplished something that just a couple hours before, I never thought was possible?

Yeah, you guessed it. It feels AWESOME! It feels like a thousand exclamation points exploding inside my head all at once.

It’s actually kind of addicting, that feeling… Hmm. I might be in trouble…

We just rode more than 60 miles! We are happy! And exhausted!

We just rode more than 60 miles! We are happy! And exhausted!

Ok, So What Does This Have to Do With Elephants, Again?

Well, this has been a tough week in the elephant world, so to speak. A major, reputable study was released this week that confirmed everyone’s worst fears:

More than 100,000 elephants were killed by poachers in the last 3 years alone.

In Central Africa in particular, 64% of its elephant population has been lost in the last 10 years. (At this rate, will there be any left there at all in 10 years?)

Are elephants at their breaking point? (Photo from AWF.org)

Are elephants at their breaking point? (Photo from AWF.org)

In other words, it was just another series of news stories that brought up those horrible numbers that are so huge, and depressing, and frustrating, that they make anyone who cares about elephants get overwhelmed.

It all seems too daunting. You feel powerless. You feel scared. You feel angry, but you feel like things might be too big to change. Like the worst is inevitable, and unstoppable. “Hope,” that magical sweet little bubble floating above you, seems too far away to grasp.

Elephants, as a species, are very close to reaching their breaking point. And it’s a very real risk. We could lose them, like we’ve lost other species before. We humans could very well look back from the not-too-distant future and say, “Elephants are extinct, and we made that happen.”

But the Ending Hasn’t Been Written Yet

Here’s the thing. If my own little cycling training can be a small if imperfect metaphor (and I hope it can), then what I’ve learned is that breaking points aren’t absolute.

What seems inevitable is not necessarily inevitable.

But only if you keep going. Only if you push past those moments of fear, and overwhelming doubt, and exhaustion. Only if you find yourself reaching your limits, and somehow manage to convince yourself that “Nope. Those aren’t my limits. Nice try, limits, but I’ll see ya on the other side. (Suckers).”

Now… How do we do it? I don’t know. It takes passion. It takes a fierce determination. It takes an annoying stubbornness. And it takes a lot of pride.

I see that passion and determination in a lot of the organizations that are rallying to protect our world’s last elephants. (Or really, rallying towards any cause that moves them). One of those is the African Wildlife Foundation, the major beneficiary for our Climate Ride.


But it takes help, too. For me on a personal level, the support (not just donations — although donations are awesome! — but just encouragement and cheerleading and well wishes) from the people in my life helps me when I start getting overwhelmed.

(On my long ride on Saturday, for example, the support of the awesome Women & Bicycles women who joined my training ride really helped keep me going. Thanks again, ladies!)

For organizations like AWF, help means helping them spread their message. Letting people know that you care about what they care about too. Signing the petitions. Sharing the links. Giving them that strength in numbers that helps them change policies and make a difference.

And, Yeah… Donating!

This is one of those cliches that you hear all the time, but hey, it turns out it’s true. Every dollar does make a difference.

Whether you have a lot or a little to give, please chip in to our goals if you can. Fundraising-wise, I’m almost at $2,000 myself and Claudia is at $1,000!

That means we have come a long way towards meeting our goals and being able to participate in the Climate Ride, but we’re not there yet.

Please donate to her or to me, and spread the word. We will be so completely grateful!

Donate Today!

P.S. And if you’re in the Washington DC area next Thursday Aug. 28, come to our Elephant Happy Hour fundraiser! All and any are welcome. See our Facebook event page for details.


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Elephant fans around the globe (ele-fans?) are celebrating World Elephant Day today, wearing grey and raising critical awareness about how we’re at risk of losing these wonderful animals forever… if we don’t end the poaching epidemic now.

In honor of the day, here are 3 out of the 3,000 reasons why elephants are worth saving!

1. Elephant Poop Is a Really Big Deal

No, really. Elephants are what scientists refer to as a “keystone species” — an animal that has an especially huge impact on the environment it lives in.  In the case of elephants, these giant pachyderms help keep grasslands intact by eating the trees that could overgrow the grass — a very good thing for all the countless animals and plant life that depend on that grass.

Photo by Tee La Rosa

Photo by Tee La Rosa

Also, the seeds of several trees and plants can only take root after first being digested and then dispersed by an elephant… In other words, elephants keep plants growing through the power of their poop.

If you take out the elephants, the entire ecosystem will be in grave danger, and the impact of their loss is hard to imagine.

2. Elephants Teach Us About Our Own Emotions

Elephants have been proven to experience a wide range of powerful emotions — everything from joy to fear to love and even grief. Last month, the story of abused Asian elephant Raju, who wept when he was freed from his chains, went viral and moved thousands of people. And the heartbreakingly sad mourning rituals that African elephants go through when a family member dies continue to fascinate scientists and stir our empathy.

Photo by Sokwanale

Photo by Sokwanale

We still have a lot to learn about how elephants experience emotions. And it’s an important area of study, because it also helps us learn more about how and why we human animals experience emotions, too. What does it mean, really, to mourn? By watching elephants, we can learn about ourselves.

3. Elephants Have Complex (and Really Cool) Social Structures

Riveting dramas and elaborate narratives could probably be written about the complex social worlds of elephants. Elephant herds are matriarchal — in other words, the head of each herd is a clear leader who is the oldest, wisest and smartest female in the family and larger bond group. The other full-grown female elephants in her family will form their own hierarchy below her, and they’ll all pitch in with daily duties like babysitting the calfs, hunting for the sweetest bushes to nosh on and guarding against danger.

Photo by John Haylett

Photo by John Haylett

Male elephants, meanwhile, leave their female mothers and aunts and cousins when they reach adolescence, and form small roaming bachelor herds for several years. Once they’re fully in their prime, the males roam solo, ranging far and wide in search of females from other herds to mate with.

There aren’t many matriarchal animal species out there, especially species as wildly intelligent and emotionally complex as elephants. Elephants are without a doubt one of the most fascinating and compelling animals we know… All the more reason to protect them while we still can.

Donate to an Ele-Friendly Organization to Honor Elephants Today!

This World Elephant Day, take a moment to marvel at the awesomeness of elephants. And then, if you can, please support the organizations that are working hard to protect them!

There’s a lot of really great groups you can support.

Here at Biking for Elephants, we’re fundraising for the African Wildlife Foundation by signing up for a 300-mile bike ride from New York to Washington, DC.


Please help us meet our fundraising goals with a tax-deductible donation today. You’ll help secure our spots in the ride and support great work on the ground to protect the world’s last elephants at the same time. Thank you!

Donate Today!


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The proper study of mankind is man, but when one regards the elephant, one wonders.

–attributed to Alexander Pope

Do you know how smart an elephant is?

No one really does, quite yet — but we’re getting a fairly good idea. They’re pretty much animal geniuses. They may even be smarter than you!

Well, ok, probably not. But they do have some seriously big brains. And I’m not just talking physically big . (Although, fun fact: an elephant’s brain weighs around 11 pounds — the biggest of all land animals).

An orphaned elephant playing football at the David Sheldrick Wildlife Trust. (Photo by Mosi Lager.)

An orphaned elephant playing football at the David Sheldrick Wildlife Trust. (Photo by Mosi Lager.)

Elephants are one of the earth’s most intelligent animals, and scientists and researchers are still only just starting to understand how smart they are. Here are 5 amazing facts about the genius of elephants.

1. Elephant Brains Are More Like Raisins (Hint: They’re Wrinkly)

When we were kids, my brother and I used to squabble constantly about who had a bigger brain. Yeah… we were darlings. (Sorry, Mom.) Then, someone told us that it’s not actually the size of your brain that makes you intelligent — it’s the number of wrinkles. We promptly turned that into our next ammunition. “My brain is like a raisin and yours is like a bowling ball!” “No way. Mine has a million wrinkles and yours only has three!”

The jury’s still out on which one of us is wrinklier, brain-wise (I grudgingly admit — it might be my brother). But little did we know… my favorite animal, the elephant, has outwrinkled us all:

Elephants have more complex folds in their brains than all animals other than whales, helping make them one of the earth’s most intelligent animals. They also have the most developed hippocampus — the part of the brain that controls emotions and spacial awareness — of any other animal.

2. Elephants Can Distinguish Between Human Languages (and Even Learn to Speak Them)

If you could talk to an elephant, would would you say? And more importantly… what would she say back? It’s maybe not as far-fetched a question as you think.

Scientists are only just discovering the astounding ways elephants interact with human languages. For example, a recent study found that elephants can tell the difference between different human languages and associate certain languages with danger. Even more amazing, a lonely elephant in Korea — on his own, without being purposefully taught — learned how to use his trunk to mimic the sounds of eight words spoken by his zookeepers.

And then, elephants have their own languages, too — a complex inter-elephant communication system that we’re only still learning about. Elephants talk to each other when they rumble, chirp, trumpet, nudge, kick, tilt their heads, flap their ears, and curl or uncurl their trunks. They can even communicate long-distance by stomping vibrations into the ground that can be heard by another elephant miles away. Whoah.

Trumpeting is just one way ellies communicate with each other. (Photo by  Aussie Active Photologue.)

Trumpeting is just one way ellies communicate with each other. (Photo by Aussie Active Photologue.)

3. Elephants Are Self-Aware, but Not Self-Absorbed

Elephants have been proven to recognize themselves in a mirror, joining the brilliant ranks of self-aware animals like some apes, human children, dolphins, and parakeets.

But self-aware doesn’t mean self-obsessed. Elephants are also one of the most empathetic animals that we know of, even going out of their way to take care of other species. There are a lot of moving stories of elephants showing altruism toward other species, such as rescuing trapped dogs or guarding over an injured human, at considerable cost to themselves.

Elephants are also a species that’s all about community, working for the greater good of the family, and team work. As elephant researcher Joyce Poole has written,

“Being part of an elephant family is all about unity and working together for the greater good. When they are getting ready to do a group charge, for example, they all look to one another: ‘Are we all together? Are we ready to do this?’ When they succeed, they have an enormous celebration, trumpeting, rumbling, lifting their heads high, clanking tusks together, intertwining their trunks.”

4. Elephants Use Tools Like a Pro

Got an itch you just can’t scratch? How about a pesky electric fence that’s blocking your path?

There’s a tool for that!

Elephants are famed for their problem-solving abilities — one of the major characteristics of intelligent animals. And when they’ve got a problem to solve, sometimes they use tools, wielding them like a pro with their trunks. Holding a stick with a trunk is a great way to swipe away those pesky flies.

Photo by Chase Dekker

Elephants have been known to use sticks as tools. Also, they are tasty. (Photo by Chase Dekker.)

Sometimes they even create their own tools. For example, elephants have been observed digging holes to drink water and then ripping bark from a tree, chewing it into the shape of a ball, filling in the hole and covering over it with sand to keep it from evaporating, then later going back to the spot for a drink.

Elephants have also been known to drop very large rocks onto an electric fence either to ruin the fence or to cut off the electricity. Another elephant created his own stepping stool to get to a piece of tasty fruit he couldn’t reach.

5. Elephants really do have memorable memories.

We all know the saying: an elephant never forgets. And it’s true, in a way: An acute memory with long-term recall is one of the fundamental elephant characteristics that helps wild elephants survive the tough conditions of Africa.

Elephant herds are led by matriarch elephants who store knowledge that helps them find food and water when they need it most, or avoid potential areas that have been dangerous in the past — and they retain this knowledge for decades.

Elephants also recognize and remember the locations of as many as 30 other elephants at a time. (Meanwhile, I can lose track of my 3 friends in a crowd in 3 minutes… and where did I put my keys again this morning?)

Elephant matriarchs use their remarkable recall to lead their herds to food and water. (Photo by Paolo.)

Elephant matriarchs use their remarkable recall to lead their herds to food and water. (Photo by Paolo.)

Unfortunately, the elephants with the best and most valuable memories for their herd are also the most at risk — older elephants are the ones most targeted for poaching, because of their larger tusks. When a matriarch is killed, her knowledge of how to secure her herd’s survival dies with her.

Are You Smarter Than an Elephant?

I don’t know about you, but I eagerly await that future day when we discover that elephants can learn how to beat us at checkers, do our philosophy homework, and/or discover the key to cold fusion.

Til then, it’s clear that we still have a lot to learn about elephants — and that there are even things we can learn from elephants.

But what if we never get that chance?

Let’s do everything we can to make sure elephants still have a safe home in the wild, a home where they can roam free and thrive and solve complex algebraic equations whenever they want. It’s the right thing to do.

For more ele-fantastic fun facts, check out this epic Buzzfeed list , or this longer read about elephant intelligence from the Scientific American.

[Credits: Cover photo by Joaquim Huber.]

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Although a lot of news about elephants is desperately grim these days, I don’t despair. Yeah, I’ve learned a ton recently about the vicious wildlife trafficking industry that killed 35,000 elephants last year — things I wish I didn’t have to learn.

But in the process, I’ve also learned that there are countless dedicated people out there working to stop it. One of the fantastic organizations helping to fight elephant poaching is our Biking for Elephants and Climate Ride fundraising beneficiary, the African Wildlife Foundation, or AWF.

Here are 3 reasons why AWF is awesome (and why you should support them by supporting our biking fundraiser with a donation!).


1. AWF Works to Get Local Communities on Board With Wildlife Conservation

Stopping elephants from being poached isn’t a simple task in regions where poverty is rampant, and where an elephant’s tusk can fetch $1,000 per pound on the black market. Sadly, there are a lot of complex socioeconomic and political forces at play that elephants barely stand a chance against.

AWF knows that empowering local communities through education and job opportunities protects wildlife, because it gives people more options to live their lives in peaceful coexistence with elephants and other species. AWF has helped build schools, they’re a big promoter of sustainable tourism (which creates jobs and the incentive to protect the wildlife tourists come to see), and they offer scholarships and training for Africans to pursue careers in conservation. It’s all good stuff.

One of AWF's conservation lodges, in the elephant-full countryside of Zambia. Wistful sigh...

One of AWF’s conservation lodges, in the elephant-full countryside of Zambia. Wistful sigh…

2. AWF Has Helped Create Some Killer Outreach Campaigns to Reduce Demand for Wildlife Products

Fighting wildlife trafficking is multi-pronged effort. It’s going to continue to be really difficult to stop elephant poachers when the demand for ivory products is still high, particularly in Asian countries including China and Thailand.

But raising public awareness has been proven to make a difference in reducing that demand. AWF’s co-sponsored Say No public awareness campaign in China has signed on some major celebrities and is reaching some major audiences — a really important step in turning the tide for the elephants and other endangered species.

From the Say No campaign. Don't buy ivory or rhino horn! It's not worth the price.

From the Say No campaign. Don’t buy ivory or rhino horn! It’s not worth the price.

3. AWF Is Helping Anti-Poaching Efforts With a Key Resource: Technology

One of the fiercest forces working against elephants right now is the fact that modern poachers are wielding scary modern weapons and technologies… which give them the power to decimate whole herds en masse. Backed in part by wealthy criminal syndicates and terrorist groups such as the Lord’s Resistance Army and al-Shabaab (which use illegal ivory to fund their own criminal activities), today’s poachers have night-vision goggles, low-flying helicopters, AK-47 rifles, and powerful poisons in their arsenal. How do you save elephants when they’re facing all that?

It’s a tough question. It’s a scary question. And we lose more elephants each day while we try to find the answer. But it’s a question that AWF is asking and working towards — and that’s a really good thing. For example, AWF provides technical assistance, equipment, monitoring systems, and other resources to help rangers who risk their lives to stop poachers in Cameroon. Other technological efforts are in the works too.

Let's protect this guy, ok? Whatever it takes.  (Photo by Billy Dodson for AWF.)

Let’s protect this guy, ok? Whatever it takes. (Photo by Billy Dodson for AWF.)

But Know What the Real Secret Weapon Is? (hint hint)

This is just a sampling of the work AWF does, and a lot of other excellent organizations are doing their part as well. It’s really inspiring. But you know how they get it all done, right?

Yep… with donations from all of us.

I believe in this cause and in the work AWF does so much that I’m biking from New York to DC to prove it, and to try to get all of you to believe in it too.

Your support would mean the world to me. Please donate to my fundraising goals today!

Donate Today!

[Credits: Cover photo by Billy Dodson for AWF]

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