Lee Cuesta

Lee Cuesta

Saturday, April 18, 2015

Press release announcing publication date, ISBN, LCCN, price, format and distribution for "Seven Viking Days"

Here is the press release that will be distributed as soon as I receive the Advance Reading Copies of Seven Viking Days from Infinity Publishing.  It contains all the pertinent data related to the new book.  Feel free to copy and paste from it, or reprint it entirely.  If you have any questions, send me an email.  The address is in this press release.

Headline:  New children’s picture book displays the names of our days in context of Viking lifestyle
Blurb:  Viking tales of Woden, Thor, Frigg, Saturn and more fill the newest full-color, hardcover children’s picture book from Lee Cuesta Enterprises and Associates, to be published October 24.  Pre-publication Advance Reading Copies and Complimentary Review Copies are now available.

  • Title:  Seven Viking Days
  • Author, Lee Cuesta;  illustrator, Mia Hocking
  • Publication date:  October 24, 2015
  • ISBN:  978-1-4958-0584-4
  • Retail price:  $29.95
  • Pre-order price (before October 24):  $24.99
  • Format: Full-color, hardcover, 8.5 x 11 inches, 32 pages
  • LCCN:  2015937660
  • Worldwide distribution through Ingram, Baker & Taylor, Amazon.com, BarnesandNoble.com   

Viking tales of Woden, Thor, Frigg, Saturn and more fill the newest full-color, hardcover children’s picture book from Lee Cuesta Enterprises and Associates.  From these tales, Vikings named the days of our week.  Seven Viking Days engages children, parents and grandparents with vibrant, unique illustrations while telling these stories in the context of Viking lifestyle and society, including longships, houses with sod roofs, and the sauna.  It is a conversation between Sun and the Viking boy, Canute, and it reinforces with repetition and icons the correct sequence of the days.  The authentic origins of our days’ names resulted solely from the author’s thorough research into ancient Scandinavian myths and legends.  The book’s official publication date will be October 24, 2015.
The striking, intense illustrations are by Mia Hocking, a resourceful professional artist, whose passion is mixed media (recycled) visual art.  This book expresses her abstract style with a specific vision and purpose.  The Sequoia Gallery in Oregon has exhibited her work, which represents core life philosophies of environmental consciousness and personal journeys.  
Lee Cuesta composed the text for the book.  One side of Cuesta's family came from Denmark, sometimes called the "Heartland of Viking society."  So this book reveals his roots.  An internationally recognized writer and author, he’s been published in periodicals such as World Pulse, Indian Life, and InSite.  His novel was  published in 2001. Cuesta says, “I am so glad that Mia teamed up with me, because her style of artwork brings authenticity to the ancient Scandinavian legends.”
A Launch Party will be celebrated on the book’s publication date, featuring a Viking costume contest, free T-shirts, refreshments, book signing, and readings of the book by the author and illustrator.
Review copies:  Reviewers who would like to receive an Advance Reading Copy or a Complimentary Review Copy are invited to request them from leecuesta@gmail.com.  Review copies in eProof format  are also available by contacting marc@infinitypublishing.com.  Author and illustrator photos, along with a PDF containing the book’s covers, are available upon request.
Pre-orders:  Seven Viking Days may be pre-ordered and prepaid before October 24, for delivery after October 24, for the price of $24.99.  All pre-orders must be sent to leecuesta@gmail.com.  Visit www.leecuesta.com.

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Monday, January 5, 2015

Fundraiser launched at Razoo for publishing our children’s picture book

This will be the year of a major publishing event in our family.  October 24, 2015 is the official publication date of a children’s picture book with truly unique, vibrant illustrations by the artist, Mia Hocking.  Mia is a very good friend of mine, and that’s why I’m publishing this post on my blog.  She has launched a fundraiser at Razoo.com in order to have the book published.  I want to ask you to consider contributing to her fundraiser.  I just made my own donation, and I invite you to join me!
I wrote the text for this new book.  I’m a journalist and author, as you know, and also a grandparent and Baby Boomer.  For several years, I wanted to create a book that children will enjoy, while helping them learn the days of the week.  I wanted the book to engage their parents  and grandparents as well.  With Mia’s work, we accomplished this.  Entitled Seven Viking Days, this book explains the authentic, Norse origin of each day’s name, along with their correct sequence.  I am so grateful that Mia teamed up with me because her style of artwork brings authenticity to the ancient Scandinavian mythology.  You can see what I mean in the slideshow on our fundraiser page at Razoo.com.  Click on this link:
You’ll be taken directly to our fundraiser page, where you can see the slideshow and read all the details.  (If you prefer, you can also go to Razoo.com and then search for “Mia Hocking.”)
You can donate any amount when you click on the big, blue “Donate” button, or choose one of the pre-set amounts along the right-hand side of the page.  You could donate once a month through the end of April, or give a one-time gift.  You can see that we’ve already raised $497 with only three donors!  This is a chance to participate in this publishing event!
Also, please spread the news to all your social network!  And ask them to also forward it to all of their social network.  Post it on Facebook -- which you have an automatic opportunity to do when you donate.  When you make a donation, then you can tell your friends that you’ve already contributed, and invite them to join you!  Which is exactly what I am doing: I have already contributed, and I invite you to join us!
You’re also invited to the Launch Party for Seven Viking Days on 10.24.15!
Thank you so much,
.       Lee Cuesta      .

Wednesday, December 3, 2014

Empty Nest Alert: Imminent

The significance of what I’m sharing in this post is that our empty nest is imminent.  Last month started with Championships.  November 1st was the 2014 NWAPA Marching Band Championships in Hillsboro, Oregon, at which my wife and I were enthusiastic spectators.  Our youngest son is a senior in high school this year, and he performed with the school’s Marching Ensemble, which was his fifth year in a row.  At the Championships, his school’s marching band won first place in their Class A division, and was the only Class A band to advance to finals!  We watched both of their performances that day, and if you’d like to see it, too, then click on this link to YouTube:
Of course, we are very proud of him, and proud of his dedication and his completing five years with the Marching Ensemble.  Among many other qualities, these five years have built into his character tenacity, which means steadfastness, persistence and determination.  My earlier observations on this blog about his school’s marching band were in December, 2010.  Here’s a link:
During this year’s championships, I made a couple more, final observations.  First, the band, together with the color guard, make use of distraction in order to set up the surprise flourish.  It’s just like how an illusionist often performs his magic trick. “Misdirection is a form of deception in which the attention of an audience is focused on one thing in order to distract its attention from another.” (1)  In other words, while we (as spectators) are focused on the band as they perform one maneuver on the field, we’re not paying attention to the color guard as they position themselves at another spot.  So when they suddenly wave their huge, colorful banners, it happens as a surprise.  “Managing the audience’s attention is the aim of all Theater, it is the foremost requirement of Theatrical Magic. Whether the Magic is of a ‘pocket trick’ variety, or, a large stage production in Las Vegas, misdirection is the central secret of all Magic.” (1)
Second, in a marching band, each person’s movement is completely unique, yet precise and perfect, which makes the whole perfect.  In other words, each individual’s precision makes the band as a whole, as well as the whole performance, perfect.  (Of course, true perfection is never achieved, but that is the ideal.)
This year’s show title was “My Muse.”  Accordingly, there were several stationary banners on the field containing words such as Nature, Love, Art, Hope, Dance.  As with almost all of his school’s award-winning shows, it included some pre-recorded narration.  The voices of a young woman and a young man alternately stated:  “My muse is power;” “My muse is love;” “My muse is speed;” “My muse is beauty;” “My muse is music.”  At the show’s finale, the woman’s voice concludes: “Whatever your muse is, grab onto it and never let it go.”  
And this inspiration leads directly into our next major activity in November:  by the end of the following week, my son and I were on an Amtrak train en route to Campus Preview Day at Oregon Institute of Technology in Klamath Falls.  As I mentioned, my son is a high school senior, and he’s already accepted at OIT.  Did I mention that we’re proud of him?  (Just as we are of all our children.)  So as I stated earlier, this signifies that our empty nest is imminent.
A couple of the themes for my Lee Cuesta Live website are “Adventure” and “Discovery.”  This trip included both.  It was entirely by way of public transportation (almost).  It began on Portland’s transit system; then Amtrak; and finally a taxi to the motel in K Falls.  My son and I agreed that we like Amtrak because there is no TSA; we can walk around while traveling; there are food and rest rooms readily accessible (rather than having to make stops).  On the trip back, we ate lunch in the dining car.  I remembered why I like traveling by train.
As I read, sometimes he transcribed music on his notebook computer.  It was a great father/son trip for male bonding – three days, two nights together.
A text I sent to my wife:  Beautiful sunset north of Eugene!  Passing through gorgeous agricultural lands. So refreshing!
The sky was clear on the way down.  After crossing the mountains, we could see a nearly full moon rising on our side of the train, the left side, which meant we were heading due south.  We were perfectly on schedule until south of Chemult, where the train was delayed nearly one hour.  But the clock read 11:11 when we entered our motel room, which was a confirmation again of God’s blessing. (Any spontaneous 11:11 denotes God’s abundant provision and care, however you choose to define God.)
The next morning, we awoke, ate breakfast at the motel, and walked the short distance to OIT for Preview Day.  The presenters were very articulate in all the sessions we attended (sometimes with parents and students together, other times separate).  The sunshine was beautiful all day, and it’s a very pretty campus, relatively small, with nice facilities.  OIT boasts small class sizes (perhaps 14 or 15 students), with a strong emphasis on learning how to do, not just theory.  It also offers concurrent degrees – the opportunity to obtain two Bachelors degrees within five years, including internships – which my son plans to achieve.  My son said he likes Klamath Falls because it reminds him of Colorado Springs, where he was born and where we lived until he was eleven.  When the Preview Day was over, he was “stoked,” and said that now he can’t wait for fall term 2015.
He also made an awesome friendship that day with a senior from OIT, who gave us a ride to the Amtrak station on the morning of the following day, which started out foggy.  On this return trip, we were able to see in daylight what we passed through in the dark two days earlier.
A text I sent to my wife:  Passing beside rocky canyon with a stream below in a pine forest. Now sunshine.
Some fall colors were still in the leaves.  The train passes directly beside Odell Lake at the summit of the Cascades.  Also quite close to K Falls is Crater Lake, which is the second deepest lake in North America.  And I noticed a couple differences between the east side and the west side of the Cascades.  Of course, there was bright, magnificent sunshine east of the summit; the sky became immediately overcast on the west side. All of the trees on the east side are pines; the forest on the west side consists of fir, hemlock and spruce.
After getting off the train at Union Station, we had perfectly timed connections with the transit system in Portland as we returned home.  An awesome trip!  Which signifies that our empty nest is imminent.
Live in the present, yet do not be present.
Lee Cuesta

Friday, October 24, 2014

Looking For Canute

Text © Copyright 2015 by Lee Cuesta
Illustration © Copyright 2015 by Mia Hocking
Dan Klimke/DK77.com; Photography

            Sun shone brighter as she glided higher in the blue, morning sky.  Finally Canute opened his eyes.
            “Good morning, Sun,” he said.  He pushed open the wooden shutter on his window.  “Why is this your day?”

This illustration and text are the first appearance of Canute, a Viking boy, in a new children’s picture book being published next year by Lee Cuesta Enterprises and Associates.  It’s a book for parents and grandparents who love to cozy up with their child and read through a book that you both will love due to the luscious illustrations and the captivating stories. 
As a writer and a grandparent myself, I wanted to produce a children’s book to help them learn the names of the days, along with their correct sequence.  Then a good friend and colleague at the time mentioned that the names of our days have Norse origins … and it clicked in my mind!  I composed the text, and teamed up with Mia Hocking, whose unique artwork brings authenticity to the ancient Scandinavian mythology.
            Now the book is done, copyrighted, and its official publication date is October 24, 2015.
That is:

Precisely twelve months from now.  One author and book publicist says we should begin the marketing plan one year before publication:  “For best results, start your plan a full year before your publication.”  So we are right on schedule:  the countdown begins to 10.24.15 !! 
            Mia and I agreed to not show Canute’s face in any of the illustrations.  Now, because the face of Canute, the Viking boy, never appears in our new book, we want you to show us what it is.  We are “Looking For Canute.”  It’s a contest that will culminate at the book’s launch party on Saturday, 10.24.15.  I’ll give you more details about the Launch Party as the publication date approaches.  In the meantime, each month I will post another illustration from the book showing Canute … maybe along with other samples of Mia’s tantalizing illustrations.
As you look at these views of Canute, how do you imagine his face?  We want you to send us either photos or drawings, whichever you prefer.  Send your entries to sevenvikingdays@gmail.com.  Lee Cuesta Enterprises and Associates will award one prize in all three categories:
1.  Photos
2.  Drawing (by ages 14 and younger)
3.  Drawing (by ages 15 and older)
No purchase necessary.  Void where prohibited.  Family members of either Lee Cuesta or Mia Hocking are not eligible.
            The title of our new book is not – I repeat, is not – “Looking For Canute.”  I will reveal the book’s title in a future post.
As you may know, I had one book published previously, a novel based on the religious persecution in Chiapas, and the autonomy movement in the American Southwest.  I learned from that experience that a book needs to be publicized, reviewed and endorsed before its publication date, not after.  The publicist I cited above also stated:  “Once a book has been published, it is difficult to start a publicity campaign.”  So that’s why we are starting our marketing plan right now.
First of all, we are setting up the new website for the book.  The domain name is already registered, but I will announce it in a future post.  It will include our “Looking For Canute” contest, the 10.24.15 Launch Party details, and the Media Kit, among other important items.
In addition, we will conduct a fundraiser at razoo.com immediately.  This is very significant in order to raise the funds we need for the book’s printing and publishing set-up cost; advance readers copies (ARC’s), or galleys, for book reviews; the Launch Party, including venue, refreshments, T-shirts, officially published books ready to sell, and three prizes for the “Looking For Canute” winners.  Also, we need to produce a short video for the fundraiser, which may include reading through the book, like LeVar Burton or Mister Rogers, with sound effects.  So the video will be initially at razoo.com, and eventually at YouTube.  In next month’s post, Mia and I will give you all the details about the book’s fundraiser.  Please join with us!!
Then comes social networking:  Facebook; Twitter; my websites; Mia’s website; the new website; press releases; mom’s groups; grandparents’ groups; Nordic affinity groups; librarians’ groups; Baby Boomer tabloids; etc., etc.  We will market and distribute the book worldwide, focusing especially on the USA, Canada, the UK and India. 
After the fundraiser come the endorsements and book reviews.  And finally the Launch Party on Saturday, 10.24.15.  Hope to see you there!!
 Lee Cuesta
Jacqueline Deval is the author and book publicist that I cited above.

Thursday, September 25, 2014

Perfect Late Summer Day on Scappoose Bay

            Before I saw her, I heard her rustling in the tall grass on the bank above me.  I looked up, and then I saw her.  Her rump, back, neck, head, with ears standing tall and alert: a doe.  She stopped when she spotted me.  I raised my pocket-size video camera, on a lanyard around my neck, and recorded a glimpse of her.  I was in a kayak, several yards below her, on Scappoose Creek.
            My kayak was a bright yellow Necky Rip 12.  It includes a rudder, or a “Built in drop down skeg,” (from its official specs at the Necky website), which is not used for steering, but to keep it on a straight course.  I found this to be a very nice feature.  Wikipedia includes a paragraph about the use of the skeg in kayaks; however, this paragraph states:  “Typically, these are retractable, and they are not a rudder.”  So now you know: a skeg is not a rudder after all.  To view this kayak up close, click on this link –
            We pulled into the Scappoose Bay Marina just before 9:30 in the morning.  Scappoose Bay Kayaking is situated below the main parking lot, where all the pick-ups with empty boat trailers are parked.  It’s located in Warren, Oregon, just off of Highway 30.  I had made a reservation online, and so our kayaks were already waiting for us at the dock.  The “boat handler” who was assisting us supplied a laminated aerial photo as a map, and he recommended that we paddle east, and then into Scappoose Creek, since it was our first time on the bay.
            My companion wanted to try the Hobie Mirage Revolution 13, also known as “Rev 13” by the guys at the kayak shop.  It is essentially a sit-on-top kayak – with pedals.  Of course, it also comes with a paddle.  So the Hobie Rev 13 equals paddle plus pedal.  Or just drift with the current, which we both enjoyed.  My companion commented that the Rev 13 feels very stable in the water, due to its MirageDrive pedal with a dual-fin suspended beneath the kayak.  Hobie’s website describes the MirageDrive with Glide Technology as “sheer efficiency.”  It states:  “With the largest human muscle group now in play, kayaking becomes easier and more efficient than ever. …The Click and Go mounting system allows you to quickly remove the MirageDrive for cleaning or storage,” or to switch to another style of fin.  To see more about this kayak, follow this link –
The entire staff at Scappoose Bay Paddling Center provides excellent, professional customer service.  A boat handler personally assisted each of us, my companion and me.  On the dock, they helped us get into our kayaks, and then, somehow, they were right there, waiting for us, when we returned, to help us get out again.  Before we paddled away from the marina, they instructed my companion on how to handle the Hobie Rev 13, because this was the first time that she’d used one.
Glistening mud (or silt) on the banks greeted us as we paddled away from the marina, around the short row of houseboats, and into the main channel headed east.  We saw an abundance of herons, standing on the glistening silt, stalking their prey.  This was due to the fact that the tide was going out – the times of high and low tide were posted on a white board inside the kayak shop.  We were surprised that the Columbia River, of which Scappoose Bay is an offshoot, would be affected by the tide this far upstream.  Sometimes a heron took flight, with its huge wingspan, as we drifted by.
The water’s absolutely placid surface impressed me; although it sounds cliché, it provided a smooth, mirror-image reflection of all the details along the shore, including the blue sky with a few clouds.  There was no strong wind, only a light breeze; in fact, I could feel the breeze only when I stopped paddling because I was paddling at the same speed as the breeze.  The morning began with very warm sunshine; but during the course of our outing, it became briefly overcast, and then sunny again.
The sheer quietness also impressed me, a stillness that was interrupted by the sound and sight of fish jumping, of which we saw many.  We witnessed a huge fish jump twice with a big splash each time, once very close to me.  At one point, I imagined a fish jumping right into my kayak!
We left the main channel and paddled into the calm, unruffled Scappoose Creek.  Tiny dragonflies hitchhiked on our kayaks.  We paddled comfortably upstream, enjoying the undisturbed tranquility.  I realized that at this spot on the earth, there was absolutely no other person – just my companion and myself.  I adore this kind of solitude (which is one of the main reasons I find kayaking hugely appealing).  I wish it could last longer than a brief, morning paddle.  That is a goal that I have:  to be able to extend this kind of experience.
Soon we reached a place where the creek divides, apparently split by an island.  This was our midway point, the spot at which we needed to head back.  It’s the time to briefly rest and restore energy with a nutritious snack:  apple slices, cheddar cheese, sausage, carrots, water, pumpkin seeds – shelled and seasoned.  As we rested without paddling, we began to drift backward with the current.  So I turned my kayak around to face the direction that I was floating.  As I continued drifting, my kayak was being steered by the slow current:  a combination of the tide going out and the creek’s current.  For the moment, I didn’t need to paddle.  So I continued to snack while I was drifting.
That’s when I encountered the doe.  I heard rustling in the tall grass.  I looked up, and then I saw her.  I said to my companion, not too loudly so I wouldn’t scare the doe, “Can you see the deer?”  But there was no response.  I lifted my camera to shoot a short video.  By this time, I had drifted a ways downstream, and I was close to the bank.
I wanted to turn my kayak around to see why my “buddy” hadn’t responded.  I pushed away from the bank with my paddle, and it was grabbed by the thick, soggy silt.  But I jerked it free.  With my kayak turned to face upstream, I could see that my companion was quite far back; no wonder she hadn’t heard my voice.
I waited for my buddy to catch up to me, and then we continued together.  Reaching the mouth of the creek, we tried paddling into another tributary.  I went ahead to test the depth, but it appeared too shallow, especially for the Hobie with its “propellers” beneath the hull, and it was becoming shallower by the minute.  So we turned around – while the 13.5-foot Hobie could still be turned – and headed back into the bay.  It would be a very different experience with a higher tide, and much more of the area inundated.
            At this point, I felt my left leg begin to ache, and I wondered why.  It almost never happens when we’re kayaking.  And then I realized that we had remained in our kayaks for the entire length of the outing.  We usually beach our kayaks at the midway point and take a break, getting out of the kayak to stretch our legs.  But this time, we weren’t able to do that.  That is also why this was the driest paddle of my experience so far.  By not beaching the kayak and getting out, even my feet stayed dry!
During our return trip, my companion commented:  “I can just imagine doing this,” implying that she loved the Rev 13, and that if we lived closer to water, she could imagine just dropping the kayak into the water, and going for a paddle, whenever she wanted.  It combines the benefits of bicycling with the pleasure and peacefulness of being on the water.  I said that next time, I will rent a Rev 13, too.
            It was an excellent, late-summer day, along with superb customer service and equipment provided by the Scappoose Bay Paddling Center.  This is a complete paddling center offering rentals, lessons, tours, sales and accessories.  The shop is clean, bright, modern, and well-stocked with kayaks from Hobie, Necky and Eddyline.  Here’s the link to visit their website –
Or you can call toll-free:  1.877.2PADDLE.
            Before our outing, the young woman helping us mentioned that we might see some turtles along the way.  There are photos of local turtles and eagles under the glass on the counter.  When we returned, I commented that we saw neither, although I did see the deer.  A young man was standing nearby—I think it was Bru—and he asked if we saw the Scappoose Moose.  I fell for it, with an uncharacteristic display of gullibility.  Then he clarified: “Some people call them cows.”  Then the young woman (I think her name is Heather) gave us a card entitling us to one hour free rental after renting four times.  A little bit later, I overheard her talking on the phone about reserving an activity for around twenty students; Scappoose Bay Kayaking also partners with Next Adventure.
            A very important sidenote: while driving home, we noticed Fultano’s Pizza—same as the one in Cannon Beach—along Highway 30 near Scappoose; we will stop there next time we come kayaking here.
Soon you may be able to see video footage of this trip, including the Hobie Rev 13 in action, at my YouTube channel, Lee Cuesta Live.  Here’s the link to my channel –
And I encourage you to read my intermittent posts about my kayak adventures, which began with “Lives Not Governed By The Monotonous Routine.”  (Here is the link:  http://leecuestalive.com/?p=110 .)
Lee Cuesta

Thursday, August 28, 2014

Walk in their shoes

I realize now that unwittingly I’ve been conducting an in-depth, long-term experiment over the past ten years.  You see, I have a second job, in addition to my writing, speaking, blogging, kayaking, grandchildren, reading, cooking and advocating for Asian elephants.  I am currently employed by the largest home-improvement retailer in the world, which means I might spend eight hours a day walking continuously on solid concrete.  My feet take abuse.  In fact, when I get off the concrete, and walk on true, uneven earth, it feels like a foot massage.
Fortunately, I wear top-quality basketball shoes – high-top for ankle support – from Nike, along with top-quality insoles from Dr. Scholl’s.  Yet even so, my two feet suffer.  What about our big-brain, mammal companions who – in captivity – might spend their lives with their four, bare feet on solid concrete?  I can relate to them in a small way.  When I release my feet from their shoes, and elevate them in my recliner, I feel an ache, not quite painful, as sensation returns to them, as if they had been numbed by the pounding.  At the same time, I feel occasional, intense stings in my toes.  When I remove my socks, I notice a large callus of hard skin on the inside of my left foot, between my heel and the arch.  My right foot has a much smaller callus in the corresponding spot.  The nail is cracked on the big toe of my left foot, and it’s taking a long time to grow out.  When I walk barefoot across linoleum, I can feel that the pads on the underside of my toes are toughened.
By comparison with what captive elephants experience, this is very mild.  Dr. G.A. Bradshaw reports that “Pet, the elephant at the Oregon Zoo, was euthanized at fifty-one.  Her feet were so damaged that she was forced to wear sandals and used her trunk as a crutch.  Having lived decades on concrete surfaces, she developed severe degenerative joint disease in all four legs.” (1)  Once again, the Oregon Zoo is implicated, this time in Dr. Bradshaw’s seminal book, Elephants on the Edge.  In this blog I have previously documented conditions at the Oregon Zoo (see my post for June 2014, two months ago).
An overview entitled “Oregon Zoo Health Status” from the HelpElephants.com website states:  “Each of the 6 Oregon Zoo elephants suffers from foot disease (cracked nails, abscesses, lesions, ulcers, fissures, fractured toes). (The number does not include Hugo, who also had suffered from chronic nail infections prior to his death.) The problems require frequent to almost daily intervention from keepers to flush infected areas and debride (cut away) necrotic (dead) tissue. Even the youngest elephants suffer from foot problems. Chendra, an orphan from Malaysia, developed foot problems within 2 months of coming to the Oregon Zoo.” (2)
The Help Elephants report continues verbatim:
   Pet (born ~1955, wild; died 8/2/06 at Portland Zoo)
This wild-caught female died at age 51 from foot disease (osteomyelitis) and arthritis. She suffered for years from severe foot disease – recurrent lesions,, abscesses, ulcers, defects, cracked and undermined nails, etc. that required almost daily intervention from keepers. Her records contain voluminous notes about cleaning out infections, lesions and pockets in her feet and constant debridement of lesions– cutting away of dead, necrotic tissue. There are numerous references in the records to pain that Pet is in after what vets term "atraumatic foot trims." They note that she remains in "prolonged lateral recumbency after foot trimmings. At one point (Dec. 21, 2002) vets note that a lesion covering 20 percent of Pet's caudal sole would not be debrided as "it would leave no protective layer for Pet to stand on. On 24 Dec 02, the records indicate that the 10 cm defect on this foot has left the fatty tissue under the skin exposed. Pet's feet are so damaged that she is frequently made to wear sandals.
   Chendrawasi (Chendra) – (born ~1993 wild)
This 13 year old female was orphaned and hand-reared in Malaysia. She is on loan from the Malaysian government.
Chendra's records show a strong case for how quickly elephants' feet become damaged once in captivity as there are records included of her foot condition prior to coming from Malaysia. Within just two months she begins to have chronic foot problems. stereotypcial Also, she was radiographed with no defects upon coming to the zoo and within a year has problems with fractured toes probably as a result of overgrown nails. …Her pacing is special concern given the hard flooring she is now on for the first time. Main immediate concern is foot ulceration due to excessive wear. Vets. Recommend extra bedding in her stalls to ease the transition for her feet from "forest and river ground to the hard flooring of captivity."
On April 19, 2003 vets note a "classical nail abscess" which is "pretty alarming in an animal this young and small."
   “Rose-Tu (Rose or Rosey) – (born 8/31/94 at Portland Zoo)
Although she is a young elephant, Rose has foot problems, cracked and overgrown nails, sole fissures and bone fractures in the P2 and P3 digits of her back feet. Records attribute to "possible substrate problem" or "repetitive stress injury.
   “Sung-Surin (Shine) – (born 12/26/82 at Portland Zoo)
This female was born at the Oregon Zoo. She has chronic foot problems. The records start in 1996, when she is just 13.5 years old. AT that time she has an infected nail lesion on her right front foot that is chronic through end of records (2005). This nail lesion/abscess has frequent "blowouts." By July 04 the lesion has extended to the space between nails 4 and 5. She also has fractured and abnormal toes.
Foot problems are mentioned in nearly every entry in her records 1996-2005. Several mentions of "copious bleeding" after debriding foot ulcer. In Nov. 1999, a power sander was used to "rough up" the bottom of her sole. Foot condition steadily declines over this period. In Feb. 2004, a change in the angulation of her right limb is noted and vets believe it is beginning of degenerative joint disease (DJD). Also note that it appears that she is dragging her foot when she walks.” (2)
But the Oregon Zoo is not alone.  Dr. Bradshaw also states:  “Foot ailments are among the most common and debilitating symptoms of elephants in zoos and circuses.  In contrast to the almost continual movement of free-ranging elephants on grass and soil substrates, some elephants in captivity spend twenty hours a day on unyielding concrete and asphalt, with very little room and exercise.  A thirty-plus-year study by the Amboseli Elephant Research Project (AERP), based on more than thirty-four thousand sightings of wild elephant groups containing up to 550 individuals, found no chronic foot or weight problems in the Amboseli elephant population.  In contrast, a survey derived from public records by the animal protection organization In Defense of Animals (IDA) showed that in forty-six AZA accredited zoos, holding 135 elephants, 62 percent of the elephants have severe foot disease and 42 percent have joint disorders.  Toni, a wild-caught Asian elephant at the National Zoo, was euthanized at the premature age of thirty-nine.  Her feet, like those of most other zoo elephants, were cracked, infected, and had nail abscesses…  Mel Richardson, [the veterinarian] who observed Toni shortly before her death, noted:
‘…the concrete; the packed unyielding abrasive substrate inside and outside; the lack of exercise and normal use of the elephant’s feet and limbs—climbing, digging, walking, wading into streams, kicking logs, and foraging …. [Elephants] evolved to travel miles each day on uneven natural substrate using their feet to find and apprehend food.  To keep them healthy we must provide that opportunity as well.’” (3)
Similar conditions exist among captive elephants in Thailand, Nepal and India.  In my blog post next month, I hope to go international by sharing comments from Carol Buckley, who not only oversees the Elephant Sanctuary in Tennessee, but also heads Elephant Aid International, which conducts foot-trimming missions, such as a recent one to Bardia, Nepal.  In addition, I hope to share a report based on information from the Indian newspaper, Deccan Herald, which involves Compassion Unlimited Plus Action (CUPA) in Bangalore.
My ten years of eight-hour days on solid concrete have left their mark on my feet.  But the condition of my feet seems like nothing when compared with that of my big-brain, mammal companions who, as Dr. Bradshaw observed, might spend twenty hours a day on unyielding concrete and asphalt – with bare feet.
1.  Bradshaw, Elephants on the Edge, pp.105-6.   
3.  Bradshaw, Elephants on the Edge, pp.104-5.    

Saturday, June 14, 2014

The Politics of Pachyderms (Part 1)

            I first reported about the Oregon Zoo on this blog in January (‘Two “Lily”s at the Oregon Zoo’).  Since then, circumstances have deteriorated.
            Last month (May), the Oregon Zoo Director, Kim Smith, along with the zoo’s Chief Veterinarian, Mitch Finnegan, were both fired.  This action came following the death of a 20-year-old Sumatran orangutan, named Kutai, who died following minor surgery.
            Then, on May 25, “Six cotton-top tamarins—a species of small New World monkey—died of unknown causes … while in quarantine at the Oregon Zoo’s veterinary medical center.  The six deceased belonged to a group of nine tamarins that arrived at the zoo May 22,” on loan from Harvard University, according to Jim Middaugh, a spokesman for the regional government that operates the Oregon Zoo. (1)  This occurred after Smith and Finnegan had been dismissed.  And so this incident reveals that the zoo’s problems are more endemic.
            Next, on June 11, it was reported that “Tests have confirmed tuberculosis in Tusko, the third elephant at the Oregon Zoo in Portland with the respiratory disease.  Veterinarians are beginning an 18-month treatment regimen for the 44-year-old male Asian elephant.  Two other bull elephants, Packy and Rama, are being treated for TB that was diagnosed last year at the zoo.” (2)
            In addition to all this, perhaps at the foundation of the controversies involving the Oregon Zoo, is the management of its elephant herd—especially its breeding program.  The zoo’s “chief claim to fame is its elephant-breeding program—a project many of its peers have abandoned as outdated and barbaric.” (3)  Part of this controversy involves Lily, the elephant calf born on November 30, 2012.  The Seattle Times revealed that Have Trunk Will Travel, a California-based elephant rental company, “was to take ownership of Lily after she was 6 months old, in exchange for the breeding services of Tusko, a bull elephant that had been loaned to the Oregon Zoo in 2005. …(However,) The following February, the zoo purchased the rights to Lily and Tusko for $400,000, using money from the Oregon Zoo Foundation.” (3)
While Kim Smith was still director, it was reported that “the Oregon Zoo had shifted from its plans to use a voter-funded bond to give its elephants more room to roam in Clackamas County.  Rather than simply give the elephants a second home, the zoo decided to buy a second herd and begin a new, aggressive breeding program, according to zoo documents.  ‘We’ve always been very clear on our vision of breeding elephants,’ Smith (said) at the time.” (4)
Despite the Oregon Zoo’s current construction of its new, 6.25-acre pachyderm habitat, called Elephant Lands, my personal views about elephants in captivity are changing.  (Six and a quarter acres, are you joking?  Together with “a new, aggressive breeding program”?)
For this blog post, and future ones, I contacted Dr. G.A. Bradshaw, author of the book, Elephants on the Edge.  She replied to my e-mail with a wealth of information.  So in this post, I will share some of her observations about elephants in captivity.  Her paper, “Inside Looking Out: Neuroethological Compromise Effects in Elephants in Captivity,” corrected my misunderstanding about “domesticated” elephants, such as those throughout Asia, based upon her statements concerning captivity itself: “a psychologically mediated physical condition that disbars agency—the sense of self as an instrument of one’s own destiny. …Many zoos make efforts to increase biophysical and social diversity, but given physical and logistical limitations of structures and practices of close confinement, elephant life remains completely or largely determined by the agendas of zoo personnel.  There is little opportunity for revitalizing agency that is, by definition, seriously undermined in captivity.  Personal exercise of free will is highly circumscribed within a narrow set of parameters (e.g., availability of enrichment toys and activities), time, and space.  Quotidian routines with little variety relative to wild conditions and continued atrophy of agency leads elephants, as Timerman (2002) describes, to robot-like behavior and numbing which may appear as loss of appetite, depression, stereotypy and apathy.”  For instance, “Dissociative or dissociative-like behaviors are commonly observed in elephants who are confined (e.g., somatization, swaying and other stereotypies).”
Dr. Bradshaw continues: “Much is made of the elephant-human relationship in captivity—indeed, cultivation of this bond is considered key to successful management of elephants in captivity.  But as traumatologists are quick to point out, these relationships are psychologically corrosive and volatile because of the imposed power differential: the human plays the dual role of agent of captivity or abuse or both, as well as attachment and survival.  Elephant management is by definition physical (e.g., ankus, chutes) and emotional (e.g., trainer-elephant relationship) coercion.”
Concerning captive breeding, such as the Oregon Zoo advocates, Dr. Bradshaw concludes: “Because captivity effects dramatically decrease overall fitness, the use of captive breeding as a tool for conservation is therefore contraindicated from both a scientific and ethical standpoint.”  Earlier, she observes: “After birth, young captive-born elephants typically lack the traditional allomother-rearing context, are often separated from mother and live alone or in highly altered social structures—similar to traumatic stress conditions that have been linked with serious and functional compromise elsewhere and significantly affect elephant well-being and behavior.”
Captive elephants are prevalent in India.  One organization in Bangalore, called Compassion Unlimited Plus Action, or CUPA, is committed to rescuing and rehabilitating captive elephants.  I will write about the work of CUPA Bangalore in my next post.
To conclude:  Why does it matter?  A close friend and I recently were discussing this while having breakfast together.  He posed the question:  “Are we only postponing the inevitable (i.e., their extinction, or elimination as a wild species)?  Why not study them in the wild for as long as we can – perhaps ten more years – but let nature take its course.”  I can offer four responses at this point, and I’ll share more in future posts as they occur to me.
1) They are sentient, self-aware beings like ourselves, albeit in a different realm, yet we control their destiny. So it behooves us to do so in a way that respects them and preserves their survival.
2) HEC (“human-elephant conflict”)– Humans are suffering due to our mismanagement of the Asian (and African) elephant.
3) Must protect them in the wild for what they teach us about ourselves; the subtitle of Dr. Bradshaw’s book is “What Animals Teach Us about Humanity.”
4) Elephants represent not so much another species, but rather another culture, which we must respect as when we visit any other culture of human society.
Lee Cuesta

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LEE CUESTA, a journalist who worked in Mexico City, has written about the complexities in Chiapas for a decade, acquiring firsthand experience in both Tuxtla Gutiérrez and San Cristóbal de Las Casas. As a fully bilingual writer, the author has been published in periodicals such as Northwest, Eternity, World Pulse, Indian Life, Interlit, Prisma, El Faro and Apuntes Pastorales. The articles receive international response. In addition, Cuesta is the author of the novel entitled Once: Once, about religious intolerance and an independence movement in Chiapas, along with a conspiracy to recapture territory that once belonged to Mexico. In it, he combines the skills of a storyteller and investigative reporter to penetrate the historical, social and spiritual dimensions of this convincing tale. It provides a rare and stunning glimpse into the elements that render neighboring cultures so incompatible.

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