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Saturday, May 14, 2011


Naperville hosts elephant documentary


Flora the elephant cuddles with circus producer David Balding in a scene from "One Lucky Elephant." Courtesy of Raffe Photography Inc.

By Katie Foutz For Sun-Times Media

May 12, 2011

Evelyn Gluting of Aurora had no interest in nature until her 5-year-old daughter, Alyssa, started asking questions about elephants — and Gluting didn’t like the answers she found.
“In Africa, there’s 600,000 elephants,” she said. “She asked, ‘How many were there when you were born?’ Thirty-seven years ago, there were 1.3 million elephants in Africa — issues with poaching, illegal wildlife trade, habitat loss, just all these issues I had never been aware of. So it was hard to try to explain to her because she asked, ‘Will they be like dinosaurs?’ I said I don’t know.”
Gluting and a like-minded friend, Mary Jane Stein, helped organize the local pre-screening of the documentary “One Lucky Elephant” to raise hometown viewers’ awareness of elephant issues.
The “lucky elephant” is Flora, an African elephant who was orphaned as a baby, adopted by an American circus producer, raised as a member of his family and made the star of his show. When she loses interest in performing, the circus producer hopes to return her to the wild.
But where does an elephant raised among humans go to retire? The documentary follows the man-and-beast pair for 10 years as they try to answer that question. Meanwhile, many more questions come up about keeping wild animals in captivity and encroaching on their natural habitats.
The film is showing May 22 at Naperville’s Ogden 6 Theatres, before it opens nationally June 9 and Oprah Winfrey airs the film on her network, OWN. Proceeds from ticket sales and a silent auction at the screening will benefit Ahali Elephants, a non-profit organization that protects the rights, welfare and habitats of elephants through the power of networking groups, media and educational outreach.
Gluting and Stein do not work for this charity, the film or OWN. Gluting has met the producer and supports a 400,000-acre elephant preserve in Burma, the country where Gluting was born. She said it’s one way she can help teach her 5-year-old daughter and 2-year-old son about the world outside of their everyday activities.
She won’t be taking her kids to “One Lucky Elephant” — it’s unrated, but she describes it as PG. Still, they get the elephant thing. When the director of the elephant preserve emailed a time-lapse picture of an elephant wrecking their motion-sensor camera, the kids were thrilled.
This is something we wouldn’t have seen if we hadn’t supported this group,” Gluting said. “My 2-year-old was going around pretending to be an elephant and destroying things with his arm-trunk.”

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