Ashley Bell, director of “Love & Bananas: An Elephant Story”

Ashley Bell—the actress perhaps best known for her acclaimed work in such top horror films as “The Last Exorcism” and “Psychopath”—discusses the elements and interests that led her to directing “Love & Bananas: An Elephant Story,” a documentary chronicling the rescue in Thailand of a 70-year-old partially blind Asian elephant, and the ensuing 480-mile trek to a sanctuary and new life. Bell explains that while she wasn’t particularly an elephant fan before embarking on this adventure, but has been a longtime animal rights activist. She recalls making the journey to Thailand and meeting Lek Chailert, a highly revered Asian elephant conservationist—Time Magazine once named her a Hero of Asia—who told Bell if she could work out the details, she could accompany her on a rescue…and film it. After working out some details, and a few false starts (when elephants Chailert had intended to rescue became unavailable, sent to a trekking company or some other kind of “work”), Bell and a three-man crew filmed the nearly 500-mile trip made by the elephant, Noi Na. She reiterates some important information provided in “Love & Bananas,” such as the plight of Asian elephants generally and the corresponding drop in their population, compared with African elephants: she said there are 415,000 African left in the world, while there are only 40,000 Asians, a third of which are in captivity. Bell also briefly discusses The Crush Box, the means by which all Asian elephants who “work”—in circuses, elephant rides, trekking, logging, etc.—are broken, a horrific process whereby baby elephants’ bond with their mother is shattered and replaced by fear of man. She also details some of what makes Chailert so skilled and magical with all the elephants she cares for, and what sorts of things she learned from her. Florida Voices For Animals has organized a free screening of the film June 30 at Jimmie B Keel Regional Library. (http://loveandbananas.com)

ALSO: I spoke with Tara Loller, senior director of strategic campaigns and special projects at The Humane Society of The United States (HSUS), about a mammoth spay/neuter effort undertaken in Puerto Rico earlier this month by HSUS and 22 other organizations. In seven days, this effort—dubbed the Spayathon—resulted in 5608 dogs and cats being spayed or neutered. Loller outlined how the preparations were made, surgical teams assembled, and how the process was carried out. She also noted there will be three more Spayathons: Nov. 1-10, Feb. 1-10, and May 1-10. (http://www.humanesociety.org/news/press_releases/2018/06/spayathon-for-puerto-rico-6121.html)

COMEDY CORNER: Jeff Wayne’s “The Wolf, The Bear And The Alligator” (https://www.jeffbigdaddywayne.com)

MUSIC: Rebekah Pulley’s “Talking Animals Theme,” instrumentals

NAME THAT ANIMAL TUNE: We didn’t play Name That Animal Tune today.

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About the author
Duncan Strauss is the producer-host of “Talking Animals,” which he launched at KUCI in California in 2003, combining his passions for animals, radio, journalism, music and comedy. The show has aired since late 2005 on Tampa’s WMNF. Strauss lives in Jupiter Farms, FL with his family, including four cats, two horses and one dog. He spends each day talking to those animals, and maintains they talk right back to him, an as yet unverified claim.

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