A shocking study published in August by American academics states that Africa’s elephant population has reached tipping point, that poachers are now killing more elephants than are being born, and the species is heading for extinction. According to the lead author, Colorado State University’s George Wittemyer, ‘We are shredding the fabric of elephant society and exterminating populations across the continent.’
I read this paragraph with a deep feeling of over whelming sadness as a memory clear as a snapshot comes to mind. Eye to eye with an elephant is an image and feeling that I covet with jealousy.
I gasp for breath, late afternoon shadows creeping up and over my feet as I stand transfixed with my knees shaking. I peer out from behind the rough textured tree trunk and gape open mouthed at the gigantic and magnificent visitor. She seems unconcerned as her muscled and versatile trunk with its finger like nobes gently clip the acacia pods before starting the epic journey from trunk end to mouth. I know she is aware of me and I am convinced that she must be able to hear my heart pounding violently against my ribcage. My mouth is so dry that the innerfolds are stuck to my teeth. I feel that I could reach out and touch her…..but she is not an arms length away…..it just feels like it. However, I will never forget the vibration and energy that surrounds her as it reaches out engulfing the space between us…….bewitching me. I can see the abrasive hide covering her body and smell the sweet odour of earthiness in the swirling dust freckling gently over my sunburnt feet. Listening to her sing in multi layered cadences as the warm and heavy late afternoon breathes slowly, I feel a gut wrenching emptyness as she turns away, her large rump rolling from side to side. As a large drop of sun lingers, idle in it’s goodbyes, I stand rooted to the spot, my heart pounding as the small herd of elephants pulsate to a barefoot shuffle…..melting deep into the evening bush. I am left feeling stranded as the low frequency purr that you can feel rather than hear slowly ebbs away. I wipe my damp hands down my hips as the sun gradually slides away, a gold wash marking the end of an exciting day.
(Okay…so I did not mention the electric strand running around the property)
I often think about this small herd of elephants and wonder how they are fearing. I hope that the Matriarch with her uneven tusks is still leading her family as they flirt with the starlit heavens. I pray that they are escaping the hush of death. These ‘Megagardeners’ are an intricate part of the African bush and do not senselessly destroy the environment. They modify the bush/veldt by opening up the thickly tangled woodlands and allowing grasslands to regenerate. As much as 80% of what an elephant consumes is dropped back, barely digested to the soil…..allowing evolutions slow magic to provide. This form of manure is highly fertile and the remainder of the tree that has been pushed over is consumed by other creatures…..or it decomposes enriching the earth for other vegetation.
It is only man that destroys
As deeper currents of greed blow on the breeze….Africa’s wildlife is under continual attack.
Consumers of ivory…your demand is shredding elephant society and exterminating populations across the Continent.
When I boarded the plane that would fly me to a distant land, I took only my memories and left nothing but my footprints and a land where the elephants were once free. Poachers play by a different set of rules…..and so do ivory and rhino horn consumers. My life has been enriched by the presence of these iconic animals in the African bush…warm happy memories that leaves peace in my heart and a melody of bush whispers caressing my soul.
Consumers of ivory….I ask….how can you desire something so symbolic of suffering and death. Elephant herds are at tipping point…..their trunks reaching high in silent prayer as their destinies are shaped by the buffeting winds. Hear the whisper of their prayers and feel their fear and sadness pulsating through the ivory that adorns your window sill, wrist or table. Armed men with hungry eyes and dark thoughts are leaving ugly scars on the African landscape as elephant tusks, rhino horn and other animals body parts come to rest half a world away from where they belong…..to feed the demand. Elephants, the wealthy hosts of ivory are being devoured by these dark and menacing shadows.
Breathe in deeply…and feel the hot searing pain from survivors as they return to the killing fields….chasing scavengers away before running their trunks gently over the mutilated remains of family members…..mourning and paying their respects to the dead. Allow the emotion from an old bull as he straddles his fallen comrade, attempting to keep the scorching heat from the midday sun off the dying elephant as it beats down, relentless and demanding to fill your dreams. Embrace the despair as the old bull’s large broken tusks gouge into the soft earth as he attempts to lift him…..to no avail. Weep as the old bull sucks up water from a nearby spring spraying it over the dying elephants noble head and large ears, cooling him down and enticing him to drink. As silence spreads it’s wings over the bush…..the old bull stays close…the heavy silence of loss flanking him.
Knowledge comes from knowledge….do not try to tell me that this bull was not embracing an act of caring and kindness.
For those consumers of rhino horn…..I am a mother of two and like you, your wife, your sister or mother……I will never forget the powerful emotion of carrying a child within my womb. I will never forget the kindness bestowed upon me by the nurses when I was in labour, feeling totally out of control, frightened and in pain. Think back….enjoy the reflection…feel.
Now experience the throbbing pain from this pregnant rhino in labour as she battles through contactions, her vast low slung belly heaving. She is alone and vulnerable. Out of the shadows they come…vehicles of destruction as her life is cut short while trying to give birth…and she is forever frozen in time. Her personal treasure is her undoing. These hardened poachers butcher the horn from her face, their hands and arms thick with blood….before sliding away…soundless, voiceless and souless..leaving bloddied footprints in their wake. This act of destruction and violence is to feed your demand for rhino horn. Feel our anger as dark charcoal clouds are thrown across the sky….as the miracle within her…will never come to pass. Let these dark clouds spill over…and know in no uncertain terms that what you are doing is wrong. Knowledge comes from knowledge…..
The mutilated bodies of elephants are left behind to decay in the bush but their personal treasures or blood ivory leaves a trail of red that stretches from Africa by air, sea and highway into Chinese carving factories. China has 37 licensed carving factories and calls to shut down these factories are studiously ignored. Zhao Shucong is the man who approves the licensing of these state sanctioned factories.
Elephants are a source of great peace and wisdom that us humans should take note off. Humans, as the ‘rational thinking animals’ have the ability to alter their destructive tendencies. The thought of a world without these sentient giants is unthinkable. We have already caused such disharmony in their lives..but there is time to change..but we have to do it now. The challenge now..is to reshape some outdated perceptions and we all need to play a role.
One last thought: As the warm rays of sun pay their last respects to the mellow day in this sun burnt land, the heavy silence of loss ushers twilight into darkness. If we don’t unite against this rampant poaching: the African bush could be facing a future minus these rhinos and elephants: the very essence that adds to Africa’s magic.
WHAT CAN YOU DO? (SIGN THE PETITION)
PLEASE DO NOT LOOK THE OTHER WAY
THE RANGERS AND THE WILDLIFE NEED OUR SUPPORT