What will be the fate of the Presidential Herd of Zimbabwe?. This is a question that burns and tightens the knot in my stomach to breaking point. The cyanide poisoning of the Hwange elephants last year, was for me a dramatic turning point. Although I live far from the country in which I was born, I can no longer pretend that all is well in the animal kingdom. All is far from well. The bush, ‘the womb of the universe’ is fast on the tracks to becoming ‘The big empty.’
When I started my inner journey, a friend asked me at question ‘This passion you have for elephants, it comes straight from your heart. How the hell do you put in all into words?’
I did not hesitate in my reply. ‘I know and feel the fear from these animals. I also know what it is like to own something that others want. The only difference was that to take what we owned was done by intimidation and yes…violence, but we survived. These animals do not survive. They are killed for their ‘personal treasure’ which is then butchered from their faces. It does my head in.’
In 1990 President Robert Mugabe decreed that the plus minus 450 herd of elephants that roamed on the the state land bordering Hwange should never be culled or hunted. In essence, he gave them ‘safe passage’. This was done to symbolize Zimbabwe’s commitment to ‘responsible’ wildlife management. However, this short lived promise was soon to be whipped away and scattered amongst the leaves. The ‘master of illusion’, or ‘delusion’ had been weaving his wicked magic. By 1997, his promise to this special herd was null in void as Zimbabwe lobbied CITES to sell off a stock pile of ivory to China, claiming that Zimbabwe’s elephants now had to ‘pay for their rent’. Licences were then dished out and suddenly Mugabe’s lips were stitched tight on the subject, and this herd’s protection was short lived.
Sharon Pincott, an Australian wildlife enthusiast arrived on the scene on 5th March 2001. Like an angel of mercy, she took this special herd of elephants under her wing. She has spent 13 years with these elephants…dedicating her time and love while monitoring and protecting them. Sharon founded and has run the ‘Presidential Elephant Conservation Project’ since 2001…a long uphill battle all the way. Shadows of corruption and the stench of greed have soured the air, but she had the courage to take a stance…often standing alone as she fought on the side of these elephants. These raw and violent battlefields are now including land claims that have resurfaced in early 2014. Despite a directive being issued in December 2013 by Zimbabwe’s Cabinet that offer letters be withdrawn,the claimont Elisabeth Pasalk / Freeman has totally disregarded these orders and gone ahead to build a safari lodge. She has changed the name of the Kanondo area to ‘Gwango Elephant Lodge.’ She is understood to be an American resident, and the sister of a well known safari operator.
Sharon Pincott has sadly been stunk out. After 13 years of dedication and love to these animals, she has now written her last post ‘Who destroyed the Presidential Elephants of Zimbabwe?’ I read this last post with my heart pounding like a 10 pound hammer against my ribs cage. As a Zimbabwean who is passionate about my country, I again feel fear as it menaces up and against me. What will become of these ambling giants who wear their huge hearts on their sleeve. I can see and smell the bush that echoes with their rumbles and pulsates with their personalities. These intelligent and sentient creatures will have to wonder why ‘their beloved friend’ has had to leave. I feel fear for them as their ‘echoes of harmony are lost in the storm of political currents.’ What an uncertain future lies ahead for them? Like all living creatures in Zimbabwe, they face the threat of falling through the ever widening cracks into chaos. To Sharon Pincott, I wish her well and can only say thank you….You truly have been an inspiration to us all. God Speed.
‘Who will watch over the Presidential Elephants?’ ( My poem…dedicated to the elephants and their human friend.) Thank you to all those incredible men and women out there on the ground…the thin line between our wildlife and ‘the big empty.’ We salute all of you.
When will us humans learn that these elephants, rhino and other wildlife need our protection. We need to ‘Chengeta Wildlife’ . Now more than ever, our rangers need help to fight the fight because ‘when the earth beings grow greedy, the animals will slowly disappear’.
Rory Young is not only a wildlife tracker and activist who has been fighting against the dark and hungry shadows of poaching all his life, he is also a prolific and exceptional writer. Born in Zambia and brought up in different parts of Africa, he learnt to treat the earth well, reading the signs and stories left by different animals and humans in the bush. He managed to blend in with the natural surroundings that had become his playground and feasting on the wonders of nature. The songs and calls of the bush speak to him. The passion for the bush never left him and he decided to make it his life’s work to combat the poaching problem.