African Prayer

A sun kissed horizon welcomes the new years dawn

Gilt edged clouds languish….seduced by the warmth of early morn

Sunshine like powdered gold filters through the trees

Tantalising scents drift….buffeted by the breeze

Early morning choruses …..throats swollen with bird song

Thrown to the wind….powerful and strong

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Africa’s tawny pelt ripples….rustling under the wide open sky

Majestic mountains stretch….reaching up high

Midges rise and hang motionless…mellow in the sun

The birth of a new year has only just begun

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My wish for 2017

*****

Swirling whirlwinds and balmy heat

Elephant herds parading…the continent throbbing beneath their feet

Their deep rumbles rolling with resounding applause

Chattering monkeys fall silent…comical as they pause

A crash of rhino….noble heads held high with pride

Tall and stately giraffe with their lolloping stride

Pronking springbok and grotesque baobab trees

Fast fresh flowing rivers undulating with ease

Grunting hippos and barking baboon

Trees swaying gently…dancing to a merry tune

Strutting warthogs…tails like aerials held high

Haunting call of a fish eagle cruising the sky

On wings of spun gold…butterflies soar on the breeze

Basking lizards peer skywards…fearful as they freeze

Slender cheetah….speed on their side

Bad tempered buffalo…lethal horns held out wide

With tail swishing and a deep throated roar

The king of beasts swaggers….menacing and tall

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To all the wildlife rangers….their dedication and valour defined

Their journeys in adulthood gallant…selflessness in mind

Brave in their ongoing battle…protecting the wildlife from mankind

Deepest respect to each and every one of you….and harmony may you find

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Compassion unfurling…..the white dove of peace spreading her wings

May 2017 see darkness fading….as harmony sings

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Rangers risk their lives to protect wildlife….we give them the skills and knowledge needed

to win.

Magical Memories

This poem is dedicated to all those fighting on the side of the magnificent animals

to ensure their survival and place in Africa.

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Magical moments stored within my mind

Reels of memories….never hard to find

Dusty dreams weaving harmonies as they tantalise and tease

The melancholy call of the fish eagle… cruising empty air pockets with ease

Electric skies and shimmering heat

Rain clouds dancing to a random beat

The wide African horizon softened by a flaxen haze

Passionate undulating rivers and sun burnt days

The African bush dressed in russet clothes

Sun kissed pulse between their toes

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An orchestra of nightlife  seducing the fading light

Evening shadows lengthen….creeping into the night

African half moon….shy in the sky

A myriad of stars…like beacons of hope…twinkling up high

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Organza spider webs bejeweled with crystals of dew

A fresh glow of morning enhanced by a golden hue

A land steeped in traditions….and rich with game

Pungent and sticky scents igniting the flame

The fire of belonging raging deep inside

A desire to protect…. our heritage…our pride

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Haunted by  the evening lullaby …..memories of my home

A land where the magnificent animals roam

These wondrous scenes are ours to hold

Ours to embrace and ours to enfold

A new dawn will soon show compassion’s face

Ensuring all creatures…. a safe and everlasting place.

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Trail Of Blood

My jaw drops open and I stand gulping like a guppy.  I cannot believe what I am hearing from my Chinese colleague. Here we are in the 21st centuary and this incredibly beautiful minute woman with her porclain face and raven coloured hair is telling me in her quaint lilting voice that ivory is a status symbol in every good chinese home. I gasp and the air feels hot in my lungs as she informs me she has never given much thought as to how and where the tusks find their way to China. I shake my head and I can feel a frown pulling my eyebrows together.

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‘White Gold’ is maybe what you call it Kim.’ My voice is low and intense, ‘but I call it blood ivory.’ The expression in her dark eyes as they rise to meet my blue stare is blank. I feel soft whispers from the bush and the hair on the nape of my neck prickles. My memories, sweet with the wonder of seeing these majestic giants in the wild wash over me and I find myself staring deep within this Chinese girl’s soul. She is genuinely ignorant about blood ivory. ‘Come, lets go and buy a cup of coffee.’ I hook my arm through hers and we wend our way through numerous tables covered in bright coloured clothes to a corner in the courtyard..quiet and private. I am going to inform her of the human footprints leaving an ugly scar on the land. Footprints that are small in size pointing to the fact that China is driving the demand for ivory which in turn is fuelling the trade that has African elephants poised on the edge of ‘extinction’.

‘Love for ivory is in our blood. It is etched deeply into the Chinese identity.’ Her eyes are downcast and her voice is low. I nod and say nothing. I am confident that by the time we have drunk our coffee this will be one Chinese girl who most definitely will not every want to own any ivory..no matter how deeply etched it is in her identity.

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‘Kim, you need to listen in on their world and hear their desperate cries. 100 of these sentient animals are slaughtered per day to feed the ivory demand. Get caught in the mist that floats, reluctant to lift as muffled screams slice through the air. Allow the stench of gun powder and torn flesh to fill your nostrils. Feel the weight of the trees as they bow down, silent witnesses to the carnage. Cry as the large full term pregnant cow in labour, her full belly encumbering her desperate escape collapses in a heap, her symetrical tusks carving a deep ridge in the ground that is pooling with her blood. With one last convulsive shudder, she finishes off what she had started before the first bullet tore into her face. With her death she expells the miracle of new life which she has nurtured inside for the past 22 months. A small perfectly formed baby elephant lies immobile and defenceless..surrounded by the carcasses of what would have been her family..a family where deep bonds would have been forged over the next 40 years. A feast for those scavengers that will be attracted by the tortured screams and stench of blood carried on the wind.

This is only the beginning of the journey for your ‘white gold’. An elephants tusks are deeply embedded into the skull. You need to stare deep into the unseeing eyes of a slaughtered elephant..eyes that have been blurred by tears and fear. In some cases eyes that have glazed over with agony when the first thud of the axe falls before the heart stops beating. Hear the mournful ballad of the grey dove as death: a foul miasmic presence reaches out over the sun kissed bush of Africa. This is a scene that should be grotesque and offensive to eyes, ears and nostrils..and to those people who buy ivory.  Sadly money talks..and money only talks when there is a demand.

The mutilated bodies of elephants are left behind in the bush but their personal treasures or blood ivory leaves a trail of blood 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.

Inside these factories Chinese carvers, with masks covering their noses and mouths sit hunched over their desks. Under bright artificial strip lights, the ivory tusk lies lifeless. A carver gently runs his hand down the length of ‘dentine’ that is all that remains from a magnificent giant that had proudly ambled under a cerulean sky for close on 45 years, her enormous trunk swinging freely as she communicated with her family members through a series of low frequency sounds that is undetected by the human ear..before being callously slaughtered. Lifting up a tool, he starts to whittle away at the polished tusk and she will be turned into a fancy carved ornament for somebody to pay a kings ransom for.

Today’s modern power-driven rotary saws and dental-like drills have revolutionized the art of ivory carving! Using carving skills perfected over 40 years, the  carvers will painstakingly transform these pieces of dead ivory into sculptures. This could take months or even up to a year depending on the size of the tusks.

‘Going back to what you said about the Chinese peoples love for ivory being in their blood and the fact that it is etched deeply into the Chinese identity, Kim. Sadly.. the Chinese lust for ivory is causing a blood bath.’ I insist quietly, my heart hammering unevenly. ‘Have you every heard of Mr. Zhao Shucong? We need him to acknowledge that when the buying stops..so will the killing.’

Her dark smoldering eyes dart away. ‘I have heard of Mr. Zhao Shucong. He is the head of the State Forestry Admin. He is a powerful man.’

‘Kim, he is a very powerful man. Mr. Zhao Shucong not only approves licenses for the carving factories but also for the bear bile farms, tiger bone wine and much much more. Mr. Zhao Shucong holds the destiny of Africa’s gentle giants in his hands. China and Mr. Zhao Shucong needs to take responsibility for the fact that they are fueling the trade that is decimating African elephants. Here is a petition demanding that China bans all ivory.‘ I whip out my phone and find the page to show her..’I will tag you in it and then you can sign?’

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 Q&A: To Stem Africa’s Illegal Ivory Trade to Asia, Focus on Key Shipping Ports

‘There are three main ports in Africa being used to traffic ivory: Mombasa, in Kenya, and Dar es Salaam and Zanzibar, in Tanzania.These are the people who essentially grease the machine that enables illicit ivory to get from Africa to Asia. 

The report notes that port activity in West Africa surged in the past year. Do you think this trend will continue?

I do, but I think it will be short-lived. Southern Africa is where the trend will go. Elephants are disappearing in West Africa, and the trade is moving east, which is why you see Mombasa and Dar es Salaam as big points of export.

Eventually the real profit will be hitting southern African elephants, which have historically been the most robust populations but will become targets as the trend sees localized extinctions in other parts of Africa.

To see more on these questions and answers …see more

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Kim is shaking her head. ‘I honestly did not know that such huge numbers of elephants were being killed for their ivory. I am ashamed to say that I have never thought about it. Are there people trying to protect these animals in Africa?’ There are no tears. She is far too controlled for that, but I have worked with her for long enough to know that she is upset, and embarrassed at her ignorance.

‘Yes, Kim there are. In Zimbabwe, the country that I come from there are a few different wildlife groups involved and many rangers are murdered through out Africa..frozen in time for ever, just like the wildlife they are trying to protect. Kim, it is sad because these rangers are trying to stop the elephants and other wildlife from being killed so that people can buy ivory and other animal parts. It is not only elephants that suffering, Kim. The rhinos are also being slaughtered for their horn. It has been scientifically proven that the rhino horn holds no magic cures for man. This ivory that your people lust for is shrouded in blood and flames.’

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Chengeta Wildlife

The Tashinga Initiative

MAPP

‘My chosen cause is Chengeta Wildlife and the following infographic has been designed for Chengeta Wildlife with thanks to Joe Chernov, Robin Richards and Leslie Bradshaw. Please share it by any means that you can.’

Rangers and scouts are brave men who risk their lives to protect wildlife. They may face heavily armed poachers, sometimes ex-guerrilla fighters hired by ivory smuggling syndicates. These rangers  need to have the best training and anti-poaching strategy possible and that is what Chengeta Wildlife provide.

one killed every 15 mins

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Elephants, said Young, are the “most magnificent creatures.”

“They can empathize. They’re self-aware,” he went on to say. “When I see an elephant lying dead on the ground, it’s like seeing a friend getting shot.”

But if elephants went extinct, we wouldn’t just be losing an extraordinary animal, we’d also have an environmental calamity on our hands.

“Elephants are a keystone species,” said Young. “They have a profound effect on the ecosystem. If you protect an elephant, you protect the environment and all the animals around them.”  To read More……

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SAY NO TO IVORY

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Up Close and Personal With An Elephant

In January 2014 the cold wet winter was beginning to gnaw at my bones and my feet seemed to be in a constant state of numbness.

‘I am panicking, Gary. My feet are so numb that I can no longer feel the throb of Africa beneath them. I have got to get out and see some wildlife.’ I smile pathetically. ‘I suppose Zimbabwe is not an option?’

We settle on a day trip to Whipsnade Zoo. Our two little girls bob along excited to be out to see the elephants which their ‘Gog’ (me) goes on and on about. Dark brooding clouds tower high and accompanied by an angry growl of thunder, the heavens open and rain like a thick drape has us sprinting for cover.  We stand with our noses pressed against the glassed doors of a restaurant waiting patiently for the sun to struggle through the thick blanket of clouds. Once the heavens stopped scowling down on us and veiled in a gauzy haze we venture out to see the animals.

I have nothing negative to say about Whipsnade Zoo. They do have outside fields to meander through.

However..a lump the size of a green apple is lodged firmly in my throat as I watch the elephants: ‘Prisoners of the times we are living in’ and I feel sad for them.

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Our two little angels are full of starlight, fizzing over with excitment. They have been so close to real live elephants. Real live elephants..I drift off.. a funny little smile shaping my lips and my butt muscles twitch and tighten. Real live elephants in the bush..and a little too close for comfort. I think back to one of our fishing trips in the Zambezi Valley.

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Our small green canvas tent sits like a blot under the large acacia tree. The guy ropes are strung taut keeping us upright in this wild paradise. The dry parched earth rolls down to the vast Zambezi river and small puffs of dust hang motionless in the still afternoon before freckling lightly over the tinder dry vegetation. The expansive river glistens: undulating in the mellow warmth of the late afternoon. A lone vervet monkey stares down from the low hanging branch. With the stealth and speed of a professional thief he shinnies down, grabbing a couple of bananas not a foot away from my chair and disappears into the high branches…raising his eyebrows..and grinning at my dumbfounded expression.

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Warmth spreads like sunshine on my soul. Life does not get much better than this. Squadrons of midges and flies hover with summer laziness, irritating but also a part of evolution’s slow magic.

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On the edge of earth and heaven, the large golden sun breaks free from the brooding clouds bathing the bush in a warm coppery glow.  A solitary bull elephant ambles along the rich banks of the Zambezi river,tearing up grass and hyacinth with his large and rather formidable trunk. His weather worn tusks sweep out in front and although he is close, I focus in on him through the binoculars and can see the deeply incised grass-notch an inch or two from the tip of his right tusk. Bronzed by the afternoon glare and scolded by the fork tailed drongo he is surely one of the most noble and dignified animals in the animal kingdom. He continues to sway as light as a dancer and I feel my heart sink as he disappears out of sight. The air continues to pulse with a subliminal rumble you feel rather than hear. African Jacanas trot lightly over a rich carpet of water hyacinth boasting beautiful blue flowers and I am certain I can hear fish slapping the water. Evening stitches the horizon with the last of its golden thread. The liquid murmur of the river and the evocative call of the fish eagle brings the perfect afternoon to a close. The day has slipped through my fingers.

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The smoke from the mopani fire helps to keep the mosquitoes at bay and we sit relaxed and happy listening to the hippo grunting and a cacophony of frogs and crickets. Africa’s nights are never lonely. Too soon we are lying in our minute tent, fingers entwined listening to the wind flirting with the trees and a distant echo of a throaty roar. There is peace in the solitude and I close my eyes drifting in that wondrous space between wakefulness and sleep.

As tender beams from the African half moon peek gently through the gauze window, the tree above us explodes and acacia pods come raining down. I sit bolt upright as Gary puts his hand firmly over my mouth whispering to me to be quiet. Peeping out the small gauze window of the tent, the most enormous wrinkled and abrasive looking back legs are blocking my view. The bull is leaning his full weight against the tree and rocking it back and forth, his large holed ears folded back onto his massive shoulders. The three foot of thick wiry hair on the end of his four foot tail, all 8 to 10 kgs of it thrashes the gauze window not an inch from my face.  The metallic taste of blood clogs my throat and I realize I am biting down on my lip. Time has stood still. The pungent smell of urine invades the tent as he lets forth with a warm stream that surges onto the parched earth . I am mesmerized as he turns side on rasping back and forth along the tree, his gigantic backside firmly on the guy rope. Our small tent whirs back and forth..feeble in its stance. Rumbling with pleasure, his large trunk swings freely as the finger like nobes on the end fold over the juicy pods and they start the epic journey from tent top to his mouth. This ambassador of the wild appears to cross the moonlight disappearing quietly and with dignity into the dark shadows. Silence returns to the valley and the liquid murmur of the river flows merrily as it carves its way to the sea.

The silence of emptiness hangs..and I turn to Gary with a relieved yet sad grin. ‘WOW’.

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This is Africa’s bush life in all its beauty.

My day at the zoo has been an eye opener for me and I cannot help but compare this day with my experiences in the valley. It reafirms my commitment to do all I can to help preserve our heritage. These enormous animals belong on the land and I cannot imagine a trip to our magical place in the Zambezi valley to find it empty of elephants.

These inconic animals are the essence of the African bush and at present they are being poached at a rate of 100 a day. To those fueling the demand which in turn fuels the destruction, do you have any idea of the chaos and death left behind, rotting in the vast wilderness of sun kissed grass and sturdy trees of Africa.  Please say no to ivory and help to save these magnificent and sentient animals from extinction.  ‘The True Cost of IvoryTrinkets is an infographic in Chinese and English to help raise awareness on the rampant poaching of elephants. This infographic was created for Chengeta Wildlife.

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Chengeta Wildlife is a group of people from around the world who formed a nonprofit organization to support Rory Young and the work he does. He has skills and knowledge that the teams protecting wildlife badly need to protect themselves and wildlife. If enough funding is generated we would like to purchase tactical equipment needed by the teams. Things like night vision goggles, thermal sensing equipment and motion sensing cameras. Chengeta Wildlife is run by volunteers. So far 100% of funds raised have gone directly to the field where it is desperately needed. WE HAVE ZERO OVERHEAD COSTS!

Rory Young and Yakov Alekseyev have written ‘A Field Manual For Anti-Poaching Activities.’ 

A manual well worth reading..and full of information.  This manual provides intense and detailed evaluation of how to decipher even the smallest and at times what might appear to be unimportant detail and encompass it all into the strategy. In the preface they talk about the fact that our existence clings to the fragile towers that are made up of innumerable life forms that we share this beautiful world with. When individual species are destroyed, we change their impact on the ecosystems and eventually the towers will begin to crumble and fall…causing a domino effect. We have to be incredibly egotistical to believe that we can survive without these ecosystems.

Let us ensure that these animals continue to wear their tusks with pride. ( My Poem)

 

Enlightening The Oldies

I love my life here in the UK and feel incredibly blessed to be able to make a living. This journey I am on and the wonderful people I am meeting in person and also through face book  all adds to the excitement of taking a stance against wildlife crime in the best way I know how. I work in an Assisted Living Complex and over the last three years have made time to get to know and respect our residents. I am amazed at how many of them have ties of some sort to my beautiful home country, Zimbabwe.  OF course, the conversation strangely enough gets around to elephants, and at least half of them have had the wonderful experience of seeing these animals in the wild. However, very few of them were aware of the rampant poaching sweeping through Africa, until I started my journey. Since I started sharing my precious memories with them all, I now receive newspaper cuttings, magazine cuttings and all sorts of tidbits concerning Zimbabwe’s beleaguered elephants, rhinos and other endangered species. Sometimes I end up with three of four cuttings of the same article, and I just smile and thank each of them. A few of them call me ‘elephant girl’ which makes me at 55 years of age smile.

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What is the bush like?’ is a question I am often asked and I have to admit that I do feel a painful stretching of my heart.

‘Zimbabwe is a wild garden pulsating with life.’ I again feel the hot dry air rushing into my lungs and the warm sultry heat that saturates every inch of my body. I smile at the memories of the african people with their dark tightly knitted curls, solemn dark eyes and ready smiles. There is not a night that goes by where the setting sun does not whisper a promise for tomorrow and the golden horizons herald a new morning.  The vast blue skies  smile down on this Eden teeming with wildlife of every description.

‘Have you camped in the bush?’ Blue eyes, worn over time stare at me.

‘The morning mist rises with summer laziness and the wild sweet decay of elephant dung fills your nostrils. Our favourite fishing spot in the Zambezi valley is a place that steals your heart. I have slept out side under a mosquito net, all be it with a thumping heart. A myriad of stars light up the night sky and the serenading of crickets and birds lulls you into a deep sleep. A low frequency purr that you can feel rather than hear alerts you to the fact that a gigantic presence is blocking out the night sky. Fold upon fold of wrinkled skin is close enough to reach out and touch. My heart bolts like a runaway train and my mouth is so dry that the inner folds are stuck to my teeth. The earthy sweet odour clogs my nostrils and the elation of being in the presence of an elephant fills me with a life changing euphoria.’ I shake my head, holding this particular memory close to my heart.

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‘You have to see the golden dawn and the hear the liquid murmur of the fast flowing Zambezi river. There is nothing more enchanting than a steaming hot cup of tea and a vast river to leave you with summer contentment and idle thoughts. The grunts from the aquatic ballet dancers (hippos) as they frolic in the water ,watchful and at times bad tempered. Along the bank the old dugger boy (buffalo) slurps thirstily, a mean look in his rheumy old eye. He is a walking smorgasbord for the tick birds that in turn provide him with a free bug and tic cleaning service.’ I smile. ‘You have to hear the baboon cursing each other with loud angry barks. You have to see to appreciate the weaver bird nests decorating low hanging branches and African skimmers and white fronted plovers. Mosquitoes, sun creams, biltong and beer all form a delightful partnership with camping on the Zambezi river. Beware the crocodiles with their slit eyes and lethal jaws.’

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I continue to enthuse, my eyes lighting up and burning as bright as the African sun. There is a powerful pulsing of African through my veins as I think of this vast continent. My eyes dull as I think of the troubles facing the continent. A continent that is also weeping. The continent with an emptiness at her centre that I find disturbing.

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I tell them that behind every piece of ivory there is a story, a bloody barbaric story. I talk about the callous way these animals are slaughtered and left to rot in the sun. We talk about how sentient these animals are and what it does to young animals who witness these fullscale killings.  The plight of the rhino is also a subject that is foremost on my mind. I tell them about Thandi the rhino and show them the link. Then we also talk about canned hunting and the fact that these lion cubs are hand reared for shooting and I can see these old folk shake their heads, a horrified look in their eyes.  

‘You are doing a good job.’ They tell me. 

‘Thank you, but I need to do more.’ Is my reply. 

An arthritic hand with dry crepe skin reaches out, cool to the touch and a gentle voice brings me back to the present. ‘Thank you for sharing those precious moments with us.’ She coughs gently, clearing her throat. ‘Who will look after these places that you describe? How many animals are left now? It is such a long time since you were home.’ 

‘There are so many amazing people out there putting their lives on the line to protect this heritage.’ I pull out my phone and show them the photos of Rory Young and Chengeta Wildlife. (Their face book page. Please like and share.) I tell them that Rory has already volunteered much of his time in providing much needed training to wildlife protection teams. Violent groups in the region have now started to look to the ivory trade to fund terrorist activities. Rory is implementing a full time, comprehensive training program to provide the rangers with the resources they need to carry out their important work and has now formed a partnership with  ALERT. 

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It is a life changing experience for the rangers who are witness to the ‘desolation’ long after the poached animal has unburdened its enormous wrinkled body into a spiritual updraft of lightness. Sadly for these animals death does not always come in a single violent stroke.

For me, I am going to continue to raise awareness on the plight of the elephants, rhinos and other endangered species through my poetry and blog. The Baobab, A silent witness (my poem)

Running For Elephants

What an awesome day we had yesterday. The plum dark sky and grumbling thunder could not dampen our spirits. When the heavens opened on our arrival at Wimbledon Common, I nearly burst a gut on seeing the photograph that Gary had just taken. With my elephant suit hanging in loose folds, my Zimbabwe flag sitting comfortably on my patriotic shoulders and my granddaughter’s ‘hello kitty’ umbrellas shielding me from the stinging needle like rain, I looked a sight.

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As more and more elephants arrived, ambling with loose gaits onto the field, the air was quivering with the magic that only doing something good can bring. After a warm up session of the plus minus 300 strong herd, the first group of runners were shepherded into the starting blocks and a joyous countdown echoed off the pregnant dark clouds and then they were off.

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Five minutes later and it was our turn: another countdown and Gary took off, heels kicking up small splats of mud that attached to my damp elephant skin. A wide grin plastered his face and the race had begun. Between laughter, sliding in the mud and more than a few gasps for air, we galloped our way around the first lap. Overtaking some of the more wrinkled of elephants, we would give each other a cheeky grin before exploding with mirth as the younger and more experienced runners left us in the dust.Footprints We puffed and panted our way around the 2nd lap, relieved when the finishing line crept into view. With heart pounding and speeding along at a fast walk, I crossed the finishing line inches ahead of Gary and I am sticking to that version of the story. Punching the air with enthusiasm as I had beaten him but more so because we had raised £450 for The David Shedrick Wildlife Trust in Kenya, I felt a great sense of achievement that we could do our little bit for these animals that I am so passionate about. On the day £27 000 was raised collectively and as this was the first ever ‘Enormous Elephant Run’, I am hoping that the event will grow with each passing year.

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I briefly met Benjamen Kyalo who has worked with the orphaned elephants at Ithumba for the past 10 years, since the inception of the Ithumba Unit. I was truly humbled by his passion and love for these magnetic animals. We did not speak for long as there was a queue forming, all eager to have a word with this dedicated man.Wishing him well and thanking him for his selfless devotion, Gary and I rid ourselves of our damp elephant skins and made our way home with tired muscles and smiling hearts.

The festive atmosphere of the fund raising event did not take away the seriousness of the rampant poaching sweeping through Africa during these dark days. A tragic misty veil surrounds these iconic animals as their numbers continue to be wiped out to fuel the unquenchable demand for ivory from the East. The David Sheldrick Wildlife Trust was founded by Dame Daphne Sheldrick. Her story is one of courage and determination which spans over five decades of elephant husbandry. She is a truly magnificent woman: one of the worlds best of the best and a true conservationist. She abhors destruction and hatred and is able to connect with greater things and greater understandings. I along with many others salute her.

Born from one family’s passion for Kenya and its wilderness, the David Sheldrick Wildlife Trust is today the most successful orphan-elephant rescue and rehabilitation program in the world and one of the pioneering conservation organisations for wildlife and habitat protection in East Africa.

Founded in 1977 by Dr Dame Daphne Sheldrick D.B.E, in honour of the memory of her late husband, famous naturalist and founding Warden of Tsavo East National Park, David Leslie William Sheldrick MBE, the DSWT claims a rich and deeply rooted family history in wildlife and conservation.

The DSWT has remained true to its principles and ideals, remaining a sustainable and flexible organisation. Guided by experienced and dedicated Trustees and assisted by an Advisory Committee of proactive naturalists with a lifetime of wildlife and environmental experience, the Trust takes effective action and achieves long-lasting results. Please log onto their link : www.sheldrickwildlifetrust.org and you will be amazed at how many young elephant orphans have been raised and re-introduced to the wild.

Today is my birthday and I have chosen to sponsor an orphan elephant called Kamok, who is eight months old and already showing signs of being a mini-matriarch. http://www.sheldrickwildlifetrust.org/asp/orphan_profile.asp?N=299 : Kamok.

Kamock 22nd 5.2014

I chose Kamok because her story of being abandoned pretty soon after birth broke my heart.

She is called  Kamok, a name taken from Ol Pejeta Ranch. Given that her umbilical cord remained soft and fresh, and the pads on her feet where clean and hardly used and her ears petal pink we took the precaution of assuming this calf had never received her mothers colostrums and transfused plasma from a full grown healthy elephant into her tiny body to ensure she had some natural antibodies. This happened while she slept on a mattress covered in a blanket and slept, exhausted from her ordeal.

My poem today is called ‘Survivors’.

Rangers vs Poachers

I often think back to the day when I was told that there was absolutely nothing that I as an individual could do to help in this continual fight against the evils of poaching. All to often we close our minds to the blood red streaks that mar our African landscape. While the world watches, the images of butchered animals, bodies slightly bloated and legs suspended up in the air leap out of the computer or television, eyes staring unseeingly: pleading for somebody to take notice.

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I cannot sit and do nothing. I feel their pain and anguish and beg all of you, ‘courage does not always need to be a huge roar.’ I started jennysjumbojargon in November 2013 with the thought of putting into words through poetry about the continual attack on these animals. I describe the pain and torment that these creatures must feel: this flanks me, the acrid smell of gunfire and the metallic taste of blood that clogs my throat. This is not a violent storm that has bullied its way into the African bush. This is a dark menacing chaos of greed, corruption and destruction. These ruthless killers are turning the African bush into a wild sweltering inferno, flames devouring any animal with tusks or horns. These animals are being hemmed in by a force of angry heat and unrelenting attacks. At the rate these pachyderms are being poached, mortality shadows them and it does not matter how large or small their personal treasure.

I would love to be in a position to stop the demand. All I can do is to share work done by others, support all the wildlife groups and leave that enormous part of the problem to those that have clout. Yao Ming and Jackie Chan are doing amazing work to raise awareness in the Asian countries on the plight of the African elephants and rhinos.

Footprints

And then of course we have the good men on the ground. Those bush warriors who put their lives on the line to ensure the safety of the wildlife.

It is a life changing experience for the rangers who are witness to the ‘desolation’ long after the poached animal has unburdened its enormous wrinkled body into a spiritual updraft of lightness. Sadly for these animals death does not always come in a single violent stroke.

rory young twitt

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.

“I found that the very people who had knocked back the poaching in the 90’s were now old, or were replaced with younger, less experienced people who had grown up after the liberation wars and counter insurgency operations of my generation and who had had no training or experience in the very skills needed to win. Very few could track properly and almost none knew how to follow-up poacher spoor as an effective team. Furthermore, the will to win was gone and there was no money because there was also no publicity about what was happening.”

Africa needs many more teams on the ground, doing the actual anti-poaching work. Without them there is really no hope.

Rory has already volunteered much of his time in providing much needed training to wildlife protection teams, but violent groups in the region have now started to look to the ivory trade to fund terrorist activities. Rory is now seeking to implement a full time, comprehensive training program and provide the rangers with the resources they need to carry out their important work.

Rory Young paper

Chengeta Wildlife.org was started by Lisa Groenweg of Rock Valley, Iowa.

Chengeta Wildlife is a group of people from around the world who formed a nonprofit organization to support Rory Young and the work he does. He has skills and knowledge that the teams protecting wildlife badly need to protect themselves and wildlife. If enough funding is generated we would like to purchase tactical equipment needed by the teams. Things like night vision goggles, thermal sensing equipment and motion sensing cameras. Chengeta Wildlife is run by volunteers. So far 100% of funds raised have gone directly to the field where it is desperately needed. WE HAVE ZERO OVERHEAD COSTS!

Like Lisa, we too can do our bit to help combat the horrors of poaching. Collectively, we can ensure the continuation of Chengeta Wildlife’s ability to adequately train and equip the necessary new generation of rangers required to assist the continuation of the circle of life in elephants within their natural habitats in Africa.

Some people may think it is too late, but where there are elephants and other wildlife….there is hope. Let’s all give a growl of thunder. (My poem)