The Stain Of Shame

‘How can you look the other way?’ I feel my voice trembling with emotion and my heart threatens to leap right out of my chest. ‘You can’t tell me that there is nothing that I can personally do in regard to this poaching.’ I stare long and hard at my colleague.

A pair of dark blue eyes stare at me from over the desk. ‘Do you think that you are making a difference?’ I detect a scornful amusement creasing her mouth. ‘Do people read what you are writing?’

‘Please sit for five minutes. I want to share something with you.’ I dig deep into my computer bag, and push a photograph towards her. ‘Have a look at this.’ A disturbing image of a small herd of mutilated and bloated elephant carcasses jump off the page. I watch as a look of distaste and horror flashes across her face, and then the curtain comes down and she looks away. I turn the photo face down, tapping her arm to get her attention and begin to talk, my voice low and full of emotion.

‘An ancient life force pulsates through the trees snapping branches in the sun fried bush. Pausing momentarily, the matriarch sweeps her powerful trunk across the sky inhaling the sweet breath of the balmy wind, her large tattered ears fanning the breeze. Rumbling gently, she encourages her herd to follow as she leads them over the raw African earth into the warm sticky evening. Under the grotesque limbs of the ‘listening tree’ (baobab) she halts, her muscles taut and her insides trembling. The smoke from a mopani fire teases her senses and the whine of flies shreds the quietness. She can smell humans and feels lonely and vulnerable under the African sky, aware that mortality is shadowing her and the herd.  The last solitary finger of sunshine catches her beautiful tusks, causing them to glow with warmth and life before she turns in the her quiet way, alert and ready: protective of her family.’

I look up and her blue eyes are fixed firmly on mine.

‘The ‘kkkkkkkkkk’ growl of automatic gunfire slices the air. Elephants scream in fear and agony as they are cut down with alarming precision turning their peaceful world into one where they are crushed under the heels of supposed civilization. Heartbeats on the run as bullets slam into vulnerable flesh and trees explode in the cross fire. The matriarch lies gasping for breath, heart pounding with fear and her lungs heaving as she struggles for life. Her death gargle bubbles through the trees where the bodies of her magnificent family lie strewn through the bush, their wounds weeping and bleeding onto the dry raw soil. With her death a deadly quiet descends: disturbed only by the victory cries of the humans who approach, axes in hand and hungry for the ‘white gold’. They view the carnage of a family mown down and left among the bullet shells…with nothing more than blood lust in their eyes.

A small calf peers out from the thick jesse bush. With heart bashing against her ribcage and shaky steps, she settles near her mother’s body, her small trunk caressing and feeling, desperate to wake the large elephant. From the deep bush, the hysterical ‘whoop whoop’ of the hyena announces their scavenging  arrival. The large tree with its peeling bark stares down…a silent witness to the evenings mayhem.’

I have been totally lost in my narration of this tragedy unfolding and become aware that my colleague is crying. She dabs at her nose with a tissue and stares at me.

‘Where did you get all that information about the elephants in that photo from?’

‘That scenario is what is happening to elephants throughout Africa. They are being slaughtered in their hundreds. One hundred a day are being killed …and all to make jewelry and trinkets.’ I stare at her. ‘For me to look the other way…I can’t.’ I feel my face burn. ‘The Stain of Shame..is what I call it.’

 

Footprints

20 000 elephants were poached in Africa last year and this figure far exceeds the rate of growth. Southern Africa is fast becoming the last stronghold for these sentient animals on the continent.Tens of thousands of miles away, carvers are carving these pieces of  ivory into ‘art work’ to feed the demand for trinkets and jewelry. Each carving represents the above scene and consumers need to become aware that behind every intricate piece of carved ivory, there is a story……a bloody barbaric story.’  For those that are lucky to survive these attacks..there can be serious injuries.

blood ivory story

To those fueling the demand which in turn fuels the destruction, do you have any idea of the chaos and destruction 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 12th August represents world elephant day. Let us all stand united and avert a huge tragedy. Have a look at this link….‘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.

Footprints

Humans: stop being so preoccupied with you. We appear to be unable to comprehend and feel compassion for the other sentient creatures that share this valuable planet with us. We are now being forced to look at ourselves. I know that I find myself apologising on behalf of humankind and feel an excruciating shame at the way the wildlife is being destroyed I do not believe that we hold exclusive rights to dignity and freedom…

Banning the sale of ivory for retailers in China…would…halt the trade. Banning the sale of ivory for carvers in China..would mean a vanishing of what they call a ‘unique art’. Banning the sale of ivory for elephants represents LIFE….they are not to be turned into ‘Melancholy Figurine.’ (My Poem)

Footprints

The Land Of The Elephants

I was reading somewhere that one should align oneself with the wisdom of nature! So getting as close to nature as I can …I lie flat on my back on the spongy green lawn staring up at the pale blue sky decorated with thousands of wispy vapour trails. A bumble bee whirs slowly past droning close to my ear. I close my eyes ignoring the bumble bee imagining instead the indigo hues deepening through the African bush as daylight wanes. My mind marches along to Africa’s timeless rhythms wondering what has gone wrong in this intricate web that we call life. Squinting up at the diaphanous vapour trails, I speculate on the fact that once man has ruined this planet, that maybe with all this modern technology and transport, thinks we have another planet to go to?

Footprints

I stop my mind from marching and pull my thoughts close. I need to think about something that makes me feel better. I sit bolt upright. No…the goal is not about feeling better. It is about getting better at feeling. It is about compassion and justice. These are two words that many world wide seem to lack in.

Why is it that a continent blessed with riches and natural resources has blood flowing into the rivers? Corruption and greed: my mind feeds on this information, chewing quickly and swallowing. This I already know, and it gives me indigestion.

Footprints

How is that the ‘dentine body parts’ from these magnificent and sentient creatures ends up in countries far from where they belong. I feel myself choking with emotion and a stomach churning weightlessness. My dad died in a country far away from where he was born due to political upheaval and a touch of corruption. I remember how I could see beyond the cheerful exterior… sadness had a firm hand on his shoulder, but with a bright smile he would always maintain that he was one of the lucky ones. I always worried about dad’s ashes as I know deep down that they do not belong here in this country. (His ashes are buried in a huge pot and I have planted a tree.) They belong back on Ferndale farm Umtali/Mutare in Zimbabwe where he was born, and although he did not farm the farm, he loved it and all those that lived there with his whole being.

Tusks from these sentient creatures also do not belong on somebody’s table or mantle piece thousands of miles from where they come from. They belong in the land of their birth….and on the land. (I know I am an idealist).

I watch a plane whizzing past and I imagine that there could be contraband in the hold. Do the people who create the demand have any idea of the bloodshed this demand is creating? (infographic for Rory Young and Chengeta Wildlife).

A huge thank you to Joe Chernov, Robin Richards and Leslie Bradshaw for creating the infographic for Rory Young and Chengeta Wildlife.

Ivory carving has a history of 5 000 years according to archaeological studies. These carvers are desperate to keep the art of carving alive, claiming that they have tried to combine wood and ivory, ox and camel bones but nothing can compete with ivory. Yes, the carvers work is intricate but it lacks the life and luminescence that one gets from ivory where it rightly belongs: on an elephant. How can they hope to achieve something beautiful from something that is so symbolic of suffering and death. I do not believe they can.

Coming from Zimbabwe, I do not believe that anything can be more beautiful or real that sitting quietly watching the fire of dawn bursting over the horizon and lighting the way for a herd of elephants. One cannot describe the elation of being in an open air amphitheater where fingers of sunshine caress your cheeks and the sweet smell of buffalo dung fills your nostrils. DEAD IVORY does nothing except symbolize ‘death’. Southern Africa is where the big five roam. This is where elephants amble past with the lightness and grace of dancers. This is a wild paradise with limitless skies and a rugged beauty. This is where survival of the fittest should be the rule of law..but greed and corruption are ruining this natural world where the land pulsates with a subliminal rumble that one feels rather than hears. This natural world is being desecrated and the demand for ivory, rhino horn and other animal parts is out of control.

China, please do not allow the demand for ivory to wipe out an entire species. The only enemy our African bush and her wildlife riches has to fear is man..the biggest and most lethal predator. I continue to lie flat on my back staring up at the sky. Where do we go from here? I roll over onto my stomach and flicking open my folder, I continue to read ‘The Field Manual for Anti Poaching Activities’..written by Rory Young and Yakov Alexseyev I take a deep sigh feeling my heart hammering a little faster. Yes there is hope out there. We just need to get this manual out to every anti-poaching ranger.

This book is an absolute must for those who do anti-poaching work. It is an intriguing read for the lay person who wants to understand how skilled professionals deal with dangerous criminals in the bush.

 

rory young twitt

 

We also need Governments to take responsibility before it is too late. I am sharing a link to this must see interview with Rory Young from Chengeta Wildlife. Rory is on the ground and gives a clear overview of the current catastrophic levels of poaching. A passionate plea for action rather than words. Rory, thank you.

China, please put a stop to the demand for ivory. Do not let this become The last Call of The Elephant’. (My poem)