Celebrating Elephants On World Elephant Day

In an explosion of gold the sun caresses the new dawn

A symphony of bird song seduces the mellow morn

Silken spiderwebs as delicate as gossamer lace

Kissed by the sunshine in this magical place

Elephants herd running

Elephants full of unwavering honesty amble into the light

Bronzed by the sunshine….a magnificent sight

Mystery behind their wrinkled visage….a powerful life thread

The steaming earth pulsates with each massive tread

Deep elephant grumbles rolling like thunder on the sultry morning breeze

Flaxen dust hangs motionless… freckling russet leaves

Their grey coats wrinkled with passing time and wear

Eyes full of wisdom, compassion and……despair

Their Africa shaped ears thrown out wide

Versatile trunk tenderly cherishing a dusty calf shadowing her side

Sweet smelling elephant dung….steamed warm in the afternoon heat

Iconic giants of Africa…..light as dancers on their large padded feet

Amber eyes reflecting the warmth of the late evening glow

Magnificence on these giants….our maker did bestow

Mystical ivory steeped in greed and fears

A fusion of genes passed down over thousands of years

Large wrinkled rumps roll from side to side

An impenetrable wall of tusk and muscle…..they are Africa’s pride

shutterstock_69997750

Whispers from the elephant world in their darkest hours of need

Time is of the essence….consumers of ivory take heed

A world without wild elephants…..my mind veers away

Let us celebrate these majestic animals

on World Elephant Day

indian elephants image

Celebrating the spectacular Indian and Asian elephants today

chengeta wildlife iage for calender

Thank you Rory Young and Chengeta Wildlife for your continued

training and support to the heroes on the front lines in the fight against

poaching.

Moonbeams Spill Gently…..

let us do right by these animals with watermark

Draped in coats of grey wrinkles….silent ambling treads

Creamy scythe like tusks… bejewelling proud and noble heads

Ancient souls….warmth surrounding their hearts

Matriarch and daughters bound together….until death do they part

Mystical ivory steeped in greed and fears

A fusion of genes…passed down over thousands of years

Powerful free swinging trunks….large ears fanning the breeze

Magical auras surround them and music in the trees

Fighting for the species is long overdue

Tuskers as majestic as mountains….we are left with but a few

chengeta wildlife iage for calender

Guardians of the bush…hearts beating to a powerful thrum

A growl of thunder in them stirs and there is a battle to be won

Sharing their knowledge with rangers….and educating the East

War on the scourge of poaching and destruction….

Sadly Africa’s beast

chengeta wildlife iage for calender

We train those who are wildlife’s first line of defense against poachers and poaching syndicates.

chengeta wildlife iage for calender

I pray for an Africa where….

Moonbeams spill gently….a soothing silvery light

Peace spreading gentle wings….blessings in the night

A whispering wind and the prayer it sings

Soft echoes in the dark and the hope it brings

Midnight’s mantle hung with a myriad of stars

The endless heavens shining down…on the wildlife… from afar

A fiery sunrise bathing the morning in aureate light

Warm lingering scents melting away…the cool of the night

An eagle celebrates…cleaving the air way up high

Overflowing shadows of content under the electric blue sky

chengeta wildlife iage for calender

Many battles for freedom…still to be fought

Saving Africa’s wildlife from this tragic onslaught

Future Custodians

shutterstock_197286104 ellies to clip art

A feeling of warmth embraces me despite the chilly blustery breath of winter that leaves frozen kisses on the nape of my neck. Pushing my hands deeper into the toasty pockets of my warm coat I quicken my steps, bending into the wind. I smile brightly at the two young students who bounce up to the playground gate to welcome me in with twinkling eyes and cheerful voices. I wend my through the noisy happy silence shredding playground into the warmth of the reception area where I sign in before rubbing my numb hands, trying to get the blood circulating. I am met by the lovely teacher, Rebecca who also greets me warmly and we both disappear down the corridor and into the bright and uplifting classroom.

I take a seat allowing my eyes to roam around the room enjoying the colourful artwork beaming down from the walls…..a little piece of every child’s personality brightening up the room.

Footprints

‘I really want to go to my extra maths lesson.’ I can hear the pleading in his voice. His shoulders sag in defeat at the gentle but firm response.’

My heart flutters madly in my chest….’No pressure.’ I whisper to myself. I always did like a challenge and hoped that this young boy would enjoy the afternoon. My tongue suddenly feels a little dry as the inner folds of my cheeks glue to the roof of my mouth. I can feel 23 pairs of mischievous eyes on mine as a shy ray of sunshine breaks free from the gray cloud and spills gently through the classroom window. These children had spent precious time that morning looking at ‘Chengeta Wildlifes’ website, and watching and listening to a clip of Rory Young talking about the problems facing our wildlife….and they are ready for me this afternoon.

rory young twitt

I start to talk, knowing that I need to grab their attention within a few words. I lead them back in time to my first memory of seeing a dead elephant and I can see their eyes widen in surprise and shock and despite the sound of my voice, I can also hear the veld gently breathing and feel the warm sun embracing my bare arms.  Almost an hour later we are still discussing not only the magnificent African elephant but Chengeta Wildlife, my blog and the different words and phrases I use to appeal to my readership.

This class of hungry minds fill me with unblemished optimism. They are the future custodians of this magical planet that we all share. If I can help them to see as the eagle sees, we will improve our impact on this world we call earth. Two hours of lively interaction with these wonderful young people is like balm for the soul and again I cannot talk highly enough at the quality of teaching and the respect shown to me by the children.

little ellie - big ears

I take great pleasure in sharing three short essays with you all. Megan (9), Ben (10) and Amelie (11), and I can feel my heart bursting with pride…such incredible insight, depth and wonderful powers of description from all of them. Ben, I am pleased to say…stayed with the class….he did not go to his extra maths lesson and has written an amazing piece of work. Please enjoy and feel free to comment as they will be reading this blog.

rory young cause

Megan (aged 9)

Do you need ivory ornaments?  No. People don’t need to kill elephants for beautiful jewellery, because there is already something beautiful out here. To kill a whole elephant just for its tusks is cruel. These creatures are heart-warming and have emotions too. There are only 400 000 elephants left in Africa and one hundred die every day. We need to act quickly. If this carries on, I’ll be telling tales of when elephants were alive when I’m older. I don’t want to do that. I want to tell tales of how we managed to save the elephants from near extinction.

When I saw a clip of elephants helping each other to get the baby out of the water, I realised how much like humans they are.  Some elephants policed the area whilst others guided the baby out of the water. It was amazing how elephants worked as a team, just like we would if we were trying to get a baby out of the water.

shutterstock_197286104 ellies to clip art

Ben (aged 10)

Why do elephants deserve to die?  They don’t.

So why do we kill them?  So that some rich person can wear an ivory trinket.

Over one hundred elephants die every day due to greed and poaching.

Poaching is a monstrosity that should be stopped.

When the matriarch, the leader of the herd dies, the rest of the herd may go delinquent, meaning that they will run and destroy villages, causing the whole herd to be shot, and why? All because one poacher shot a wizened old elephant for a tusk.

Imagine that you are in the bush, imagine that you wake up in the morning, to find this: I fall to my knees, tears falling down my cheeks, an elephant, stone dead at my knees. Halfway up its flank is a small round hole. Its tusk is gone, and this poor creature is dead, and why? I look up, squinting my eyes into the bright early morning sun. And to my horror I see lying on the horizon the body of yet another dead elephant. I swear that I will come back here, for the elephants of Hwange need our help. For they are declining, one every fifteen minutes.

shutterstock_197286104 ellies to clip art

Amelie (aged 11)

Why do elephants deserve to die? They don’t. These heart-warming creatures have strong emotions but now unfortunately have to watch every step they take along the scalding dusty ground. As most of us now know, one hundred elephants die every day and fewer are born.

Plodding along, the elephants police their young, making sure they are following the almighty, knowledgeable leader, guiding them to the next safe stop.

At their next stop the young elephants have hungry minds and venture through the unknown canopy of trees that haven’t got their exotic green raincoats on because they have been scolded by the forceful sun. Once the youngsters stop they dance and skip around like young children in the playground.

As for the teenage elephants, left alone they are a delinquent gang, chilling in the sun, squirting cool refreshing water over each other.  Soon after their fun stops for the wise old elephants are ready to start their next trek into the exhausted horizon.

Whilst on their trek the leader picks up on danger warnings echoing all over Africa’s deserted plains.  These valuable elephants can pick up a warning from a very far distance, a bit like humans and their mobile phones.

After the warning, despite being gentle creatures, these grey, wrinkly animals are prepared to fight in one big mass of power, making great swirls of gold dust. I can now see why Jenny is hypnotized by these tremendous animals.

shutterstock_197286104 ellies to clip art

I now look forward to my next visit to this magical classroom where I will be reading and looking at their ‘blogs’. How exciting is this?

Only by listening can we hear the desperate cries from the ever declining population of wildlife. Become part of the solution….look at our ‘Chengeta Wildlife’ website, like our Chengeta Wildlife face book page, share it and help if you can.

Chengeta thumbnail

Ensuring A Future

little ellie with trunk up

I was approached about six weeks ago and asked if I would be prepared to share some descriptive writing passages from my Jennys Jumbo Jargon with a class of 9 to 10 year olds during their English lesson. I was thrilled. I spent roughly two and a half hours with this class full of hungry minds and I was captivated by Rebecca’s teaching methods and how responsive and inter-active the children were.

This coming Wednesday 25th, I am going back to this same class of children to talk to them about my blog, elephants and Chengeta Wildlife. We will then read through a couple of extracts from a few of my blogs and discuss their purpose, how they persuade and the different choices of vocabulary etc. I am beside myself with excitement at sharing my passion of Africa’s untamed splendour where earth drifts into heaven, elephants and of course Chengeta Wildlife…which I am honoured to be a part of.

One only has to look at the shrinking natural world to know that something has gone sadly amiss. This group of children that I will be spending time with are a minute part of the future and as custodians of the planet they need to embrace kindness and respect towards this earth. I have been privileged to grow up in this timeless land and can close my eyes at any given time and smell the sweet breath of the warm wind as it scoops up the flaxen dust before freckling it over my sun browned arms. I can listen carefully and hear the veld gently breathing before the silence shredding cicadas fill the afternoon. The feeling of awe and heart pounding joy of being in the presence of elephants as they rumble past leaving you with a warm musky scent of Africa filling your nostrils is tucked away safely…and brought out for those quiet times. There is a joy and curiosity in the delicate sun rays peeping through the wet canopy of trees and I am hoping for the same results from these kids on Wednesday.

I want them to close their eyes and fall under the spell of these ancient beings…to surrender and to be encompassed by the invisible aura that surrounds these magnificent animals and to share and feel their presence even though we are 7 000 miles away. I want these children to feel the magic that these animals exude as they reach deep into the human soul in a mysterious and mystifying way.

shutterstock_43147813

Elephants are the largest land mammals on earth and also the most emotionally human. The breeding herd of females are led by the matriarch, a wise mature female whose herd rely totally on her experience, memory and good leadership to survive. These breeding herds will live and form bonds that are forged over fifty years and once the matriarch dies, the leadership is normally passed onto one of her daughters who has learnt the necessary skills to take on this important position in the herd. Their intricate and complex family values rival our own and these enormous creatures carry their large heavy hearts on their sleeves. The noisy exuberance and trumpeting of baby elephants at a waterhole will mirror the behaviour of a group of young human children in a play ground as both species tussle and push…overjoyed at the freedom of space and sunshine around them. Compare a sulking 10 year old elephant to a sulking 10 year old human…there are such close similarities in the rate of growth and behaviour of the different personalities in both species. The joy of a new family member and the gut wrenching sorrow of death affects both elephants and humans in the same way. There is something special and endearing about elephant calves they exude the very essence of life.

We will discuss the evils of this rampant destruction sweeping through the sun kissed bush of the Continent devouring these magnificent animals and other wildlife with the hunger and ferocious appetite of a Tsunami wave. Plants and all living creatures are functioning parts of the ecosystem and nature should be our teacher….and our guide. I will see the frowns on their little faces as I tell them that 100 elephants are killed every day..frozen in time… forever. This amounts to one every 15 minutes…all slaughtered for ivory bracelets, trinkets, chops sticks and carvings. We will examine the ‘true cost of ivory trinkets’. We will have a brief look at how the poaching is breaking the continuity of information that is passed down through the generations…information that is vital to the well being stability of the herd..

I will explain that I spend so many hours of my spare time writing my blogs and poetry as I cannot sit idle…pretending that this tragedy is not happening. Apathy is the biggest danger facing these sentient giants and other endangered species.

Training rangers in Malawi

The class will have spent time before my arrival having a look at the Chengeta Wildlife website. I will discuss the fact that Rory is a dad of two who is passionate about the wildlife and dedicated to preserving the African biodiversity. Rory has the knowledge, skills and ability to train the ‘anti poaching units’ in the different African countries enabling these rangers to confront the horrific and urgent problems of poaching head on. He is a selfless man driven by an urgency to share his knowledge to protect….not only the wildlife but the rangers themselves whose lives are at risk from these violent and ruthless poaching syndicates whose eyes are steaming in their own malice.  I am on Chengeta Wildlife’s board of directors and a part of our mission is to raise funds to enable Rory Young to share his knowledge and skills throughout Africa. We are an important part of creating a future for these animals…ensuring that your children will not be asking in 20 years time why elephants, lions and rhinos are only found in zoos.

These children will then discuss any other environmental challenges needing attention..deforestation, plight of the polar bears in the Arctic and I will be sharing some of their work with you all in the near future. Wish me luck and please keep sharing our Chengeta Wildlife website. Wednesday will be good practice before our presentation at a Rotarian dinner in March.

WE ALL HAVE A VOICE…HELP TO RAISE THE AWARENESS. YOU TOO CAN SUPPORT CHENGETA WILDLIFE.

Tree Of Life

shutterstock_246839812

‘Why do you call this strange looking tree the ‘Tree of Life?’ A pair of deep blue eyes twinkle as she stares up at me.

‘Sit.’ I pat the cushion beside me, ‘And listen carefully.’

‘The enormous baobab tree reaches out embracing the golden warmth of early morning Africa. The leaves shimmer as delicate sun rays bathe the bush in a mellow coppery glow. An echo like a mystery surrounds the magnificent tree…a tree that plays a special role in the African bush. With a trunk and branches that are twisted like powerful tendons of the veld, the mighty baobab boasts of being the most handsome and strongest of all trees. It has a network of roots that worm their way so deep into Mother Earth that they can feel the quiet, and the baobab can still quench it’s thirst when all around…the veld is parched and dying. With flowers that bloom at night and roots that survive deep within the darkness of the earth, the baobab has good reason to boast that it alone can bear the weight of the sky and clouds.’ Her little face is totally focused on mine.

‘Myths or legends would have us believe the arrogance of the baobab with its boasting ways angered the Gods…and they decided to teach it a lesson. With the strength of Hercules, the Gods yanked the startled baobabs, tearing their roots out from deep within the earth and replanted them upside down. Hence the strange look of the baobab today.’

With her mouth forming a perfect ‘0’ and her eyebrows arched liked question marks, ‘Did the Gods really do that to the trees?’

‘No…I don’t think so…but again,’ I raise my hands and wiggle my fingers at her, ‘I was not on earth thousands of years ago and they say it takes 800 years for this magnificent tree to reach maturity.’ I have lowered my voice to a whisper. ‘But, the earth and trees do play music to all those that listen.’ I lean forward.

‘What stories do they tell, Gog?’ A small frown furrows her brow.

shutterstock_197286104 ellies to clip art

shutterstock_144078826

‘The baobab has ears and hears many secrets. It smiles down on many miracles of nature that happen daily and also frowns down on some of man’s menacing ways. These trees see and hear everything. They are privy to ‘the miracle of birth’.  (a clip of an elephant birth in the wild.) The baobab’s branches quiver with anticipation as the female elephant bears down, a grimace of pain crossing her expressive face. Agitated and excited, the female herd push and tussle forming an impenetrable wall of tusk and muscle around the new born as she lies vulnerable and gasping her first breath of precious life giving air. Temporal glands flow as the tight knit sisterhood encourage the baby with their powerful and versatile trunks onto her large padded feet. These noble animals are the essence of Africa…they are the soul of Africa, ancient and strong…just like the ‘Tree of Life’ who relaxes with a contented sigh.

shutterstock_108835637

These same branches tremble as only hours later….an evil life force pulsates through the trees snapping branches in the sun fried bush. The smoke from a mopani fire teases the matriarch’s senses and a squadron of flies shred the uneasy quiet. She is suddenly full of fear and aware that mortality shadows her and the herd. Heartbeats on the run as the trees explode in the crossfire and the elephants lie torn and dying in the dust. (An old headline…but the attacks on these animals is constant.) The small calf, only two hours old…settles near her mother…unsure and bleeding.’

The baobab is bereft. It has been put on Mother Earth to sustain life. A single tree can hold up to 4 500 litres of water. The soft fibrous flesh and bark are fire resistant and can be used to weave rope and cloth. 80% of the trunk is water…a valuable source of liquid during the long scorching droughts. The leaves and fruit provide high levels of vitamin C, vitamin A, calcium, iron and potassium. The tree gives of itself to animals and humans alike.’

Her eyes are huge and full of tears. ‘So the Tree of Life is a good tree?’

‘Yes, and that is why it is called the tree of life. It teaches us all a valuable lesson but sadly there are many who don’t listen. We all want to grow good strong roots like the baobab, and give life…not take it.’

shutterstock_217742686

‘Is that why you work with Chengeta Wildlife? She asks and my heart sings because she gets the gist of the story. I nod vigorously.

‘Trees are the lungs of this wonderful planet and without them, we cannot breathe. Being a part of Chengeta Wildlife helps me to breathe.  Chengeta Wildlife reminds me of the Tree of Life as it is a force for good and I am part of a solution to ensure that elephants, rhinos, lions and other endangered wildlife will continue to leave their marks on the sand. The only difference is that the Tree Of Life is a silent witness to the miracles of the bush…and the carnage…but we have a voice.’

She takes my hand, squeezing it tight. ‘ I want to be a part of the solution too.’ She smiles.

girls with their tee shirts

You too…can be a part of the solution…take a look at our website.

CHENGETA WILDLIFE

Don’t be a silent witness

Nosey.. The Zimbabwean Elephant

Brushstrokes of summer streak across the sky as I walk barefoot on the beach, my toes enjoying the soft sand. The scudding clouds pit against the wind in a never ending battle and the rhythmic pounding of the waves is hypnotic and relaxing. I can leave the noisy Durban traffic behind. I love the constant movement of the ocean and the taste of salt that lingers in my mouth. I feel as carefree as one of the sea gulls, floating in the empty air pockets high above the world and Gary and I quicken our pace, laughing as we try not to disturb the sand where the ocean kisses the shore leaving the beach clean until the next wave. Leaving the beach, we wander up towards a large car park as I have spotted a blue and white marquee and presume it is for a wedding.  As we draw nearer we realize it is a ‘big top’ and we decide to investigate further.

ellie clip art

I feel my stomach churning. A thin green canvas pergola keeps the scorching noon sun off the hunched back of the swaying elephant. Her coat of wrinkles hangs off her shoulders and her muscular and versatile trunk swings back and forth: a pendulum of time passing slowly. A blue plastic bucket is half filled with water and standing within reach of her sad trunk. The tarmac is hot beneath her spongy feet and she lifts a leg, stretching it backwards easing the pain that shoots up to her hip. Her noble head hangs and her large Africa shaped ears fan the stifling heat and there is a look of desolation about her: hope dying slowly. Hour after hour is spent chained to a stake as she waits for the next performance in this man made jungle of hooting traffic and redolent fumes. I am heart broken and find it difficult to tear my eyes away. The thin green pergola, a poor substitute for shade when I think of the African bush and its towering trees. My mind screams at me. Where had this elephant come from? I think of her family and that thought transports me back into the valley where we would see the same small herd of elephants fishing trip after fishing trip.

shutterstock_38496709

Bathing the bush in a soft coppery light, the shadows, warm and mellowed by the afternoon sun lengthen as the silence shredding cicadas fill the air. Thick canopies adorn the sun scorched trees and the small herd of elephants rumble gently as they feed on the soft fibrous stems and bark of a mighty baobab tree. The matriarch naps gently, her large versatile trunk thrown casually over her creamy tusk and her rather tattered ears circulating the warm breeze. Her long tail swishes, swatting away squadrons of whining flies. Small calves caked with mud mock fight, their small trunks locking as they tumble onto the dry earth…over a 1000 lbs of combined weight puffing dust up into the air where it hangs motionless like a gauzy curtain before freckling gently over the bushes.

We sit drifting in the stream of the world, silent witnesses and sucked in by the magic that surrounds these magnificent giants. Earlier in the day, this same small herd had been bathing downstream and we had tied up the boat and spent an hour entranced by their unblemished optimism for life. They had done a fair amount of mileage since the early morning and now once again we were being offered a brief glimpse into their world of compassion and love that they feel for each other.

As the last rays of sun weave their golden threads into twilight, crickets with acoustical wings like gossamer lace welcome the gentle evening breeze. The silent footfalls of the giants merge across the twilight and as they disappear from sight, they steal another gigantic chunk of my pounding heart.

ellie clip art

My heart is still pounding..but for different reasons as I drag my mind back from my reverie. I keep turning to look at the sad and lonely elephant..ashamed of what these humans have done to her. A couple of hours later I am drawn back to the big top and we can hear the discordant tinny circus music long before we catch sight of the twinkling lights. I stand on the perimeter watching people flocking towards the open flap of the big top, my mind searching through the murk for something positive to say about this elephant’s predicament. I could only shake my head and wonder how we as humans can justify an act that turns a majestic animal into a ‘performing monkey’. Elephants do not sit on stools. As a gust of wind flings a handful of stars into the night, I turn away feeling helpless..but I make another silent promise to an elephant. I will never support a circus and I will always fight to ensure that these magnificent giants are kept out of the ‘big top’ and out of zoos. That was fifteen years ago and I am fulfilling my promises to these elephants. (petition)

NOSEY THE ZIMBABWEAN ELEPHANT

NOSEY

This brings me to Nosey the Zimbabwean elephant. My heart aches for Nosey. I have witnessed what her life should have been like. I will continue to put my name on all petitions concerning this animal whose loneliness ebbs and flows. While afternoon shadows stroke the horizon gently, Nosey’s solitary lifestyle in enclosed quarters reeks of neglect. She should be drinking in the beauty of the Zimbabwean bush, reaching her muscular trunk up to the sky and embracing the wide open blue freedom above her. Instead she is found limping and faltering in her gait: noisy humans on her back.

I read he r story and a storm of memory has my mind lost in a trance of golden sunsets , sultry breezes and a small elephant herd ambling along the banks of the fast and formidable Zambezi River. This could be where Nosey’s (petition)family had once enjoyed the solace of un-trampled lands before human induced tragedy had ripped her family apart. I will keep writing and fighting for these animals who deserve our respect. A new dawn must surely show its face..but..until it does, please help Nosey by signing this petition.  Let us ensure that this beautiful creature can retire to an elephant sanctuary where she will form bonds with her own kind.ellie clip art

The True Cost of IvoryTrinkets

ellie clip art

The mist floats reluctant to lift, noiseless as it crawls up and over the roof tops. A drowsy murmur floats in the air as the grey morning creeps in, slow and languid. I pick up my copy of ‘A field Manual for Anti-Poaching Activities’ written by Rory Young and Yakov Alekseyev and lose myself in the information.

On page 32…232 of the manual:

New Contacts:

‘Normal citizens often require a ‘nudge’ before taking action’.

I stop reading and with my finger tracing over these powerful words, I smile thinking back over the reasons why I had become involved with raising awareness on the plight of the elephants. There are many different reasons. I have spent untold weeks of my life romancing the African bush and elephants, richly endowed with all the better attributes of mankind have ambled through the twilight and past our camp many times, their low rumbles capturing my imagination and my heart. As the early sunrise explodes over the horizon and the breeze caresses the early morning dew, my heart is at one with this sun baked land of extremes and I live for the next moment when I will become aware of that low frequency purr that you can feel rather than hear as these giants ghost into view. As the bright golden sunshine cradles the end of another exciting day, and that special woody smell of mopani smoke lingers on your clothes, Africa, in all its wildness, harshness and beauty would be like an empty shell without elephants, rhinos and other endangered game.

ellie clip art

Dedicated to all those brave rangers fighting for the endangered wildlife

I have such a huge admiration for the men on the ground. They are fighting against vicious gangs of poachers..ruthless hardened men. African elephants are being slaughtered at an alarming rate to satisfy the soaring demand for ivory among China’s middle class. Hundreds of rangers have been murdered in the defence of endangered wildlife.

When long shadows and weary strides signal the end of a sultry day, these brave men and women have to rid themselves of the dark hungry presence and repugnant odour of death that clings long after the spent cartridges and freshly mutilated elephants or rhinos have been found. They patrol the sun kissed bush which has turned in a raw and violent battlefield. As stars cool down the darkest sky, the rich smell of evening and fire smoke keeps squadrons of mosquitoes at bay as the young ranger squats, drunk with fatigue and deep in thought as he stares into the rich red smoldering coals. A couple of small children with their somber brown eyes and tight knit curls rough and tumble in the dirt. Puffs of dust freckle lightly over their ebony cheeks. A tinkle of laughter erupts from these two bundles of concentrated energy reminding the young ranger that there is some normality to life despite the constant reminder of this poaching war. The nightmares, set like snap shots in his mind will sneak up on him later in the dead of night. Pulling the two children close, he ruffles their hair..now is family time.

As the morning lays a gentle hand over the peaceful valley, the bush is coming alive with early morning songsters chorusing from the trees. The young man picks up his weapon and laying a gentle hand on each small head, he waves them goodbye stepping out and disappearing into the early shadows of the bush to join his fellow rangers. 10 kilometers further down the river line a small herd of elephants feel the throb of the valley beneath their feet. They have left behind a night full of hovering moths and a galaxy of mosquitoes. Their large trunks swing freely and they are fully engaged in the  beauty surrounding them. Two small calves are being raised within this warm and loving environment and their confidence is obvious as they frolic with exuberance and noisy splendour. There is always a large muscled trunk caressing or guiding an infant through the swirl of dust. Gentle rumbles vibrate on the breeze and there is a feeling of calm. The matriarch has led this herd for 25 years now and her daughters are learning the journey through her memory. They are a close knit family group.

shutterstock_94150924

‘KKKKKK’ the angry bark of automatic rifles explodes and the sky bursts open. The small herd of unsuspecting elephants are hard hit and they crash one after the other into the dry parched earth, their tormented cries piercing through the early morning. The small calf loiters, frightened by the chaos and by the thick odour of blood and smell of gunpowder. She has no where to run and no where to hide. With her small heart hammering she reaches out with her trunk, tentatively smelling and prodding her mother whose eyes stare..unseeing. She has been frozen in time. The small calf is the sole survivor..all that is left from this loving herd. There is a silence of emptiness and melancholy hangs. The trees stand, witnesses to the carnage as the silence shredding cicadas once again saw the air.

Using axes the poachers work quickly to remove the tusks before evaporating into the bush, their blood stained shoulders bearing the brunt of their ill gotten gains. The young ranger and his group have heard the shots and are moving towards the killing grounds, their expressions tense and their brows furrowing with concentration and it is a couple of hours later that they stumble into the nightmare of torn flesh. Stopping briefly, they decide on their course of action, and picking up the tracks, they follow. They track for a few hours and covering a huge distance. The young ranger, a deep anger burning within his chest did not stand a chance. The poachers came upon him all silent and menacing..a phalanx of ruthless killers. His untrained follow up had him walking straight into their ambush and into automatic fire. Fortunately for them, his colleagues who were lagging way behind, stop to help him and once again the poachers slip the net.

She looked stricken, shrunken and immensely old as they laid him gently down onto the sheet on the floor of the room. Two pairs of huge round eyes swimming with tears peer out from behind her garish skirt. He will never lay a gentle hand on their heads again.

finished kids

ele greyscaled

 

The air is no longer filled with shouts of laughter, giddiness and urgency. Outside, the blood red streaks of twilight are fading fast. Under the grotesque limbs of the listening tree, the small elephant calf, the tip of her trunk stained rusty red stands dejected and lost. The empty skies stares down. Two families from two species have lost loved ones…. 

The mutilated bodies of elephants are left behind in the bush but their personal treasures or white gold 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…all in the name of ivory trinkets. 

China…this is the tortured scene of desolation and loss..the true cost of ivory trinkets. Lives are being destroyed by the unquenchable lust for ivory.  China..close down the ivory carving factories.

rory young twitt

For anti-poaching activist and forestry expert Rory Young, his passion for saving the African elephant from deadly poachers involves this detailed field manual and arming local teams with firearms to combat what he calls, “well-armed, ruthless and experienced gangs of poachers.

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.

I had been lost in thought and once again look down on the ‘Field Manual for Anti-Poaching Activities’ manual sitting on my lap. I feel for these men on the ground who are struggling in this poaching war.I cannot sit and do nothing: I can describe the pain and torment that these animals experience and raise awareness through my writing and poetry. However, I need to do more. This is not a violent storm that is bullying its way through the African bush. This is a dark menacing chaos of greed, corruption and ruthless killers who are turning this sun burnt bush into a wild sweltering inferno: flames devouring any animal with tusks and horns. At the rate these animals are being poached: mortality shadows them.

‘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.’

WHAT CAN YOU DO?

Chengeta thumbnail

PLEASE DO NOT LOOK THE OTHER WAY

THE RANGERS AND THE WILDLIFE NEED OUR SUPPORT

Chengeta Wildlife

The Tashinga Initiative

MAPP

Mt. Kili Madness, Cricket and Elephants

More people have been into space, or sailed single-handed around the world without stopping than have managed to play a competitive game of cricket above 5,100 m.

The warm friendly wash of early morning will offer a bright promise of a brand new day. The day, 20th September 2014 is a day that the cricketing world will never forget. A day that the world will remember as two teams of intrepid ‘cricketers’ will start their seven day hike up Mount Kilimanjaro where they will take ‘cricket to new heights.’

Mount Kilimanjaro is not only the highest peak on the African Continent, it is the tallest free standing mountain in the world. In isolation it rises up and beyond the clouds. This breath taking mountain towers over the savannah below. Reaching a commanding height of 5 895 m, it is a paradise empty of modern trappings.

shutterstock_79657924

These cricketers, over seven days will ascend through a virtual climatic world tour as they leave the warmth of the tropics, climbing heaven wards and into arctic conditions. They will climb through five vegetation zones on their ‘Kili Madness quest.’

At the start of their journey, they will pass through the cultivated zone (800- 1000m). Here the liquid murmur of rivers echos as merging streams are formed from the glacier run off on the mountains. Coffee is grown on the foothills of Mount Kilimajaro.

From 1800 – 2800 m they will meander through the deepening glades of forest where they will enjoy the pulpy damp: a smell that reeks of age. Surrounded by huge wooden giants, their knotted arms reaching skywards towards the light as they battle for survival, the two teams will wend their way along a well kept trail. Blue monkeys, colobus monkey, olive baboons, civets, leopards, honey badger, porcupines,and other small furry animals remain elusive and are seldom seen, but their presence will be felt as small urgent footfalls scamper out of sight into the deep undergrowth. Their cricket bats could come in handy when defending themselves against the honey badger!!! This critter is not as sweet as it’s name implies and has a reputation, like these cricketers for being the most fearless on the block. Folks beware, make sure the cricket balls are safely out of sight !!! Use the cricket box for protection as these animals are renowned for their habit of going for the balls.

shutterstock_155943392

The striking black and white colobus monkeys will feel your presence as you walk below. They live in the tree tops in small groups and because they eat mainly leaves, they seldom leave the safety of their skyscraper branches. If the cricketers are lucky, they might be privy to a spectacular gymnastic display as these monkeys leap from tree to tree, their white capes and tails streaming. Mystical vines, hidden eyes and the braying call of a silvery cheeked horn bill or cheerful chatter of the mouse birds will stay with them as they climb through the lush rustling foliage and past the magnificent watchful sentinels of the forest: the trees. They will also be lucky enough to remember the guttural purring roar that echoes through the green forest, a distinct territorial call of these magnificent animals and a reminder that the black and white colobus monkeys, although not seen were there.

shutterstock_192358556

From 2 800 – 4000m will take these adventures into a different world. A world where heather, wild grasses and a rocky trail will replace the pulpy softness of the forest. The many grasses that grow here are as beautiful as they are useful in protecting the soil and conserving the moisture.

The two teams may see two types of buzzards cruising the empty air pockets overhead. The Angur Buzzard is a large hawk with curved wings reddish tail, and an underside that is either predominately white or black.  The Mountain buzzard is similar in appearance to the Angur buzzard in shape and size but it is brown. They might also be privileged enough to experience the aerobatic display by the Lammergeyer. The Lammergeyer is a rare vulture with long wings and a wedge tail. The Lammergeyer has a habit of soaring to a great height and dropping a bone onto the rocks below to break them.

At this height delicate clouds will drift past at eye level. At the upper end of this zone, the dark night will be hung with a myriad of spectacular twinkling stars turning this world into a surreal and peaceful place.

Zone 4 (4000m – 5000m) will lead them through a strange and quiet place. This Alpine desert region receives little rain and plants find it difficult to survive. A dry and desolate landscape where they will be buffeted by strong winds and steaming day temperatures. They will be surrounded by signs of volcanic activity as they fight their way through small volcanic rocks and huge boulders for as far as the eye can see. They will now be close enough to see the vast glaciers that cling with tenacity to the deep barren gorges on the slopes and the breaches in the crater rim.  This visual is a reminder of where molten lava once bullied its way through during ancient volcanic eruptions. Here woolly caps, mittens and arctic sleeping bags will be needed as night time is ushered in with plummeting temperatures.

As morning ghosts into view, the intrepid climbers will ascend to the summit (5000 – 5895 m). Which ever route is taken, they will feel a sense of awe being in that spectacular space between earth and heaven. Glaciers will greet this team of adventures who have a reason for being on the highest mountain in Africa.

They will descend into the crater which is 360 m across and 120m deep. Here ‘Mt Kili Madness’ will take place.  In the crater’s lunar like landscape a Flicx pitch donated by Richard Bhegin from FlicxUK ltd will be rolled out. Stumps set up and the T20/20 match will begin.

 

To qualify for World Record status, the two teams must play a game of T20. Both teams will have to do so after a challenging seven-day climb, risking altitude sickness – a feat which 30% of climbers fail.

Organiser David Harper added: “Playing at the top of Mt Kilimanjaro will bring a world record to Africa, raise significant sponsorship for three very worthwhile charities, and help raise awareness of the harm that poaching is doing to wildlife across the continent…as well as allowing me to indulge my fantasy of playing against some high quality international cricketers.”

What has this got to do with Elephants? I can hear the questions. Well today’s  blog is about celebrating the human spirit. These two teams of cricketers have set themselves a huge task… an ask that will take cricket to new heights: all in aid of raising funds and awareness for three amazing charities. They will also be breaking a world record.

Tusk: a dynamic organisation with over twenty years of experience initiating and funding conservation, community development and environmental education programmes across Africa. 100 elephants are being killed a day in Africa, and time is of the essence. Rhino are also being slaughtered at an alarming rate and now is the time to act. Please have a look at their Just Giving Page to raise funds.

Cancer Research: A cause that should be close to all our hearts.

Rwanda Cricket Stadium Foundation (RCSF)
Building a future for cricket in Rwanda, fundraising on a not-for-profit basis, the first dedicated international cricket ground in Rwanda on the outskirts of the capital, Kigali.  This year is the 20th commemoration of the Rwandan Genocide. It is hoped that the ground will look towards Rwanda’s future, providing a venue to help build bridges between individuals and across communities, in a country that still bears the scars of this most tragic and divisive period in its history.  Cricket is the fastest growing sport in Rwanda, all teams, all ages, all backgrounds.

Virgin Money Giving is dedicated to raising funds for all three charities

Please like their face book page  Mt. Kili Madness and help them to raise the awareness on this massive undertaking. Follow the lead up to this event and help to celebrate in the human spirit by sharing the links with friends.

Currently the world record for the highest recorded game of cricket stands at 5,100 m which took place at Base Camp 2 of Everest. We plan to play at 5,785 m which will be a huge physical achievement and will undoubtedly raise much interest, coverage and support. The expedition will set off on Saturday 20th September for a 7 day hike to reach our chosen pitch. The wicket will be laid, the stumps will be set up and the cucumber sandwiches will be cut in preparation for a game of 20/20 in the crater of one of the most magnificent mountains in the world – Mount Kilimanjaro.

 The victors of this match will be crowned the ‘King of the Mountain’ and the losers….after pulling their hair out, will hang their heads in shame before been made to carry all the kit down!!  The Flicx pitch will then be donated to a Tanzanian school or club to help further this amazing sport in this country.  Please like their face book page and help them to spread the awareness on this massive undertaking. Follow the lead up to this event and help to celebrate in the human spirit by sharing the links with friends.

Survivors

To be asked to play a minuscule part in raising funds for The David Sheldrick Wildlife Trust fills me with a great feeling of satisfaction. It does not matter how small my part was: I just need to do all I can to help raise awareness on the plight of the elephants. I will continue to do so until some sanity prevails.

I am so passionate about helping these animals that I accepted a request to read one of my poems at a ‘Charity concert’ held in Leatherhead, UK this last Friday night. I accepted the invitation with alacrity promising that Gary (my husband) and Mikaela (my daughter) would attend with me and that one of us would recite the poem, leaving myself some cowardly leeway. They both refused. I felt a stomach churning weightlessness at the thought of standing in front of an audience. No amount of begging and pleading could budge either of them, although on a couple of occasions, I could feel them caving in before hardening their resolve. After cursing them both in a petulant voice, I wrote and practiced my poem, learning it off by heart. I also put together an image to be displayed on the screen, by purchasing some images from Shutterstock and superimposing one photograph on top of the other.

As Friday drew closer, I knew that for me, the evening was going to be a little like ‘eating the frog’.  The drive down to Leatherhead was done in relative quiet, as I went over and over and over my poem, pronouncing each word and trying to neutralize my Zimbabwean accent. When my turn came, my mouth felt so dry that the inner folds stuck to my teeth and the muscles in my butt were as twitchy as a sea anemone. Snapping up the paper with the poem as I had at the last minute decided to play it safe, I walked as slowly as I could to the front of the hall, trying to control my heaving heart and shaking hands.

jenny's survivors pic

My poem is called SURVIVORS and here is a video clip of me helping to raise some funds for this worthy cause. I could feel my cheeks glowing like the ripest of strawberries as I warbled my way to the end of my poem. I was so proud of myself as I had done it. Sliding back onto my chair, I felt a great sense of satisfaction as a young man tapped me on the shoulder, and on turning, I could see the tears in his eyes. ‘You made me cry’, he smiled.’ That was a beautiful tribute to the orphan elephants at The David Sheldrick Wildlife Trust’.

I grinned back at him. ‘Thank you’, I said, ‘That is exactly what I wanted to achieve.’

I was then able to sit back and relax as talented people took to the stage with their different acts and all under the umbrella of raising funds for this awesome trust. My video clip has not been done professionally but it shows that every person can do their little bit to help these iconic animals.

Magical memories

One pair of piercing violet blue eyes and a pair of pecan nut brown eyes stare entranced, their young healthy bodies as still as statues and cupie mouths rounded into ‘OHS’ lending a charming and naughty look to their gorgeous faces. Little starfish hands stretch out clasping mine as I lean closer… thinking once again, how blessed I am. Their eyes never leave my face as I lead them back in time to a perfect summers afternoon under the shade of an enormous Msasa tree with its heavy spreading boughs and stately crown of green. An afternoon where I was serenaded by an insect lullaby..drowsy warm dreams and happiness that I will share with them both.  Stories that are set in my memory like snap shots. These two wonderful little girls are learning all about ‘the magic of Africa’ and all her wondrous and magnificent animals through their mum and myself.

little ellie girls

 

With lush green lawn cushioning my stomach, I stretch out feeling the throb of Africa pulsating beneath my belly. Dino, the tame guinea fowl, her electric blue wattles wobbling pecks happily, disturbing small midges that amplify into an overpowering hum in their quest to keep away from the lethal beak. With her brown helmet and large dark eyes, she is magnificent. Hand reared as a small chick, she has imprinted on me rendering me half Guinea fowl in her eyes, and this causes much amusement to my family who have crowned me, ‘the old bird.’

toffee and Dennis

 

Dennis, our three month old wild bush pig roots in the deep shadow of the flower bed. Every couple of minutes he peers out between the enormous green leaves of the agapanthis plants, the upper hard edge of his snout crusted with mud and his piggy slanted eyes softening as he focuses on me, his ‘mum.’ ‘ ‘The old bird’ cross ‘sow’, I am not to sure on this. With gentle snorts vibrating his small frame, Dennis trots over, suctioning his flat nose onto my arm and staring at me with love sick eyes. My two boxer cross biches inch in closer, their tongues lolling out as they pant, serene, calm and mellowed in the late afternoon warmth. A sliver of sunshine, delicate as a spiders thread weaves through the thick canopy of green, highlighting all that is important to me in our garden of Eden on our farm in Zimbabwe. Mikaela slides down next to me and I hold out my hand, laughing merrily as ‘Tsungu’ (a lesser bush baby), as light as a feather sits on my palm and clutches my thumb with his sticky hands. Tsungu has been hand reared by Mikaela after he had fallen out of the ‘nest’.  A quaint little animal who is part of the primate family and very much an extended member of ours. Many hours have been spent searching and catching insects to satisfy this feisty little critters appetite. Moths, short lived when seen by Tsungu as they are his favourite snack. Long fingers, as quick as lightening and the entrapped moth would have its head bitten off by sharp little teeth. Tsungu, licking his lips would then suck all the liquid out. Not the best table manners in town.

Tsungu

The resident hammerkop, his large unattractive head cocks to one side eyeing the dogs, guinea fowl, Dennis the pig, Tsungu and ourselves with a cautious look, before lolloping over to the fishpond to see what is on offer for an easy snack. I sit up breathing deeply and turn to watch this enormous bird lean over, his long neck and beady eyes still as the frilly goldfish glint beneath the surface and butterflies float and whir majestically in the warm afternoon air. My heart is full to brimming with happiness and my reverie and story telling comes to an abrupt halt as two little voices penetrate. ‘Tell us about the elephants’ their eyes sparkle with enthusiasm and their chirping makes me smile. ‘Did you have an elephant?’ they know the answer but can’t help asking the question.

‘No….I don’t even like elephants.’ I tease chuckling as I get an explosive reaction.

close enough to count the wrinkles

‘No, I did not have an elephant.’ but I have seen elephants in the valley and on the shores of the Zambezi river and also at Kariba. I have seen them up so close that you can count the wrinkles and hear their rumbles as they amble through our camp site, flicking up dust with their large flat feet and fanning the breeze with their ‘African continent shaped ears.’  However, you have heard those stories.

I smile gently at them both. ‘Come’, I stand, ‘today I will take you to a magical place…a place where there are elephants, rhinos, buffaloes and other animals. Your mum went to school with the daughter of these people. This is a place where animals are offered a new lease on life.’ I turn, clapping my hands with excitement as we go through to the dining room. Switching on my beautiful computer (donated to me by a special person when I started my journey with Jennysjumbojargon) and typing in a link, I press enter and take them on an exciting  journey through cyber space to Imire Game Reserve in Zimbabwe.

rhino and Judy

I slowly flick through the photos, drooling at how happy and settled their elephants look. Large free swinging trunks and gentle eyes as they lope away, swaying and kicking up dust, dust that I love and miss so much as they disappear into the dry bush. Pictures of Judy Travis feeding a rhino. A heartwarming story of Tatenda an orphaned rhino, Pogs an orphaned warthog and Tsotsi, a hyper hyena all living with their human family. The Travis family have made it their lives work to give rescued animals a home here. At the heart of this hub is their ‘black rhino conservation project’ where for 20 years they have been breeding these critically endangered animals and releasing them back into national parks. Sadly, with the ongoing threat of poaching John and Judy have a daily battle to keep their animals alive.

I turn to our precious little girls

‘Do you want to see more?’ Both heads nod vigorously and I type in another link. Well now, come and have a look.  There is Nzhou who was orphaned when poachers killed her mum. She is now about 46 years old and lives with the herd of buffalo on the farm. She is the Matriarch of the herd and although she towers over her family of buffalo, she is happy. Judy has now given up trying to get her back into the ‘elephant fold’ as it were.

One last thing to show you before our cyber journey finishes. I type in another link and press enter. A short video clip of the elephants at Imire.

Well that has been an hour of Zimbabwe, telling you about some of the little creatures that I loved on our farm to Imire Safari Ranch. My heart feels a little empty when I am finished, but then I look at these two little faces, and reaching down I place my hand on Sadza Badza Luke (our little foxie cross) and I know that I am happy..a little short on animals but still happy. I will continue to show them and share with them ‘My Zimbabwean Dreams’ (My poem).