United We Stand….

Dedicated to all wildlife enthusiasts coming together across the globe to

stand

Thank you all.

As custodians of this beautiful earth…powerful in our stance

Fighting against extinction….still given the chance

Our lungs exhaling the cool London air

Our combined energy pulsating…as one we share

A passion for these animals and their untamed splendour ….which is ours to protect

Entwined together with nature…..a mutual respect

Across the globe united…an unstoppable force

Doing what is right by these animals

PEOPLE

It is a conscious choice

ARE YOU LISTENING?
DO YOU HEAR THEIR CRIES?

‘Why us?’ the matriarch pleads…sorrow clouding her wise old eyes

‘Is a tusk cursed head enough reason for elephants to die?’

Mystical ivory steeped in greed and fears

A fusion of genes spanning millions of years

Walking with balance and beauty…yet poached for their horn

These animals cruelly left….gasping for life….faces mutilated and torn

Consumers of Rhino horn…..hang your heads in shame

Your demand for rhino horn….inflicting excruciating pain

ARE YOU LISTENING?

A hauntingly lonely road of ghosts…a sea of empty space

Magnificent wild world…disappearing without a trace

PEOPLE

Listen in on their world hear their pleas

No to rhino horn and ivory….a moral decree

Be the change this world needs ….hold your heads high

An echo of harmony…thrown wide to the sky

Teach the children well…they are the future.

Rory Young addressing the crowd in London on 7th October 2017.

Chengeta Wildlife provides essential training and support to the

heroes on the front lines in the fight against poaching

 

The True Cost of IvoryTrinkets

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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.

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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.

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‘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

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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?

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PLEASE DO NOT LOOK THE OTHER WAY

THE RANGERS AND THE WILDLIFE NEED OUR SUPPORT

Chengeta Wildlife

The Tashinga Initiative

MAPP

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.

Footprints

 

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.

blood ivory story

 

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. 

rory young twitt

 

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)

Magical families…human and elephant

I write down all my memories. I explain the serenity and solace of untrampled lands and the pure joy of experiencing the melody of silence. The awe ones feels when in the presence of  wildlife in the bush and the thrill of speeding up an untamed river. This I am doing for my grand children as I weave the threads and play a part in their life journeys.

families

They both know right from wrong and I encourage questions feeling like I need a bigger bra when Kayleigh (6) writes some profound words on life and on passing her little note to her mum, asks her to post it to Africa. While I am teaching them that they are the authors of their lives, and that each day is a new page, my heart pounds like a heavy hammer against my rib cage. Corruption and greed is fast destroying these same links in the fascinating world of elephants.

letter from Kays

I love the erth. It is the most specolest planet ever. Love Kayleigh. I liv in the UK. KBJ loves elees.

This money for the elees. To save the world.

(Took a few repeats from the author and rolling of eyes towards the ceiling when I took to long to decipher her note)

My mum, 85 years old plays a huge part in the family circle. Sadly her links with family members are stretched tight as they span over vast distances as we are now scattered all over the world. She shares her precious memories which offer breath taking glimpses into her past where the pulse of Africa throbbed beneath her feet and the cerulean sky drifts into infinity. She pines for her children, grand children and great grand children living in distant lands, and enjoys the ones who are close by.  Elephants are no different from us.

Humans and elephants have so many things in common: our life span is similar and we have a parallel rate of development, maturing into adulthood from anything between eighteen to twenty five years. Elephants, like humans feel love and loyalty for their families, and have a strong sense of death, pining and mourning just as we do. Like us, they will ‘bury’ their dead, covering the body with sticks and leaves, and returning to the place of burial to pay their respects. They display their deep feelings of compassion, which they have extended to other animals, and humans in anguish. Like our children, elephants need the love and teachings of their elders and it is important for the disobedient calves to be disciplined by these more experienced family members. Elephant calves display the same characteristics as human children and throw tantrums, showing jealous traits towards their siblings, jumping with joy and retreating in sadness. ‘Memory like an elephant’ is a saying tossed at someone with a sharp memory, and we say this for a reason. An elephant’s memory is something to be proud of and they do not forget.

The Matriarch will be replaced by one of her daughters (normally the eldest) when she dies. The intense loyalties, deep love, and caring are fundamental to the survival of the herd and these bonds are forged and built over many decades. Young bulls will leave the herd between the ages of 12 and 15 years. They will either join up with a bachelor herd or lead a solitary existence.

Elephant family units will split, normally due to a shortage of food in the area. These family units remain united, meeting up at watering holes and favourite feeding spots. Meeting up with members from the other unit is also cause for celebration. They begin to call out to each other from a quarter of a mile away. Getting closer, they pick up the pace with temporal glands streaming. Once they have spotted each other, they start to run: a large mass of bubbling exuberance and noisy splendor. Making contact through a swirl of dust, these mighty creatures embrace: ears flapping, tusks clicking, leaning into and rubbing each other: all the while urinating and defecating. Spinning in circles, they encompass the world with their joy and a cacophony of trumpeting screams and rumbles shred the air. Happiness and joyful is their reunion.

The numbing distress in seeing these tortured and mutilated bodies left to rot is a sad reminder that these ‘ivory thieves’ are playing with a different set of rules. We are sitting on the edge of the future and we do not want our memories of these iconic animals to belong to another lifetime.

Again, I ask, choking on the question. ‘How can you desire to own something that is so symbolic of suffering and death?’ I will keep asking this question until I get an answer. I ask each one of you consumers of ivory during these tumultuous times, ‘look deep into the eyes of your mother and your grandmothers.’ Your demand is destroying these magnificent animals. Elephants are no different from us in their understanding of life and family values.

China please put at end to this vile trade. Stop this demand for ivory and stop this callous destruction of these iconic animals.

Elephant families and human families unite and protect in the same way. MY POEM …ODE TO MY MUM AND ALL FEMALE ELEPHANTS

 

 

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.