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

 

Taking A Stand

 Take a stand for African Elephants and Rhinos

Within months of starting my Jennysjumbojargon journey, I realised that I did not want to be seen just as someone sharing ‘yellow pages of smudged memories’..I needed to be doing something more active. Words can be inadequate without any action. One of the highlights of the year for me was coming across Lisa Groenweg and Rory Young.  I had found and become totally involved in reading Rory Young’s blog.  ‘Anomie’s Child’ for me was like a soul open wide to the breeze and I read and re-read many different stories, embracing each of my favourites. There were times when I could feel the frustration gripping the words and sadness gnawing at the end of each sentence. Even from thousands of miles away, I could hear the passionate wind snaking through the grass while the throb of Africa pounded beneath my feet and the earthy, musty richness of fresh elephant dung lingered in my nostrils. It evoked warm memories of the vast wilderness of sun kissed grass, sturdy trees and elephants that had been tucked away for safe keeping and I realise that I am a passionate child of Africa..through and through and I will do what ever it takes to ensure that Chengeta Wildlife can continue to provide first class training to the anti-poaching units on the ground. Take a stand for African Elephants and Rhinos.

Lisa

Lisa is an amazing example of how one person can make a huge big difference. She was described as ‘A visionary with a heart of gold‘. A person who wants to change the lives of each and every individual she can.’ She started Chengeta Wildlife and 2014 has been the most incredible year. Like Lisa, we too can do our bit to help combat the horrors of poaching. Collectively, we can ensure the continuation of Chengeta Wildlife’s ability to adequately train and equip the necessary new generation of rangers required to assist the continuation of the circle of life in elephants, rhinos, lions and other wildlife within their natural habitats in Africa.

 one killed every 15 mins

‘In January of 2014, Chengeta Wildlife financed our first training session. 21 APU scouts from five different organisations in the Gache Gache area of Zimbabwe were trained by Rory. Many poachers were tracked, found, and arrested during the training session. Rory spent eighteen hours a day training and patrolling with the men. The strategy to stop poachers in the area was laid out in detail. With numerous other African countries expressing an interest, this initiative could potentially offer a significant boost to the continent’s success in reducing poaching.
‘A Field Manual for Anti-Poaching Activities is the most comprehensive, intelligent and pragmatic doctrine ever devised to bring the practice of poaching under control. Further, this doctrine utilises existing local resources and personnel with objective and low cost solutions.  50% of all proceeds from the sale of this book will go directly to fund anti-poaching unit training and to provide anti-poaching unit rangers in Africa with free copies.’
Across Africa the scourge that is poaching is removing natural resources at an unprecedented rate. The southern African nation of Malawi is no exception to the hugely negative impacts of poaching on biodiversity and the natural ecosystem processes that sustain both people and wildlife. Starting at the end of August the African Lion & Environmental Research Trust (ALERT) and Chengeta Wildlife, supported by the UK’s Coventry University, partnered with Malawi’s Department of National Parks & Wildlife (DNPW) provided 20 days of anti-poaching training to senior staff working in Malawi’s national parks and wildlife reserves. The training was held at DNPW’s training centre in Liwonde National Park, located south of Lake Malawi.
Malawi trainees and Rory Young during “in-operations” phase of our anti-poaching training session. Poachers were arrested and an entire ivory poaching syndicate was taken down.
This training session was funded by individuals from around the world who decided to take a stand against poachers and the criminal syndicates that are making billions from the illegal trade of wildlife.
Another busy day in the lecture room at Sidokoro, Parc National de Haut Niger, Guinea.The theory phase has been amazing. From Director General level down to AP team leaders, from all over Guinea, the work is being taken very seriously and the discussions have been animated and indicate a high level of motivation and the determination to make the most of the opportunity.
‘This year we have managed to train over 120 DG’s, Directors, Wardens and Anti Poaching team leaders in West, Central, East and Southern Africa, in advanced anti poaching and wildlife protection strategies, techniques and skills.The men trained this year alone are training another 750 that we are currently aware of. But how many more will benefit? What will be the knock on from all of this? Incredible. Thank you again from the bottom of my heart to all of those who have supported Chengeta Wildlife this year. You really have achieved the
impossible.’
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The biggest highlight of my year was being approached by Lisa Groenweg and asked to sit on the Board of Directors. I am passionate about what Chengeta Wildlife stands for. Rory Young is an amazing and selfless man who gives strength in these times when lengthening shadows of corruption and greed are devouring the wildlife at an alarming rate. Chengeta Wildlife’s 2015 calendar is full to brimming with engagements. As 2014 has now closed, we need to continue to weave a future for these rangers and animals from a tangled past and we need all the help we can. Please look at our link and help if you can. Sharing the link is fundamental in reaching our fundraising target.
Rory Young is a passionate and committed activist who has been fighting the evils of poaching all his life. He is a dedicated man who has decided to make it his life’s mission to ensure that the rangers in the anti poaching units have the best possible training. Rory has been in the field for well over 20 years now and has honed his skills in the bush as a pro-safari guide and a top class tracking consultant. 
While Rory Young gives of his time to train these men throughout Africa, I am asking you to look at our website. Help us to train and equip these men on the ground. Change will come…but we cannot afford to drift in the stream of the world…we need to act now. Africa’s elephants and rhinos have reached tipping point…and we need to all play an active role so that we can lead them out of the dark.
To my Chinese readership, I thank you and sincerely hope that I have managed to convince you that ‘Ivory looks better on elephants’ and ‘Rhino Horn belongs to Rhinos.’ (Infographic gift to Rory Young and Chengeta Wildlife).
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Elephants Helping Elephants

I watch as her old arthritic fingers fight with the small silver needle and sun burnt thread on its epic journey of stitching up the elephant cushion. She takes a deep breath. My eyes never leave her face as her corn blue eyes, weathered with the passing of time twinkle and her cheeks glow like ripe strawberries as a huge satisifed sigh escapes her. ‘All done.’ She murmurs. It has taken a little time to do these two cushions as at 85, she always informs me that she can no longer run a marathon. My mum is a delightful and amazing old lady and I love and admire that she wants to help me raise funds for Chengeta Wildlife.  I took photos of her beautiful cushions and put them on face book last night. What a fantastic response…and I now have to go and tell her that her work is not done. I have closed the cushion shop as she has orders for 10 more and I know what she will say.

elephant pillows blue

‘I better do them as quick as I can because time is what I have…but how much time..I don’t know.’ And she will laugh at the horrified look on my face and we will work together to get these cushions done. So this coming week, I will snatch moments of time, oil the sewing machine and we will get busy on ‘elephant cushions.’ Stacked up next to me on the table, are beautiful calendars and numerous elephant key rings/chains for sale…all proceeds will go towards Chengeta Wildlife and the amazing work that Rory Young is doing in training rangers.

These are precious moments that are set in my memory like snap shots as I watch my family..the oldest being 85 down to the youngest who is comming up 4. My heart swells with pride when I hear them all talking about Chengeta Wildlife, Rangers and the poaching of elephants and rhinos and what we can do to help fight this scourge. We sit around the ancient dining room table making key chains, cushions or deciding what image would be best for the calendars. 

calander chengeta 2

calander chengeta

Kayleigh (my oldest grandie) has definite ideas too.

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 too long to decipher her note)

elephant bodies on black background

keyrings on black background

 

 As a family, we work as a team. While I am now the matriarch of my family, I value what my mum has taught me. She 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 with her great grandchildren which offer breath taking glimpses into her past where the pulse of Africa throbbed beneath her feet and the cerulean sky drifted 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.

Elephant families will also split but their reunions are incredible. 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. Happy and joyful is their reunion.

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While we are desperately trying to help Rory Young train rangers to fight the scourge of poaching, many thousands of miles away from where we sit around the dining room table, the sunset, in an explosion of gold is bidding the African day goodnight. While wisps of cloud flutter past the African half moon lying serenely on ber back, the magnificent martriarch wearing her robe of wrinkles and two well worn tusks trumpets in rage as  bullets thump into the smallest member of her herd and she hears the bone crack. Trees explode as bullets ricochet and chaos reigns as this elephant herd is lost in a world of ugly greed, violence and blackness. With dawns slow promise of a golden day… a mighty stillness settles. Help us to help them.

These magnificent animals ask only for the space to roam free under the cerulean sky without fear, surrounded by their families and doing what elephants always do: living in the moment. As the superior beings, we do have one thing that no other living creature does: we have the ability to change the way things are. We hold the destiny of every living creature in our hands, and yet so few of us hear their silent cries of agony and their helpless pleas. The greed for ‘white gold’ has become the elephants downfall as the horn of the rhino has become their fate and their numbers are decreasing at an alarming rate. Elephants show all the best attributes of mankind with few of them displaying our darker sides. 

rory in training.

Rory meeting with the chief and elders of Sidakoro, Parc National de Haut Niger

‘Meeting with the chief and elders of Sidakoro, Parc National de Haut Niger. 
A critical part of the training and ops is how and why to approach community leaders and to sensitize and educate them, preferably developing in the process a positive flow of information from the community. With them on sides half the battle is won. Sometimes it is tedious work, lacking the excitement and adrenaline of pursuit and apprehension ops. That does not make it any less important.
In this case, far from complaining that the park and rangers are a nuisance the complaint from the elders and community is that poaching in protected areas has caused dramatic reduction in wildlife in traditional hunting areas. The majority of that poaching is by outside commercial poachers travelling to the park and then transporting the meat and other products to far away cities. In such situations the community can be and are a natural and important ally.’

While Rory Young gives of his time to train rangers throughout Africa, I am asking all of you…look at our chengetawildlife.org page. Help us to train and equip these men on the ground. Change will come….but we cannot afford to drift in the stream of the world….we need to act now. Africa’s wildlife needs us  all to take an active role so that we can lead them out of the dark.

Consumers of ivory and rhino horn..hear their screams and let the heavy silence of loss flank you. Behind every piece of ivory and rhino horn is a story…a barbaric and bloody story. Your desire for ivory trinkets and rhino horn is decimating Africa’s elephants and rhinos. Those ivory bracelets, chopsticks and figurines are the cause of elephants being slaughtered. How can you desire something that is so significant of violence and death.

A call for help in desperate times of poaching by Rory Young. Please watch and share this short clip.

The Unsung Heroes Of The Bush

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These brave wildlife rangers are targets too

The poachers’ have an almost inexhaustible supply of money. Because rhino horn fetches $65,000 on the black market and a kilo of ivory is worth over $1 800, the smugglers and tradesman have very little problem funding these poachers and poaching operations.

fire

The burning embers fizz and crackle as the elderly man squats on his haunches, his tired bones creaking their resistance. The flames from the cheerful fire throws deep shadows onto his cheeks which are wrinkled and corroded by time. He stills his thoughts seeking renewal of his restless spirit. A symphony of night life brings him back into the web of existence and he absently throws another long onto the fire, pulling away as a myriad of embers explode showering down in a spectacular display. With a stomach turning weightlessness he allows his thoughts to crawl through the cracks of his mind. Dead elephants and a fallen comrade. He sees the desperate look in the eyes of the young man’s mother on hearing the news of her son’s death. He sees the bloodied and broken face of the young man who had only begun to taste life, and he shudders, his shoulders sinking into his sides. A sadness comes upon him all silent and menacing as it flanks him, and he tries to close out the images of the mutilated elephants as they lie sprawled into the parched earth…mothers, babies and a couple of pregnant cows. He looks stricken, shrunken and immensely old as he stares with weary bloodshot eyes into the forbidding shadows of the dark African bush.

Rangers are exposed to deeply disturbing scenes, with each poached carcass a frustrating and grisly reminder of failure, and they operate in the bush under harsh physical conditions, often with inadequate equipment, pay, and support.

Wildlife rangers endure similar ordeals to soldiers in combat. They routinely face death, injury, or torture from poachers, and the wild animals they protect can kill them too. In the DRC, which has been driven by almost two decades of civil war and political instability, about 150 rangers have been killed in Virunga alone since 2004.

Nightmares set like reels of grisly film in his mind will again sneak up on him under the dark cloak of midnight, claustrophobic and warm. It is a life changing experience for these 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.

With dawn’s slow promise of a golden day, he will once again disappear into the early shadows of the African bush to join his fellow rangers. With the fundamental energy of the human spirit, they will leave behind a night full of restless ghosts, hovering moths and a galaxy of mosquitoes to concentrate on the day ahead. The nightmares will once again wait for the sun to say good night before pouncing on his restless mind once again.

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WHAT CAN WE ALL DO TO HELP IN THIS FIGHT AGAINST POACHING (PLEASE WATCH THIS SHORT VIDEO CLIP…CHENGETA WILDLIFE)

I often think back to the day when I was told that there was absolutely nothing that I as an individual could do to help in this continual fight against the evils of poaching. All to often we close our minds to the blood red streaks that mar our African landscape. While the world watches, the images of butchered animals, bodies bloated and legs suspended up in the air leap out of the computer or television, eyes staring unseeingly: pleading for somebody to take notice. This is not a violent storm that has bullied its way into the African bush. This is a dark menacing chaos of greed, corruption and destruction. These ruthless killers are turning the African bush into a wild sweltering inferno, flames devouring any animal with tusks or horns.

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Rangers need all the help they can get in the fight against poachers.

Rory Young

rory young and weapon

Rory Young is a passionate and committed activist who has been fighting the evils of poaching all his life.  He is a dedicated man who has decided to make it his life’s mission to ensure that the rangers fighting in this war against poaching have the best possible training. Rory has been in the field for well over 20 years now and has honed his skills in the bush as a pro-safari guide and a top class tracking consultant.

Rory Says

  ‘These animals are not dying of natural causes. We are not saving them from nature. They would not be on the verge of extinction it it wasn’t for us’

 ‘They are being killed for greed. This is a human offense, a human crime against these creatures and humans must make amends.’

dead rhino with rory

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

rory young anti poaching

Young said that by the end of 2014 he will have trained more than 150 team members on anti-poaching procedures. “Both the African elephant and the more endangered Forest elephant can both be saved and their numbers increased again, but only if we move immediately and decisively,” he said.

‘This war against poachers can be won. To win it it needs both a will to succeed and funding. We are losing elephants every single day. With your financial support we can put a stop to this senseless loss.’

 

Across Africa the scourge that is poaching is removing natural resources at an unprecedented rate. The southern African nation of Malawi is no exception to the hugely negative impacts of poaching on biodiversity and the natural ecosystem processes that sustain both people and wildlife.

Training rangers in Malawi

CHINA STOP THE DEMAND

AND

 CLOSE THE CARVING FACTORIES

“The ivory trade must be disrupted at all levels of criminality, the entire prosecution chain needs to be systemically restructured, corruption rooted out and all stakeholders, including communities exploited by the criminal syndicates and those on the front lines of enforcement, given unequivocal support.”

SAY NO TO IVORY

CHENGETA WILDLIFE

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

  

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Innocent Blood

There is something infinitely healing in the assurance that the pink wash of dawn always breaks free from the long dark night and the fresh breath of spring seduces the coldness out of the winter days. I am sitting watching an autumn breeze blowing through the trees, stealing the foliage and leaving the branches bare. What strikes me though…is nature knows best. There is not the heavy silence of loss. These bare branches will soon sprout and turn green again. However, when an elephant or rhino is poached, the soft weary tread of feet on the road is ………no more.………just the hush of death and the mournful ballad of the coucal.

Extinction is forever.

Africa’s bush, a grand and wondrous spectacle awash in colours and odours is under constant attack. Godless scenes of destruction and cruelty are encountered on a daily basis by the brave Rangers doing their utmost to keep the wildlife safe. Wheeling vultures circle and a foul miasmic presence leads the rangers in this case to a scene so horrific…it defies description. Consumers of rhino horn..LOOK at what your demand is doing to these magnificent and prehistoric animals.

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image of a rhino...brutally mutilated

As you grind your rhino horn mixture..take a deep breath and feel the intense and burning pain of this animal left in a sticky pool of blood. Not only has this poor animal’s horn been brutally chopped and torn from it’s face, her eyes have been hacked out leaving her blind. WHY ? This black rhino was found staggering around, her large head blistering like a sweltering inferno as it hangs heavy and low to the ground. Brushstrokes of blood pool deep in the shadows and deeper currents of greed blow on the breeze. This is a barbaric act that needs to be seen and told to the deluded consumers of rhino horn.

A week ago animal lovers (myself included), the world over marched for elephants and rhinos across 136 cities and across six continents. The howling of a frustrated wind as we all stood together as one voice refusing to allow these animals to fall through the ever widening cracks into chaos. As time disappears in dusky sunlight and smoke, rhinos and elephants lives fade like passing shadows and a week on from the marches..the slaughter continues. However, we must not give up hope. During these dark and turbulent times, we need to regroup and weave a future for these animals from the tangled past.

PLEASE DO NOT LOOK THE OTHER WAY : WE ALL NEED TO PLAY A PART…NO MATTER HOW SMALL

Lisa Groenweg had decided that she could not turn a blind eye to the destruction and started Chengeta Wildlife. She shook up fellow Quora members by raising a huge amount of money in 24 hours….showing that where there is a will to participate and make a difference..it happens.rory young twitt

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

I have been asked and have accepted with great honour and delight a position on Chengeta Wildlife’s Board of  Directors.

‘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.’

The programme is already proving successful as anti-poaching operations undertaken as part of the training uncovered several poaching syndicates operating in the area, some with links to neighboring Mozambique and as far away as China, highlighting the global scale of the poaching problem.  Arrests were made and the culprits handed over to the appropriate authorities.

I will do what I can to raise awareness and funds for Chengeta Wildlife and ensure that Rory Young can continue to offer first class training to Rangers throughout Africa.

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Under an African sky that is as limitless as it is wide, a world of corruption, violence and greed mars the beauty of this sun baked land and when there is a demand..money talks.

CHINA CLOSE DOWN YOUR CARVING FACTORIES (Please sign this petition)

Inside these factories, Chinese carvers with masks covering their noses and mouths sit hunched over their desks. Under bright artificial strip lights, the ivory tusk lies lifeless. Please do not look at the ivory as a commodity. Run your hand down the length of the tusk and imagine the bubbling mass of exuberance that is an elephant.. a breathing and iconic animal that has emotions on a par with man.

AfricanElephants_Mom_Nursing_baby

 

The large wrinkled noble head and muscular trunk is lifted, tasting the sweetness on the breeze. She is a dab hand at assisting in birth and she senses that the new calf will soon join her herd. The warm and heavy evening exhales slowly, appearing to hold its breath as the excited cows , temporal glands flowing sing in multi-layered cadences encouraging the pregnant cow as she bears down. As the mornings slow lazy light caresses the hills, a new miracle is taking its first shaky steps as long wrinkled and powerful trunks offer a gentle welcome. The excitement is shattered by the cruel barking of automatic fire as the new miracle of life and all the excited cows slump heavily onto the ground.

These are the tusks that are stolen from elephants and any legal carving or trade is a conduit and and cover for China’s vast illegal market. While Zhao Shucong as China’s State Forrestry Administrator continues to license China’s 37 Carving factories and 140 ivory retail outlets, elephant families like the one above will continue to be callously slaughtered and their mutilated bodies left to swell and rot under the burning African sun.

Run your eyes over that magnificent tusk intricately carved with a herd of elephants..ivory bodies gleaming under the light.  This large tusk belonged to a middle aged  matriarch, her head full of knowledge yet to be passed on to her daughter.

CHINA..CLOSE DOWN THE CARVING FACTORIES (Please sign this petition)

Keep On Marching

Nine months ago I was told that there was nothing that I could personally do to stop the slaughter of these animals. Well maybe not…but I was not going to become a silent witness to this rampant destruction. I was not going to watch from the sidelines as elephants and rhinos evaporate into the mist…lost in translation and crushed under the heels of supposed civilization.

Disturbing images of mutilated and bloated elephant carcasses jump off the page as a person’s mind closes down and they are unable to look and so I decided that I would raise awareness on the plight of these animals through the pent up emotion that pounds through my veins. I am a white African with a deep passion for this harsh and timeless land..that is the African bush and the wildlife. My passion for elephants began many years ago and as I have grown so has my love and respect for them. These ambassadors of the wild have shared with us their intelligence, love and compassion and I feel that we owe it them to stop the destruction. There is a magic that surrounds elephants and I aspire to be a part of the force that ensure that they continue to spread their harmony over the sun drenched bush.

I always wanted to be one of the herd

jenny as elephant - ready to send

All one needs is the passion to to go out there and do what you have to do. My passion spurs me on. There is always something that each person can do to assist in this ‘poaching war.’ I have built my blog from 6 hits to 15 000 hits and my main aim was to appeal to the Chinese people that buying something so symbolic of suffering and death is morally wrong. 9 months later..the most traffic onto my blog is  from China.  As the weeks passed like fading shadows, I felt like I was still drifting in the stream of the world and this was not good enough. I would be delighted if my blog was earning money..but it does not and the fire in my belly is always to do more and through a series of events I came across Chengeta Wildlife.

rory young anti poaching

Rory Young is a professional tracker with 25 years of experience and he is also the co-author of ‘A Field Manual For Anti-Poaching Activities.’ and he has embarked on an honorable journey of sharing his knowledge and skills. 

‘This book is the first of its kind, showing clearly how poaching processes work and explaining the strategies, skills and techniques necessary to disrupt those processes. It stresses the need for deterrence and how to stop the problem before it starts. The goal is to provide a free printed copy to all anti-poaching units.’

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

 Chengeta Wildlife is a force for good, offering a comprehensive solution to help combat the evils of poaching and I was inspired and determined to help in raising some funds for them.

I have now been asked and have accepted with great honour and delight a position on Chengeta Wildlife’s Board of  Directors.

‘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.’

The programme is already proving successful as anti-poaching operations undertaken as part of the training uncovered several poaching syndicates operating in the area, some with links to neighboring Mozambique and as far away as China, highlighting the global scale of the poaching problem.  Arrests were made and the culprits handed over to the appropriate authorities.

I am  helping to ensure that these giants along with rhinos, lions and other wildlife will continue to feel the warmth of the sun on their backs.

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What else can I do? Never in my wildest dreams did I see my African self marching in defense of elephants and rhinos in LONDON. What an amazing atmosphere there was on Saturday 4th October. Despite the rain which was reluctant to lift and let the sun break free from the grey clouds, the little girls were bubbling with excitment even though their view of the crowd did not get above hip height. They wore their home painted ‘Chengeta Wildlife’ tee shirts with pride, happy to show their backs to anyone who would look. The noise amplified into an overpowering hum, echoing off the large buildings towering high in this concrete jungle..a far cry from the tangled bush and cerulean sky..home of the African Elephants and Rhinos. Inhaling the sweet damp scent of rain we marched with our Zimbabwean flag held high becoming one with the noisy teeming mass of humanity as we marched, chatted, laughed and shouted. As I marched I could feel soft whispers from the African bush and the hair on the nape of my neck prickled and a lump the size of a green apple was lodged firmly in my throat. My memories, sweet with the wonder of seeing these majestic giants in the wild and compels me to do anything in my power to help to ensure that these memories do not become just faded photographs in my memoirs: crumpled pages of inadequate words.

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girls with their tee shirts

Our little girls – dressed and ready to march for Elephants and Rhinos and showing their support for Chengeta Wildlife

Thousands of people had taken to the streets in 130 cities around the world lifting their voices to raise awareness of the plight faced by these critically endangered animals.

‘The Global March for Elephants and Rhinos will aim to achieve a full worldwide ban on the trade of ivory and rhino horn, the implementation of tougher penalties for wildlife crime, and the strengthening of law enforcement in consumer countries and range states. In addition, they will also make the demand that ivory and rhino shops and carving factories are shut down immediately.’

China..as I have said many times…’Hear the mournful ballad of the grey dove as death: a foul miasmic presence reaches out over the sun kissed bush of Africa. This is a scene that should be grotesque and offensive to eyes, ears and nostrils..and to those people who buy ivory. Sadly money talks..and money only talks when there is a demand. STOP THE DEMAND AND CLOSE THE CARVING FACTORIES.

CHINA..THIS IS THE TRUE COST OF IVORY TRINKETS

The mutilated bodies of elephants are left behind in the bush but their personal treasures or blood ivory leaves a trail of blood that stretches from Africa by air, sea and highway into Chinese carving factories. China has 37 licensed carving factories and calls to shut down these factories are studiously ignored. Mr. Zhao Shucong holds the destiny of Africa’s magnificent giants in his hands. China and Mr. Zhao Shucong needs to take responsibility for the fact that they are fueling the trade that is decimating African elephants. Here is a petition demanding that China bans all ivory

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Elephants are a source of great peace and wisdom that us humans should take note off. Humans, as the ‘rational thinking animals’ have the ability to alter their destructive tendencies. The thought of a world without these sentient giants is unthinkable. We have already caused such disharmony in their lives..but there is time to change..but we have to do it now. The challenge now..is to reshape some outdated perceptions and we all need to play a role.

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Poaching is illegal. The consequences of being caught must out weigh the rewards.

Please have a look at our amazing website: chengetawildlife.org

”The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing.” – Edmund Burke

GO OUT AND DO WHAT YOU NEED TO DO TO HELP SAVE ELEPHANTS AND RHINOS

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Trail Of Blood

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

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

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

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

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

The mutilated bodies of elephants are left behind in the bush but their personal treasures or blood ivory leaves a trail of blood that stretches from Africa by air, sea and highway into Chinese carving factories. China has 37 licensed carving factories and calls to shut down these factories are studiously ignored. Zhao Shucong is the man who approves the licensing of these state sanctioned factories.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

To see more on these questions and answers …see more

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

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

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Chengeta Wildlife

The Tashinga Initiative

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

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

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

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

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

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

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SAY NO TO IVORY

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My Childish Promise To A Dead Elephant

I came across an image of a dead elephant: a wrinkled gigantic heap of magnificence lying crushed against a Mopani tree.

I could feel my heart thumping as a storm of memory shot me back in time and I was once again a little girl of five or six crouched down in the African dust, the warm coppery sun beating down on my back staring into unseeing eyes forever frozen in time. I could feel tears rolling down my face leaving snail trails through the fine dust that freckled lightly across my cheeks. I recall how I stretched out my hand wishing that the elephant was just drowsy with the summer heat and I gently touched what had been a powerful and versatile trunk, its fine wiry hairs scratching my fingers. This magnificent animal still wore his scythe like tusks, cracked and worn with time. He had been tearing up grass as he ambled through the mid-morning heat and a green gooey mess oozed out of his slack mouth. He had become a problem bull in the farming area where I grew up, and a danger to humans…hence the fact that he was now dead.

The locals were arriving in full force, a noisy teeming humanity pulsating with life. Not like the bull. I remember the gut wrenching helplessness as my echo of harmony was lost and I no longer felt like a child. The first axe fell and the fresh smell of blood grabbed me by my nose. My dad scooped me up and we disappeared through the melee of African people. I started to weep, huge sobs wracking my skinny little ribcage as I watched over his shoulder at the mass of people teeming like a colony of ants over the carcass. I did not understand how they could do that…but I had never known hunger.

That moment in time is set in my memory like a snap shot. I cannot even remember why my dad and I were there. He had not shot the elephant and it was not on our farm. I do remember that the corners of my mouth had sagged and I made a childish promise to that dead elephant: I would always fight in their corner, and my promises were always carried out..even back then. I was a feisty kid.

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50 years on and I can still feel that heavy silence of loss  that large jumbo and his unseeing eyes had engendered in me.

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I have experienced the bush with no wildlife…and sometimes there is no peace in silence.

We went camping in Mozambique during the early to mid nineties. The long and harrowing civil war had finished and in it’s wake a country crippled and cloaked in human and animal tragedy…crypt-quiet, motionless and eerie. Not an animal or a bird to be seen. This was Africa at it’s most cloying, sticky and tragic. The wildlife did recover but that trip made a lasting impression on me…an impression that is not easy to erase from the mind, and especially when you read about the rampant poaching taking place in Mozambique, even as I write.

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I am now living in the UK and still crazy about animals and especially elephants. About eight months ago, I was scanning the internet and came across a blog called ‘Anomie’s Child’. It took me straight back into the vast wilderness of sun kissed grass and sturdy trees. I pounced on Gary as he walked through the front door that evening, my voice choking with excitement as I bounced around him like an annoying and excited puppy.

‘Who ever is writing these blogs, Gary, is incredible. He is so knowledgeable and passionate about everything that we love about home. I love the way he is so truthful about how he feels and does not apologise for his beliefs..but he is open to discussion.’

‘Anomie’s Child’ for me was like a soul open wide to the breeze and I read and re-read many different stories, embracing each of my favourites. There were times when I could feel the frustration gripping the words and sadness at other times. Even from thousands of miles away, I could feel the throb of Africa beneath my feet and the earthy richness of fresh elephant dung would fill my nostrils. It was this blog that made me pick up a pen.

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The cyanide poisoning of our Zimbabwean elephants was for me, a turning point. I could not ignore what was taking place in my beloved country.  Having been told there was nothing I could do about the poaching, I decided that I was not going to be a person who pretended that this atrocious attack on our wildlife was not happening. I decided that I would write a poem a week to raise awareness on the destruction for as long as it takes…a huge undertaking for me as I had never written poetry in my life…apart from a few rhymes for ‘kitchen teas’ and ‘baby showers’ back home.

Having made this decision, I was always scanning the internet for news about elephants. During one of these searches, I came across ‘Chengeta Wildlife’. The name jumped out at me, as being a Zimbabwean, chengeta (look after) is still very much a part of our every day vocabulary, and even our two little grandies use ‘chengeta’ with their very english accents which always brings a smile to my face. It was here that I also came across a woman called Lisa Groenweg, who had been repelled by the rampant slaughtering of elephants with cyanide. She had asked Rory Young (a fellow Quora member) what she could do to help.

Rory Young, I thought to myself as I was reading about Lisa Groenweg. Why the hell do I know that name?

‘Anomie’s Child.’ He is the guy who writes the blog.

Lisa Groenweg had decided that she could not look the other way and started Chengeta Wildlife. She shook up fellow Quora members by raising a huge amount of money in 24 hours….showing that where there is a will to participate and make a difference..it happens.

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

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

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

I loved the analogy between Robin Hood and the poachers. It made it so simple to understand that the people in the community have got to view the authorities as the representatives of and partners of the community. It is also important that the community see the poachers as a threat  and not the other way around. It does not matter how well equipped the authorities are..if they don’t have the people on sides..it will be a waste of time and money. The Sheriff of Nottingham failed to apprehend Robin Hood..and failed to punish him..and as a result there was was also a failure of deterrence.

This manual should be a companion for every ranger throughout Africa.

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I think back to my childhood encounter with the dead elephant and smile at my promise which is now taking form. I cannot begin to imagine what it must be like to deal with the mutilated bodies of these magnificent animals…and all to feed the unquenchable demand for ivory trinkets and jewelry.  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.

Rory Young is the strength that the ‘future of elephants’ needs…

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

I made a commitment to a dead elephant 50 years ago…the memory of that day is still strong in my mind. For me, they are Beautiful Elephants. (My Poem)  People, please make a commitment to our wildlife and let us ensure that we help to protect our heritage.

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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?

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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.

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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.

 

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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)

Enlightening The Oldies

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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