Memories and magical elephants

These immense and soulful creatures, one of ‘natures perfections’ view the world around them through knowing eyes. Their 45lb hearts pound with compassion and love for their families. Wearing wrinkled expressions: fold upon fold of intelligence suggest that there is far more to elephants than meets the human eye. Inside those huge and noble heads, a complex and intricate organ resides which makes me ask like many others before me, ‘do elephants surpass others in wit and mind?’


We all admire magical elephants for their colossal size and incredible strength. I have come to love and respect them for their intelligence, remarkable memories and the fact that despite their formidable size, they display deep feelings of love and empathy.

Here’s a thought: when thinking about the intelligence of animals, do we compare elephants to other animals or do we compare them to humans?

Their brains, like humans are convoluted, and the temporal lobe associated to memory is highly developed. Many of the traits portrayed in humans, nature has duplicated in these large and intelligent animals.  In fact, these sentient creatures reveal to us all the goodness in creation intent on survival and not destruction.


Jumbo sized mirrors are used to test whether elephants self-awareness mirrors humans.

Elephants can recognize their own reflections in a mirror. Elephants are far more distantly related to humans than apes are and yet they seem to have developed similar social and and cognitive capacities as us. Elephants live in complex social societies thus making intelligence a part of the picture.

 These parallels between humans and elephants suggest a convergent cognitive evolution possibly related to complex sociality and cooperation.”


Do elephants have long memories?

The matriarch, the oldest and wisest in the herd offers us a breathtaking glimpse into her wisdom and understanding which she has learnt over many years from her elders. She controls the daily activities of the herd and her remarkable memory comes to the fore during times of crisis. She will dig deep, remembering what she has learnt many years before and lead her herd over a great distance to find food and water in severe droughts.

This video clip shows the reunion between Jenny and Shirley after being separated 25 years earlier. Although they are not related, their paths had crossed and watching the joy and love at their reunion, I hate to think how traumatized the separation must have been for both of them.  Do they have the ability to recognise each other? Of course they do, no matter how many years have passed. They remember.

The harmony of the herd depends of her skills which include complex communication, remembering different individuals smells and voices. They display deep feelings of compassion and an advanced sense of altruism towards their own and other species, including us humans showing signs of distress.  Do elephants understand the concept of humans pointing at something?

These sentient creatures ooze with personality and intelligence: a large mass of bubbling exuberance, lifting their trunks to sniff the air, because they can.  Like humans, they grieve deeply for loved ones, suffering deep depressions and shedding tears. They use sticks as a means to scratch those itchy places they cannot reach and according to Dame Daphne Sheldrick, they have a wicked sense of humour, and she says once you get to know them well, you can see that they even smile when they are having fun. Elephants continue to amaze us, showing their ability to paint, even though it is said they take physical instructions from their mahouts while doing so.


I care deeply about elephants, respecting and revering the fact that not only are they the largest land mammal, they are almost emotionally human. Having learnt about their love and compassion, let us unite as one and show them that us humans are also possessed with an infinite compassion towards our earthly companions. Let us allow them to live as nature intended.



Elephant eye

1979 – The elephant population was 1.3 million.

2014 – We see a figure of 500 000 being bandied about. How long will these soulful animals leave their footprints on the sand when a 100 are being slaughtered per day?  Are elephants being poached  faster than they can breed. One elephant every 15 minutes is being slaughtered for its personal treasure ‘white gold’. In layman’s terms: they are being slaughtered for their incisors. What sort of society are we a part of? Tragically, the illegal wildlife trade is enormous. Annually £12 billion ($20 billion US) worth of ill gotten gains  is butchered from these sentient (my poem) creatures leaving the putrefying stench of rotting flesh in their wake.  WHAT FOR?


95% of the Democratic Republic of the Congo’s forests are devoid of elephants.’ What for? I know, I am repeating myself. Sadly what collectors call ‘white gold’ represents wealth and nobleness for the Chinese people. What does a tragic misconception like this mean to the elephants? DEATH.  The lust for ivory that puts Chinese people in a class of their own is for these charismatic creatures, a death warrant. The bush, the elephants home has become a battlefield, and they are often slaughtered in the cruelest and most primitive ways.

Despite the global ban in 1989, the illegal ivory business is flourishing. Beijing’s ‘elephant graveyard’  shows how China is still in the driving seat, and these people hold the destiny of the African elephants in their hands. Hot on China’s heels is the USA who have now implemented a ban on commercial ivory which I hope will set a precedent for other countries to follow.

Hong Kong is a key transit point for ivory and other illegal wildlife entering from Africa on route to destinations which include Philippines, Vietnam, Taiwan and Malaysia. Hong Kong has however declared it is in the forefront in the fight to halt the ivory trade, and has shown it’s support by announcing it will destroy 28 tonnes of seized ivory. This is all good news for elephants?


The ‘blood ivory’ trade has reached such alarming proportions that Governments from around the globe are being urged to go into ‘battle’ against the illegal trade. Prince Charles and Prince William hosted a two day summit in London last week which was attended by decision makers from 46 countries. I joined the throng of animal lovers outside to show our relief and support that this positive action had brought so many countries together.

london 2

Now, as an animal/elephant lover and as a responsible custodian of our wildlife, I want action, and we want it now before it is too late.  I am hoping that this landmark agreement to halt wildlife trafficking is just  a beginning.  With so few elephants remaining, it is a fight we all need to concentrate on. Once these sentient beings are gone, they are gone. For those who can afford to buy ivory, take that money and go and visit the last few remaining countries where these magnificent creatures roam. Kenya, South Africa, Tanzania and Zimbabwe: to and see them in the wild and fall in love with them. You too can become a voice for the voiceless as we change our outlook on ivory.  Fighting wildlife crime can no longer be viewed in isolation: some of it is linked to terrorism, which is funded by ‘blood ivory’. In many instances, it has become a case of killing elephants to fund killing people. To me, it all seems a little obscene.


You as a consumer, a thinking consumer can decide the fate of these soulful creatures: it is as easy as the choice TO BUY or NOT TO BUY.  As a consumer of ivory, your demand for the product is responsible for not only the death of elephants, but also the collapse of elephant society brought on by extensive poaching. Elephants transmit elephant cultures from one generation to the next. Echoes of harmony are quickly lost as survivors of poaching incidents are left traumatised and rudderless.  Elephants are close knit and emotional creatures with strong family bonds. What we see in behavioral patterns with elephants after a ‘genocide’ is frighteningly close to how humans react. Let us not be the ones who destroy this magnificent species.




Africa’s elephants, precious and vital to the environment are under continual attack. Each golden sunrise, extravagant and full of new promise reveals tragedies, that have sadly been dealt by human hands. The African bush, bewitchingly beautiful in winter ochre colours or luscious and bursting with life after the first rains has become a raw and violent battlefield for these sentient creatures. Elephants, one of the damned species of Africa have become like toys on the devils playground: destroyed and mutilated. It is time to change. (Please read the poem)


Elephant herds are suffering during these dark times of poaching: devastating their numbers and disrupting their society. Dame Daphne Sheldrick has described the suffering of the orphans that she has been hand-rearing as intense and terrible to witness. For elephants to be orphaned in such vast numbers by mankind’s insatiable greed for ivory points to a sad flaw in human nature. There is nothing a mother will not do for their child, and elephants are no different. Sadly, the largest living land mammals cannot pit their strength against man and his ‘weapons of destruction.’   Elephant cows, riddled with bullets, hearts pounding with fear, while dying an excruciating slow death have been known to try and shield their calves, who tragically have already been slaughtered. These poachers are ruthless: in Chad late last year 89 elephants were  slaughtered and 30 of the cows were pregnant.


Every muscle in my body tightens, and my mind screams at me. THIS IS WRONG and it is UNACCEPTABLE. As human beings, can they not see that what they are doing is morally wrong. These magnificent and sentient creatures are more compassionate than these human predators that are wrecking such destruction and havoc. As humans, and supposedly thinking ones, let’s put an end to this horror.  In 2012, some 35 000 elephants were cruelly slaughtered to feed the demand for ivory.  With China and Thailand’s increasing affluence, as well as an expanding middle class elsewhere in Asia, the demand for ivory and rhino horn is out of control. Over the last decade, many rangers have been lost in their quest to protect the wildlife from this insatiable lust for ‘white gold.’


During the 1970’s and 1980’s poaching was at an all time high. The international community came together, united against the destruction and the harsh reality of what was facing these animals: Extinction.  In 1989 an International ban on the ivory trade was approved by CITES. Poaching dropped dramatically, and black market prices for ivory slumped. The clouds of despair hanging low and heavy lifted as elephant numbers started to increase.  The southern African states, particularly Zimbabwe and South Africa, wanted the legal and controlled trade to remain in place. Their argument was that Elephants should be paying their way, as the revenue generated from the sale of elephants and elephant products was being fed back into the system: helping to fund both conservation and local communities.

Save the elephant: Let ivory trade resume

1997: Led by Robert Mugabe of Zimbabwe, inset, four southern African states with substantial elephant populations – Zimbabwe, South Africa, Namibia and Botswana – get CITES to agree to a “one-off” sale of 50 tonnes of ivory. Britain goes along with it. Poaching rises.

2007-08: The same four African states get CITES to agree to another “one-off” sale, this time of 100 tonnes. Britain goes along, despite warnings that it will increase poaching. And China is allowed by CITES to become an official ivory buyer, in spite of harbouring the largest amount of illegal ivory. Britain goes along with it, despite warning this too will increase poaching, which soars.


Today, 10th February 2014, bigger, darker and more threatening storm clouds cast ominous shadows over the safety of our elephants. Deep currents of greed blow on the wind, as the wave upon wave of attacks on these animals are constant, not only threatening the survival of this species, but also a threat to world security. Big money has attracted organized crime syndicates: an ugly web of deceit, corruption and greed. Trading in ivory  or ‘blood ivory’ has become a multi billion dollar industry and we are fighting against some big guns. The demand for ivory is killing the elephants, and these slaughters are funding terrorist activity, which in turn is killing humans.


People, what are we doing? Here is a paragraph written by a six year boy, who will be turning 7 in April.  He is the son of a friend of mine who wrote down his thoughts about the killing of elephants after his mum explained what I am trying to do with my blog. I have written this word for word.  He can see the destruction and if a six year old can:  there is hope for all of us.


ELEPHANTS: by Kaian Nelson

‘Elephant’s are a wonderful thing letting us have sun. They are also a part of nature. People think that it isi’nt the real thing. You would not like it if you were killed. Men are cruel and ladies are cruel to. Men are cruel for killing the elephants and women are cruel for suportin men. The more you kill, the more water and lives you will lose. Medicine from horns : tut tut tut. If you want to live to 20 go for it and if you want your kid’s to live to 8 go for it. But if you want everybody to live to 98 then stop stop stop. It’s a life cycle round and round just like us stop stop it. I would not forgive you and neither  will elephants. STOP.’

How lucky are the elephants to have this little guy on their side? A young spirit who will burn a path in conservation.




We as consumers hold the key. We can all participate in this fight against poaching. (Please read my poem.) Stop the demand for ivory and rhino horn. Together we can make sure that our magnificent elephants and rhinos DO NOT become a distant memory. Let us put a stop to the destruction and violence. The death tolls are huge.


ellies holding trunks


The late afternoon sun hangs lazily in midair, reluctant to embrace the long shadows of evening. In this land of constant movement, the breeding herd rumbles gently, welcoming the cooler breeze of evening which softens the continual humidity that hangs heavy before the first rains. Their earlier dust bathing accompanied by social activities such as trunk entwining and sparring between the young bulls helps the elephants to renew their deep connection with each other with unblemished optimism. The thick coating of dust which they have thrown over a covering of mud from an earlier wallow will help to keep parasites like biting flies and ticks at bay. Like quiet shadowy spirits, they weave through the bush, their long trunks with the finger-like lobes never still, as they munch their way into the dark.  Pausing slightly, heads tilted, they listen to the silence shredding cacophony of the cicadas and crickets, while squadrons of mosquitoes dive bomb in a relentless attack on their quest for blood.


The large elephant bull, magnificent in his stance, his creamy tusks protruding like scythes, shadows the elephant cow. His noble head is held high, large weathered ears fanned out and the constant dribbling of urine that has a distinct sharp odour is a sign that he is in musth. He is in a psychological and physiological state of heightened sexual excitement. His levels of testosterone can be up to 60 times higher than normal. The secretion of Temporin flows from his the temporal glands on the side of his head.  He watches the cow with an amorous gleam in his wrinkled eye. On encountering this herd, he has moved from cow to cow looking for a mate. He has found this well rounded and strong young female by touching her vulva with the tip of his sensitive trunk. He then places his trunk tip onto a specialised taste gland, ‘The Jacobson’s organ’, which is located on the roof of his mouth. When a cow is in oestrus, her urine contains a pheromone which he finds alluring. And so, the magic of nature begins.


These two magnificent and sentient creatures of the bush flirt and tease. Entwining his trunk with hers and feeling her mouth gently has lured the strong young cow into adulthood. He has earned this right to mate by competing and chasing off younger bulls. For the moment, he is the lord of the land. He is approaching 35 years of age and is an experienced bull. He started producing sperm between 12 and 14 years old. However bulls rarely get to fathering a calf until they have reached their adulthood, which is anything from 25 years upwards. Even then, they are chased off by bigger and stronger males. The sturdy young cow who is approaching 15 years old and desperate for new whispers of life gives herself over to his ardent attention. He drapes his trunk across her back, testing her receptiveness. She does have a choice, and could move away.  The bull mounts her, placing most of his weight on his strong back legs. His penis is S shaped, up to a meter in length and highly muscular. It will find and enter the vulva without him thrusting. His testes are located up near his kidneys, and up to a litre of semen can be ejaculated.


At peace with the rose coloured dawn, the mating pair remain close. As these two giants continue to romance on natures’ grandest stage, their copulations are accompanied by much excitement and agitation by the rest of the herd. He will continue to cover her for anything up to a week, keeping a jealous eye on any other males.  He might stay close to the herd in the hopes of covering another female, or he will lumber away into the deep stillness of his solitary life.


The pulse of life will continue to throb after the glory has faded. She will give birth after 22 months, assisted by the females in her herd. How amazing is the cycle of life? In this land of extremes, us humans hold the destiny of these wonderful creatures in our hands. LET US ENSURE that this cycle of life continues.