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.

Magical Moments

With a chubby little finger pointing at the computer screen my youngest little angel asks with a lisp in her voice what I am doing. I explain that I am putting a calendar together to sell to make some money for Chengeta Wildlife to enable Rory  Young to train the rangers and save the elephants. She nods vigorously as I take a deep breath, waiting for the next question but a comfortable silence ensues and she goes back to her drawing, which is of course an elephant…all be it a rather strange looking one.

girls with their tee shirts

Our little wildlife warriors

The following day, they both burst through our front door desperate to get to me first shouting, ‘Hold out your hand Gog, and close your eyes.’ I am always a little suspicious as I don’t want any unwelcome visitors plopping into my palm. However this time, I look down and I have a shiny 50p coin and 4 copper 1p’s sitting snugly in the creases of my palm. ‘That is for Chengeta Wildlife, so Rory can save the elephants, and if you need more we will find you some.’ They sound like to two excited chipmunks and I am immensely proud of them.

I bring up an image of an elephant that our daughter (their Mum) Mikaela drew many years ago and show it to them both.

‘Wow’ their mouths form perfect 0’s, ‘when did mummy draw this?’

I look down at the beautiful pencil drawing and a storm of memories flood in. I have not thought about this particular trip for years. It is a gentle reminder on why I am so passionate about being involved with Chengeta Wildlife.

ellie charging through the water

Mikaela’s drawing of the elephant we watched on that magical afternoon many years ago

The huge tattered ears fan out and even from a distance we can see that this is not an elephant enjoying the tranquility of a perfect summer’s moment. Her trumpet of rage bounces off the low hanging clouds as she skids to a halt, a golden cloud of dust haloing around her vast wrinkled body. Her large noble head is lowered in an aggresive stance and her scythe like tusks protrude, battle scarred and menacing. The fresh sweet smell of urine and elephant dung carries on the breeze and I turn to Gary, Mikaela and Ben. ‘She is magnificent’, I mutter quietly, my heart hammering against my ribs. Behind her the acacia trees adorned in leafy splendour tremble as she marches, kicking through the shallow waters edge, an explosion of silver droplets showering down. She is a shimmering gauzy cloud of energy. She claims the bank as her own, her large powerful trunk with it’s deep fissures whipping from side to side and I am sure I can see the fire burning in her eyes.

We sit silently, watching spellbound from the safety of our boat. We have no idea what has upset her. The stillness returns, broken by the gentle gurgle of the river as it caresses the side of the boat. A fish eagle cleaves through the air and the low cloud parts allowing a shaft of sunlight to glint off the white tail feathers as the majestic bird swoops down, large talons outstretched skimming the gleaming surface and plucking out an unsuspecting fish, leaving only a gentle ripple as her powerful wings give her flight. I turn my attention back to the elephant on the bank and to my astonishment, the herd is spilling out from the elongated shadows and ambling down to the snaking river. We watch as they lower their trunks into the river sucking up deep drafts of life giving water, quenching their thirst before throwing warm Zambezi sand over their backs. Small calves rough and tumble, their wrinkled trunks entwined and their shrill calls carry across the undulating river.  A swirl of water alerts us to the presence of a large croc: a medevil serpent as it closes in on the shallows, it’s long tail licking the surface laviciously. I pull my gaze away from the menacing croc, shuddering at the thought of those iron jaws. Searching the bank, I am amazed to find that the small herd of elephants have vanished, melting into the deep shadows of the clammy afternoon. Deep rumbles vibrate through the air and although I can no longer see them, I can feel their presence.


In this open air amphitheater, zebra bend in stripey unison, ears pricked and wary eyes watchful as they take a drink in the long shadows of late afternoon. Buffalo swagger with exaggerated arrogance, snorting and formidable in their numbers. Their imposing horns spread outward and downwards from their large heads before curling up and around. Their powerful and muscled bodies are bejeweled with tick birds, their personal ‘bug cleaning service’. Like souls open wide to the breeze, we cherish what the afternoon has offered…a special place where one can lose touch with the material world. The cloud has given way to a clear evening sky and as the horizon is being stitched with a golden thread, we sadly reel in the fishing lines. I fight with the knot that holds the boat to the dry tree stump, pushing away as Gary fires up the engine. Dodging the grunting hippos we race like the wind back to camp where we will welcome a night full of crickets and other wonderful African bush melodies.



A few days later, we heard that a couple of elephants had been poached. The bearer of this bad news, a wizened African man with his iron grey tight curls and toothless grin was pointing towards our fishing spot and we wondered if this could have explained the female elephant’s agitation. We had heard of poachers crossing the mighty Zambezi river from Zambia in their dug out canoes. Maybe our presence had not been welcome to this herd who unbeknownst to us might have been grieving. 


This storm of memory has made me feel a little heart sore and homesick for this magical place where the air smells cleaner and sky appears to be as high as it is wide. I remember the gut wrenching feeling of helpless anger at the thought of two of these giants lying bloated and rotting in the African bush.  I find it difficult to describe the deep yearning that I have for the African bush and the magical wildlife that we shared our fishing trips with….however, I do know that I have to try and help to preserve it…for the animals.

When we talk about the poaching of elephants and rhinos…it always comes back to the same point. Corruption and greed.....    and more corruption and greed.

wild heart photo


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 factoriesall in the name of ivory trinkets. 

I am not there to enjoy it but I am determined that Chengeta Wildlife, with a little help from me…can preserve these magical places that used to be abundant with elephants and other wildlife.


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.


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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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.


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




“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.”


























Nosey.. The Zimbabwean Elephant

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

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


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

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

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

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



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

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