The True Cost Of Elephant Poaching
The true cost of elephant poaching in the macrocosm is impossible to calculate or comprehend – safe to say – that it is massive. Regardless of the species being poached – how does it affect the animal populations – are they able to sustain the endless onslaught? What about the land – the balance between species – the local people – the culture of an area and the international perception of a country? Then add in greed – cruelty – the corruption – the suffering – the shame – the senseless and unnecessary killing – the brutality – the fear and panic – the turmoil and finally the aftermath. Scattered herds, murdered matriarchs – lost wisdom – broken little elephant souls – death and destruction.
It is impossible to take in the sheer scale of the deliberate killing of 36,000 elephants a year for no reason other than human evil. That is like methodically killing all the people in a small town. We would be outraged if gangs of well-armed and well-funded hooligans descended into – let’s see – a small village in Provence, France or small town in Iowa U.S.A and killed all the people – men – women and children for their femur bones. Not at all necessary harvesting those bones – but we so love our femurs carved into lovely little religious statues, delightful bangles, keychains and trinkets. Gotta have those femurs! No you don’t … the outcry would resound around the world – the UN would meet – resolutions would be passed – the killers would be hunted relentlessly – justice would be demanded!
Because massive killing is too much for people to take in – they shake their heads and say “Oh I wish I could help but I’m just one person and you know how busy I am and Johnny has to go to music lessons”. It becomes an excuseable international offence – being done in some far off land where I’m pretty sure that “someone else” is doing “something” about it – arent’ they?
To put the issue of poaching into a smaller and very personal perspective – let me share with you my experience of being an active supporter and great admirer of The David Sheldrick Wildlife Trust.
I learned about the Trust in 2007 through Paul MacKenzie of Ele-Host Web Design in Toronto. I’ve now had a long time business relationship with Ele-Host and it is safe to say that without that initial, chance encounter – I would not be marching for elephants – writing an animal blog and connecting with caring, committed and like-minded animal advocates from all over the world. I have always loved elephants but I was not actively aware of their plight other than through sporadic news clips or magazine articles – half read in a doctor’s office. I didn’t know that I needed to know!
That changed when I adopted my first elephant orphan – “she” changed everything …
Makena – in January 2007
She captured my heart “at hello” and is now a feisty 7 year old – on her way back to a life in the wild one day. I pray that she will be safe! I thought – okay now I have an adopetd baby elephant – I’ve done some good – what’s next?
So I decided that I would adopt a baby elephant once a month for a year. Come December of 2007 I waivered in my singular commitment to elephants and decided to adopt little Max – a baby rhino. So my orphanage of 12 was now complete – 11 little elies and a baby rhino. I reasoned that these precious beings would all grow up and be re-introduced back into their natural habitat (with the exception of Max who is blind).
Sweet, Playful Kilgoris was my February boy
March brought another baby female – Lesanju with her shredded ear – into my circle
April’s boy was beautiful Shimba
May brought a rough and tumble boy – Kamboyo into my life
In June a darling girl – Lempaute tugged at my heart strings
July saw Zurura make his way into my virtual orphanage
August belonged to Lenana – a sweet girl in need of support
In September another delightful girl – Sinya won my heart
October brought the tiny, perfect Dida – her charm was irresistible
In November a little girl neded help and Sian joined my herd
December has always belonged to Maxwell – his sight could not be saved – so Max lives in a dark world – safe and deeply loved
At the end of 2007 – I had a beautiful, foster family of 12 – with monthly reports from Dame Daphne Sheldrick to keep me up-to-date on their antics. Each had his or her own story of rescue from dire circumstances. But with rescue came hope for recovery and happiness in a safe place. So in spite of their suffering and the loss of their families – all would be well.
It was not to be so. Shorlty after I adopted the little muchkin Kilgoris in February – he died on March 21, 2007 – I was bereft and I wondered how this could happen. Sometimes little elephants are so traumatized after all they have been through that they can’t recover. Other times they have trouble with their teeth or they get deadly infections. Periodically their hearts are just shattered and they lack the will to live …
When Kilgoris died my February fostering was transferred to this sweet girl Chyulu
In 2008 and 2009 my charges thrived, and started to grow up. Things seemd to be stable in my virtual orphanage. Then on June 26, 2010 sweet Sian died. I was incredibly sad but this time my grief was mixed with a quiet rage at the cruel and unnecessary injustice of her death.
My November fostering was transferred to a sweet girl name Loijuk
And then on March 9, 2012 my little herd was struck another cruel blow – when my darling Dida left us behind to skip across The Rainbow Bridge in search of her Mom. Sadly another little orphan came along to take her place.
My October fostering was moved to a beautiful girl named Ndii
Surely the fates would now be on our side and my precious herd would be safe. It was not to be – Shimba was attacked by lions in April 2013 and although his wounds seemed to be healing with time – sadly he lost his life on October 20, 2013
So my April fostering was transferred again to a newly arrived fellow named Shujaa
Just as I wrapped my heart around this enchanting elephant – the news came that he too had died on November 8, 2013. I always take great comfort in knowing that these elephants leave this world surrounded by their loyal and loving keepers and the Sheldrick family who work so tirelessly on their behalf. I cannot imagine the sorrow that these brave people endure when they lose yet another elephant. I sit many miles away at my computer screen – the tears steaming down my face – but they must be there when these precious animals take their last breath and their gentle hearts are stilled.
So now my April fostering has once again been moved – this time to Lentili
So in 7 years – 5 of my original little herd have died. The cause of their separation from their families is often not known. Sometimes it can be conflict with local villagers, getting lost in a stampede or falling down a well. But the scourge of elephant poaching – with an elephant dying every 15 minutes – is most often the cause when these gentle, intelligent little babies are found wandering – frightened – alone and traumatized by what they have seen and heard.
Rest In Peace Always
In the microcosm where my herd of adopted animals resides – the residual effects of the poaching crisis are ever present. Broken elephant families – traumatized orphans – the DSWT always stretched to their limits – hard working elephant keepers – dedicated local vets – all of whom are aware of the threat of lawless, heartless, greedy men intent on killing for ivory – to fulfill human greed and entitlement.
Shame on every person involved in the ivory trade from the poachers to the middlemen to the weak-will and ineffective judicial systems and the corrupt governments who allow this to happen. To the users of ivory who drive this heinous slaughter – there is a hot seat in the 7th circle of hell awaiting each and every one of you – and Karma never forgets. She may be delayed but she WILL find you and quite often when you least expect her.
But “we” are also culpable – citizens of the world who do NOT stand up and DEMAND that this be stopped. Now that you know the true cost of elephant poaching – the next time that you are wringing your hands and proclaiming – “I’m only one person – what can I do” – adopt a baby elephant at The David Sheldrick Wildlife Trust and make a big difference in one little life.
Go Bravely Forward My Sweet Orphans …
Makena Chyulu Lesanju Lentili Kamboyo Lempaute Zurura Lenana Sinya Ndii Loijuk and blind Max!
This Is How Elephants Should Be!
With the holiday season approaching why not consider adopting a baby elephant from the David Sheldrick Wildlife Trust – either as a special gift for yourself or as an amazing present for your kids – family or friends. The elephants will thank you and you will have done so much good in a really simple way!