I was ensconced in a successful career in New York, on a path that was not easy to break from. But I had a growing awareness of the situation with the African Elephants and I needed to learn more.
Elephant populations dropped by 50% between 1981 and 1989 through systematic poaching, mainly for their ivory, although in central Africa elephants are also poached for meat. The more I learned the facts, the more heartbroken I became. I knew that I needed to learn more. And I would like to share what I have learned with you.
Between 1950 and 1985, ivory exports had grown from 200 to 1,000 tons per year. This was viewed as a devastating situation, and in 1989, the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES) banned the international trade in ivory.
From 1979 to 1989 there was such extensive poaching of elephants for their tusks (tusks=ivory=$$$) in Africa that the Elephant population was on its way to becoming extinct. I went to Africa in 1988 and among other places, visited the Elephant Orphanage and Nursery in Nairobi run by Dame Daphne Sheldrick.
Daphne had worked with her husband, David, from 1955 to 1976, and continues his work (along with their daughters) today. The regions throughout Kenya (and many other African countries as well) have evolved into a war zone between the poachers and the rangers, the conservationists, and the citizens determined to protect this incredible species and the land they all share. David Sheldrick is one of my heroes, (I shall write about the others as well.) David held his post as Warden of Tsavo East (another fabulous spot along my journey) until he was transferred to head the Planning Unit for all of Kenya's Wildlife Areas based in Nairobi at the end of 1976. Sadly David died 6 months later, but the legacy he left in Tsavo endures.
When I visited the nursery and travelled throughout Kenya, I learned as much as I possibly could. After my trip I returned home and read everything I could get my hands on, regarding both the horrible reality and this wonderful species that we shared this world with as well as the characteristics of compassion, emotions, and family unity. (Cynthia Moss, "Elephant Memories" is a must read!) These and many incredible qualities should serve to elevate these magnificent creatures, not make their lives equal only to the value of trinkets and carvings acquired to symbolize their owner's wealth.
2011 was reported as the worst year for elephant poaching of all. More than 24 tons of illegal ivory was recovered in significantly large seizure activities. The Ivory Trade has not slowed down, however, but has been escalated from the days of individual poachers trying to make it big in the trade to massive terrorists activities where a hundred helicopter pilots will fly over herds and down them with semi-automatic machine guns. It is believed that the recent mall explosion in Nairobi was funded by the Ivory poached ..it has become very much of a Mafia-type organization. http://www.independent.co.uk/...
Currently an elephant is killed for its tusks (Ivory) every 15 minutes, let me repeat that, EVERY FIFTEEN MINUTES AN ELEPHANT IS KILLED FOR ITS TUSKS!!! At this rate they will be extinct by 2015. Can you imagine a world without Elephants? Will your children, or their children only know of Elephants in storybooks?
There is so much more to share with you, but if you care at all, please go to the davidsheldrickwildlifetrust.org and read more, and consider that this holiday season what a fabulous gift you could give to a loved one (or to yourself!) by fostering a baby elephant from Dame Sheldrick's nursery. The cost is minimal, $50/year. The recipient with receive the certificate of adoption, and regular updates via email on the well being and activities on 'their' elephant! Please, give this serious consideration. What a wonderful thing you will be part of! You will be saving an elephant!
Thank you for your interest! Looking forward to hearing your comments.