Poaching in Africa is a lucrative business. If you are a local, you can make more killing one elephant than you ever could by working hours on end as a farmer or laborer. But, the real big money goes to the illegal wildlife gangs who sell the ivory to markets worldwide. These gangs are not just criminal in the sense of destroying wildlife – they are often extremely violent and kill people too.
The janjaweed militias, infamous for their role in the raping, killing, and refugee crises that occurred in Dafur (Sudan) are one example of a group profiting off killing elephants.
Sadly, it seems humans have yet to learn that violence breeds violence. If you brutally hack off elephant tusks leaving the carcass to rot, what stops you from treating humans in a similar fashion?
People who buy ivory nowadays know the plight of elephants. What they may not know is how closely the suffering of wildlife is linked with the suffering of humankind.
This picture from my trip is both heartbreaking and inspiring for me. These elephants are blind from human abuse. After being rescued, they formed a group and enjoy each other’s company in the forests of northern Thailand. At the sanctuary, they have learned to feel safe, and our group was able to feed and pet them. In other words, after being violently treated, they reacted by both comforting one another and not giving up on humankind. Elephants can teach us wonderful life lessons.