I think we all need some good news. Fortunately, the NRDC has published a list of good news for elephants as part of their year in review for World Elephant Day, which took place earlier this month.
They also published a list of concerns, which I will cover at a later time.
1. The poaching numbers of African elephants is still unacceptably high, but it has stabilized instead of increased, which is an important step in the right direction.
2. Law enforcement has improved, with better communication and less corruption. Powerful poaching lords are being arrested both in Africa and Asia.
3. Ivory crushes – the process of destroying ivory stocks – has proven to be an effective marketing tool to raise awareness about the elephants’ plight, and has reduced the problem of thieves selling ivory on the black market.
4. China has made enormous strides to reduce its consumption of ivory, with the government banning ivory markets.
5. The U.S. ivory bans now have data proving they have been effective in reducing demand, and thus have saved many elephants’ lives.
6. Activists at every level – from average citizens to celebrities and royalty to experts in the field have created a movement worldwide to save the elephant. CITES Secretary General Jon Scanlon stated: “The momentum generated over the past few years is continuing to translate into deeper and stronger efforts to fight these crimes on the front line, where it is needed most—from the rangers in the field, to police and customs at ports of entry and exit and across illicit markets.”
I think this is true…fifteen years ago, I would be hard pressed to find articles about saving elephants. Now, I can open People magazine at the supermarket and find a large story about it. Let’s keep the discussion going!
Today is World Elephant Day. Here is a picture from my recent visit to the zoo.
I got an email from the David Sheldrick Wildlife Trust, updating me on my foster elephant (reminder: you can foster an elephant for $50). It also talked about World Elephant Day and offered an opportunity to send an elephant vocal message. Details are below:
“Saturday 12th August is World Elephant Day, an extra opportunity for all of us to celebrate elephants and draw global attention to the threats they face, as well as the work being done to help these most majestic of animals. To make it possible for elephants to be truly heard this World Elephant Day, the Trust has created Say Hello in Elephant, a web based campaign that allows you to translate messages into elephant calls and share them with friends and family. The translations are based on decades of research into elephant communication by ElephantVoices and we hope you will take a moment to visit: http://www.helloinelephant.com and translate a message to share with your friends. I find it exciting to think that we can bring the true sounds of elephants to people all over the world, a sound that could be lost, were it not for the support of caring people like you, who help us to protect them.”
My local zoo is finally expanding the area for their snow leopards; their previous enclosure always broke my heart a bit. Snow leopards, like elephants, are struggling in the wild with climate change, poaching, and human/animal conflicts. There are only between 4000-6000 wild snow leopards in the world today.
The Snow Leopard Trust has been instrumental in saving the snow leopard. One of their projects includes providing livestock insurance – herders who wish to receive compensation for lost livestock must protect snow leopards. Another provides income to women by purchasing their handicrafts and selling them through the Trust all over the world. They also create eco-camps and nature clubs for children to learn about conservation, and run adult educational seminars on a regular basis.
I got an email from actor Jared Leto. Not a personal email, although he used my name. Rather, he is an ambassador for the World Wildlife Fund, and they are currently running a fundraising campaign to save Asian elephants in Myanmar.
Last week I posted about the current crisis in Myanmar, and how poachers are now selling elephant skin as “medicine”, even though there is no real scientific evidence that elephant skin has any benefit for human health.
Elephant poaching rates since January have already surpassed the annual average for Myanmar—this is truly a crisis. Most of the poaching is happening in two areas: Bago Yoma and Ayeyarwady Delta, where poachers can gain easy access. At this rate, wild Asian elephants could vanish from these areas in just one or two years…
WWF has an emergency action plan to stop the poaching. With your support, WWF will train, equip and deploy 10 anti-poaching teams to the most vulnerable areas, and implement a thorough plan to stop the slaughter.
So far, the campaign has raised $80,000. The goal is $230,000, so if you’re looking for a good cause for donatations, please consider this!
The Reteti Elephant Sanctuary in Kenya is supported by the Northland Rangelands Trust, which strives to get locals involved in conservation. The Samburu tribe traditionally feared elephants, but now are on the front lines saving them. They founded the sanctuary in 2016, and employ both male and female tribal members. The Samburu track elephants for data purposes, rescue elephants in trouble, rehabilitate adults elephants and provide care for orphaned elephants.
From National Geographic:
The loss of elephants has a ripple effect on other animals. Elephants are ecosystem “engineers” who feed on low brush and bulldoze small trees, promoting growth of grasses, which in turn attract bulk grazers like buffalo, endangered Grevy’s zebras, eland, and oryx, themselves prey for carnivores: lions, cheetahs, wild dogs, leopards.
For pastoralists like the Samburu, more grass means more food for their cattle—one reason indigenous communities have begun relating to elephants, animals long feared, in a new way. “We take care of the elephants, and the elephants are taking care of us,” Lemojong says. “We now have a relationship between us.”
The Guardian posted ten selfish reasons to save elephants – and they aren’t really selfish, as they can lead to medical advances that help a great many people.
By studying elephants, humans are beginning to learn more about the aging process, for example. Elephants have a similar lifespan, and similar age-related diseases such as osteoarthritis. They have a similar walking pattern to our own, so any insights researchers discover with elephants can likely transfer over to our own species.
I wrote a post previously discussing cancer research with elephant DNA, and that takes the number 1 spot on The Guardian’s list. Number 2 on the list talks about elephant hearing and how Stanford University is trying to develop human hearing aids that would use vibrational sounds.
Please head over to the site to read the whole list – it is quite interesting!
Well, it’s already been six months since I began the blog, and I must admit I’m surprised that I’ve been able to post nearly every day. I started thinking I would have a month or so worth of posts about elephants, and then have to change course.
But, I have found the topic to be rather inexhaustible. In addition, learning about elephants have made me naturally connect to other topics like conservation, environmental policy, animal rights, and human rights.
If there is one thing I have learned these past six months, it is that we are all connected.
(Photo taken at Elephant Nature Park)
One of my first posts was about why we should care about saving elephants. When there are so many issues that need our attention, why devote so much time and resources to an endangered species?
In 2015, BBC Earth did a report on the same topic. They found that although saving any species does require a huge investment, the economic and social benefit long term far exceeeds it. (In one example, they looked at how the tourist industry depends heavily on environmental beauty and biodiversity. In another example, they mentioned that medical advances found in nature can provide huge benefits to humankind).
But, after their long report, their conclusion at the end was the same and as simple as mine is now.
Why should we care? We should care because we are all connected.