September 2014

Elephant Conservation in Africa

Press secretary at Animat Habitat

On June 15th, wildlife filmmaker Mark Deeble submitted a final chapter for the story of Satao—a legend. Thanks to Mark for sharing his account of the life and death of this magnificent bull elephant. Let the story of Satao be a chapter we learn from, and change the way we look at wildlife. [1]

From another continent, it is unfair to place a value on such a loss for Kenya and on such widespread biodiversity loss across Africa without also addressing the impact of pollutants emitted and wasted by the rest of the world. This article points to Satao as an ambassador for the crisis facing elephant conservation in Africa, but also to the ways the world can help create change from home.

Satao, “Bull drinking.” (2014) © Mark Deeble [markdeeble.com]

Change in Africa

Pressure on natural habitats is fueling extreme climates and species loss. Human population and technological growth are creating a global network of people that are more aware of – and more accountable for – the fragile state of the planet. Now, more than ever.

It is clear that recent human history has imposed an imbalance in ecosystems on Earth. It is unbearably sad to stand by while entire species go extinct, knowing that the most beautiful animals on the planet are far from safe, knowing that this generation may be the last to live in a world with elephants in the wild, knowing that wild places may only exist in picture books for our children's children and so on.

Elephants are in a constant battle for survival. Poaching – where elephants are killed for their ivory – has increased at an alarming rate with the emergence of an affluent middle class in China. Half of the African elephant population has been lost in the last thirty-five years. One hundred thousand elephants have been poached in the last three years alone. There’s less than four hundred thousand left. An average of one hundred elephants are killed for their tusks every day, so it is not hard to see where this story goes if we do not change something, somewhere, soon.

Satao was one of a few remaining ‘magnificent tuskers’.

Satao, “Dead and splayed.” (2014) © Mark Deeble [markdeeble.com]

The Tsavo bull was killed for his ivory in late May 2014.

Species loss is forever. Still, research in remaining natural strongholds in particular in East Africa suggests actionable and collective solutions are possible. We can come together in support of conservationists working with and within local African communities to sustain and protect vital habitats and migratory routes. White Elephant—a comic book and a companion app in part aims to promote the work of select wildlife foundations, funds, organizations and trusts that create positive change in Africa for this iconic animal.

Nature is beautiful, and artists who paint and photograph nature celebrate its gorgeous wonders. Nature, however, has its dark side: suffering and dying are part of reality for all living things. But the rate and degree of this in nature have been augmented by man’s actions, causing an alarming depletion of ecosystems and endangering the survival of entire species.
— Robert Bateman. (2010) New Works, Artist's Statement p. 22. Greystone Books.

Change at Home

Change starts at home. It is in our power to encourage eco-friendly practices in our own communities, to help mitigate the collective human impact on the environment on a local scale, and to live more resourcefully on an individual basis. As we focus on making the best, and not simply the most, of the land we hold now, we can take the next steps together to make life sustainable for the generations to come.

We can help simply by not continuing to uphold a system that chooses short-term, clear-cut-and-run profits over sustainable harvests. We can help by leaving some habitats as wilderness. We need to help by saving space for forests and jungles and waterways. Earth needs to have ecosystems that exist apart from people and away from the cities that have been raised on the natural resources that surround them.

We can help by working to sustain natural ecosystems at home. We can make our cities less emissive. We can make our industries less of a pollutant. We can make an effort to be less wasteful. From the distance of a city contributing to a global crisis, we can start by striving to build our hometown better. This is one way our cities – and we the people in them – can stay in balance with the wild places where we choose not to exist. In so doing—in saving the wild places on Earth, people stand to benefit immeasurably.

It is in this balance that our wild places can sustain human life with clean air and fresh water. The more we are aware of what we have – and of the value of what we have – both in terms of community and economy, the more we are going to be aware of what these wild places need and the better we can take care of what we have already taken.

Lust for ivory must end. We can help by simply reconsidering what holds value in our lives. No example is more poignant than the seemingly archaic market for ivory trinkets. The poachers who kill more than thirty-thousand elephants each year forego long-term ecological and communal benefits in exchange for short-term gain to the benefit of a small group of criminals. Instead of such unworthy artifacts as ivory trinkets, we can help by upholding beauty in nature: a wonderful world with elephants.

In the lead up to the release of White Elephant, Animat Habitat aims to research conservation efforts on the ground in Africa, and to maintain a more complete listing of wildlife conservation parks and projects in a section of the website dedicated to information and resources. Here are a sample of summaries of forward-thinking foundations doing positive work for elephants, with an admitted bias to those that have provided further information on the Internet.

African Impact

African Impact hosts a range of conservation volunteering across south-west Africa, including a hands-on elephant and rhino program in Zimbabwe. The emphasis is wildlife conservation, with time spent in the game park as well as educating the community on the importance of the environment and its wildlife. Volunteer. [2]

David Shepherd Wildlife Foundation

DSWF fund anti-poaching teams and undercover investigations into criminal networks, “to protect wildlife species and to establish a sustainable future for them in the wild.” David Shepherd and other leading wildlife artists sell prints and gift cards on the site to help fund the foundation. Good idea! [3]

International Elephant Foundation

IEF are working in Kenya, Tanzania, Uganda and Lower Zambezi to increase the presence of security personnel for elephant monitoring and anti-poaching projects within the Serengeti ecosystem. Their vision is to create a sustainable future for elephants, by linking people and elephants for their mutual long-term benefit. [4]

Elephant-Human Relations Aid

EHRA enables volunteers to reduce conflict between elephants and humans through movement monitoring, data management, water protection and education programs. The Namibia-based team take great interest in the desert elephants, and if you too are ready for an adventure in the Africa: volunteer. [5]

Find a more complete list of wildlife conservation parks and projects in Africa.

1 Mark Deeble, wildlife filmmaker. Website Link

2 African Impact. Website Link

3 David Shepherd Wildlife Foundation. Fighting wildlife crime. Website Link

4 International Elephant Foundation. Website Link

5 Elephant-Human Relations Aid. Website Link

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