Guest Post by Les Churchman
It’s taken me a long time to understand elephants even a little! Like most people of my generation I grew up occasionally seeing them performing in a circus, zoo or wildlife park. I didn’t enjoy these sad spectacles so later in life I watched every documentary I could to learn more.
Then last year I finally made it to Africa. I didn’t want to join a group “ticking off” the animals they had seen so I hired a private guide and vehicle. This allowed me to wait and watch – sometimes spending up to two hours just observing one animal’s behaviour.
During that trip I saw many animals and birds but the elephant was one of the stars. It was amazing seeing a matriarch lead a herd from the far distance across the Serengeti, stop when she realised a lion was close by and then the rest of the herd gather round the young to protect them. The prefabricated narratives of documentaries tell you something but not the whole story of this beautiful, intelligent social animal.
I visited four national parks in Northern Tanzania and one thing that struck me was the clear difference in behaviour of the elephants in Tarangire. Herds there had been heavily poached and were noticeably more wary – females guiding young away with their trunks, adults challenging us in a way that hadn’t happened in the other locations.
Slaughter of matriarchs had also left herds without the accumulated knowledge needed to cope with natural events such as droughts. The damage done by humans was all too clear.
When I came back to England the news broke that Satao, the famous fifty year old elephant, had been killed by poachers. People seemed genuinely sad about this but the news lasted barely one day in the press and people soon moved on.
It seemed to me that people can react to reports of the death of an individual animal but the huge annual slaughter hardly seems to register. Maybe the numbers are too big or people feel helpless.
There are some great animal charities – the David Sheldrick Wildlife Trust, for example, does amazing work rescuing and raising orphaned elephants so that they can return to the wild.
But this is not enough! At the current rate of slaughter we are facing the unthinkable – the possible extinction of the African elephant in 30 years. Time is of the essence. So I decided to do something, however small.
I used the video and photographic material I had from my trip to write a multimedia e-book. By making it free I hoped that it can be used by educators and individuals to help connect people with the wild elephant. To appreciate what an intelligent, social animal it is.
*** Download your FREE Copy Here ***
Only when we respect and value elephants can we hope to stop the ivory trade and change attitudes in countries which import ivory. Yet the modern world continues to trivialise, demean and anthropomorphise the elephant in cartoons and advertisements.
I hope my e-book can help to reconnect people with the real elephant and to appreciate what the continued slaughter means.
As Joni Mitchell sang, “Don’t it always seem to go that you don’t know what we lost till it’s gone?”
Hopefully the human race can prove her wrong and engage with elephant conservation in a serious and effective way.
Thank you Les for such a wonderful contribution! 🙂
Les Churchman’s FREE Africa-Related Ebooks
These books are available for download with iBooks on your Mac or iPad, and with iTunes on your computer.