Haunted by a photograph

a compelling essay based on a wonderful old photo.

Mark Deeble

756 - blog

I came across a photograph recently that, every time I see it, causes an involuntary intake of breath, followed by a silent ‘wow!’. The first time it happened was twenty five years ago when I came across Peter Beard’s extraordinary ‘756’, a photograph of a huge number of elephants on the move – a ‘super-herd’. For me, it is one of those iconic images that after you have seen it, life never seems quite the same again – like Nick Ut’s photograph in Vietnam of Kim Phúk running naked down the road, to escape from burning napalm.

What drew me to ‘756’ was the ‘big picture’ it depicted – East Africa at its wildest and finest. A glimpse back into the Pleistocene … when huge herds of mammals roamed the land. I loved that I couldn’t see where the herd ended – how that is left to the viewer’s imagination…

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We MUST ban all ivory commerce to save elephants from extinction.


Unequivocally ban all ivory commerce to save elephants from extinction.

Future generations deserve to grow up in a world where elephants thrive. Children learn “E” is for Elephant, not Extinction.

Close to 100 elephants are killed each day for ivory. Africa-based terrorist networks such as The Lord’s Resistance Army, Janjaweed, and Al-Shabaab fund their nefarious activities with profits from the illegal ivory trade.

We applaud your Administration for issuing the National Strategy for Combating Wildlife Trafficking to protect elephants and other endangered species and firmly support your leadership and unprecedented efforts to combat the illegal ivory trade.

Banning ivory commerce will turn the tide for elephants, enhance African security as well as our national security interests, and ensure a responsible environmental stewardship for future generations.


One of the best videos about the David Sheldrick Wildlife Trust by Village Beat

We tell the ongoing story of the elephant poaching crisis in Kenya, and the threat of elephants throughout Africa. We hear from Julius an elephant keeper at the David Sheldrick Wildlife Trust orphan’s nursery in Nairobi, and Nick Trent, DSWT’s pilot working together with The Kenya Wildlife Service (KWS) in Kenya’s massive Tsavo National Park. At the current rate of elephants being slaughtered for their ivory it is forecasted that we could see the end of wild elephants across Africa in less than a decade.

The time to act is now – and there is so much we can do.

Click here:  http://vimeo.com/76119923

Begin by getting involved here: iWorry.org. A campaign of the David Sheldrick Wildlife Trust (DSWT)

iWorry is organizing marches around the world to urge world leaders to stop the poaching, stop the trade and stop the demand. To press for a complete ban on the international and domestic trade in ivory, to invest more resources into wildlife protection at a field level, and to strengthen penalties for those involved in the ivory trade and to heighten security at ports and borders and to invest in educational efforts to stop the demand for ivory.

You can help too by donating online to support the orphans rehabilitation process and the anti-poaching efforts of DSWT.

Directed by Village Beat
Produced by RYOT
Cliff Martinez, “I Drive” (from the original motion picture soundtrack of Drive).
Darkside, “Heart” (from Psychic, released Oct. 8, 2013).



Smuggler sentenced to 2 years and seven months

A Chinese national has been sentenced to two years and seven months in jail after being convicted for attempting to smuggle ivory from Kenya.

Chen Biemei, 30, was arrested on August 14, 2013 while trying to smuggle assorted worked ivory tucked in 15 sachets disguised and declared as macadamia nuts weighing 6.9kg.

She was trying to board a Kenya Airways Flight KQ 862 to Hong Kong at the Jomo Kenyatta International Airport in Nairobi.

When she appeared before the Makadara Magistrate Court in Nairobi, Biemei denied the charges and was remanded at Lang’ata Women’s Prison.

However, during Thursday’s trial, Biemei pleaded guilty to all charges and was sentenced to serve eight months for being in possession of ivory, 15 months for dealing in ivory and eight months for failing to make a report to wildlife authorities of being in possession of the ivory without an option of fine.

During sentencing, the magistrate noted that Kenya is facing rampant poaching and that the culprit had ‘malicious intentions and a guilty mind’ that necessitates a custodial sentence to reign on the menace.

Biemei first appeared in court on August 15, 2013 but the proceedings were bogged by language hitch.

A State counsel was granted one day to find an interpreter to aid in the prosecution. The magistrate directed that she remains in custody until August 16, 2013 to allow the State counsel look for an interpreter before taking a plea.

A total of 17 suspects of six different nationalities have been arrested smuggling ivory out of the country since the beginning of this year.

HOW WE CAN END THE ELEPHANT POACHING CRISIS – Chelsea Clinton and the Clinton Foundation

While elephant poaching has been a serious challenge at different points in time for more than a century, it has recently risen to alarmingly high levels. According to the Wildlife Conservation Society, the African elephant population has dropped from 1.2 million in 1980 to just 420,000 in 2012. While land use pressures and habitat loss pose serious threats to elephants, it is the illegal killing of elephants for their ivory that could cause them to become extinct within our lifetime. Last year alone, 35,000 African elephants were poached for their tusks, for their ivory.

This is not just an ecological disaster; it is an economic and security threat as well. Tourism, a vital source of income for many of the most-affected African countries, is threatened if wildlife preserves are depopulated. The overall black market for illegal wildlife trade has become the fourth most lucrative criminal activity internationally, after drugs, counterfeit goods, and human trafficking.  Wildlife trafficking yields $19 billion per year, according to The International Fund for Animal Welfare’s recent report. These illicit profits fuel rebel and militia groups, even terrorist organizations. Ivory and other wildlife commodities help finance some of their operations in East Africa, West Africa, and possibly further afield, adding to the already increasing concerns around global security.

The illegal ivory trade is buoyed by rising demand.  China and Thailand’s increasing affluence, as well as the growing middle class elsewhere in Asia, has been a key contributor to the increasing demand for ivory. Not surprisingly, as the demand increases, so too does the price of tusks and ivory and the tragic incentives for elephant poachers.  According to a recent Washington Post article, Savannah elephant tusks sell for up to $1,000 per pound, with forest elephant ivory often fetching an even higher price given its prized pinkish hue. Yet, it’s not just animal poaching or the illegal trade of animal parts that has enveloped within this crisis – poachers are putting park rangers in danger too. In the last decade alone, 1,000 rangers in 35 different countries have been killed.

To help end this crisis, we need a complete systems change and we need to recognize that elephant poaching exists within its own market system – we need to stop the killing, stop the trafficking, and stop the demand by educating end consumers. Last November, as then-Secretary of State, my mother announced the beginning of an effort to further recognize and address international wildlife trafficking, and just last month, President Obama issued an executive order on Combating Wildlife Trafficking, with a $10 million pledge demonstrating the United States’ commitment to addressing the crisis and related organized crime issue by working with foreign governments.

Outside of the U.S., other organizations like the African Wildlife Foundation are creating innovative programs to incentivize and reward local populations in the successful protection of elephant populations.  The 40,000-hectare Sekute Conservation Area is part of the Kazungula Landscape which links Zambia, Botswana, Namibia, and Zimbabwe, and is home to the largest concentration of elephants in Africa. I recently had the opportunity to visit this conservation area and meet with the students and faculty of Lupani, the community trust leadership, as well Patrick Bergin, the CEO of the African Wildlife Foundation.  In Zambia, the African Wildlife Foundation built and continues to support the Lupani Primary School as an incentive for the establishment of a community-protected wildlife area and the protection of valuable wildlife dispersal corridors. They also developed and brokered an innovative deal between the Sekute Community Trust and private sector partners to build the Machenje Fishing Lodge.  In return for meeting specified conservation objectives, the local community owns the fishing lodge, while the private sector partners handle the management.  Hopefully, it is a true win-win-win, for the private sector partners, the community, and the wildlife.

In Tanzania, I visited one of the parks where the Wildlife Conservation Society does research on elephants and works with the Tanzanian government to protect this species. I think it would be impossible to not be overwhelmed by the majesty, the humility and the personalities of the individual elephants and families of elephants roaming across Tarangire National Park. As I observed a three-month old baby elephant playing mischievously and a thirtyish year old mother protecting her children, it became starkly clear how innocent these creatures are, and how necessary it is for us to protect them. The mother cannot protect her young on her own.  I listened as Charles Foley, an elephant conservationist, and James Deutsch, the Director of the Wildlife Conservation Society in Africa, described the successes they’ve had working with governments and communities at protecting elephants on the ground in twelve high priority landscapes from Nigeria to Mozambique – Tarangire included.  But they also stressed that this success needs to be rolled out to new sites where elephants are being killed, as well as complemented by work to intercept ivory traffickers and to staunch consumer demand for ivory. They know that they also cannot protect elephants on their own.

In the 1970s and 1980s, the international community successfully came together to prevent the extinction of elephants, an effort that led to an international trade ban of ivory, along with funding to create wildlife preserves and anti-poaching efforts – all of which helped the African elephant population recover. Last month, my mother held a meeting with several conservation groups to discuss how we need to do more, and how we can do more to bring governments, organizations, and individuals together to create a coherent plan and reach a real solution.  I’m proud that the Clinton Foundation is beginning to work with African leaders, NGOs and the private sector to build a Clinton Global Initiative commitment to formalize a plan and drive coordinated action. By working together across borders and sectors, we can solve this challenge.

for the original source link, go here:  http://www.clintonfoundation.org/main/clinton-foundation-blog.html/2013/08/19/how-we-can-end-the-elephant-poaching-crisis/

My foster elephant, Ajabu, has passed away.

Heartbreak at the Nairobi Nursery

It is with profound heartbreak and sorrow that we have to announce the death of our precious Nursery baby, Ajabu, rescued the day she was born on the 4th April, 2013 having been found abandoned near the Tsavo East Park airstrip.   Upon arrival she was given an infusion of Elephant Plasma since it appeared unlikely that she had been able to benefit from her mother’s first Colostrum milk that contains the antibodies vital to survival.   Thereafter she thrived, fed milk on demand throughout the day and the night, and diligently protected from the chill by being always covered with a warm blanket.

She was late in teething, but when she began cutting her first molar, the usual difficulties appeared, but Ajabu never lost her appetite and weathered them, managing to cut 2 molars by the time of her death.  However during August, whilst we as a family were down in Tsavo overseeing our field projects, it was noticed that Ajabu’s  back feet were  turning inwards slightly, which in the past, according to our experience, has baffled everyone but  been a pre-cursor to the death of infant teething elephants.   This was extremely alarming – a sign that all was not well with our precious Nursery baby.

Then on the morning of the 21st August, her Keepers reported that fluid was coming from her trunk, and that, unusually, she had refused her usual morning milk feeds and was “dull”.   Our donated Blood Diagnostic machine was out of order, and has been sent to Germany for repair, so a sample of her blood was sent to the Nairobi Hospital for analysis. The results astounded us for everything was normal but for an extremely low platelet count. With no indication of a bacterial or viral infection, the suspected pneumonia could be ruled out.   Could the platelet defect be as a result of a Vitamin D deficiency, through not having been exposed to sufficient sunshine during the very cold and miserable Nairobi winter months of June, July and August?   Ajabu had been protected from chill and the possibility of pneumonia (a major killer of baby elephants) by being covered by a blanket when out and about.   Could this have proved counterproductive with this newborn calf?

She was put on intravenous plasma drip in an attempt to  boost her platlet count, but tragically, little Ajabu while comfortably lying on her mattress in her stable stopped breathing in the evening of the 21st, and surrounded by her grief-stricken human family she passed away very quietly and peacefully at 8 p.m.

The death of such a cosseted infant elephant is a heartbreak indeed for many.   She was  so dearly loved by us and all her Keepers,  as well as by her foster-parents throughout the world who have diligently followed her progress through the Fostering Programme’s monthly  Keepers’ Diaries.   She will also be deeply missed by all her little elephant friends currently in the Nursery, none more so than Sonje her very special surrogate mini mum. But, we have to emulate the wild Elephant mothers who suffer bereavement so stoically and bravely, and who despite grieving and mourning a loss as deeply as us humans (perhaps even more so), yet set us the example by having the fortitude and endurance to turn the page and focus on life and the living.   We must give thanks that we were able to share the life of little Ajabu which for her were almost 5 very happy months that otherwise would have been denied her.   And that during that time she was surrounded by caring and the same boundless love that her human family would have given her, and that she had a pain-free and peaceful end overseen by those who cared and loved her deeply.

For us, the need to focus on the living came within 30  minutes of Ajabu’s death, for yet another tragic infant elephant orphan arrived in the Nursery, rescued and flown in from Tsavo East National Park, landing in the night and arriving at the Nursery shortly afterwards.   This new yearling baby is emaciated and far from well – in the usual fragile condition of those who simply can no longer keep up with the herd where the Elephant Matriarch has had to make the decision to focus on the living.

Celebrating World Elephant Day – August 12

In celebration of World Elephant Day on Monday, August 12th, we honor the elephants of Kenya. Please take a moment to read, sign and share the petitions below on behalf of Kenya’s struggling elephants.

1. Sign the petition to stop elephant poaching in Kenya. This petition is 86,000 strong! http://bit.ly/SY2VJx

2. Sign the petition to end the slaughter of Kenya’s elephants from Paula Kahumbu! http://bit.ly/14YTM68