Unbelievably, Elephants Forgive.

Yes, elephants do forgive. Throughout the African continent elephants are under siege, if not directly, they are teetering on the firing line. If a family member hasn’t been personally butchered chances are a bond member or clan member has. Poaching statistics and seizures tell us that periods of chaos, grieving and mourning out number periods of peace, celebration and birth. In southeast Asia countless calves and juveniles are abducted from their families in the wild and forced into servitude in the logging and tourism industry where they are “crushed” physically, psychologically and spiritually. The enduring trauma and irrevocable harm thrust on elephants’ psyches and souls has been documented and mapped by scientists and conservationists and all agree that such relentless stress and terror of this gentle, highly sensitive and emotionally complex mammal could be catastrophic to the species.

One would expect any elephant at the center of the poaching apocalypse to retaliate or at least flee and never be seen again by its persecutors, yet each day we witness African elephants willing to remain in danger zones and forgive. Following decades of forced labor, physical abuse and psychological tyranny one would expect Asian elephants rescued from labor and tourism camps to harbor resentment or at the very least renounce all human interaction, yet they forgive and forge new human bonds.

Forgiveness is defined as a conscious, deliberate decision to release feelings of resentment or vengeance toward a person or group that has harmed you, regardless of whether they actually deserve such forgiveness. Definitions emphasize that forgiveness does not include forgetting, nor does it condone or excuse the offense. So how do we know elephants forgive? In the midst of genocide, we continue to see African elephants approaching vehicles in the bush with curiosity and trust, mothers proudly display their new born calves to researchers, calves wounded physically and/or psychologically by poachers muster the will to live with human intervention, a bull speared numerous times allows veterinarians to treat him day after day and elephant families return to human communities that once betrayed them through retribution and revenge. Asian elephants welcome human intervention and express obvious gratitude when rescued from their hellish existence; once in sanctuary they form strong bonds to those humans who intervened on their behalf.

For some unimaginable reason, elephants continue to forgive us our trespasses and atrocities. Dr. Dame Daphne Sheldrick reflects on elephants and their forgiveness, “ People say to us ‘How can you carry on, amidst so much heartbreak and tragedy; amidst so many setbacks and such profound suffering’ -The answer is that we take our cue from the elephants themselves, who witness suffering and heartbreak on an almost daily basis, yet still have the courage to turn the page and focus on the living…with measured strides they move quietly and gently in their world, despite their strength and size, surrounded by family and friends, but stalked by the agony of perpetual persecution from mankind in most of their ancient haunts. Where once elephants covered huge territories during their annual migrations, unerringly following the rain and the fodder, today they are being compressed into areas that deny them the space they need, cutting them off from family members and friends far a field, their ancient migratory routes now dogged by the encroachment of expanding human populations and their existence threatened by the avaricious greed of mankind for their ivory tusks. Yet, orphaned elephants who have witnessed the slaughter of their mother and elephant family can pass on to humans the important message of forgiveness and tolerance, for in their hearts they harbour both .” Daphne Sheldrick then echoes many of us when she concludes, “I have often been ashamed to be a member of the human race in view of how elephants have been treated at the hands of humans. Noble, powerful, yet inherently gentle elephants are emotionally identical to us, but so much better than us in many ways. Endowed with a mysterious intuition, slow to anger, they never forget, and yet find forgiveness despite the unjust and evil cruelty inflicted on them.”

~Written by Elephant Advocacy~

The Western Black Rhino is now officially extinct.


London (CNN) — Africa’s western black rhino is now officially extinct according the latest review of animals and plants by the world’s largest conservation network.
The subspecies of the black rhino — which is classified as “critically endangered” by the International Union for Conservation of Nature’s (IUCN) Red List of Threatened Species — was last seen in western Africa in 2006.
The IUCN warns that other rhinos could follow saying Africa’s northern white rhino is “teetering on the brink of extinction” while Asia’s Javan rhino is “making its last stand” due to continued poaching and lack of conservation.
“In the case of the western black rhino and the northern white rhino the situation could have had very different results if the suggested conservation measures had been implemented,” Simon Stuart, chair of the IUCN species survival commission said in a statement.
“These measures must be strengthened now, specifically managing habitats in order to improve performance, preventing other rhinos from fading into extinction,” Stuart added.
The IUCN points to conservation efforts which have paid off for the southern white rhino subspecies which have seen populations rise from less than 100 at the end of the 19th century to an estimated wild population of 20,000 today.

Rhino Poaching rose over Easter 2013

Johannesburg – There has been a significant rise in poaching in the Kruger National Park (KNP) over the Easter weekend, SA National Parks (SANParks) said on Tuesday.

Over the past two long weekends more poachers had made incursions into the park, SANParks said in a statement.

“The heightened activities started on 21 March and until yesterday [Monday] 1 April, there were 56 incursions recorded by the KNP rangers’ corps.”

Commander of operations Johan Jooste said: “While the rest of the country was relaxing, our men in uniform were kept busy by greedy bandits that want to plunder our natural heritage.

“We would like to commend our rangers and allies from the SANDF and SAPS for the assistance this past two long weekends. If it was not for their dedication, we could be counting huge losses.”

Poaching tracks were noticed, shots were fired on six occasions, and groups of poachers were spotted four times, with some of them escaping back into Mozambique.

There had been four clashes with poachers.

In one of these, a poacher was shot dead on Saturday. Another poacher was believed to have committed suicide on Monday.

On Sunday, rangers arrested a poacher with a rifle, ammunition, and poaching equipment.

“In the same incident, a badly mutilated rhino cow was discovered nearby with its horns hacked off but still alive and bleeding profusely from its wounds,” SANParks said.

“There was no alternative for the rangers except to euthanise the animal.”s

The search for the arrested poacher’s accomplices was continuing.

Dead poacher found

In Nwanetsi on Monday, a shot was heard and patrolling rangers found the body of a suspected poacher with a self-inflicted injury. A rifle was found next to his body.

“It is thought he killed himself upon realising that he was surrounded.”

Jooste said park officials were saddened by the helicopter crash that claimed the lives of five soldiers.

“Our prayers and thoughts are with their next of kin and we offer our sincerest condolences,” he said.

The soldiers were killed on Saturday night when their helicopter, conducting a scheduled aerial patrol of the park as part of an anti-rhino poaching operation, crashed.

The SANDF said on Monday a preliminary investigation was underway to establish what led to the crash.

The Introduction to the wildLIFE Project

The wildLIFE Project is a body of work that serves to illustrate and project to its viewers the plight of elephants and rhinoceros.  These animals are being killed off in alarming numbers for their ivory and their horns, only to serve the vain needs of humans.  This work is to be exhibited alongside an interpretive exhibition that will show graphs, maps, photos and videos that serves to educate the viewer further, with the intent of educating them about the vulnerability of these animals.  This project will also bring awareness to the problem of wild animal poaching and the need for wildlife protection.

The wildLIFE Project has been percolating for the past few years, but my passion for animals and particularly wildlife, goes back to childhood.  In 2004, my first piece about the demise of wild animals was completed after a visit to Tasmania, Australia.  Having read about the extinction of animals as a child, I wanted to build a shrine to the Tasmanian Tiger.   This issue is now emerging as a priority as I read about the thousands of elephants and rhinoceros being poached monthly and I can no longer only shed tears.

In recent years my work has taken a narrative direction, integrating images and text into shrine-like cabinet forms.   An earlier work, Executive Order 9066, addressed the forced evacuation of Japanese Americans during World War II.   The resulting exhibition was accompanied by a mini interpretive museum (inspired by regional museums one finds scattered across the US)  showing facts, statistics, maps, archival objects and photos.   This project was successful in that it became a community project, not only drawing artists and art lovers but also the broader communities, (Asian Americans, American history high school students).  The project served to educate many Americans that knew very little about this unfortunate piece of history.  Moving forward, this will be my template for the wildLIFE Project, where the ultimate goal remains the same asExecutive Order 9066:  that is to inform, as well as engage the viewers emotionally.  It will also  draw more advocates to this important cause.

My wildLIFE Project will similarly rely on photos, text, maps, and charts.  These details are critical to enhance the emotional weight of the theme.  It will be necessary to provide graphic images in order to heighten the viewers’ consciousness about the fact that these animals are fast approaching extinction.  The work will take on some characteristics of thebutsudan (The butsudan is a Buddhist shrine that is kept in the home to honor deceased family members) as a means of mourning the loss of so many animals.  As a furniture maker,  I want to build a series of these shrines – I have experimented with the cabinet form for many years now, and have found this form to be extremely effective in providing a housing for a diorama, or a miniature stage set.  I have confidence in working this way and am excited about the new subject matter that I will incorporate into these pieces.  Some will house images that will depict these animals, both alive, and (tragically) dead.

I will draw on the notion of how these animals come into our childhoods, and how in reality, these majestic animals belong not in circuses or zoos, but in LIFE, they belong in the wild.    I have a glimmer of hope that perhaps these animals can be saved – consequently not all the works will be foreboding.  I hope to instill a sense of nostalgia related to my own childhood memories of animals and what they meant to me. This work will have a sense of wonder and fantasy of the existence of the animals’ magnificence.   In addition to images I will continue using video in one or two of the works, much in the same manner as my other projects.  I have found that video provides a layer of information that is less static and more emotive than photos.

I plan to also experiment with the application of these images onto glass, which will add depth to my cabinet forms when they are open.  I will be an artist in residence at Pilchuck Glass School in Stanwood, WA in May 2013 and will be working with both cold and hot glass for this body of work.  I am particularly excited about the prospects of transferring images onto flat glass sheets and using these in my work.

My supporters of the wildLIFE Project will receive a regular update from me through the blog that I will create.  This blog will provide not only updates about my progress through photos and video, but also any information and links that may be relevant to my topic of wildlife preservation.