This fortnight elephants have been on my mind. I’ve been watching the beautiful new BBC documentary ‘Africa’ on BBC 1 on Wednesday nights, and, like most people that watched it last week, found myself so caught up in the wonderful photography, beautiful landscapes and heart-breaking stories of motherhood and harsh droughts. What an incredible, some times painful series.
With elephants in the forefront of my mind, I found myself on a train journey the next day reading a piece of literature my Nan had passed onto me over Christmas – a newsletter from the International Fund for Animal Welfare (IFAW), whom she supports. This particular issue was talking about the IFAW’s work in the National Park of Boubanjida, Cameroon, where they have liaised with Cameroon authorities to secure military presence in the park to tackle poaching. Success!
The article explains that the Cameroon military stormed Sudanese poachers whom had already killed 650 of the 1000 elephants there; another success! Bad guy’s have been caught, military are on patrol and there’s even another article about a march, thousands of people strong, demanding the CITES (Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species) stop allowing some limited ivory trade to continue, which it has been doing since the global banning of commercial ivory trade in 1989. Globally the IFAW has collected 290,000 petitions to end the ivory trade, a nice backing to the July march.
So I suppose I found myself in a state of naïve, triumphant ignorance when I received a call from my mum to ask if I’d heard the news about Kenya. My sense of triumphant disappeared pretty quickly when I heard about what has been described as Kenya’s worst case of ivory poaching for years. The remains of an entire family of elephants were found in a Kenyan national park, slaughtered for ivory, including eleven adults and one infant calf. All were shot dead and their tusks removed.
When I think of watching the beautiful herds I saw moving through Shamwari Game Reserve, and the precious moments we got be close up to them, I feel even more grateful. I guess with most things in life, when it comes to ivory poaching it seems like 2 steps forward, 1 step back.
Here are some of my precious encounters with elephants at Shamwari that I’d love to share: