By Jeremy Hance
Africa's elephant poaching crisis doesn't just threaten a species, but imperils one of humanity's most important links to the natural world and even our collective sanity, according to acclaimed photographers and film-makers, Cyril Christo and Marie Wilkinson. Authors of the book Walking Thunder - In the Footsteps of the African Elephant, Christo and Wilkinson have been documenting Africa's titans in photos and film for several years. In 2011, the pair released a film Lysander's Song (named after their son an avid fan of elephants) which depicts the millennial-old relationship between humans and elephants.
"The elephant inhabits our imaginations like few species in the history of our kind. We are probably indebted to elephants for having helped us survive droughts because they knew where to find water and when the rains would arrive. They are self-aware and they mourn their dead...they know who they are. They are the spirit of nature!" Christo and Wilkinson told mongabay.com in an interview. "Just as there is a movement among scientists and philosophers to give cetaceans non-human person status, so should the great apes and elephants. It is a question of morality, mind, ecology and spirit because a world without these beings invites a world that is no longer habitable for humans."
Since the late 2000s, poaching of Africa's elephants for their ivory has hit levels not seen for decades. Experts now warn that some 30,000 elephants are being butchered every year for their ivory, much of which is smuggled abroad to East Asia. The crisis, which has coincided with skyrocketing poaching of rhinos as well, has not only decimated populations of the world's largest terrestrial animal, but has also changed elephant behavior, according to the filmmakers.
Response to the poaching crisis has been slow, but is beginning to pick up speed. In July of this year, U.S. President Barack Obama pledged $10 million to help African nations train wildlife rangers and police to mitigate the illegal trade. More....