By Daphne Sheldrick
Elephants have captured the imagination of individuals across the world. Majestic beings, they have enthralled even those who may never have enjoyed close contact with them.
It's this empathy that has lead thousands of people across the world today to join The International March for Elephants organised by iworry, a campaign by the David Sheldrick Wildlife Trust, to sound the warning that the future survival of elephants is in serious jeopardy.
Some may wonder why elephants matter. I have been privileged to live amongst them and have nurtured a lifelong passion to protect them for over 55 years. My team and I have hand-reared over 160 orphaned elephants to date, some from the day they were born. It's a long term commitment and I have known them intimately throughout infancy and childhood into their teenage years and beyond.
Scientific studies of elephants have now led to the acceptance of abilities that we have witnessed on a daily basis for many years. Elephants share the same emotions as ourselves with a strong sense of family and the same sense of death. Like us they mourn the loss of loved ones. Each has an individual personality just like us; they can be mischievous, playful, hold a grudge or feel slighted. In many ways they are better than us and they have attributes that we humans lack, such as the ability to communicate over distance using low range sound hidden to human ears, telepathic capabilities as well as being sensitive to seismic sound through their feet. Yet for all the worldly reverence for elephants, they are today being hunted and killed at a catastrophic rate for something as simple as a tooth.
The phenomenon of poaching elephants for their tusks is not new. Ivory poaching of the 1970's and 80's meant we weathered a similar crisis and it was only through awareness and international pressure that a ban on the international sale of ivory was enacted in 1989. This ban provided a brief respite for elephants halting a rampant trade that in some regions, caused the loss of up to 80% of herds. More....