I was ensconced in a successful career in New York, on a path that was not easy to break from. But I had a growing awareness of the situation with the African Elephants and I needed to learn more.
Elephant populations dropped by 50% between 1981 and 1989 through systematic poaching, mainly for their ivory, although in central Africa elephants are also poached for meat. The more I learned the facts, the more heartbroken I became. I knew that I needed to learn more. And I would like to share what I have learned with you.
Between 1950 and 1985, ivory exports had grown from 200 to 1,000 tons per year. This was viewed as a devastating situation, and in 1989, the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES) banned the international trade in ivory.
From 1979 to 1989 there was such extensive poaching of elephants for their tusks (tusks=ivory=$$$) in Africa that the Elephant population was on its way to becoming extinct. I went to Africa in 1988 and among other places, visited the Elephant Orphanage and Nursery in Nairobi run by Dame Daphne Sheldrick.
Daphne had worked with her husband, David, from 1955 to 1976, and continues his work (along with their daughters) today. The regions throughout Kenya (and many other African countries as well) have evolved into a war zone between the poachers and the rangers, the conservationists, and the citizens determined to protect this incredible species and the land they all share. David Sheldrick is one of my heroes, (I shall write about the others as well.) David held his post as Warden of Tsavo East (another fabulous spot along my journey) until he was transferred to head the Planning Unit for all of Kenya's Wildlife Areas based in Nairobi at the end of 1976. Sadly David died 6 months later, but the legacy he left in Tsavo endures.
When I visited the nursery and travelled throughout Kenya, I learned as much as I possibly could. After my trip I returned home and read everything I could get my hands on, regarding both the horrible reality and this wonderful species that we shared this world with as well as the characteristics of compassion, emotions, and family unity. (Cynthia Moss, "Elephant Memories" is a must read!) These and many incredible qualities should serve to elevate these magnificent creatures, not make their lives equal only to the value of trinkets and carvings acquired to symbolize their owner's wealth.
2011 was reported as the worst year for elephant poaching of all. More than 24 tons of illegal ivory was recovered in significantly large seizure activities. More....