By Kristina Chew
“Dwindling.” “Fewer and fewer.” With wearying frequency, these are the terms used to describe the ever-declining number of elephants in the world as poachers slaughter them for their ivory tusks. Amid rising fear that ours could be the last generation to see elephants in the wild, many have been cheered to know of conservationists’ campaigns to put a stop to the illegal ivory trade.
Finding out that a German environment minister, Ude Wedekind, had recently gone hunting in Africa and killed an elephant was shocking, mind-boggling news that led many of us to wonder, how serious are those who say they are championing endangered species and the environment?
Care2 members know what has to be done to save wildlife whose existence is threatened. More than 36,000 of you signed a petition demanding that Wedekind be fired for hunting those he should be protecting. Earlier this month, Wedekind was forced to resign from his position as environment minister in the central German province of Thuringia.
Wedekind had killed the elephant early in December while on a trip to Botswana. As German news magazine Der Spiegel reports, he fired more than 20 shots to kill the elephant who then “sought for a long time to flee.” Back in Germany, Wedekind proceeded to email photos of the dead elephant and himself (holding up a gun), apparently to convey his “big game hunter qualities.”
Wedekind’s boasts turned out to be his undoing. His email, with photo attachments, was forwarded by more than a few and ended up in Der Spiegel’s inbox.
Animal and environmental advocates were quick to show their disgust about someone who hunts elephants and sends around selfies of himself doing it. Opposition politicians in Thuringia were also outraged. Wedekind, who had figured prominently in his province’s government (“directly behind the Minister and the Secretary of State,” comments Der Spiegel), soon had no choice but to resign.
A huge thanks goes to Care2 members who signed the petition that called for Wedekind to step down!
Wedekind was not at all contrite. As it was becoming too clear that he had no choice but to resign, he still declared that he keeps plenty of “living and dead animals.”
It’s a statement to leave one puzzled over the now-former environmental minister’s actual commitment to the cause he says he’s in support of, in the same way that one can’t help but find it jarring that Prince William and Prince Harry can call themselves defenders of wildlife while very happily heading out to hunt pheasants, wild boar and (as revealed by a just-revealed photo of the younger Prince) water buffalo.
Clearly those who title themselves conservationists need to be held accountable. All the more reason you should start a petition and let officials know that those who truly and deeply advocate for the welfare of animals — Care2 members like you — don’t hesitate to speak up and take action.