By Jenny R. Isaacs
On March 21st, the organization Save the Elephants posted on their Facebook page that two African elephants had been poached inside a nearby reserve: "Sad news from the north of Kenya. Usually the national reserves are safe havens for elephants, and they know it. But in the last two weeks two of our study animals have been shot inside the Buffalo Springs reserve. First an 18 year-old bull called Ngampit and then, yesterday, 23 year-old female called Cirrocumulus (from the Clouds family)."
These two elephants were well-known to researchers from Save the Elephants (STE), who monitor elephant populations on the frontlines of human/elephant conflict. Founded in 1993, the mission of Save the Elephants is "to secure a future for elephants and sustain the beauty and ecological integrity of the places they live, to promote man's delight in their intelligence and the diversity of their world, and to develop a tolerant relationship between the two species," according to their website.
Frank Pope, Chief Operations Officer for STE, wrote in an STE Field Diary of the illegal killings which came within a week of each other on April 2nd: "On 13th March we lost Ngampit ("Big Foot"), a mature male who was popular with researchers and who spent a lot of time consorting with our resident families. One of the females he used to spend time with was Cirrocumulus, one of the last remaining elephants from our second Clouds family...Then, exactly a week later, Cirrocumulus was also gunned down."
Before and after pictures of Cirrocumulus and of Ngampit were posted on Facebook and included in Pope's online field diary. The before photos show profile images of two tall elephants--grand and social creatures. The after photos show in gruesome clarity their murder and mutilation: their faces hacked off for their ivory tusks. Those who follow elephant poaching incidents are sadly accustomed to such images of faceless fallen elephants. But the choice by Save the Elephants to show before and after pictures does something different than just present the latest carnage: it illustrates what was lost and personalizes the death. Sharing images and stories of these individuals enjoying their freedom while alive, before becoming victims to human violence, reminds us that each elephant killed is not just another faceless casualty. More....