By Christina M. Russo
I recently traveled to Zambia to report on an organization that works to save baby elephants -- many of them are victims of the current poaching crisis in Africa.
The ongoing slaughter of Africa's elephants has left tens of thousands of elephants dead.
Teased out of these numbers are entire families: mothers, aunts, sisters, cousins, fathers, and brothers. Some of them, of course, are babies. In some instances, in fact, it's the babies the poachers have specifically targeted. The 2012 poaching rampage inside Bouba Ndjida National Park in Cameroon lasted nearly three months. Toward the end of the massacre, in which 650 elephants died, Celine Sissler-Bienvenu, of the International Fund for Animal Welfare (IFAW), surveyed the scene.
She deduced -- based on the lacerations she found on some of the calves' bodies -- that the poachers possibly used the babies as "a way for a poacher to be trained on killing elephants. Or, we also think it may have been a tactic: To torture the younger elephants to get the adults to come around. So they [could\ kill them all."
The number of calves that have perished in this current poaching wave is unclear. Also unknown is how many babies survive. And even if a calf manages to outlive an assault, the chance of that youngster making it in the wild without its mother is negligible.
This past March, a baby elephant did make it through a widely publicized massacre in Chad, which left more than 86 elephants dead, including pregnant females. According to Jenny Webb, cofounder of Wildlife At Risk (WAR), a Netherlands-based organization working to help orphaned wildlife, the calf ran 30 miles away from the massacre site, and then ran 30 miles back--presumably to find his mother. More....