By Shirley Muthu
“A world without elephants is hard to comprehend, but it is a real possibility. Elephants have walked the earth for 15 million years but against a submachine gun or poacher armed with a spear, they stand little chance,” says Daphne Sheldrick, founder of the David Sheldrick Wildlife Trust (DSWT), a conservation charity working on the ground in Kenya to rescue and hand-rear orphaned baby elephants, the silent victims of the illicit trade in ivory.
Some 36,000 African elephants were slaughtered in 2012 to fuel global demand for what is often called white gold, and the figure for 2013 could be even higher [see: Elephant slaughters predicted to kill 100,000, GenevaLunch.com, 3 December 2013\. The remaining population is estimated at 35,000 to 400,000; with the current level of poaching, we could see the extinction of the species in the next decade.
East Africa, once home to the highest number of elephants prior to a poaching epidemic in the 1970s, is now facing a critical situation.
In Kenya, the David Sheldrick Wildlife Trust has rescued over 45 orphaned elephants this year alone, the highest number since it was founded in 1977. In Tsavo National Park, Kenya, the DSWT has enhanced its anti-poaching efforts with aerial surveillance to protect victims of this insidious slaughter.
Eighteen-month-old Zongoloni was rescued by the DSWT in September, 2013. The young calf was found standing next to the body of her mother, bravely protecting her following a fatal gunshot wound inflicted by poachers. Young Zongoloini was frightened and confused, alone in the vast wilderness of Tsavo National Park where less than 12,000 elephants remain.
This young orphan is now in the care of the DSWT at their Nairobi Nursery after a careful rescue operation. Considering she has witnessed the worst from humans, Zongoloni is now thriving alongside the other infant elephant orphans and she will one day return to the wild.
Hers is a typical story of the difficult and distressing start to life experienced by a rescued calf.
To highlight the urgent need for action surrounding Africa’s elephants, the DSWT is appealing for help this Christmas. Fostering an elephant could make a novel Christmas gift.
The DSWT is currently caring for 80 orphans across their three units, and the demand for extra funds and resources at this critical time is staggering. More....