By Don Pinnock [Admin note: This is an expanded/modified version of another article (also published today) entitled Day of the Elephants.\
All over the world today people who care are celebrating and paying homage to the greatest of Earth’s animals – the elephant. A century ago there were around four million in Africa and Asia. Today, their number is between 420,000 and 658,000, and dropping.
For centuries people have felt a strange kinship with these great grey animals. Elephants are the only creatures, other than us, who celebrate birth and mourn death. They trumpet in pure joy when a calf is born, and fondle the bones of their dead, seemingly deep in thought.
In India they are revered as the god Ganesh. In African fables, the elephant is always the wise chief who settles disputes among forest creatures impartially. They are featured on the national flags of Siam, Laos and the Ivory Coast.
In Zulu tradition the Indlovu (elephant) clan are the line of paramount chiefs. And when the Ashanti of Ghana find a dead elephant in the forest, they give it a chief's burial.
In the beginning, it may have been this respect for elephants that made an ivory object desirable and precious. But in the modern world of commerce and high-calibre weapons, desire and greed has trumped respect and four elephants an hour are now falling to poacher guns.
Most ivory goes to China. Yet a survey by HorizonKey in the cities of Beijing, Shanghai and Guangzhou found that seven out of 10 Chinese did not know that ivory comes only from dead elephants.
The survey also noted that more than half of those who did know considered poaching uncommon, and a third of those surveyed thought ivory came from natural elephant mortality. More....