Tag Archives: elephants

Celebrating World Elephant Day Through Pictures

Today we celebrate the third annual World Elephant Day.

The holiday was created in 2012 by Canadian filmmaker and elephant advocate Patricia Sims, along with the Elephant Reintroduction Foundation in Thailand.

Elephant activist and filmmaker Patricia Sims with an older female elephant. Click to enlarge

The holiday was started to draw awareness to the plight of elephants around the world.

Asian elephants are an endangered species, with only about 40,000 left in the wild.

A 6-day old newborn Asian elephant meets some of the other elephants in its herd at Whipsnade Wild Animal Park in England. Click to enlarge (Photo: Dan Kitwood/Getty Images Europe)

In their traditional home of Thailand, only about 4,000 Asian elephants remain today, down from over 100,000 at the beginning of the 1900s.

In the past 50 years alone, their range has shrunk by nearly 70%:

Asian elephant range. Click to enlarge

African elephants are considered threatened, with a little under 400,000 remaining.

Other than habitat loss, one of the main threats facing African elephants is the extremely lucrative worldwide ivory trade.

July, 2011: Kenyan President Mwai Kibaki lights a bonfire of confiscated illegal ivory at the Tsavo East National Park in southeast Nairobi. Kibaki destroyed some 335 tusks and 42,553 pieces of ivory carvings. Click to enlarge (Tony Karumba / AFP – Getty Images)

Ivory is extremely valuable, meaning that modern day poachers are often very well-funded by wealthy ivory traders.

This high level of sophistication allows them to target even some of the most famous and well-protected elephants in the world.

Satao, one of the world’s last great tuskers (elephants with tusks weighing 100+ pounds each), was killed by poachers in Tsavo East National Park early in June of this year.

Satao had a reputation for being highly intelligent, and was even known to hide his massive tusks in bushes, seemingly aware of the danger that they brought upon him. Click to enlarge

But the news isn’t all bad.

In February of this year, the Fish and Wildlife Service banned all imports and exports of elephant ivory within the U.S. (with extremely narrow exceptions).

The U.S. actually has one of the largest illegal ivory markets in the world, second only to China.

Most ivory passes through Malaysia, Vietnam, Hong Kong and the Philippines before ultimately ending up in China. Click to enlarge

And just last month, we got to hear the touching story of Raju.

This asian elephant spent 50 years being tortured and mistreated, all while sharp chains and spiked shackles cut painfully into his legs.

But in early July, a group of animal charity workers pulled off a daring rescue, freeing Raju from his nightmare. He was visibly emotional during the rescue, and even wept.

Raju the elephant wept when he realized he was being rescued. Click to enlarge

They delivered Raju to an elephant sanctuary in India, where he is already making new friends.

Raju is clearly enjoying his new home, friends and life. Click to enlarge

There are plenty of things to be optimistic about, but we have to keep reminding ourselves that the illegal ivory trade is still a big problem, and one that is actually getting worse.

More ivory was confiscated last year than in any of the previous 25 years. The problem is that poachers can get anywhere between $100-000 to $200,000 for a single tusk, which is a massive incentive to any would-be poacher.

The graphic below shows the relationship between elephant poaching in Africa and ivory seizures in Asia. Click to enlarge:

The problems facing elephants are serious indeed, but today is a celebration of the majestic creatures.

In light of that, I think it’s only fair that I finish this post off with three of the cutest baby elephants ever.

Should People Be Outraged By A Texas Tech Cheerleader Hunting Big Game In Africa? (Poll)

Don’t forget to voice your opinion by answering the poll questions at the end!

Kendall Jones is a 19-year-old from Cleburne, Texas, a small town about 45 minutes southwest of Dallas. When she was nine, she started following her father on his big game hunts in Africa.

Kendall quickly took a liking to the hunts, and at the age of 13, she shot her first animal: a White Rhino. From her Facebook:

“Although I had many other opportunities to shoot animals I wanted to save it for the Big 5, so the first animal I ever shot was a White Rhino with a .416 Remington!!”

Kendall poses with her White Rhino. Click to enlarge

The Big 5 Kendall mentions refers to the five African animals coveted most by hunters: the rhino, the elephant, the Cape buffalo, the leopard and the lion.

Since then, she has checked off the other four, as you can see in the pictures below.

Kendall with a Cape buffalo. Click to enlarge
Kendall, who describes her hunts as “fair chases”, with the near threatened African leopard. Click to enlarge
Kendall poses with a male lion. Click to enlarge
When this photo of Kendall with a large bull elephant sparked outrage, she defended herself by pointing out that the meat helped feed hundreds of families. Click to enlarge

Kendall’s “About” section on her Facebook page says that she’s, “looking to host a tv show in January 2015” about her hunting adventures through Africa.

Ironically, she has gained the public spotlight because of a recent online petition that has asked Facebook to, “Remove the page of Kendall Jones that promotes animal cruelty!” The petition, posted just over a week ago, has already garnered over 45,000 signatures (its goal is 50,000).

Another petition, posted to the website change.org a few days later, calls her out for using her hunting to expand her social media influence and adavance her entertainment career and asks that she be banned from hunting in Africa completely. It has nearly 3,500 signatures.

Kendall with a white springbok. She captioned this photo: “Another harvest for today. White springbok, it’s 1 of the 4 color shades of this animal! And let me tell you it’s one of my favorite kinds of meat so far!”

In her defense, Kendall argues that her hunting is about conservation. She writes,

“Controlling the male lion population is important within large fenced areas like these… Funds from a hunt like this goes partially to the government for permits but also to the farm owner as an incentive to keep and raise lions on their property.”

So while many may find what she’s doing distasteful, it’s actually not illegal. Big game hunters pay the government’s of African countries for special permits which allow them to hunt the animals.

These permits are often auctioned off, with a large portion of the proceeds supposedly going to help wildlife conservation efforts in the region. I say “supposedly” because anyone who knows Africa knows that a lot of money never gets where it’s supposed to go.

One of the biggest problems with illegal poaching is that many wildlife agents, customs officials, and government leaders are already being paid-off by wealthy and powerful mafia-style poaching rings, so it would be extremely surprising if this corruption doesn’t also exist in the extremely lucrative permit auctions.

Satao, one of the world’s most iconic elephants who was recently poached for his massive tusks. Click this image to read that story

Personally, I think killing any animal (especially one as rare and majestic as the great beasts of Africa) so you can pose with it for social media attention is a pretty selfish thing to do. Sure, certain populations (like feral hogs in Texas, for example) do a lot of damage to the environment and ought to be controlled.

And I don’t think there’s anything wrong with people wanting to document their kills for themselves, but parading the dead bodies of some of our most threatened species doesn’t send a message of conservation and protection, in my opinion.

However, as I said earlier, it’s perfectly legal. And I’m not sure whether people being offended by the pictures is a good enough reason to remove them from Facebook (which is full of offensive content), let alone ban her from Africa.

Let me know what you think by answering the three poll questions below.

Read the original story from the Daily Mail here.

If you’re interested in knowing just how threatened these different animal species are, you can look them up on World Wildlife Federation’s Endangered Species Directory.

Satao, One of The World’s Largest Elephants, Has Been Poached in Kenya

Warning: This article contains graphic images.

Following six weeks of investigation and speculations, the Kenya Wildlife Service confirmed that an elephant found dead in Tsavo East National Park on June 3 was indeed Satao, Kenya’s largest elephant and one of the largest elephants in the world.

Satao the elephant

Satao was one of the last “great tuskers”, large male elephants with tusks weighing 100 or more pounds a piece. Tasvo has one the last known collection of these giants, with only about a dozen left.

Satao next to a younger elephant

Satao’s carcass was discovered by Richard Moller, the executive director of the Tsavo Trust. This non-profit protects Tsavo’s elephants and works to promote conservation and healthy human-animal interaction in Kenya.

“It was the hardest report that I have ever written. I couldn’t see past a wall of tears,”

said Moller, who found Tasao with a poison arrow in his side. The poachers had hacked off his face and tusks, but Moller recognized him by his large frame and his unmarked ears.

Click to enlarge (Courtesy of National Geographic)
Click to enlarge
Click to enlarge (Courtesy of Tsavo Trust)

Satao had a reputation for being highly intelligent, and was even known to hide his massive tusks in bushes, seemingly aware of the danger that they brought upon him.

The iconic elephant is among 97 elephants already poached this year in Kenya. His death comes just weeks before Kenya is set to showcase the country’s conservation efforts at the United Nations Environment Program (UNEP) Governing Assembly on June 24.

In their incident report the Tsavo Trust had this to say:

“For the last 18 months, KWS and TSAVO TRUST jointly monitored Satao’s movements using aerial reconnaissance, and KWS deployed ground personnel in his known home range,” the Tsavo Trust said in an incident report. “But with today’s mounting poaching pressures and anti-poaching resources stretched to the limit, it proved impossible to prevent the poachers getting through the net.

Understaffed and with inadequate resources given the scale of the challenge, KWS ground units have a massive uphill struggle to protect wildlife in this area. … Tsavo is our home, our passion and our life’s work but, as the untimely death of Satao so tragically proves, we cannot win every time.”

Read the original story from Outside Online here.

A New WikiLeaks-Style Website Is Taking Some Huge Bites Out of Wildlife Crime

WildLeaks is a new website using the internet to target and investigate the kingpins of illegal wildlife activities, such as poaching, the illegal trafficking of tropical pets and deforestation, among other things. The website utilizes Tor technology to ensure anonymity.

WildLeaks’s first major revelation was the story of how Somalian terrorist group Al-Shabaab had been smuggling ivory to fund their operations.

Founder of WildLeaks Andrea Crosta

“We had our first tip within 24 hours and the response has been beyond our wildest imagination,”

says founder Andrea Crosta, who is also the director of the Elephant Action League. Crosta explains that since many of the major wildlife crime operations rely on corrupt law enforcement officials, the site provides whistleblowers a safe avenue to report the crimes:

“You can’t, for example, export containers full of ivory from Mombasa without bribing people left, right and centre… We definitely feel we are filling a gap.”

In the three months it has been operating so far, the site has yielded 24 major tip-offs of wildlife crime, including:

• elephant poaching in Africa and illicit ivory trading in Hong Kong;

• killing of Sumatran tigers, of which there are just 400 left in the wild;

• illegal lion and leopard hunting in South Africa;

• chimpanzee trafficking in Liberia;

• illegal fishing activities in Alaska, including alleged mafia involvement;

• importing of illegal African wildlife products into the US;

• illegal logging in Mexico, Malawi and Siberia

According to Interpol, the illicit wildlife trade makes $10-$20 billion dollars every year. Read the full story from The Guardian here.

When He Was 16, He Decided To Start Planting Trees On A Sandbar… Now He Has His Own Island

Jadav “Molai” Payeng is an environmental activist and a member of the Mishing tribe from Jorhat, India. In 1979, when he was just 16, Payeng discovered a number of dead reptiles on a sandbar near his house- they had been washed up there during a flood and had died because of the lack of vegetation on the island.

Payeng talked to The Times Of India about the experience:

“The snakes died in the heat, without any tree cover. I sat down and wept over their lifeless forms … It was carnage. I alerted the forest department and asked them if they could grow trees there. They said nothing would grow there. Instead, they asked me to try growing bamboo. It was painful, but I did it. There was nobody to help me.”

Over the next 30 years, Payeng planted trees on the sandbar, slowly transforming it into a sanctuary. Today, that sandbar has become a 1,360-acre forest with several thousand different species of trees.

Named “Molai Woods” after its creator, the forest is also home to countless animal species, including rhinos, tigers, apes and a herd of 100 elephants who visit the forest every year for about six months.

Click an image to enlarge.

Officials only recently became aware of the forest when they stumbled upon it in 2008 while trying to track the previously-mentioned elephant herd.

Gunin Saikia is the Assistant Conservator of Forests for the region. He believes Molai Woods is the world’s largest forest in the middle of a river. Here he is talking to The Times of India about the discovery:

“We were surprised to find such a dense forest on the sandbar … [Locals] wanted to cut down the forest, but Payeng dared them to kill him instead. He treats the trees and animals like his own children. Seeing this, we, too, decided to pitch in.”

Payeng has lived on the island since he began planting trees as a teenager. Today, he lives there with his wife and two children. Besides managing the forest, he tends a herd of cattle and sells their milk as his only livelihood.

Payeng is now looking to start similar projects in other locations around India while continuing to expand Molai Woods.

Filmmaker William D. McMaster is currently working on a film about Jadav’s story. Here’s a trailer:

 

 

 

Awesome! US Bans ALL Trade In Elephant Ivory Within Its Borders

The Interior Department’s Fish and Wildlife Service announced last week that it will be banning all imports and exports (with extremely narrow exceptions) of elephant ivory within the US.

Conservationists are optimistic that the movie will help to curb the illegal poaching of elephants in Africa, as the United States is home to the second largest ivory market in the world.

Sales of ivory across state lines will be strictly prohibited unless the ivory in question can be shown to be at least 100 years old. Sales of ivory within states will be prohibited unless the seller can prove that the ivory was legally imported before 1990 (the year after the US signed the UN’s Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora agreement).

However, the move is only as good as its enforcement. If the US isn’t willing to adequately fund the program and aggressively pursue those who violate it the move will have little real impact.

Read the full story from the New York Times here.