An elephant never forgets – have you forgotten the elephants?

| November 10, 2014 | 0 Comments

Did your school commemorate World Elephant Day on 12 August? At the Brookhouse School in Nairobi, Kenyan organisations Wildlife Direct and Hands Off Our Elephants and former South Sudanese child soldier (now African celebrity), Emmanuel Jal, joined with parents, teachers and students to mark the important occasion.

According to the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES), poachers in Africa gun down more than 20 000 elephants each year for their ivory tusks.

At the event, two award-winning films, both made in Kenya and both about elephants, were screened. Echo, an Elephant to Remember tells the story of one of the world’s most famous elephants – the late Echo – and Kenyan Maasai scientists based at the Amboseli National Park. White Gold, narrated by Hillary Clinton, tells the dark story of poaching, the ivory trade and its links to armed conflicts.

After the screening, Brookhouse School hosted panel discussions with students and prominent Kenyan conservationists such as Richard Turere – the child inventor of Lion Lights, an electrical deterrent system that kept lions out of his father’s stockade – to discuss the various implications of ongoing crisis facing elephants, to share knowledge, understanding and to offer solutions.

Jal, a Brookhouse alumnus, joined the gathering via Skype, saying that like many other Africans, he “grew up fearing elephants, not loving them. [Through Wildlife Direct] I… discovered that elephants are so much like humans. Their suffering is directly linked to ours through armed conflicts.”

Wildlife Direct was founded in 2006 by famous late Kenyan conservationist Dr Richard Leakey. Hands Off Our Elephants, its flagship campaign, is driven by wildlife ecologists, communications agencies, lawyers and politicians.

Elephants are a ‘keystone species’, ensuring the survival of plants by spreading their seeds in their droppings. Even their footprints matter – when it rains, those huge prints become water troughs for other animals to drink from. Highly emotional and intelligent beings, elephants grieve for their dead.

CITES says that an elephant is slaughtered somewhere on the planet every 15 minutes. That adds up to 96 elephants every day or about 36 000 animals every year. We risk extinction of the elephant in the wild by 2025.

If you missed World ‘Ellie’ Day, perhaps you remembered to join in the International March for the Elephants on 4 October, initiated by the iWorry campaign. You can also introduce your students to the following important organisations: The David Sheldrick Wildlife Trust (http://www.sheldrickwildlifetrust.org/index.asp); Save the Elephants (http://savetheelephants.org/); The Performing Animal Welfare Society (PAWS) (http://www.pawsweb.org/); Elephants Without Borders (http://www.elephantswithoutborders.org/) and Elephant Asia Rescue and Survival Foundation (EARS) (http://www.earsasia.org/home.html).

Category: Summer 2014

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