Tuesday, August 25, 2015

This Week's 'Elephant In The Room' Post

Tortured for tourists: Chained to the same spot for 20 years. Beaten into submission at secret jungle training camps. The terrible plight of Indian elephants by LIZ JONES


  • Asian elephants are being chained to tree stumps and beaten with metal sticks at temples in Kerala, southern India

  • Before arriving at the temples they are forced to spend months at secret 'training' camps where they are tortured

  • In Mail on Sunday special report, Liz Jones visited one such camp to investigate how the animals are treated 

  • Here, she makes a desperate plea for their release and lays bare the unimaginable cruelty they face every day


At first, I don’t believe they are living, breathing animals. 

They seem like statues, or stuffed exhibits in a museum – 57 of them, studded around a patch of scrubby forest. Then one of the elephants, Nandan, a 43-year-old tusker, or male, begins to bellow and struggle against the chains that bind his hind feet to a stump and his front legs to a tree, cutting into his flesh. He cannot lie down. He cannot stretch out his hind legs. He cannot reach the water butt, which is empty anyway.

A temple employee – this is where the Guruvayur Temple in Kerala, southern India, houses its elephants – blows his whistle: it’s a command for the elephant to stand still. I creep closer, pushing past hundreds of families on a day out. I am with Duncan McNair, the London lawyer who founded the non-government organisation Save The Asian Elephants (STAE) in January, and Dr Nameer, a professor and Head of the Centre for Wildlife Studies in Kerala.
A stick rests close to elephant Vinayaka - any movement will see it fall, prompting another beating by his mahout 
A stick rests close to elephant Vinayaka - any movement will see it fall, prompting another beating by his mahout 
Nandan cuts a pathetic figure at the Guruvayur Temple, with his hind feet bound to a stump and his front legs chained to a tree. It means the male elephant cannot lie down, stretch or even reach a nearby water butt

Nandan cuts a pathetic figure at the Guruvayur Temple, with his hind feet bound to a stump and his front legs chained to a tree. It means the male elephant cannot lie down, stretch or even reach a nearby water butt.

How long has he been chained like this?’ I ask Prof Nameer. ‘He has been chained in that spot, never released even for an hour, for 20 years,’ he replies. We reach the next elephant a few yards away. This is Padmanabhan, who has been at the temple for 35 years. A hind leg hangs at a terrible angle; he wobbles on three legs, all chained. 

Tears stream from the blinded eye of one elephant at a training camp in the state of Karnataka, southern India, where many are tortured 
Tears stream from the blinded eye of one elephant at a training camp in the state of Karnataka, southern India, where many are tortured. Another elephant, Vinayaka, is on his side, being hosed by his mahouts (most have two). It is a brutal, rough business. A stick is propped against one ear. The elephant’s eye is swivelling, desperate. Prof Nameer tells me: ‘Everyone thinks, “Oh, the mahout and elephant have such a bond.” See that stick? That is propped behind an ear, for washing.

Each morning and evening they are beaten with poles for up to an hour 
‘The elephant has learned that if he moves his head, the stick will fall. And if the stick falls, the elephant knows he will enter a “traumatic cycle”. Sudhakar tells me a common practice is to insert a nail above the elephant’s toe. The wound heals over. If the mahout wants total obedience, all he has to do is press that button.’

At the entrance to the temple is Devi. She has been chained to this spot for 35 years. As a female, she is never taken to festivals, so has never, ever moved. Not one inch. Prof Nameer has asked the temple leaders (politicians, businessmen) to allow the animals to be walked for one hour a day; they refused. He has drawn plans to build enclosures, but has received no response. But aren’t festivals at least a nice day out?
He laughs. ‘From October to May, an elephant will take part in 100 to 150 festivals. They will travel 3,720 miles in three months on a flat-bed truck. They are surrounded by thousands of people, noise, firecrackers.’

They are routinely temporarily blinded, to make them wholly dependent on the mahout, and if in ‘musth’ (when males are ready to mate), they are given injections to suppress the hormones. Three elephants died due to these this year.
At the Karnataka training camp, one captured wild elephant is kept in a cage - and children often throw rocks at him 
At the Karnataka training camp, one captured wild elephant is kept in a cage - and children often throw rocks at him.
A mahout adjusts the wooden logs keeping one elephant bound in a tiny space for up to six months at the secret camp 
A mahout adjusts the wooden logs keeping one elephant bound in a tiny space for up to six months at the secret camp.
Guruvayur visitors know nothing of the plight of the elephants, which can earn anything up to £5,000 an hour at festivals 
Guruvayur visitors know nothing of the plight of the elephants, which can earn anything up to £5,000 an hour at festivals.
Another set of visitors pose for a photograph in front of a herd of shackled elephants at the camp in Karnataka, southern India 
Another set of visitors pose for a photograph in front of a herd of shackled elephants at the camp in Karnataka, southern India. The second-best-known elephant in Kerala was paraded at Thrissur Pooram, an annual Hindu festival, where 84 elephants take part in elaborate costume. He was in musth, therefore unpredictable, so all of his feet were injured to render him immobile. 

The only food given here is dry palm leaves. An elephant in the wild will eat a wide variety of grasses, fruit, leaves and vegetables. In the wild, an elephant will drink 140 to 200 litres of water a day. Here, they are lucky if they get five to ten. It turns out there are vets on call. But an expert from the Centre for Wildlife Studies says: ‘They are not even qualified. They promote bad welfare to earn more money.’

It is not possible to ride them, to use them in noisy festivals, if they have not been broken down
Dr Nameer, a professor and Head of the Centre for Wildlife Studies in Kerala
Prof Nameer tried to bring in a Western vet to assess the elephants, but permission was refused. Elephants are now big business. Each is worth £80,000, and can earn anything up to £5,000 an hour for appearing at festivals and weddings.

The next day, I meet Sreedhar Vijayakrishnan, who is researching for his doctorate in elephant behaviour. I ask him about the elephants’ training. These methods, he tells me, ‘have only really been happening for 50 years, as the money-making opportunities increased’. He adds: ‘The training of elephants before that time used positive techniques. The mahouts loved their animals. Now it is very different. I have seen elephants tortured to death. They want to make the maximum money in the shortest time.’

Does this happen to every elephant? ‘Yes. It is not possible to ride them, to use them in noisy festivals, if they have not been broken down. They are very sensitive creatures.’
How is it done? ‘They use a kraal. The process is called pajan.’ The kraal or ‘crushing cage’ is a wooden pen which confines the elephant so that he can’t move or lie down.
Pajan means that, having been isolated, confined, starved, dehydrated and kept awake by noise, each morning and evening the elephant is beaten with poles, for up to an hour. For six months.

I don’t believe him. This isn’t possible. Why hasn’t one of those BBC travelogues warned me about this?
A baby elephant is beaten by a mahout using an ankush - a wooden stick with a steel hook foxed at one end - while he tries to eat his morning meal of rice grain, jaggery (unrefined sugar) and straw 
A baby elephant is beaten by a mahout using an ankush - a wooden stick with a steel hook foxed at one end - while he tries to eat his morning meal of rice grain, jaggery (unrefined sugar) and straw.
A 40-year-old tusker ,who went 'berserk' after being chained in a temple for 10 years, was brought to the camp to be 'corrected' 
A 40-year-old tusker ,who went 'berserk' after being chained in a temple for 10 years, was brought to the camp to be 'corrected' 
Torture tool: A mahout holds an ankush, a stick with a metal spike, which is used to punish the elephants

A mahout rides one elephant bound in chains

Torture tool: A mahout holds an ankush, a stick with a metal spike, which is used to punish the elephants. Right, a mahout rides one animal which is bound in chains. I have to see what happens to the elephants for myself. I travel with Duncan McNair to Karnataka, the adjoining state to Kerala. We drive deep into the forest. With us is a conservationist, who cannot be named for fear of reprisals. We stop at a gate with an ominous sign: ‘No members of the public allowed.’ I soon find out why.

My guide, after hours of negotiation, gets us inside, where there are 30 captured wild elephants, including babies. I am the first Westerner to set foot inside this camp. I see a magnificent tusker, but he is so thin, his head is a skull; they are fed straw and rice. Children of the mahouts who live on site in huts start to throw rocks at him, and the giant, hobbled by chains, retreats, trembling.

I walk past baby elephants, so inquisitive, and see one get beaten with an ankush; all the baby was doing was coming to say hello  

The conservationist tells me the elephant has post-traumatic stress disorder. ‘He is 40. He was captured, trained, and chained in a temple for ten years. He went berserk, killed a pilgrim, and so he was sent back here to be corrected. He was tied to a tree for eight weeks.’

The mahouts, tribal people who have been living and working with elephants for generations, gather around me. One has a video on his smartphone (they all have smartphones; the government pays their salaries). They howl with laughter as the video shows a wild elephant being captured by dozens of men – using elephants to corner it. This elephant is due here the next day. I go to see his fate, walking past elephants, all chained, many with only one eye (blinding is common).

I walk past baby elephants, so inquisitive, and see one get beaten with an ankush – a stick with a metal hook on the end; all the baby was doing was coming to say hello.
And then I see it. The kraal. It has two rooms, each containing a teenage male in a space so small he cannot move. These are ‘rogues’, each accused of killing five men. A woman in a sari is hovering, and asks for my name and phone number. It turns out she is in charge of the 60 mahouts here. I ask how long the two males have been in the kraal.

‘Six months,’ she replies. They have no shade, no free access to water. They have been beaten for an hour, twice a day, every day. I look into the eye of the poor creature on the right. He knows what is about to happen to him. A mahout raises his arm, and lands a blow on his head: the hollow sound is the most chilling I’ve ever heard. The elephant squeezes his eyes shut, and tears run down his face.
Another elephant peers between the tree trunks keeping him captive. He has been kept here since March. Mahouts imprison the animals to break their natural spirit
Another elephant peers between the tree trunks keeping him captive. He has been kept here since March. Mahouts imprison the animals to break their natural spirit
A young elephant is placed in this kraal to be tortured into submission by his mahouts. Afterwards he will be taken to a temple or tourist attraction 

A young elephant is placed in this kraal to be tortured into submission by his mahouts. Afterwards he will be taken to a temple or tourist attraction 

I can't watch any longer, I can’t be party to this. Of all the animal abuse stories I have covered in the past 30 years, this is by far the worst. The conservationist tells me a few of the mahouts do not want to beat the elephants, but believe they have no choice: ‘The mahout has to exert complete dominance over the animal. The older the elephant, the longer it takes.’

Has every elephant you see giving rides in festivals, on safari, been through this process? ‘Yes.’
Back at our hotel, he shows me a video he filmed last year of an elephant in that very kraal, beaten so badly he ends up upside-down, trumpeting in terror.

He then shows me a shopping list sent to this camp from the most respected reserves in India: Corbett Tiger Reserve wants five tuskers; another, Kanha National Park, wants ten elephants. If you are visiting these sites next year, you could well be sitting on the back of the poor creature I saw beaten that day.

It was a visit to the Guruvayur Temple one year ago, and the suffering of the elephants there, that prompted Duncan McNair to form STAE. ‘Captive elephants are hideously treated,’ he says. ‘Used since ancient times for work and war, this is how we repay them. Without raising public awareness, and serious commercial and political engagement now, the Asian elephant is doomed, in our lifetime, and by our hands.’

Liz Jones stands in front of one elephant which has been chained up behind her 
Liz Jones stands in front of one elephant which has been chained up behind her 
Liz Jones stands in front of one elephant which has been chained up behind her 
Sreedhar Vijayakrishnan tells me that the 25,000 wild elephants now left in India (a collapse from more than a million in 1900) are in peril due to new developments announced by the government, which in turn means they will clash even more with farmers, and deemed ‘rogue’ or ‘problem’, which means they can be captured and trained.

There are almost 4,000 captive elephants, 80 per cent of which are in Kerala.

I asked Indian families at the Guruvayur Temple what they thought of the elephants. While some said it was sad, most thought the animals were fine; everyone was laughing. They had each paid to enter the temple, while Hindus from all over the world donate money.

Later that day I meet theologian and elephant expert Venkita Chalam, a man who has received death threats for his views. We discuss whether condemning the way the animals are kept will be perceived as attacking Hinduism (as so many people have told me since I arrived in Kerala, I will be insulting traditions going back thousands of years). He shakes his head.

‘It is the opposite of Hinduism. There were no elephants at that temple before 1969, which is when Hindu families, experiencing hard times due to land reforms, donated their elephants because they could no longer care for them,’ he says.

‘With the oil boom in the 1970s, when lots of Indians became rich, donating a “sacred” elephant became a status symbol.

‘And using elephants in festivals only started in the mid-1970s. This is not ancient, this is new.’
What can we do about this modern-day horror, this daily torturing of the most loved animal to have ever padded upon the planet? And why am I writing about this issue now?

After meetings with STAE, David Cameron, in his 2015 Election manifesto, pledged to help the Asian elephant; he will meet the Indian prime minister in London this autumn. 

We have to hold him to this promise. And most importantly, according to Geeta Seshamani of Wildlife SOS, which brought about the end of bear-dancing in India in 2009 and rescued Raju, the 51-year-old elephant blinded by repeated beatings on his head: ‘You can refuse to go on holiday in India with a travel company that promises interaction with elephants. 

'The key force is tourism. The government will not end this: in fact, it is about to classify the elephant as vermin. Britain must lead the way.’

I met Raju, as tall as a skyscraper, on Thursday, at the charity’s refuge outside New Delhi. His forgiveness at what mankind has done to him was the most humbling experience I’ve ever had.
STAE, which says it respects India’s religious traditions, has written to more than 200 leading UK travel companies. Some, such as Responsible Travel, have withdrawn from offering any elephant interaction.
But, of course, some luxury safari firms send tourists to Kanha National Park, which ordered elephants from the very camp I visited, offering tourists the chance to ‘see tigers in their natural habitat from the back of an elephant!’, are still luring animal lovers who have no idea of this brutal business. If you have booked one of these holidays, cancel it.

I rode an elephant to Angkor Watt in Cambodia. I had my photo taken with an elephant in Kerala a couple of years ago, the very animal used by Julia Roberts in a movie. I didn’t know I was giving oxygen to the abuse. But I know now. You know now.

When I met Nandan, and Devi, and the two prisoners at the camp in Karnataka, I looked them in the eye. I saw shock, and incomprehension at what they had done to deserve decades of torture. I promised I would help them. The kraal and ankush, like the shoes, teeth and hair at Belsen, should exist only in a museum.

Those two bewildered males are still in that kraal, in pain from arthritis from standing for so long, terrified, depressed. Nandan is there still.

Don’t let him have to endure it for one more day. We have to release the 57 elephants in that temple, and close down the secretive ‘training’ camps: there are 12 in all.

Wildlife SOS has told me it can take them. We have to release them. We have to release them. We have to release them.

Www.STAE.org - Wildlife SOS has agreed to take all the elephants from the camp if they are freed. Above, Liz Jones comforts a baby elephant while a mahout rides another in the background
Wildlife SOS has agreed to take all the elephants from the camp if they are freed. Above, Liz Jones comforts a baby elephant while a mahout rides another in the background
Wildlife SOS has agreed to take all the elephants from the camp if they are freed. Above, Liz Jones comforts a baby elephant while a mahout rides another in the background.

Despicable.
No other word comes to mind when I think of the heartbreaking poaching crisis that’s killing an elephant every 15 minutes to fuel the global black market for ivory, including illicit markets within the United States.
What’s worse, the gun lobby is working overtime in Congress to make it easier for illegal ivory to flow into our country!
As shocking as it is, the United States is the second largest market for ivory in the world. We have a responsibility to do everything we can to curtail the domestic demand for blood ivory that is pushing African elephants to the brink of extinction.
Your urgent support will help imperiled elephants by helping us:
  • Keep the pressure on the White House to follow through on plans to crack down on ivory trafficking and the sale of illegal ivory within our borders;
  • Mobilize against Congressional efforts to weaken proposed restrictions on the domestic ivory trade;
  • Support legislation to enhance international anti-poaching efforts and impose stricter penalties for wildlife trafficking;
  • At the grassroots level, help enact state-wide ivory bans in key consuming states; and
  • Support protection for imperiled species at international wildlife fora such as the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES).
Special interest groups, including the gun lobby, are fighting tooth and nail to relax restrictions on ivory trade. We need your support now more than ever─ the survival of African elephants depends on it.
The recent killing of Cecil the lion was a grim reminder of the growing challenges to survival facing some of the planet’s most spectacular wildlife. If we are to leave the next generation a world full of wildlife and wild places, there’s simply no time to lose! Thank you for your generous support!
Tiny Elephant Gets Hopelessly Lost ... Until Nice People Help Him Look For Mom. The job of an anti-poaching ranger goes beyond the hard work of guarding the animals from humans trying to profit from their horns and tusks.
When a very young elephant wandered off from his mother and the elephant herd at Lewa Wildlife Conservancy in northern Kenya , rangers hurried to help him. If the calf wasn't reunited with his family, the baby could have died — a pride of over ten lions was following him closely.
Lewa Wildlife Conservancy
When the rangers found the baby, the herd was already over a mile away.
Lewa Wildlife Conservancy
Rangers walked the tiny elephant toward his family.
When they got close enough, the baby's mother came right over and steered her little one back to the group where he belonged.
Lewa Wildlife Conservancy
Lewa Wildlife Conservancy
With a population of close to 6,500 animals to watch over, these amazing rangers are responsible for a lot of precious lives. We're so glad this baby elephant is back with his mom. Lewa Wildlife Conservancy. Learn how you can help elephants like this baby here.
Protect Kenya’s Last Elephants from Poachers.

Target: Kenya Wildlife Service Director, William Kibet Kiprono


Goal: Protect Kenya’s remaining elephants from the threat of imminent extinction.

Recently, five endangered elephants were reported to have been killed in Kenya by poachers. Rangers from Tsavo West National Park found the tuskless carcasses of a mother and her four offspring. The incident comes after the murder of Cecil, a favorite lion in Zimbabwe. The crime was more damaging compared to the recent killing of Cecil though it did not receive much attention.

It is reported that the elephant populations in Kenya, Mozambique and Tanzania are quickly declining due to poaching. The international market for ivory has led to the drive for poaching, which is also alleged to be the source of funding for terrorist groups like Al-Shabaab. It has been reported that Tanzania has lost almost 60% of its elephants to poachers while predictions indicate that Kenya’s wild elephants will be completely wiped out in the next few years.

The global reaction to the killing of Ceil was a show of the firm sense of solidarity among the world’s conservationists. Such efforts should also be directed at conserving elephants, which are also endangered.

People were more concerned about how to punish Cecil’s killer instead of how to address the increasing problem of poaching. Of late, there has been little hope of protecting Africa’s endangered species, particularly Africa’s elephants. In Kenya, it has been reported that newly-trained wildlife rangers have reduced poaching by three-quarters. Other efforts include the construction of a 56,000-acre nature reserve at a place called Loisaba. All these efforts are aimed at protecting these animals but more needs to be done.

Sign this petition to demand proper action in the conservation of Kenya’s remaining elephants.


Dear William Kibet Kiprono,

Poachers recently killed five elephants in Tsavo West National Park, leaving tusk-less carcasses. As the world was mourning the death of Cecil, an even more damaging incident quietly took place in Kenya. The scale of the crisis facing Kenyan elephants is vast, and these creatures continue to decline in numbers.

While Cecil’s death received worldwide attention, the death of these five elephants was not given much coverage. Elephants have been reported to be at a greater risk of extinction compared to lions because of the unquenchable thirst for ivory. Even though the Kenya Wildlife Service is attempting to protect elephants, more action is required to ensure these animals do not face extinction in the future.

Poaching is increasing exponentially, meaning there is growing demand for proper measures. Your service needs to improve its intelligence and operations to realize success. Also, sterner action should be taken against arrested poachers to put an end to the norm. Your country is facing an elephant crisis, and I urge you to take immediate action and bring a stop to the senseless killing of elephants.

Sincerely,

[Your Name Here]

Photo credit: joepyrek

Help Us End America's Immoral Ivory Trade

The numbers are staggering: 100,000 African elephants have been slaughtered in just three years. That's one every 14 minutes.

 Donate Now

Help Save Elephants

Help save Africa's forest elephants. Make a gift today. 
This killing is done so their tusks can be ripped out to feed the burgeoning ivory trade, as ivory is now worth more than the price of gold. The world's second largest ivory market exists right here in the United States. Shutting down the American market will help crash this wicked trade, saving thousands of these intelligent, social animals from heartless slaughter.

The best way to clamp down on the U.S. ivory market is to protect elephants under the Endangered Species Act. That's why the Center for Biological Diversity petitioned the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to list both species of Africa's giants, forest and savannah elephants, as endangered. This listing would put more stringent trade restrictions in place for ivory products -- including many of the older products that continue to provide cover for a much larger black market for ivory.

With a donation today to the Center's elephant work, you will help stem the tide of death for Africa's elephants.
Help Save Elephants
It's never easy to get a new species protected under the Act, but the Center's lawyers, scientists and activists are experts at it. We've won protection for more than 550 animals and plants, and 476 million acres of habitat -- which is why L.A. Weekly said the Center is "pound for pound, dollar for dollar, the most effective conservation organization in the country." We know how to secure lifesaving help for endangered wildlife, and with your help we'll have the resources to do the same for these elephants.The first ruling on our petition should be coming down any day, but there will be many more steps to come. That's why we need your support now.

Help win endangered species protection for Africa's elephants with a donation today.

Last spring a high-ranking Chinese wildlife official pledged that China -- the world's largest market for ivory -- was working on a plan to ban its trade and sale. But he included an important caveat: The United States should do the same. America needs to lead by example, ending our ugly ivory trade and protecting elephants with the most powerful laws we have. Help us to do so with a gift to the Center's work. 

What We’ve Learned From Elephants After Years of Documenting Them in the Wild. We have been professional wildlife photographers since the late 1980s, photographing animals throughout Africa and across the globe. So it is inevitable that we are frequently asked: “What is your favourite animal to photograph?”

That’s usually the easiest question to answer and for both me and my wife Sharna the answer is unequivocally – Elephants!

The Illustrious Elephant
What We've Learned From Elephants After Years of Documenting Them in the Wild
Sure, they don’t have the beauty or mystery of leopards. They certainly don’t have the haughty grace of cheetahs (which we often refer to as the ramp models of the animal world). And rarely do they have the imposing majesty of a magnificent male lion or a glorious tiger.

But all these are cats … and anyone who has owned a cat will tell you they spend most of their lives sleeping.
What We've Learned From Elephants After Years of Documenting Them in the Wild
Elephants, on the other hand  are always “doing something.” When they do sleep in the daylight hours it is usually on their feet (unless they are calves, securely sprawled in the shade of mommy) and only for brief, well, catnaps. Otherwise, they do lie down for an hour or two in the early hours of the morning…and usually we are doing the same at that time.

The rest of the time they are busy doing things.

The Humanity of Elephants
What We've Learned From Elephants After Years of Documenting Them in the Wild
And that unique appendage, the trunk, lets them do so many things that are remarkably human. We can sit for hours, cameras shooting away, or simply watching entranced, as they use their trunks to stuff food into their mouths, rub an eye, scratch an ear, cuddle a calf, pick up tasty morsels like marula fruits lying on the ground, tear bark from trees, rip grass or seedlings from the earth, shake a tree or stretch high overhead to pluck seedpods off its uppermost branches, and slurp and spray water at a waterhole.
What We've Learned From Elephants After Years of Documenting Them in the Wild
We’ve watched too, with teary eyes, as they gently caress the bones of fallen elephants, paying homage to a departed family member perhaps. Elephants seem to have an understanding of death, and mourn the departed.
What We've Learned From Elephants After Years of Documenting Them in the Wild
We watched once as an old bull lay dying of old age near a waterhole in Hwange National Park, Zimbabwe. Each and every elephant that arrived to drink first went to the old bull lying helplessly nearby, touched him gently with their trunks, stood silently for a moment, and then moved solemnly away.

Several younger bulls fetched water in their trunks and tried to revive the old boy, standing so their bodies threw shade over his massive head lying in the sand. Much later, when it was obvious that the bull had finally breathed his last, several elephants at the waterhole raised their trunks and trumpeted loudly, the sound reverberating across the plains and competing with a rapidly approaching thunderstorm.
What We've Learned From Elephants After Years of Documenting Them in the Wild
Protecting Elephants for Future Observers
What We've Learned From Elephants After Years of Documenting Them in the Wild
So, yes … elephants are without doubt, our favorite animals. Period. Their social structures mimic ours so closely, and as sentient creatures, beings, their lives and behaviour are so close to our own (if only humankind would take time to learn the lessons these gentle giants could teach us).

We have often said that if there was some way for us to spend every day for the rest of our lives with elephants, we’d be there like a shot!

Let us pray though that there will still be elephants for the rest of our lives, and for those of your children and their children too!

Protect the Few Remaining Kenyan Elephants. Elephants in Nairobi national park-by-joepyrek
Target: Kenya Wildlife Service Director, William Kibet Kiprono


Goal: Implement decisive measures to protect Kenya’s remaining elephants as they are under the threat of extinction.

Recently, five endangered elephants were reported to have been killed in Kenya by poachers. Rangers from Tsavo West National Park found the tuskless carcasses of a mother and her four offspring. The incident comes after the murder of Cecil, a favorite lion in Zimbabwe. The crime was more damaging compared to the recent killing of Cecil though it did not receive much attention.

It is reported that the elephant populations in Kenya, Mozambique and Tanzania are quickly declining due to poaching. The international market for ivory has led to the drive for poaching, which is also alleged to be the source of funding for terrorist groups like Al-Shabaab. It has been reported that Tanzania has lost almost 60% of its elephants to poachers while predictions indicate that Kenya’s wild elephants will be completely wiped out in the next few years.

The global reaction to the killing of Ceil was a show of the firm sense of solidarity among the world’s conservationists. Such efforts should also be directed at conserving elephants, which are also endangered.

People were more concerned about how to punish Cecil’s killer instead of how to address the increasing problem of poaching. Of late, there has been little hope of protecting Africa’s endangered species, particularly Africa’s elephants. In Kenya, it has been reported that newly-trained wildlife rangers have reduced poaching by three-quarters. Other efforts include the construction of a 56,000-acre nature reserve at a place called Loisaba. All these efforts are aimed at protecting these animals but more needs to be done.

Sign this petition to demand proper action in the conservation of Kenya’s remaining elephants.


Dear William Kibet Kiprono,

Poachers recently killed five elephants in Tsavo West National Park, leaving tusk-less carcasses. As the world was mourning the death of Cecil, an even more damaging incident quietly took place in Kenya. The scale of the crisis facing Kenyan elephants is vast, and these creatures continue to decline in numbers.

While Cecil’s death received worldwide attention, the death of these five elephants was not given much coverage. Elephants have been reported to be at a greater risk of extinction compared to lions because of the unquenchable thirst for ivory. Even though the Kenya Wildlife Service is attempting to protect elephants, more action is required to ensure these animals do not face extinction in the future.

Poaching is increasing exponentially, meaning there is growing demand for proper measures. Your service needs to improve its intelligence and operations to realize success. Also, sterner action should be taken against arrested poachers to put an end to the norm. Your country is facing an elephant crisis, and I urge you to take immediate action and bring a stop to the senseless killing of elephants.

Sincerely,

[Your Name Here]

Photo credit: joepyrek

Baby Elephant Who Was Trapped in a Well is Saved by Dedicated Wildlife Workers.

The incredible David Sheldrick Wildlife Trust (DSWT), who dedicate themselves to saving vulnerable animals in Nairobi, Kenya, have pulled off another inspiring rescue: this time, that of Godoma, a terrified baby elephant who was found trapped down a well.

On the morning of Aug. 14, a group of Conservancy Scouts from the Taita Hills Sanctuary found her down the well, where she had obviously been through a life-threatening struggle in her efforts to free herself. The scouts helped her out of the well, but it soon became clear that they would not be able to simply release her into the wild. She was still milk dependent, only around two months old, and according to the scouts, looked like a “desperate vulnerable figure” as she wandered on a nearby plain.

She was kept under observation for most of the day, with her rescuers hoping that her mother and herd would come back to retrieve her. However, with no sign of any elephant herd nearby, and with the baby suffering for lack of milk, the Taita Hills staff contacted the DSWT elephant keepers from Voi.
Baby Elephant Who Was Trapped Down a Well in Kenya is Saved by Dedicated Wildlife Workers
Baby Elephant Who Was Trapped Down a Well in Kenya is Saved by Dedicated Wildlife Workers

The DSWT team said: “(Taita Hills Sanctuary) is situated an hour and a half’s drive from our Voi rehabilitation unit and the keepers wasted no time getting to the site with much-needed milk formula and some daylight in hand. Simultaneously a rescue aircraft was mobilized from Nairobi and our Nursery Keepers prepared the necessary rescue equipment.”

At the Taita airfield, the two rescue teams met and carefully prepared the frightened elephant calf for her flight. She arrived at DSWT’s Nairobi Nursery that night.
Baby Elephant Who Was Trapped Down a Well in Kenya is Saved by Dedicated Wildlife Workers
Baby Elephant Who Was Trapped Down a Well in Kenya is Saved by Dedicated Wildlife Workers

Although the poor elephant initially cried for much of the night, obviously “missing her lost family enormously,” her carers saw to it that “with the reassuring company of the rest of the Nursery orphans along with loving tender attention from her keepers, she eventually settled. We have called her Godoma, the name of the valley close to where she was rescued.”

They are now hoping to keep all of Godoma’s well-wishers updated on her progress via their Facebook page. Let’s hope she manages to make a full recovery from her ordeal!

Baby Elephant Who Was Trapped Down a Well in Kenya is Saved by Dedicated Wildlife Workers
Baby Elephant Who Was Trapped Down a Well in Kenya is Saved by Dedicated Wildlife Workers
Good luck, little one!

All image source: David Sheldrick Wildlife Trust/Facebook

Arrest Warrants Issued in Laxmi's Case

Wildlife SOS
Aug 21, 2015 — Our continued legal battle for Laxmi is finally showing positive results. The Mulund court in Mumbai has issued non-bailable arrest warrants against the two accused persons who abused Laxmi. They are now on the run and the police are tasked with tracking them down.

It is reassuring to know that we are one step closer to Laxmi’s guaranteed freedom and we wanted to share this with all of you. Laxmi's case will next be heard on the 6th February, 2016. 

If you would like to donate to our Elephant Legal Fund, please click the link below... even $5 would make a difference to elephants like Laxmi.

Finally, if you live in the USA and would like to receive a text message update when a decision is made in Laxmi's case, please text WILD to 51555

Thank you all for your continued support, faith and love.

The Wildlife SOS team and Laxmi!
Laxmi was rescued in July of 2013 from a life of cruelty and neglect. She was sent to live at the Elephant Conservation and Care Center where she has made signficant improvements with her rehabiliation and her health.  Now her owners are trying to get her back. This needs to be prevented. Please request that the Honorable Chief Minister of Maharashtra takes action against the previous owners and ensures that Laxmi stays where she is and is not sent back to live a life in chains with her previous owner.  
LETTER TO
Honorable Chief Minister, Govt. of Maharashtra Shri Prithviraj Chavan
Honorable Chief Minister of Madhya Pradesh Shri Shivraj Singh Chouhan
In July 2013, Wildlife SOS rescued an elephant named ‘Laxmi’ from Mumbai. At the time of the rescue, Laxmi was morbidly obese and suffered many medical problems because of her weight and mistreatment by her owners. On the basis of this evidence, the Chief Wildlife Warden of Madhya Pradesh very
Defuse Africa’s Population Bomb to Save Its Elephants, Lions, and Rhinos. The continent is projected to have 4 billion people by century’s end, leaving no room for wildlife. Ask any serious conservationist to name the most pressing issues for African wildlife today, and right at the top of the list, you’ll almost certainly hear about the wholesale killing of animals for the bush meat trade, or the slaughter of 33,000 elephants a year to make ivory trinkets.

But the truth is, these are symptoms. And if they sound hard to fix, take a look at the much larger underlying problem, the one nobody wants to talk about: Human populations in some of most revered habitats on Earth—notably including Kenya and Tanzania—are on track to quadruple or even quintuple in this century. Nigeria, already almost ungovernable with 160 million people in an area the size of France, will grow to just under a billion people over the next 85 years. 

Across sub-Saharan Africa, according to the latest United Nations forecast, the population will rise from 960 million today to almost 4 billion by 2100. Population density will match that of modern China. That’s bad news for human populations, but it’s catastrophic for wildlife.

So what can we do to slow that rate of growth? How do we reduce the likelihood of an Africa with not much room for people—and none for wildlife? The answers come down to four basic steps, and they aren’t necessarily the ones you might expect.

The first step, said Adrian Raftery, a University of Washington population expert who contributed to the U.N. forecasts, is to persuade governments and societies about the good news of the “demographic dividend.” It’s stunningly simple: One of the fastest ways to improve a national economy is to encourage a rapid drop in the birthrate. That translates almost immediately into fewer dependents for the working age population—meaning families and societies don’t have to spend as much on school fees, clothes, health care, and other child-rearing expenses. 

But this dividend also pays off long term if a country takes some of that freed-up wealth and uses it to invest in infrastructure for further education. That’s because it’s easier to build a prosperous economy on a more educated upcoming generation. It’s also easier to build better security for a family. “One reason people have six kids is so there will be someone to support them in their old age,” Raftery said. “But if you have four kids and two of them get white-collar jobs, you are going to be more secure than with six field workers.”

The demographic dividend is already paying off for Ireland, Thailand, India, and Brazil, among other nations, and it’s starting to be talked about among African academics and bureaucrats. “The important component they’re not talking about so much is that massive investment in education is necessary,” said Raftery. “You have to invest in people, they have to be prepared to have jobs, and the jobs have to be available.”

Second, improving educational opportunities for girls leads to lower fertility short term. That’s because having more of their kids go to school and stay there longer, said Raftery, “reorients” the thinking of the parents: “Instead of trying to have more children, they begin to invest more in the children they have.” Long term, those better-educated girls grow up to get better jobs and see wider opportunities for themselves beyond raising six kids. They are also more prepared to find and use family planning information. And yet, in Nigeria today, more than a quarter of girls do not even complete elementary school.


Some African nations have begun to invest more heavily in education, said Raftery. But because their populations are growing so fast, they can wind up “paying more to stand still.” UNICEF, CARE, and Let Girls Lead all have programs aimed at educating girls in sub-Saharan Africa—and accept donations.

Third, contraceptives and family planning programs need to be more widely available. “Something like a quarter of women in sub-Saharan Africa who are in a relationship—and don’t want to have more children—are not choosing contraception, partly because of difficulty of access, and also because of concerns about health and side effects, or sometimes because their partner might not agree,” Raftery said.

So why isn’t better family-planning access at the top of the population to-do list? The fertility rate in sub-Saharan Africa now is about five children per woman, said Raftery. But the desired fertility rate is only slightly lower at 4.5. Getting down to the replacement rate of 2.3 births per woman requires something much bigger than contraception—the profound shift in expectations that comes only with improved education and wider opportunities. Even so, donations can help. The International Planned Parenthood Federation is one group working to reach the 220 million women in the developing world who “want contraception but can’t get it.”

The fourth step is probably the hardest one: We need to consume less of almost everything. For starters, everybody should know by now that bringing ivory trinkets home from your trip to Hong Kong makes you complicit in the slaughter of elephants. (And yet, U.S. travelers are still a major market for ivory.) Beyond that, we need to take fewer trips, burn less fuel, waste less food, live in smaller houses, and focus more on the people, places, and experiences close to home. The world cannot afford the grandiose “American way of life” even now. But if we make it a model for a world of 11 billion people—all of them desperately hoping to become upwardly mobile—it will be the death of wildlife everywhere, and ultimately of us too.

Mohan wins in court today!

Wildlife SOS
Aug 22, 2015 — Another victory for Mohan takes him one step closer to freedom!

After repeated delays, Wildlife SOS lawyers argued in Pratapgarh court today. Mohan's so called owner did not attend the court hearing. Wildlife SOS lawyers pleaded with the judge to take note of the accused's repeated absence from trials in what appear to be attempts to delay proceedings. The court called out his name several times and after waiting a while, finally dismissed the revision he had filed.
This is a significant victory. There is light at the end of the tunnel for Mohan. However, we know that the accused will challenge this revision dismissal in the high court, and we are prepared. 
In addition, there are two other cases pending for Mohan, and much to be done before we can win his freedom. The situation is quite complicated, and we realize that you will likely have questions. We will be putting together an FAQ and posting it next week on our websitewww.wildlifesos.org.

If you are in the USA and would like to receive text updates on Mohan, please text the word 'WILD' to 51555.

Thank you for your support! Your calls for justice are being heard.