All posts by Bee-Elle

Beasts of Burden

Free and wild, as they should be.

On the other side of the world, a highly-stressed Asian elephant in India has recently ‘rampaged’ through Kerala, trampling on motorcycles and tuk-tuks and was eventually brought down by tranquilliser shots, amidst pandemonium. These elephants succumb to consistent, high levels of stress in chaotic, unnatural environments in densely populated and polluted cities, and forced to be beasts of burden as they have done for over 5000 years in India: to give rides, and to pull cargo. This unnatural life unsurprisingly leads to them being excessively frustrated, and will at some point come to a breaking point and lash out, as any elephant would do… or as any human would do.

In this area, the elephant is heralded as a God, yet they are forced to endure this kind of life, and in many cases, leads to their deaths because they are ‘uncontrollable.’ When this concept is juxtaposed with the freedom that these wild African elephants enjoy, it seems all the more absurd.

May there be a day where no animal should ever have to be a beast of burden for man. For our role is not to domesticate wild creatures- but to ensure they live freely and in the wild, so they can be free to be elephants.

Advertisements

Trophies

The water-loving buck taking a drink from a loved water source.

The water also acts as a good refuge when they’re attempting to escape predators who aren’t as fond of water, including lions and the like. Otherwise, amidst long grasses, woodlands and scrub are where they’re most likely to hang out.

This beautiful waterbuck looked up mid-drink. I’m on the ground, metres away from him. And as we connected, what was startling clear was that it would never want to hurt me unless it was necessary for its own survival. And perhaps that’s the difference between animal and human.

These antelope are commonly trophy hunted in many game parks around Africa. They each come with a price tag and a recommended rifle caliber. Why anyone would want to kill such a beautiful animal- especially for a decoration on the wall- is beyond me. May we come to respect all animals in time.

#jointheherd

My post today is in support of WildAid’s campaign to stop the elephant poaching crisis. As many would know, the Chinese Year has just begun in the Year of the Monkey. This year, WildAid hopes to make 2016 the first-ever Year of the Elephant to help save elephants from the ivory trade. Lend your voice, help spread the word and #Jointheherd to make your support count.

没有买卖,就没有杀害.

Stop the trade so the killing can too.

Threatened existence

In this highly caustic lake of Bogoria, this lesser flamingo wades in the shallow waters, seeking for food. With its beak held upside down and moving from left to right in a semi-circle fashion, meals of mostly blue-algae are filtered and eaten.

The Eastern Rift Valley Lakes are home to almost 75% of the world’s population of the lesser flamingo. Lake Bogoria is a major breeding ground, and at given periods can house up to 1 million of these pink beauties.

As these lakes are high in sodium carbonate, some years back Tata Chemicals set up shop next to Lake Magadi to mine soda from the area, significantly damaging their habitat and displacing them to Bogoria, Nakuru, Baringo, and Elementeita- all relatively smaller lakes.

The soda extraction industry contributes significantly towards the economic development of the area, however the population of these birds there is now minimal. The environment around Magadi exudes a commercial and industrial feel, and Orwellian multi-level dormitories for the soda ash factory workers are scattered in the somewhat, impoverished-looking surrounds. This is no place for any bird, let alone a threatened species.

Striking a balance between economic development and conservation is never a simple task, but hopefully, we’ll figure it out before it’s too late for these birds.

From the Zimbabwe wild to Chinese zoos

Last year, Zimbabwe sold 24 baby elephants to China for zoos and circuses in the name of ‘wildlife conservation’. This year, Zimbabwe intends on selling more. The live export trade means that elephant calves will be separated from their mothers and sent to China in cargo holds by air.

China’s extremely sketchy history of animal welfare practice offers no reassurance for the care of the African elephants that will end up on the other side. One needs only visit a Chinese zoo to understand the dire state of these institutions, and the unnecessary despair and suffering that these captive animals endure for a lifetime.

Moreover, the practice of sending creatures to other countries to conserve wildlife is questionable. It is, in essence, a revenue raising strategy executed at the expense of families being torn apart, a lifetime of stress for the elephants, and much else besides. Elephants also live to about 70 years in the wild. In captivity, 40 years.

At the end of the day, if we are to remove the politics and debate of strategic effectiveness from the equation- baby elephants need their mothers. And elephants belong in the wild. They are not a commodity, and no one should have the right to deem them as ‘saleable’ for a purpose that humans artificially designate to these beautiful creatures.

Glimmers of hope

In the struggle to secure animal rights for our creatures on this planet, we see slight glimmers of hope in pockets of the world. India’s Supreme Court is currently considering banning elephant rides in Goa and Rajasthan; Arusha and Dar-es-Salaam courts are currently prosecuting poachers, and their new President Magufuli appears to be armed with a solid stance against wildlife crimes and corruption; Kenya is planning to destroy their ivory stockpile in an apparently large public event to make a bold statement; and elephant deaths in Kenya are down by 80% vs 2013 figures. South Sudan has also recently discovered a small population of the rare and critically endangered Forest Elephant.

Amidst the doom and gloom of the ivory trade issue that we are all too familiar with, small successes show progress. And when there’s progress, there’s hope.

Living in harmony

While ways to deal with charging elephants in parks is well known, human-elephant conflict occurs every day in the wider world, which results in hundreds of human and elephant casualties yearly. Village populations spend a good chunk of time protecting their crops from being eaten by elephants, or their homes from being accidentally trampled on- an issue that spans across both the African and Asian regions. What we’re merely seeing here, however, is just an elephant being an elephant. But due to their supposed encroachment on ‘human territory’, they are subsequently killed by electrocution, poisoning, shot, or all of the above. For many who are unaware of the alternatives, the simplest solution is to kill the creature, and in so doing, kill the ’nuisance’. More lastingly is the animosity towards elephants that perpetuates, and subsequently passed down to future generations. This cannot by any means, be sustainable for both the human or the elephant species.

We all share the same space. No problem should ever have to result in death.

Support organisations such as the David Sheldrick Wildlife Trust and the Born Free Foundation that seek to reduce human-elephant conflict in ethical ways, by promoting alternatives to deter elephants from villages while ensuring pathways for sustainable livelihoods. Because all lives matter.

“All breathing, existing, living sentient creatures should not be slain, nor treated with violence, nor abused, nor tormented, nor driven away.”

-Mahavira

Of the highest caliber

A page of a catalogue is flipped. One page is adorned with a photograph of an East African Oryx. Found only north of the equator, this graceful creature has beautiful distinctive markings that can be spotted from miles away, with elegant, spiralled horns that lean towards the back. It lives in Samburu, a semi-arid savannah dotted with scrub and hills. This area was where George and Joy Adamson raised Elsa the Lioness.

Exotic. Graceful. Stately. US$700. Recommended calibre: .300 Magnums.

This would be a page from a hunting catalogue if Kenya allowed trophy hunting. Elsewhere in Africa however, the industry is very much alive and legal, and continues unabated, at the expense of beautiful animals such as this oryx being killed for sport every single day.

How could it be that an animal, purposely described for its beauty, be described as a ‘beautiful game trophy’- an oxymoron, if there ever was one- on the very same page with which it is advertised?

May this antiquated sport be outlawed once and for all, and may there be a day when all animals are treated with the respect they deserve. Because all lives matter.