Tag Archives: animal rights

Elephants approaching humans to ask for help

In the last few weeks we’ve heard about an elephant in Zimbabwe being shot in the head, and more recently about Tim from Kenya being speared in the head. The former was the result of a botched attempt at murder by a poacher- the latter, frustrations due to human-wildlife conflict. Both elephants reportedly approach humans that they were familiar with to ask for help.

That these stories are making the news on mainstream media is a relief, as it’s a sure sign that it is deemed relevant for mass attention. What is not a relief, however, is that elephants are continuing to suffer badly from the cruelty of humans.

Education, awareness, and political commitment can help to change behaviours and attitudes. Policy reform, adequate enforcement, and community programs can ensure this work is carried out properly and sustainably.

There are 470,000 African elephants left. Zero deserve to suffer. And zero deserve to die by the hand of humans.

Visit my website or follow me on Instagram or Google+

A few decades, 1 million elephants gone

The Melbourne Cricket Ground, where the Commonwealth Games were once held, seats 100k; Levi’s Stadium, where the last Super Bowl was held, 107k; FNB Stadium in Johannesburg, where the 2010 FIFA World Cup was held, seats 95k.

Imagine any of these stadiums being full of individuals- and then all of them being murdered: either by poison or shot, never knowing what hit them, or why. Now imagine these individuals being elephants. That’s the real number of African elephant deaths by poaching in 3 years.

I do not hesitate to use this word, murder, because that’s what it is. Poachers show a reckless indifference to life; have the intent to kill or inflict grievous harm; and there’s a high probability that their act will cause the death of another. These elements constitute murder. Formally, we can’t use the word ‘murder’ because nothing is ever heard or tried in court. And so soft words such as ‘killing’ and ‘poaching’ continue to be used as a default.

Back to the statistics. Imagine 10 of these stadiums filled with individuals, and you’ll get the number of African elephants that have been killed due to poaching in 35 years. 1,000,000 innocent lives, gone. This is the grand scale of death we are talking about. The magnitude of the issue should in no way be underestimated- they will be wiped off the face of the earth within decades if real change is not made soon. We need to stop the killing before the suffering and injustice continues.

Visit my website or follow me on Instagram or Google+

What happens when an elephant doesn’t die after you shoot it?

Six weeks ago, Pretty Boy, an elephant in Zimbabwe, was shot in the head. It is believed he turned to flee, and the poachers fired another shot into his shoulder.

The vets found him wandering inside Mana Pools when he apparently approached them, as if he knew they were there to help. He was treated and thankfully survived.

The intelligence of these beautiful creatures should never be underestimated. They think, feel, and experience the world in ways that we will never understand.

With their incredible levels of intelligence and extraordinary memories, these elephants will never understand why they or their family members were shot; will never forget what the poachers looked like; and most lastingly, will never forget how it made them feel. But perhaps all of that doesn’t matter, because their ability to forgive humans, and still peacefully share the same space with them, enables them to stay strong and survive. This will never cease to amaze me. And perhaps their ability to forgive is something that we humans ought to learn from the elephants.

Visit my website or follow me on Instagram or Google+

Wild and free- not handbags

If these young ostriches didn’t live here in the wilds of Kenya, and instead on a commercial farm, they would eventually be turned upside down, stunned by electrocution, their throats slit, bled out, and then their feathers plucked to make Prada, Hermes and LV handbags. In true style- London, Paris and Gangnam- PETA protestors made the point at these flagship stores recently that ostriches shouldn’t be made into handbags.

Large families are led by Mother Hen, as this one was doing here. Along with all these beautiful, feathery youngsters, they walked peacefully into the sunset. Free from being made into handbags, and free to wander the savannah.

Wild, as they should be.

Visit my website or follow me on Instagram or Google+


Hanako, the elephant who was gifted to Japan by Thailand after WWII and has been living in a small, bare enclosure for 67 years, has passed away. Although she reached a ripe age of 69, her life was desolate: confined to a tiny concrete space the same colour as her grey skin, on show for ogling tourists, no other elephants or companions around, and a complete lack of social and mental stimulation. One need only ought to ask- would we do this to a human for tourism and ‘education’? This is arbitrary detention, solitary confinement, and cruel and unusual punishment. This is a prison. I am not hesitant at all to draw parallels between elephants and humans, because animals have rights, just as we do.

There’s a lot to be desired in the animal rights and welfare space in Asia. I have seen too many of these creatures in similar conditions to Hanako’s. In Shenzhen, I’ve seen a polar bear, lying on his stomach, facing a concrete wall in a warm climate, his back to the loud ogling crowds and nowhere to go. This was torturous to watch. In saying this, there are notable institutions leading the way. I’ve seen the Panda Research Base in ChengDu doing a world-class job, ensuring all bears have the best quality of life.

I am relieved that Hanako has passed because she is now in a better place. But stories like these fuel my frustration about all the other creatures that are living in similar situations. Their deplorable situations will continue for as long decision-makers do nothing and people hand their money over for a ticket.

These creatures were never ours. They are their own. When this is fully realised, then humans are making progress. Until then, thousands of others that we will never know about will continue to suffer for the whole of their lives, and then die on our watch.


I write today, frustrated and angry at the death of Sambo, an old Asian elephant in Cambodia, who recently dropped dead after ferrying 2 tourists on her back to Angkor Wat in extreme heat. Her sudden death has been attributed to accumulated stress and excessive heat which resulted in a heart attack. She was forced to work in the tourism industry for over 15 years.

She was photographed lying there, fallen over and dead, her eyes still open, her mouth open, in front of a handful of people who watch on with blank faces.

This is what happens when you put an elephant to work for life. This is what happens when you place an animal under undue stress and force them to work in a highly demanding environment that is unnatural, cruel, and not suited for any creature.

I am heartbroken and angry at this unnecessary, completely preventable death. This should not have happened. These animals deserve respect, dignity and a life of freedom.

While key companies in the travel industry have signed a pledge to ban this cruel practice, and while public support against the practice is growing, every time another human being pays money to ride an elephant, this elephant riding industry will go on.

The way life should be for an elephant

The way life should be for an elephant: wild and free.

No mahouts, no sticks, no chains, no fences, no shackles, no cages. May they be afforded their rightful freedoms in the same way the world strives to uphold the rights of humans: to be free, to be safe from cruelty and unnecessary death, and to live without fear or suffering.

We are not superior to any other animal on this earth. This earth was meant for all of us.

“The love for all living creatures is the most noble attribute of man.”

– Charles Darwin

Making space for giants

On April 30, 120 tonnes of seized ivory will be piled high and lit in a pyre at Nairobi National Park. These tusks are of course only a fraction of the ivory that comes from the 33,000 elephants that are killed every year.

The ivory burn is set to take place while movers and shakers from the continent will come together at a summit for The Giants Club, an initiative started by the presidents of Kenya, Uganda, Gabon and Botswana to save the African elephant from extinction. Hosted by Kenya’s president Uhuru Kenyatta, celebrities, global business leaders, senior conservationists and elephant-protection experts will be coming together over April 29 and 30 in Nairobi to discuss the way forward and to forge new plans to reach the goal of protecting at least 10% of Africa’s elephants by 2020.

This summit will strengthen the home-grown, African-led drive to stop the trade. May this create another boost to escalate the efforts from the continent to protect these giants, and hopefully complex issues including corruption and lack of enforcement can be addressed so that the murder of elephants can be stopped once and for all.

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.


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.

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.