Tag Archives: protection

Vervet monkeys deserve a chance

A nonchalant vervet monkey peers down from his throne on a branch.

They have different alarm calls for different predators- including for humans too, I’m sure, that they use sometimes when I walk beneath them in forests. Although it is a sound for alert and caution, I find them remarkably peaceful as they echo and reverberate through the treetops, cutting through air.

In an experiment with species in the wild, researchers found that monkeys would change what kind of food they selected when in a new area based on what they saw others eat, even if the food they were used to eating was readily available. This high-level use of social cues and adaptability gives clues on how these species survived and evolved over time.

They usually hang out in trees in troops of about 5-50 other friends and family, but will come down to the ground to look for food, or to steal food from cars, picnic baskets, restaurant tabletops- anything. Their highly playful nature is entertaining to watch, however, not everyone sees them this way. Many locals have found them a recurring nuisance as they’ve been known to raid crops. The issue is addressed by trapping, poisoning or shooting them.

They may be common, and sometimes a nuisance, but they are as much a part of the African landscape as all the other creatures, and it is essential we find ways to live harmoniously with wildlife. From monkeys, to rabbits, to lions and elephants- because all lives matter.

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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.

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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.

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What do chillies, tobacco smoke, bees and fireworks have in common?

Elephants don’t like them.

Recently it’s been found that if you fill a condom with chilli powder, mix with sand for bulk and rocks for weight, and then launch the thing at the elephant, they’ll turn and walk away. It won’t hurt them, but with their sensitive sense of smell, they’ll apparently cough and sneeze as the chilli is just too irritating for their liking. I’m still unsure why condoms were selected as the chill grenade casing, as empty rubber scattered all over the place would be a pretty disgusting sight.

Back to the point.

So there we have it: accessible and affordable ways to deter elephants from eating and damaging farmers’ crops.

That’s one small step towards reducing human-wildlife conflict, and one giant leap for helping to save elephants. Progress!

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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.

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Ivory and ashes

Well done President Uhuru Kenyatta for creating the largest ivory burn in history, and all the global alliances that came together at the summit on the weekend to stand in solidarity against the ivory trade. May this positive momentum continue and trigger more awareness, policy change, greater anti-corruption measures and on-the-ground enforcement to stamp out this trade once and for all. May we also remember the 7000 elephants that these tusks came from and the 20-33 thousand elephants that are killed every year. Innocent and beautiful. Rest in peace.

Tusks on fire

In under an hour, the largest ivory burn in history will take place. In this symbolic event, 105 tonnes of elephant ivory and 1.5 tonnes of rhino horn will go up in flames in 11 large pyres in Nairobi National Park. World leaders, politicians, conservationists, celebrities and the media are present, and the world watches on as a landmark event in the battle to stop the ivory trade begins. The burn sends a clear message: the ivory has no economic value, and the elephant is worth more alive. It’s time to stop the trade once and for all.


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 largest zebra of them all

The largest zebras around: the Grevy’s zebra. These beauties have thin vertical stripes and almost completely white bellies, bar a thick black stripe down its middle, a distinctive brown muzzle and round ears that are often floppy.

Beautiful, and endangered.

Their population fell by 50% over an 18 year period, and currently, there are only an estimated 2000 of these guys left. They once roamed the wilds of Somalia, Eritrea, and Djibouti, but of the few that remain, they hang around small patches in the northern parts of Kenya and southern Ethiopia. Their endangered status in Ethiopia is directly attributed to hunting. Elsewhere, habitat loss is due to overgrazing and farming, as usual.While their zebra counterparts are in good healthy numbers, if due care is not taken, these guys will be wiped off the face of the earth in the next few generations.

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.


It is with great sadness that I write about Mohawk, a male lion that was shot just over 48 hours ago after he escaped Nairobi National Park. He endured torment and heckling by crowds for hours in Kajiado county before a Kenya Wildlife Service ranger shot him 9 times. The 13-year-old lion was cornered and surrounded by a rowdy mob for 6 hours, stoned and taunted, and became highly stressed, which led him to swat a man on a motorbike- prompting the rangers to fire.

The first KWS team dispatched, interestingly, only had rifles. The second team were on their way with tranquilisers, but Mohawk was shot before they arrived. Moreover, for them to arrive 6 hours after the lion was first reported as being found raises further questions- Kajiado is only 30kms away from the Nairobi NP headquarters, and even with traffic, southbound, they would have arrived far faster than the time that they did.

Lions escaping Nairobi NP has not happened like this before with such frequency and in such numbers. Noisy construction work on a rail project that will cut through the park is assumed to be driving them away through an open migratory corridor in the south. I posted previously about Cheru, another male who had escaped only weeks ago- but I did not expect that a lion would soon lose his life doing so, simply to get to a quieter area.

There had to have been a better way. If any animal is stressed, it will react. Controlling the group, and educating society on the need to stay away from a wild creature, and not provoke it, is paramount to ensure safety for all. This death didn’t have to happen. But it did, and by it, we are all diminished.