Why we won’t miss elephants once they are gone

baby elephant trunk up B&W

I’ve been making wildlife films in East Africa with my partner, Vicky, for 25 years (www.deeblestone.com). Now, together with Etienne Oliff and a small team, we’re making a film about elephants. By the time it is finished, we’ll have devoted five years to it. In that same time about a quarter of a million elephants will have been killed in Africa, by poachers.

Perhaps not surprisingly, we think about elephants a lot, interact with them on an almost daily basis and would find it hard to imagine a world without them.

We are privileged to live within a national park while we make the film.  We share a small grove of Dobera trees with all kinds of other creatures. We see lion, leopard and elephant in camp regularly; we are woken each morning, before dawn, by the resonant calls of ground hornbills.  Baboons and vervet monkeys roost in the fig trees behind camp; hornbills nest in a tree next to our tent; squirrels and agama lizards run over the dining table and, were we to keep a bird list of all those we see from camp, it would run to hundreds of species.

As soon as we step out of camp onto the floodplain, we are surrounded by a Pleistocene diaspora of large mammals – giraffe, waterbuck, impala, kudu, grants gazelle, buffalo… A seasonal river runs through the floodplain. It is paradise, and it would be churlish to think that it isn’t.

Had we been here fifty years ago it would have been slightly different; there would probably have been more trees, more vultures to perch in them, and the river would have flowed for longer each year.

Most noticeably, it would have felt even more Pleistocene – there would have been more large mammals, perhaps four times as many elephants and there would have been rhino, and not just one or two – Tsavo was full of rhinos. The evidence for there being so many comes from accounts of early travelers, old hunting stories, and the reports of the first Tsavo warden, David Sheldrick. I knew all that when we started filming here, but what really brought it home to me was revisiting the films of veteran wildlife filmmakers Alan Root and Simon Trevor. Both worked in Tsavo in the sixties and seventies (Simon stayed on and has lived in the park for fifty years making wildlife and environmental films www.aeffonline.org).

What stood out in their films were sequences of aggregations of black rhino, visiting the shallow wells that elephants had dug in the sand of a seasonal river. It doesn’t happen any more.

In the 1960’s Tsavo had the biggest population of black rhino in the world – some 8000 of them. Their silhouettes, forged out of steel, still adorn the entrance gates to this self-proclaimed ‘Theatre of the Wild’.

Today, Tsavo rhinos number a mere handful and they exist in large, well-protected enclosures. If they didn’t, with rhino horn currently selling on the black market at over$60,000/kg (more valuable than gold), then they would have been poached years ago.

Fast forward then to 1987, when Vicky and I came to East Africa to make a series of wildlife films with Alan, for Survival Anglia. Since then, we have lived in camps in the bush, mostly in national parks. In all that time though, we’ve never had to consider rhino – neither when driving, nor on foot.  We have met them a few times in Serengeti and been amazed, but they have never been part of our daily lives.

In the whole of East Africa there are now only a few hundred rhinos left, mostly on private ranches or in smaller, well-protected areas hived off from larger national parks. They are no longer part of the general ecosystem and in my mind, they are ecologically extinct.

For the likes of David Sheldrick, Simon and Alan, fifty years ago, it would have been inconceivable to think of Tsavo without rhinos. Just as today, it is inconceivable for us to think of Tsavo without elephants.

I find it staggering to think that there were probably as many rhinos then (8,000 in Tsavo East alone), as there are elephants today ( 11,000 in the latest KWS aerial census figures released this week for the Greater Tsavo Ecosystem).

We all have different points from which we measure change through time. Call it a ‘benchmark’, ‘baseline’ or ‘point of comparison’ – I can’t find a simple, elegant word that  fully conveys it.  That point of comparison is normally defined by our age or experience.

I remember when I first became aware of the concept. I was with a friend, walking on the Penwith moors, in Cornwall, when we stopped to admire the view above Zennor, with its rolling expanse of heather and granite outcrops – ‘Tors’, I’d have called them; here they are ‘Kopjes’. We were fresh out of university, proud of our zoology degrees and about to follow different paths in the world.  We wondered aloud whether the moor would ever have been covered in woodland and, if so, what had happened to the trees – perhaps felled for shipbuilding in medieval times, for pit-props for the mines, for timber, or firewood to fuel boilers to drive steam pumps.

It dawned on me then that we don’t miss what we’ve never known. For the first time I looked around me with eyes wide open, and wondered what might have gone before.

low angle eles at water

In conservation, ‘benchmarks’ are crucial – without benchmark surveys, we just don’t know what we are losing and the rate that it is disappearing. Adaptability is a human trait that has been selected for by evolution over millions of years. It helps us cope and thrive in the face of changing environments, but at the same time I think makes us less inclined to look back at what we have lost. Too often we roll our eyes at the phrase, ‘It was better in my day’ – but, when it comes to habitats and wildlife, with very few exceptions, it was. Our elders’ benchmarks are not our benchmarks, and it is all to easy to ignore them. As a result, we lose both wildlife and habitat and we barely notice that it is happening.

For us, as new arrivals in East Africa, our ‘benchmark’ was dated September 1987.

When we arrived on the continent, rhinos had already been almost poached out of existence.

Because we have never known them, we haven’t missed them.

The tragedy now, is that it is happening with elephants.

One of the first films I saw from Tsavo, Simon Trevor’s ‘Bloody Ivory’ graphically illustrated the horrors of elephant poaching and the illegal ivory trade. Four decades later, his most recent film ‘White Gold’ does the same. In the intervening years, the elephants had a brief respite, and the population started to rise. The attrition now though, is worse than it has ever been, and elephant numbers are again in decline.

I would be devastated if, like the rhino, elephants fade into ecological extinction. If their decline continues to accelerate as it is, it is quite probable that the next generation won’t know them as we do.

That is why I think that in the future, we won’t miss them – as we simply won’t have had the chance to get to know them as we do today.

It makes it all the more important to put a stop to the ivory trade now – while we still know elephants and can experience them – not just intellectually, but emotionally.

© Mark Deeble and A Wildlife Filmmaker in Africa, 2014. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Mark Deeble and A Wildlife Filmmaker in Africa with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

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About Mark Deeble

A wildlife filmmaker in Kenya. My home is in Cornwall. My heart is in Africa. I have a tent in Tsavo. I share it all with Vicky. We are working with an amazing team, making a wildlife feature film - www.facebook.com/theelephantmovie
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43 Responses to Why we won’t miss elephants once they are gone

  1. Mia Collis says:

    Such an important blog Mark. Thank you for writing this.

  2. Shubha Stone says:

    Hi Mark I am enjoying your posts. It’s a good time to send them out just before the weekend or Sunday. I think they will do a lot to help conceive wildlife. Just one comment Because your picture comes out quite blurred on a mini iPad it looks like you are lighting a pipe. It may just be me but I had to look carefully a second time Lots of Love Shubha

    Sent from my iPad

    >

  3. Chris Palmer says:

    Mark, wonderful blog post. I commend you. I’m sharing it with all my students and colleagues at AU.

  4. Richard Morris says:

    Brilliant stuff, Mark. Quite a lot re elephants in the press over here, esp the Evening Standard, recently…and it seems Charles, William and Harry are all committed to the cause…shouldn’t you be working with them?

    Rich

    *Sent:* 16 February 2014 06:24 *To:* richard@richardmorris.org.uk *Subject:* [New post] Why we won’t miss elephants once they are gone

    Mark Deeble posted: ” I’ve been making wildlife films in East Africa with my partner, Vicky, for 25 years (www.deeblestone.com). Now, together with Etienne Oliff and a small team, we’re making a film about elephants. By the time it is finished, we’ll have devoted five year”

  5. N WILLIAMS says:

    Dearest Mark

    I cant keep up with you – all three blogs have been so moving, so beautiful.. but this…ah so sad and so angry and in good time. You are probably aware of the publicity the eli’s and rhinos and other endangered species are having over her – the Mirror newspaper dedicated its front page and four more pages to the plight of the elephants and the appalling pride of the poachers.  Their is a big effort to bring this to public awareness with a moratorium four African countries pledging to destroy old  ivory stockpiles, arguments for destroying all ivory antiques in order to close down the markets ( or force to prices up). It is in the Newspapers and on the News and suddenly the world is talking about this outrage. You must send this piece to the press over here. You probably have done so but with your usual genius you will reach so many more people. Your words made me mad and sad and fired with no where for these feelings to go as I sit here in beautiful Cornwall  (today after the storms, glittering in the sun light) and feel totally powerless in the presence of your powerful words. 

    Amazing . I hope you are OK Heaps of love Sara

    ________________________________

  6. AfricaInside says:

    Your story is heart wrenching. I had to push back the tears. I would say though at the end, for those of us who have had the fortune of spending time around these amazing beings, we will definitely miss them because we will have known Africa with them. So,when you say in your second to last paragraph, “we won’t miss them” I think you mean people who never experienced them in the first place. It brings up another point for me, which is that experiencing something is so much more powerful than intellectually knowing about it. Rhinos are a case in point. You never experienced them although you are well informed about them being in Tsavo in vast numbers before you came along, and thus you aren’t really missing them. That is why I have spent so much of my time and effort supporting programs to get kids into the National Parks in order to have experiences with these animals that most have never seen. Thanks for another beautifully written article. Lori Robinson from AfricaInside.org

  7. Mark Deeble says:

    Lori – that is exactly what I mean. To experience is to know. I think it so important that people can have that experience. In Kenya, so many people haven’t experienced their own wildlife and that is what we have to redress.

    • Su says:

      Absolutely correct Mark. The costs for Kenyans to experience their own wildlife are too high. We need to address this in order to ignite the passion and ownership required to save not only elephants and rhino but everything else that will follow if Kenyans don’t care. KWS and the tourism industry at large are part to blame. Fees for parks are exorbitant for all except the elite and the expats who often see the parks as safe places to take their 4×4’s out on a spin. The solution as we know is multifaceted, this facet, the one of endearing our wildlife to ourselves needs more focus. Wildlife is often perceived to be the playing field of the wazungu, from researchers to camp owners. If the trickle effect of tourism does not reach every Kenyan, they are less likely to give two cents of time to the problems it faces. How do we explain to every Kenyan, that trading in wildlife products is an economic crime and is robbing the country of more than we can see at a tangible level. Can we depict this on film. Can we depict this in such a way that it hits the core of the masses? Can we depict this sooner rather than later? Perhaps the problem needs to be addressed from a completely radical angle. Perhaps proceeds from tourism and wildlife should be churned into things that count for every Kenyan. Social security, education, medical services? …somehow

      • Mark Deeble says:

        Su, I totally agree with you. I think park fees are high for everyone – tourists included. Kenyans should be very proud of their wildlife, but that requires people to experience it. Interest and engagement follow. In the past, the films we’ve made have been broadcast all around the world, except in Kenya. That has finally changed, but for years we were asked to pay for the privilege – we couldn’t even donate them to national tv. I’d welcome ideas as to how we engage with people and help stimulate pride in their natural heritage.

  8. Flo Stone says:

    Dear Mark and Vicki: Thank you for your extraordinary essays. They are so vivid and important with beautiful photographs. Please let us know when you complete your film on elephants. It is definitely time for a Deeble/Stone retrospective at the Environmental Film Festival. All best wishes – Flo

    Flo Stone

    Founder

    Environmental Film Festival in the Nation’s Capital

    1228 1/2 31st Street, NW

    Washington, DC 20007

    Tel: 202.342.2564

    Fax: 202.298.8518

    http://www.dcenvironmentalfilmfest.org

    22nd Annual Festival: March 18-30, 2014

    Selected for the 2012-13 Catalogue for Philanthropy: Greater Washington

  9. raven says:

    Beautifully written. But oh my god, so heartbreaking. I feel the key is getting people (not just children) to connect deeply to a sense of place – animals and plants and landscapes – all intimately bound into an experience of one’s home that must be cherished, respected and cared for. The work of reconnecting with the heart and soul of the wild world, is so very much needed in these times, across the world, not just in Africa. Thank you Mark and Vicki, for your ongoing work in these realms. Keep up the great writing (your photos are also stunning).

  10. Ann says:

    Such a poignant message – the picture of the loss of all the magnificent animals fills me with such sadness and also immense shame at the “human” race. If it isn’t the elephants, it’s the rhino’s or the lions, tigers, whales, pangolins, bees, orangutans, even my absolute favourite – hippo’s. And for what – greed?

    How does one choose one cause and how can one become actively involved in so many of these really worthy causes? My biggest drawback is that I am someone who suffers so in the heat and most of the places where the “action” is occurring is usually in some of the hottest places on earth. I don’t know how I could make a difference, but would sure like to try with my forte being able to write and having an undying passion for mother earth. Perhaps I need to trust that when the time is right that the universe will reward me, in some small way to hopefully make a difference.

    You are both so blessed to be where you are and I thank you sincerely for keeping us posted on what is going on out there. Blessings from South Africa.

  11. Delta Willis says:

    Consider all the lonely people in Manhattan missing their mastodons.
    Perfect examples of Nature Deficit Disorder: prone to anxiety, depression and attention-deficit.
    So warped is their view of life that when a plane strikes a flock of geese, it’s a “bird strike.” They must fly half way around the world to see the gnu migration because bison and pronghorn, what’s left of them, are fenced in. School children fondle plastic models of dinosaurs, and grown men write books about the passenger pigeon. Will the Earth miss humankind? Envisage her smiley face from space. In fact I’m missing the elephants and rhino of Tsavo right now. The entrances they make at the waterhole, the way they move, behave and smell, the feelings they arouse in us, have been captured not only by Root and Trevor but Peter Matthiessen, Ernest Hemingway, Karen Blixen and Dame Sheldrick. It is part of the magic of the African landscape that people flashback and re-imagine the “prehistoric” creatures, the man-eaters, the rivers that now run dry, because it’s part of our past. As Mick Jagger said of his safari, “It took me back.”

  12. Karolina Haas de Heveningham says:

    How this touches my soul, not just the soul but my inner sanctum.
    Thankyou so much for all your splendid work, and for your love and commitment for the Elephants. Todays world is only about money and full of the most ignorant people.
    I was brought up in Kenya on a very large ranch in Laikipia, but it was on our Coffee plantation that bordered with the Nyeri forest. My first real close experience with elephants began.
    A small baby elephant had got itself completely stuck in a water a furrow on the edge of the forest. The africans tried to get her out, but Billy Woodley, a very well known National Parks person (Billy is dead now), said the baby elephant should stay put for another hour or so as the mother was somewhere near and would come and try and get her out of the furrow. I was devastated and thought it was a very bad idea to leave the vulnerable ele in the mud of the furrow. We went back for her, and with ropes stabilised her and got her out. To cut the story short, she was with us for sometime until she want to Tsavo to grow up with other elephants. I knew David Sheldrike, Daphne, and many others.
    Kenya is a very special country, once bitten it never leaves you.
    I think your photos are fantastic. Keep up the good work.

  13. Vic Chapman says:

    I’ve read and seen on TV much about the slaughter of elephants in Kenya recently but until now I wasn’t sure if the poaching had actually worsened or was static.
    I’ve been lucky to safari in Tsavo E + W and Amboseli several times since our fist visit in 2007 – expected to be a once in in a lifetime trip for our 40th anniversary – but – well I don’t need tell you how Africa grabs at the soul and drags you back. Subsequent visits at small low-impact tented camps have not lessened our love for the continent and for the flora, fauna and landscape (I’m a long-time avid amateur, and for a short time, pro photographer).
    On our first safari we were warned that Tsavo W elephants were skittish but Tsavo E elephants more trusting because the former had been hunted in recent (elephant) memory but those in TE less so. I remember great numbers of of elephant crossing the dusty plains of Amboseli in a seemingly never-ending line of huge family groups so that after a few hours we were forced to turn back for another route to camp. The plight of the Rhino was obvious when one night we were forced to stay at a conventional lodge in TW which was equipped with a high powered telescope overlooking the rhino reserve. I was lucky enough to spot the first rhino seen for some days and my reported sighting caused a mass exodus to the transport for a dash to the location. When I read here of rhinos once being as common as elephants are now, it really brings home the full horror of what is happening to the elephant. It is of course not only the elephant that would be affected but the entire eco system of that wonderful land – we would lose much of the other less vaunted, but to me just as beautiful and interesting wildlife.
    Is it possible that in years to come people will depend on the (admittedly wonderful) TV films to know what they are missing?
    As I said at the beginning – I wasn’t sure just how bad was the situation until now – although I’ve signed just about every petition for the cause. Now you’ve brought home to me the full horror of what is happening. I’m now retired and not wealthy enough to return again but just the thought of the daily slaughter and possible disappearance of these wonderful beasts cuts into my soul.
    I do hope we can bring enough pressure to bear in the appropriate quarters to stop this happening but knowing the levels of corruption in Kenya/Africa I think national political pressure may be more important than just throwing money at the problem – however – whatever it takes!
    Thank you Mark for making even me more determined to bring this senseless slaughter to the notice of others so we stop it once and for all.

    • Mark Deeble says:

      I’ve since learnt the the phenomenon of ‘changing benchmarks’ is also described as ‘creeping normalcy’ (really!) and ‘shifting baselines’ – thank you Howard, Blaise and James. ‘Shifting Baselines’ is a much better phrase than mine, and one that has been used in relation to the marine environment for over a decade. Its expounder and proponent is Randy Olson – http://www.shiftingbaselines.org

  14. Harriet Nimmo says:

    Thank you Mark – such a powerful and moving blog about “shifting baselines”. I remember being so thrilled seeing a few lapwings wheeling above a field in the UK and my grandmother weeping as she remembered huge flocks everywhere. I now try and explain to my niece how telephone wires used to look bristling with swallows….. This is why wildlife films are so important – showing what our planet looked like and how it has changed within our lifetimes and what we are losing on our watch…..

  15. Thank you, Mark. I just so happen to have a deep love of elephants and this post makes me want to cry. I want to thank you for all you do for them. There are no more words.

  16. marvalus2013 says:

    Reblogged this on Monkeys 'n' parrots and commented:
    The old expression “You never miss what you never had” is what you are describing so eloquently in this beautifully written blog. Another expression springs to mind. “You don’t know what you’ve got till it’s gone” and that is also very appropriate to the subject. We lived in Africa for nearly 8 years and tho we did not live in the bush as you do, we visited game parks several times and one of the most stunning memories I have is of watching elephants drinking at a waterhole at sunset and practically PINCHING myself because I could not believe that I was actually there, with real live elephants. And this is a very valid point. For most people, the experience of elephants is only on film or TV or maybe at the zoo, so they perhaps do not feel the connection that makes some of us so desperately concerned and afraid that they are on the point of being wiped out.
    Making the world aware of the animals’ plight and educating the end-users on the absurdity and uselessness of the product (ie ivory and rhino horn) thus rendering it valueless is, I think, the most valuable contribution we can make to the survival of our endangered species.
    Only governments or military have the power to apprehend and punish those who pay the poachers and we also need to lobby them to take action.
    Meanwhile, thank you for this accurate and insightful article.

  17. marvalus2013 says:

    The old expression “You never miss what you never had” is what you are describing so eloquently in this beautifully written blog. Another expression springs to mind. “You don’t know what you’ve got till it’s gone” and that is also very appropriate to the subject. We lived in Africa for nearly 8 years and tho we did not live in the bush as you do, we visited game parks several times and one of the most stunning memories I have is of watching elephants drinking at a waterhole at sunset and practically PINCHING myself because I could not believe that I was actually there, with real live elephants. And this is a very valid point. For most people, the experience of elephants is only on film or TV or maybe at the zoo, so they perhaps do not feel the connection that makes some of us so desperately concerned and afraid that they are on the point of being wiped out.
    Making the world aware of the animals’ plight and educating the end-users on the absurdity and uselessness of the product (ie ivory and rhino horn) thus rendering it valueless is, I think, the most valuable contribution we can make to the survival of our endangered species.
    Only governments or military have the power to apprehend and punish those who pay the poachers and we also need to lobby them to take action.
    Meanwhile, thank you for this accurate and insightful article.

  18. p says:

    You forget to mention , that they are also many Elephants being massacred, also, in equal measures legally, in the name of Conservation !!!!…. this is what we are told this is why they get away with it . From the same almost extinct herds that the world is trying to save, by American White Media Invisible Super Wealthy Trophy Hunters for trophies , sometimes for entertainment on their Hunting Channels for TV entertainment, big business ……. supports canned hunting, and the elimination of wild animals for family fu holiday breaks, killing with high powered weapons from helicopters . But, this is Ok, because they are Rich, White and American , and it all goes to ‘Conservation’ right?

    • Mark Deeble says:

      I personally find elephant hunting abhorrent. It is legal in a number of countries, but not in Kenya. Kenya banned hunting over thirty years ago. It hasn’t stopped us losing our elephants at an unsustainable rate though, along with most other elephant range states.
      Poaching is the reason we are losing them here, exacerbated by habitat loss, and increased human-wildlife conflict. I don’t know how many trophy licences are issued to shoot elephants for sport, but I know the number lost to legal hunting is a tiny fraction of the 100/day lost to poaching.

  19. Sharon Bigelow says:

    Enjoying your blog Mark. Just back from Tsavo and missing it and the elephants terribly. Thanks for helping me through the transition, and for your efforts on behalf of the elephants.

  20. Stuart says:

    Interesting post and I share these thoughts precisely – in fact, I am writing something along these lines about the forests of central Africa (and Cameroon in particular) as well as the beasts that are found within them …

  21. Geoffrey Gunning says:

    Mark: I am Matt Hopson’s uncle. He posted some horrifying pictures of an elephant and a rhino that he been murdered in Africa, the poor elephant being virtually decapitated. I’ve been reading and watching similar things for many years, but have decided that it’s time for “Battle Stations.” Accordingly, I am about to start a long-term campaign to highlight the issue, via Facebook, petitions, letters/e-mails to embassies, politicians, EU cronies and whoever else I can think of. I know good people like you have been doing this for years, but feel that the more we do it, the more likely that something will be done. Any advice and links would be useful.

  22. marvalus2013 says:

    All out war, launched against the poachers and the “Mr Bigs” behind the ivory and rhino horn trade, is the only way they will be stopped, along with intensive education of the end buyers of the terrible cost of the product.
    My next blog is an expansion of what I am talking about. Although most of us cannot take up arms (much as we feel we might like to) we have to fight with words and actions that we CAN do and that involves doing exactly what Geoffrey is saying. We have to sign petitions, email and send letters to politicians, encourage sports stars and celebrities to get on board (people listen to them!!). The more of us that do it, the louder our voice grows and in that there is hope.
    If we stand by and do nothing but wring our hands and say “How awful” we fail. It’s not an option.

  23. Mark Deeble says:

    Geoffrey – I think anything we can do collectively to circulate the news of the crisis that rhinos and elephants face is well worth it. There are lots of elephant-centric organisations that have FB pages ( Save the Elephants, Tsavo Trust, Elephant Voices, Amboseli Trust for Elephants, David Sheldrick Wildlife Trust, Wildaid, Tusk etc) and they are a great source of information. I think that information needs to be disseminated more widely though. Above all else we have to engage with China and that involves education to bring about a complete change of attitude. Everything else that is being done is merely slowing the attrition and buying time. There is a precedent – the anti-fur lobby in the UK made it socially unacceptable to wear fur ( think back to the David Bailley, catwalk/blood spatter ad and how effective that was). The same needs to happen in China. At present, apparently 70% of the population of China think that elephant tusks fall out naturally and are simply picked up off the ground. They don’t realise the full horror of what poaching elephants involves. The organisation that has let elephants down most is CITES – by sanctioning the occasional one-off sale of stockpiles of ‘legal’ ivory. This had fed demand, confused the buyers of the status of ivory and maintained the carving/ processing industry. To start, I think we have to lobby to make any trade in ivory, anywhere in the world, illegal. The biggest market is China and they still have a legal trade – it has to be stopped.

    • Geoffrey Gunning says:

      Mark: Thanks so much for your reply. I am eager to do something but frankly I don’t know where to start. I want to avoid a sudden surge of enthusiasm that then fades away after a time. Matt tells me that if we can get 100,000 signatures on an e-petition, it has to be debated in parliament. I wonder if it has been done before. As you point out, there are many elephant and wildlife charities already in operation. If all I can do is donate money and hope, then I really don’t think I’ve done much. I wish we could get our spineless, gutless politicians in UK, USA and EU to make a stand and issue an ultimatum to China – STOP or we cease all trade.

      • Mark Deeble says:

        Geoffrey, I am afraid I don’t know about the e-petition. I don’t think there is any ‘right’ way to create the change that is needed, but I do think that if everyone does what they are able, it will help get us to ‘critical mass’. If politicians won’t be proactive, then we have to get the public so fired up about the issue, that the politicians have to take notice. Kenyan politicians on the whole couldn’t care less, but there is a move now to get the president to declare poaching a national disaster – and he is being targeted chiefly through social media – Twitter, FB etc.

  24. KAIN says:

    Hi, i have reading out and i will definitely bookmarrk your site, just wanted to say i liked this article.

  25. Delphine says:

    I’ll tell you I’ll be devastated if all the elephants are gone and I’m still alive. It is painful to read about other losses like the Yangtze dolphins, but I’d never met any, whereas elephants have been in my life and consciousness from the beginning – that’s what happens when you’re an African. On your theme of the extinction of elephants, please do yourself a favour and go to http://www.megafauna.com for an amazing (free) and incredibly well researched and argued book on Man’s role in the extinction of the megafauna. We’ve been doing this thing for a long long time. When will we learn? Are we capable of learning?

  26. Helen Daniels says:

    Thank you Mark for your dedication,honesty and integrity.I too wonder how to get local people interested in realising what a treasure they have in their own back yard and how to encourage them to protect these elephants instead of killing or turning a blind eye.
    I was in Meru National Park in 2012 and was horrified by the gargage/filth at the door to the park.I made my thoughts very clear to my driver including lack of pride and caring in their own environment and in turn how this reflected on their perception of their living treasures with in the park.I was encouraged to write to the local tribe and with help from the indigenous driver I was involved in a clean up to help bury/burn a huge pile of human rubbish including plastic bags that were blowing into the park and being gobbled up by some animals with horrendous effect.
    Think what I am saying,we as travellers have a duty to speak up and comment on what we see,respectfully of course but get to the core.Tourists will not return if you donot value what you have.

  27. Gerald Rilling says:

    Jambo,
    Please give a jambo to Alan for me as well. I have know him from my days in E. A. which started in 1967 though 1982. The one thing you are missing about Rhinos is the fact that there used to be a very large population in Ethiopia; but it was used by arabs for dagger handles. In my day they said Rhino horn was for male erection problems; when in fact that is only 2-3% of use (and it works – for EXTERNAL use only). The balance that is used in the Far East is mainly for fever reduction. We put a Jewish Ethiopian through medical school here and he had had 3 1/2 yrs of traditional Chinese medicine taught in Chinese. He asked the teacher what medicinal effect the Rhino horn had and the Dr. said ‘No medicinal effect, but a small amount of psychological.’. This information needs to be widely and strongly told throughout the area where it is used. The patients would save money and it would save Rhino lives. To go after poachers does not work; because if one is caught; another takes over.
    Nenda salama,
    Gerald Rilling
    Dealer in out of print Books on East Africa and
    Publisher of the 1st English edition of ‘My Life’
    autobiography of General Paul von Lettow Vorbeck

    • Mark Deeble says:

      Thanks Gerald, I’ll do that. I think you are right. It wasn’t long ago that rhino horn seemed to be mainly used for Yemeni dagger handles. I suspect that has changed over the last couple of decades as it has become rarer and more expensive. Pound for pound it is now more valuable than gold and that has only hastened the demise of the rhino.

  28. Harriet Nimmo says:

    Just read Colin Walker’s “Baobab Trails” – and his haunting memoirs of rhinos “everywhere” in Tsavo in the 1960’s….. We cannot let this happen to elephants on our watch.

  29. Mark Deeble says:

    We can’t Harriet. It is our watch – and they are our responsibility.

  30. Robin Doiron says:

    I read 3 blogs and, through it all, the only thing that consistently left my lips, was “Wow”!! It really disheartens me that humans can be so self-absorbed, self-serving and, lack of empathy for those that cannot speak for themselves!! I am well aware that Asia has a lot to do with the declining numbers of tigers, elephants and, rhinoceroses, all for some ” magic” potions that sound more like a crock to me!! My one question in regards to poachers: When these animals are gone…finally, extinc, what animal will they kill next?

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