Elephants – why bother?


Elephant baby at waterhole


A few months ago, at a dinner in New York, an aquaintance got into a conversation where a guest asked, “Why all the fuss about elephants – they mean nothing to me personally. Why should I bother whether or not they go extinct?”

The comment, and the attitude it reflected, has concerned me ever since. I don’t know if it was made out ignorance, arrogance, an attempt to provoke, or the desire for genuine knowledge. I prefer to think it is the latter.

So I asked myself, why should they bother? What should elephants mean to someone who has never had the good fortune to meet them?

The scientist in me was the first to answer, for diversity in ecosystems reflects a more vibrant, interesting, and robust life-support system for the planet. Elephants play an important role. They are key-stone species, terrestrial-ecosystem architects, and gardeners without parallel.

In tropical rain forests elephants spread seeds up to fifty kilometers from where they ate them. The seeds of a particular species of Balanites tree are dispersed only by elephants. It is simple – no elephants, no trees. We still don’t know how important that tree is, but we do know that similar trees, whose seeds are spread by elephants, support hundreds of different species of animals and plants.

We spent two years making a film about an extraordinary African tree called a sycomore fig (The Queen of Trees: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xy86ak2fQJM ). It is an ecosystem of a tree. There are animals whose lives so depend on the tree that they cannot exist without it, and vice versa. In the two years we spent filming, we barely scratched the surface of the web of interconnectivity that the tree was central to. The sycomore fig is vital to animals ranging from ants to elephants. It is important in ways that, when we started the journey of making the film, we could barely imagine. I think that if we looked closely at most living things, we’d find much the same.

Once you start to look at elephants in a wide-eyed and curious way, even their simple act of sheltering from the midday sun in the shade of a tree becomes an act of gardening – for that is where their dung ends up. Compost delivered straight to the tree.  Compared to their forest-dwelling cousins, savannah elephants are more akin to tree surgeons and landscape gardeners. It makes what they do even more obvious. Overall, their effect is the same – to increase biodiversity, from mites up to mammals. It is the ‘utility’ argument – the concept of ‘usefulness’ – first to the ecosystem, but eventually to us all


A philosopher might add that there is a strong moral argument that we simply don’t have the right to push another species into the abyss of extinction. We are the most powerful species on the planet. In my view, it is incumbent on us not to abuse that power. I’d go further, and suggest it be used, not just for our good, but for common good. A common and equal ‘right to exist’ for all species sounds quite straight forward, but we find it easier to apply it to elephants than bacteria – partly, I think, because we are fundamentally anthropocentric. We tend to admire qualities in other species that we recognize in ourselves. We home-in on shared attributes. It makes it easier for us to relate to them. As a result, we empathize more with gorillas than guppies.

Sometimes just a simple, shared attribute is enough – I suspect many of us think more kindly of owls than other raptors – probably because their eyes, like ours, face forwards. A bottle-nosed dolphin has prodigious intelligence, but, despite this, I think we’d be less kindly disposed towards it, if the genetic lottery hadn’t set its jaw in a permanent ‘smile’. When most of us think of a penguin, we are more likely to visualize a shuffling, portly, maitre’d, than a highly-adapted, counter-shaded, marine predator.

Elephants are lucky – for they share more attributes with us than most animals. We can ignore their un-human appearance in favour of their consciousness, their extraordinary communication, good memory,  similar lifespan, strong sense of family, their ability to plan into the future, and their uncanny awareness of death.


A cultural historian might think that our anonymous diner in New York would be more impressed by the elephant’s contribution to human culture – from Hindu deity Ganesh, via Salvador Dali’s surreal stork-legged elephants, to Disney’s ‘Dumbo’. It is the sort of theme that might inspire an exhibition at the Guggenheim, and appeal more to an urban mind. Artists, spanning the millennia, from cave painters to Banksy have felt the need to represent elephants, and they have ranged from being the inspiration for Warhol to war machine.

However we rationalize the importance of elephants, I think it provides only part of the answer. To really appreciate elephants you have to experience them.

I would invite our anonymous diner to sit with me in a land-rover next to a waterhole at dusk, as families of elephants came to drink, and play, and greet each other. Only then would would our dinner guest start to get to ‘know’ them.

They would feel the rumbles, smile at the squeals of delight as calves jostled in the shallows, and laugh out loud at a baby elephant’s loss of control of its trunk. I’d point out the subtle shifts in body language as herds came and went – those that waited, those that greeted or waded straight in. We’d notice family traits – how some prefer to coil their trunks and rest them on their tusks. We’d watch their differing reactions to our presence. Some would ignore us. Some, if the wind changed and blew our scent towards them, would form a nervous protective circle round their calves – trunks held high like snorkels. Ears out, heads up, eyes wide and fearful. We’d share the horror of witnessing fresh arrow wounds on the flanks of those with the largest tusks. We’d also share the delight of witnessing how other animals benefitted from the elephants’ presence: the low-flying dung-beetles skimming the grass, and egrets that darted between their legs, plucking flies from the air.

Resting trunks


More than anything, I would like to take our guest out walking – armed only with our wits – in a wilderness that is still the kingdom of the elephants. There, they could feel, perhaps for the first time in their lives, just how insignificant humans can be. It might show them, that to be anthropocentric, is not the only way to view the world – and how to step outside the protective bubble we surround ourselves with, can make us feel so much more alive. They’d feel part of the natural world, not apart from it.

Above all else, I hope they would see that elephants are the rightful and dominant force in their ecosystem, and conclude that we have no right to take that away.

I’ll probably never get the chance to meet that dinner guest, or sit with them at a waterhole – our outlooks and our lives are thousands of miles apart. Very few of us will ever have the privilege of experiencing elephants in the wild, and that’s why we are making a film about them – to attempt to convey the wonder we feel, when in their presence. It can never be the same as experiencing them first hand, but, by making the film and telling their story, we hope to share our passion, convey the wonder, and perhaps inspire people enough to make them care – and answer for themselves, the question, “Elephants – why bother?”



© Mark Deeble & Victoria Stone 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.

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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71 Responses to Elephants – why bother?

  1. Helen says:

    I thank you for your compassion and ability to think out side the square.You are able to truly appreciate elephants from all their attributes and their contribution to mankind,the ecology and the other animals.Some people just admire elephants because of the playful nature of the babies without looking at the big picture.It is true that some folks dont see elephants for what they are.If only a millionth of the dollars spent on war could be spent taking that person to sit at a a waterhole and watch,listen,breathe in an elephant with the family ,then just maybe they might have a little better idea of why elephants should not be allowed to go extinct Helen Daniels

  2. Sue Roberts says:

    Dear Mark, What a beautiful post and so beautifully written. Wish I could write like you! I have forwarded to lots of friends. much love to you and Vicky Sue

    • Mark Deeble says:

      Thank you Sue – that is very kind and generous. Love to you both and karibu if you are ever down our way.

      • Peter Hack says:

        hi mark, i have committed to organising a march for elephants in bristol oct 4, we will be dancing in the evening at co-exist on stokes croft; part of the global march for elephants oct 4 see facebook. I am very disappointed that none of the quangoes have committed to this year or seem ready too support it actively and materially. I have an opportunity via Umoja Kenya Bristol link to contact schools and I need back up info; maybe I could send this ? But I thought also to contact Artists Against Ivory and I will do that now and will in due course contact Bristol Museum to see if they would organise something; celebrating the elephant and its role in culture Oct 4… I have to say that climate change is a massive issue and that high carbon profiles seem to be stock in trade in this world of elephants and their human advocates.

  3. A really great and powerful piece, Mark, I just posted it on http://www.fb.com/elephantvoices. I strongly hope it will be shared all around – you’re bringing some key arguments out there in a wonderful way. Say hi to Vicky!

  4. Donna Kennedy says:

    Moving and so beautifully written. I’ll aspire to argue my case as clearly and articulately.

  5. Richard Morris says:

    Brilliant, Mark – this should be published in the Wall Street Journal – Rich

  6. Robert says:

    Simply and clearly put, but more powerful to anyone who takes the time to read it. Beautiful piece.

  7. Mirela Mihai says:

    wonderful, well written piece. indeed, they are so much better than us, no greed, no arrogance, no ego.

  8. Rupa Anand says:

    So well and compassionately written. Yes, we are all interconnected and share the same consciousness… and yet….due to ignorance and greed, these magnificent beings suffer at the hands of the human species. Please keep on filming and writing and posting. Some day the world will be seen as One…

  9. Dee says:

    Thank you for this Mark… I have been to Africa several times and I have been around Elephants in the Mara and Tsavo and Botswana and they listen to your thoughts to them, they actually turn to me when I send thoughts, I asked them to come back to us so we could see their beauty and take photos and that we would never hurt them in any way shape or form.. They both turned back and came and stood before us in the clearing for quite a while letting us just take in their beauty… Then they turned and started walking back through the trees.. I sent an emotional massive thank you to them and they stopped and turned around and looked at me as if to say you’re very welcome..it’s the most amazing experience and I cannot wait until I can go again.. This just makes me want to pack up and get out there again.. Once again thank you..

  10. Alexandra Stallings says:

    A moving piece! I also encountered at least 2 people who thought the Elephant was inignificant and if should become extinct would not affect the world and such is, evolution. It is my quest now to spread awareness to whomever I encounter and to donate when I can. I will continue my education so that I can make this happen as well and so someday afford to meet these Majestic beings. Thank you for sharing your wisdom. I am forever emotionally moved..and aware! Thank you!

  11. Darci Sosa says:

    While I have never experienced elephants outside of a circus or zoo, I have always been drawn to them…When I was about 4 I went to the Big E (a state fair type event) and there were elephants there…as my mom was talking with one of the trainers or security, something I wandered…right up to the MOM elephant, she had a baby next to her, I stood between mom’s legs petting her. I believe the elephant knew I meant no harm and just wanted a little hug.
    I certainly don’t think it was a great idea to let me go there ( my mom certainly was upset and fearful for my safety) but I think it does point out how in-tune elephants are/can be. I haven’t thought about that story for years. Thank you for bringing it back this morning with your post.
    as for your comment, “More than anything, I would like to take our guest out walking – armed only with our wits – in a wilderness that is still the kingdom of the elephants”…I would be honored to take his place on that walk.
    Thanks again.

  12. Shubha Stone says:

    I continue to enjoy your writing Mark. It takes us urban dwellers out of our human centred world as you say, with your skill at writing. Thanks Love Shubha xxx

    Sent from my iPad


  13. So well written – it gives me pause as I explain my own project for Elephant Advocacy. Every so often as I speak to my concerns about these majestic animals I see looks of bemusement (really? elephants? so what?) which really riles me. This article helps so I may be better armed.

  14. Mwara Kungu says:

    Followed the Queen of Trees link. It said, This video contains content from BBC Worldwide, who has blocked it on copyright grounds… I’ll look elsewhere for it. Everyone has trouble with caring about people on the other side of the world. I live in Kenya – the only reason I care about opinion of anonymous diner in New York is cos I’m a little scared of him. He lives in New York. He’s more powerful than me. What might he take it into his head to do that might hurt me and mine?

    • Mark Deeble says:

      Thank you Mwara – I need to get onto the BBC then as they don’t have the right to block this! 🙂
      Don’t be scared of the anonymous diner – he doesn’t realise what he is missing or why he should care. It is our job to change that. Education is a slow but worthwhile process wherever it is needed – be it a rural village, a Chinese shopping mall or a dinner table in Manhattan.

  15. vaidya says:

    I don’t think that person in NY was restricting himself just to elephants. It would be the same attitude to Tigers, Lions, Whales or Frogs.

    We’ve insulated ourselves from the planet and nature so much that we feel we can exist and thrive in our concrete bubbles. There is always Netflix when bored, and vacations to Paris or London. It is becoming increasingly difficult to answer “Why do we need them?” I read your beautifully written answer and again I am not sure it will cut much ice with that person. It just comes down to “How does it benefit me economically?”. Increasingly, nothing else makes sense to people anymore. The fact that someone is even asking this question means that the answer will not make sense to them in any way.

    In India, pressure is mounting to clear up forests and fragile ecosystems to enable mining and fuel the economy and this question is increasingly being thrown about. It doesn’t matter that those who live by the forests – the tribes and villagers nearby – are also going to be adversely affected by mining and the workers who’s health is going to be sacrificed at the altar of capitalism.

    It is easy to lose hope in such times. Only posts such as yours show some cheer, like the last one on just watching the elephants go about their day. Please keep writing Mark. You’ve no idea how much hope and joy you give in such bleak times.

  16. Michele Hall says:

    Wonderful, Mark.. so well written. Thank you.
    Reading it, in part, took me back to memories of sitting and watching, ‘experiencing’ wildlife with you, Vicky and the boys. What a privilege that was.
    I’ve posted to my FB page, and passed on to others, as well.
    Love to you both.

  17. creekwaterwoman says:

    Reblogged this on CreekWaterWoman and commented:
    Some people are not and have never been in touch with the natural world, and some people simply do not like animals; any animals. It blows my mind.

  18. Nikki T says:

    I love it!!! When can I look forward to the film release?

  19. Dianne O'Quinn Burke says:

    A sad epithet on the lack of awareness of the wonder of being Alive! Too many people go around oblivious and entirely empty. One round of life only, and on our beautiful Planet, bursting with so much diversity of life! A very wonderful article Mark Deeble and the photographs so tender! Looking forward to seeing your movie … And with so many voices in accord to save all our wild animals including the wondrous, magnificent Elephant, we will overcome those without hearts.

  20. Congratulations for an excellent piece of powerful writing Mark.Your blogs are a great voice for elephants and my beloved Tsavo.
    I had the pleasure of knowing Mark and Vicky Stone when they were shooting “The Haunt of the River Horse” at Mzima Springs,Tsavo West, when I was Senior Warden !!
    I cannnot wait to see the new film

    • Mark Deeble says:

      Thanks James – we thoroughly enjoyed our days in Tsavo West under your stewardship! We’ll keep you up to date with the film and do feel free to use the blog posts if they can be of use to IFAW.

  21. Lynda Corkum says:

    What a wonderfully written piece! I despair at the numbers of these magnificent beings who are slaughtered for their tusks and reduced to nothing but a bauble! I, too, have committed to organizing a march during the Global March for Elephants and Rhinos. Mine will be in Halifax, Nova Scotia (Canada) and we are planning to use students’ artwork to draw people in. I wonder if I might have your permission to use your article in one of our handouts (the march is strictly to raise awareness and hopefully get others involved in the fight to save them)? I would, of course, provide the proper credit.

    thanks so much for this,
    Lynda Corkum

  22. Rae says:

    I felt a real jerk of emotion and a shiver down my spine, as soon as I read that question “Why should , they mean nothing to me personally”.
    My first instinct was to counter that person with, “you mean nothing to me personally”.

  23. Always invite people to join you in nature…be it with beautiful elephants or sea turtles, for a swim in a wild river or a walk in the woods.

  24. Thomas Boyd says:

    Beautifully written, Mark. I look forward to seeing your film! And for those interested in a great proactive way to help the species, consider a contribution to the Sheldrick Elephant Orphanage outside Nairobi. A great place to start would be to read Dame Daphne Sheldrick’s autobiography, LOVE, LIFE AND ELEPHANTS, AN AFRICAN LOVE STORY. She is one of the world’s most incredible women and the best friend of the elephant.

  25. Trezer Oguda says:

    Reblogged this on ofbeautywithpurpose and commented:
    …Well said. Beautifully written. This is why you should care that elephants may go extinct!

  26. Kim says:

    A beautiful and touching post, Mark. I hope your film convinces those who need to be convinced – lawmakers, Chinese officials, the judiciary in Africa, etc. – of the importance of saving this magnificent species.

  27. Andy says:

    Sadly it appears the majority of people who actually care about elephants don’t actually live in africa or asia where the elephant numbers are being destroyed. Fix the cause, not the symptom,

  28. Frank Hodal says:

    Two quick points that may have already been made: 1) it is hard to generalize from the particular especially when the particular is a self-absorbed person; 2) I would have pointed out that the extinction of a species is far more important to the world than the life of the person asking the clueless question.

  29. Beautifully written piece. When I tell people what elephants mean to me or when I’ve seen them (sadly in zoos – although I’ve not stepped foot into a zoo since 2011 and I refuse to going forward (someday I’ll make my way to Kenya)), there’s just something about these gentle giants that moves me in ways I can’t explain. I feel this unspoken connection….. and those deep, soulful eyes that speak so much…. I weep hot tears when I think that someday, future generations will know not of what an elephant is but rather just from what a book tells them.
    It’s such a shame that man is the most evil, cunning and disgusting being on the planet. Look what we have done and what we are doing. I’m ashamed most days to be of the human race because there is so much bloodshed, but yet it is us that need to be the voices for those that cannot speak.

    Thank you again, Mark.
    Lindsay Flynn

  30. Dr. Alfie Warshow says:

    Mr Deeble,
    I am truly touched by your passion & love for nature & wildlife!
    But your greatest gift is the simple eloquent manner in which you convey your message…….
    God Bless You!

  31. Judy Maxwell says:

    Wasanna’s love
    Judy Maxwell
    In your reading of Dame Daphny Sheldrick I totally agree with the fact that elephants are the worlds most emotional land mammal. I think humans should also fall behind elephants in their emotional make up. As for me. I’ve had proof of this. I fell in love with one elephant but the most incredible part of my story, is that she fell in love with me. Now if I can tell my story without tears it would be the first time.
    Over a year and a half ago I had been reading up on elephant sanctuaries. I some how ended up on the BLES site. I read all the bio’s on their elephants and decided to adopt one. I was totally drawn to Wasanna who had been saved by BLES because she was in logging and stepped on a land mine that blew up on her foot. That wasn’t enough to keep them from using her. BLES saved her. Thank God! After reading this I felt a real tug on my heart to adopt her. I know I can’t bring her home for a little brevity. I adopted her and got a picture of her and fell completely in love. We made plans to go to BLES. About a month later Kathrine, the founder at BLES, asked for donations to save this dear sweet 70 year old elephant that had been abused all her life. I donated. Her name was Somsri. She was born in the same year as I was. I was excited that we would get to see her because we would be there after she arrived. To make a very long story a little shorter. We arrived at BLES and were standing on the breakfast deck. I told Kathrine I was anxious to see Wasanna and expressed how much i’d come to love her. Then I saw these three beautiful elephants coming down the road. Wasanna walked right up to me and leaned in to me and touched me with her truck. I melted. Kathrine said “that’s highly unusual for Wasanna, she usually holds back.” Then she said ” she can feel your love.” I was with out words. But how did she know I loved her so? We busied our selves around the place, went to our little cottage and out to get more of Wasanna. Later that day I asked to see Somsri. I was delighted to know that Somsri was born in the same year as i was. Kathrine said I’d have to wear gloves and a mask. She was sick with a contagious disease. It didn’t matter to me I just wanted to see this beautiful old girl. I got busy around the sanctuary and spent every spare second with Wasanna. The night before we were to go Kathrine said ” I have a surprise for you.” They were bringing Somsri down to see me. I started to cry. Bless Kathrines heart. She put her arms around me and hugged me. We walked out to the road.
    I looked up at this rather large, wise old soul. I loved her. I told Kathrine I wanted to touch her. Kathrine said ” that’s not a good idea.” Again I said I just want to touch her but Kathrine said NO! As the mahout was turning her to go, she reached out with her trunk and ran it across my bare legs. I had shorts on. I felt like I had been touched by an angel. She did it for me. She touched me. How did she know? I loved her so much. Two weeks later she died…….crying again…..as if that wasn’t extraordinary enough, I have one more incredible experience to tell. We went back to BLES for our third trip in November last year. Bless Kathrines heart, she totally accommodated for my inability to walk far and had the mahouts take us out to where the elephants were. Of course, it’s never enough but I got to spend lots of quality time with Wasanna. The day we were to leave my husband and I were on the breakfast deck and Wasanna, strangely alone because she’s always with her two BBFS, was eating bananas. She was facing away from me but I started to talk to her, like I always do, and told her how much I loved her. I told her we had to leave and as I started to tell her how much I would miss her, I started to cry. She immediately lifted her head and turned around, walk up and lifted her big head over the railing and pushed her head fully against me. She pushed so hard to get even closer, the railing cracked. I wrapped my arms around her and felt her energy of love coming right into me. It was a powerful energy, like nothing I have ever experienced in my 71 years of life. It was like a love transfusion. I felt encapsulated in this magical, mystical magnificent love. I really have no words to describe how completely elephants love. She stayed with me like that for 45 minutes . She’s the only one that’s seen my heart from the inside. I think again of Dame Daphny Sheldricks words “An elephant can read your heart!”
    I’m sorry I’ve written you a book but there’s just no quick way to say it.

    • Lindsay says:

      Your story moved me to tears Judy. I have no doubt thatshe touched your heart and soul, something that very few people can say their experienced.
      I know in the deepest part of my heart that when I make my way to DSWT or Amboseli, that I’ll be a weeping mess. And I know that when the time comes to when I have to say goodbye, perhaps the first and only time I’ll have the opportunity to be there, im going to have an extremely difficult time leaving. Like I said, they move me in ways I can’t put into words, they make my explore swell with so much love and happiness.

    • Alexis says:

      Judy just read your comment on your amazing experience with elephants! I think animals always know when your heart is with them! They know how much you care! You obviously are very generous and caring and the elephants sensed this! Your story really touched with me! Thank you for sharing!

  32. SS says:

    Beautiful & perfect. Exactly. I so hope to be in their presence one day. Joyfully insignifigant.

  33. Gray says:

    Of course what you say makes sense and allows us to feel noble and superior about protecting elephants. or any other animal for that matter. The fact is we ARE the dominant species…so we can afford to feel noble and superior. IF it were the other way round and Elephants were the dominant species…do you think they would be as concerned about our survival…extinction? Not so sure.

    • Mark Deeble says:

      If elephants were the dominant species, I suspect they wouldn’t be concerned about our survival – but neither do I think they would poach or hunt us to extinction. Elephants are dominant over most of Africa’s other wildlife species, but only in exceptional circumstances do they go out of their way to do them any harm. The most pertinent example I can think of is a group of young males in Pilansberg Reserve that started killing rhinos in the 1980’s. When investigated, the young bulls turned out to be orphans from the Kruger culls that had grown up without a normal family structure. When adult bulls were added, the teenage bulls became mush less aggressive and the rhino-killing stopped.
      I also suspect many people do not feel nobler, or superior to elephants. I know many that feel ashamed and appalled by how their fellow con-specifics both act, and feel entitled to do so.

    • Jai says:


      The point is that we humans are ensuring our fellow beings on the planet get exterminated. The wanton, cruel killing of animals for trophies and dubious ‘quack’ potions, is completely unnatural, unsustainable and above all, senseless.

      I firmly believe that the natural order of things ensures a self sustaining balance–tigers, for example hunt deer–but they do so for survival and sustenance, not for hanging mounted heads on their den walls!! If the population of deer (hypothetically) depletes owing overhunting by the resident tigers , the tigers would reduce in numbers (starvation of the weaker ones), easing hunting pressure and – ultimately- leading to deer numbers recovering. Admittedly, this is a simplistic example, but you get my drift.

      Hunting of wildlife is a completely different kettle of fish, wouldn’t you say? IMHO, there is nothing ‘noble’ or ‘superior’ about ensuring tighter protection for elephants, stopping poaching (or ‘legal’ trophy hunting, for that matter). I would think that this is a basic, sensible, ethical thing to do.

      Funny thing, isn’t it, that we use the term ‘humane’ to indicate a certain standard of moral behavior, when it is our race which perhaps engages in the worst orgy of killing, without any reason linked to survival whatsoever?

      And to address your specific ‘what if’ question, of what would happen if elephants were the dominant species over man. I really, really doubt if they would ever value trinkets made out of our teeth. (Or any of our other body parts, for that matter). It seems to be only our race, that is cruel enough to do that to other animals.

  34. What a great article. “To really appreciate elephants you have to experience them.” I am going to share this article with a link back to you. Asante.

  35. Pingback: A bowl of Elephants! | The Milgis Journal

  36. Inspired by your beautiful and moving post Mark…here is my published Elephants Journal Post – hoping to help raise awareness: http://www.elephantjournal.com/2014/05/let-us-not-forget-the-elephants-marghanita-hughes/ Thank you for all that you do, love and peace Marghanita x

  37. Feather says:

    This was beautifully written! Elephants to me always just meant majestic and sometimes even cute but I had no idea they meant so much more. Thank you for enlightening me.

  38. vickie1 says:

    Mark, with all due respect, I think you miss the basic point, which has to do with everything else as well, beyond elephants. And I will assume the role of the Devil’s Advocate to make my point: you cannot force anyone to like what/whom they don’t wish to like, be it: elephants, Jews or gays. There is no difference really. The liberal ideas which rule our lives for the last 80 years (since WWII) have not succeeded – and never will, I think – to alter a basic feeling of dislike which is inherent and rather natural. Both hate and love are two sides of the same coin. And rationale is often inapplicable. The ideological/educational PC which aspired to influence us through social engineering has achieved so far only partial success. Because works with mind/logic, not feelings.

    Thus even if you come up with most logical scientifically sound arguments why elephants are beneficial for our eco-system, that guy who’s indifferent to them will not be convinced. Because they don’t emotionally move them. He couldn’t care less if they are dead or alive. So ‘Mother Nature’ will find another way to spread the seeds of a tree. It’s really no such a big deal in a GMF society when you can make meat in a lab.

    Take me for example. I am an animal lover, but detest snakes.I won’t mind if they perish, although am well aware of their importance to the bigger scheme of things. So what? They give me creeps. I won’t abuse or kill them. Being a vegetarian and against fur industry, snakes, are the only exception to the rule – I don’t mind having them as shoes or purses. Sorry, but I am honest,especially with myself.

    What I am saying is that there should be legal boundaries against sick abuse. But, having said that, you cannot MAKE people love anything or anyone they don’t wish to. The moment society as a whole waves this demand, in an inverted logic, many minorities and issues will enter the mainstream of acceptability. Just think about it for a moment.

    • Mark Deeble says:

      Vickie – what I set out to do was twofold. First, I wanted to indicate a few reasons why I thought elephants were important. It is not comprehensive but I wanted to suggest, to those who hadn’t thought about it but might otherwise be receptive, why they might be important.
      Secondly, I tried ( perhaps unsuccessfully) to indicate that to really appreciate something, you should experience it – which means interacting with it on an emotional level. This is perhaps more important, but both are what drive me and the work I do.
      As for snakes – there is good evolutionary reason why we should recoil at them, along with spiders, scorpions, centipedes etc. Certain species are highly venomous. However, it is possible to control this fear – most people have no need nor any desire to. But, if you lived in a place or had a job where you had daily exposure to them, it would be helpful – and it is possible.

    • Jai says:

      You made some very good points above, especially where you said “”Thus even if you come up with most logical scientifically sound arguments why elephants are beneficial for our eco-system, that guy who’s indifferent to them will not be convinced. Because they don’t emotionally move them. He couldn’t care less if they are dead or alive.””

      But then, with all due respect, you seemed to have missed the point of this article altogether, when you said “”you cannot MAKE people love anything or anyone they don’t wish to.” and in your follow up comment below, “” You cannot coerce people to “experience” things they fear or dislike in order to rid them of them.””

      But there is no coercion envisaged in this article, as far as I can see? All it says is, that while one can give several rational reasons for the importance of elephants, one would appreciate them more if one experiences them.

      Please read carefully again what it says in the last para–and I am taking the liberty of pasting it here– “”Very few of us will ever have the privilege of experiencing elephants in the wild, and that’s why we are making a film about them – to attempt to convey the wonder we feel, when in their presence. It can never be the same as experiencing them first hand, but, by making the film and telling their story, we hope to share our passion, convey the wonder, and perhaps inspire people enough to make them care – and answer for themselves, the question, “Elephants – why bother?””

      I really don’t see how the above objectives count as coercion/ overall inclusion at all.

  39. vickie1 says:

    Mark, still I have no need to be exposed to them ( “But, if you lived in a place or had a job where you had daily exposure to them, it would be helpful – and it is possible.”). My life is good as it is without them. Again, this is precisely my point: you cannot force overall inclusion on everybody. Be it snakes, elephants or red-heads. You cannot coerce people to “experience” things they fear or dislike in order to rid them of them. Because, unless those fears/dislikes reach a stage of psychiatric disorder which disrupts every day normal life, people are usually OK with those shortcomings. And so it should be.

    I am all for harsh punishment for animal cruelty crimes. I am against hunting, circuses etc. I would be very happy to see meat consumption drops to the lowest level possible (kids excluded – they need it for a healthy development), but: I will not try to force a person who doesn’t care about elephants go and “experience” one. For me, if they adopt a cat or dog and gives them a loving warm home – that’s more than enough.

  40. Mark Deeble says:

    Vickie I am not forcing overall inclusion of anything on anybody. All I am saying is that, if you had to deal with snakes or venomous invertebrates every day, in a practical sense (as many of us do) it would help you to know more about them – if only to discern which were truly venomous and which merely mimics. In my experience, very rarely is knowledge a bad thing. When it comes to elephants, again, my personal experience is that anyone who has had the good fortune to encounter them in the wild ( in a non-conflict situation) is more appreciative of them.

  41. posted on : http://blogs.scientificamerican.com/extinction-countdown/2014/07/09/namibia-desert-elephants/#comment-4709 :-
    “The WWF was the first charity at 5 years old i gave money too .. they are / have been run by Trophy Hunters and are National Riffle Association Members, and i had no idea until now :
    ” The organization, founded in 1961 ; Past WWF Chapter Presidents include C.R. “Pink” Gutermuth, who also served as President of the National Rifle Association, and Trophy Hunter Francis L. Kellogg, who is legendary for his massive kills.”
    The WWF send wildlife into extinction all over the world , by promoting over hunting in undeveloped countries with no protection and they give this an acceptable name , ‘ conservation ‘ , when in reality it is ‘extermination’.
    WWF are in countries with no human rights , allowing wild animals to be killed for :- American TV Hunting Channels , trophies and tourist entertainment; who hang out of helicopters using the most powerful weapons on earth to eliminate wildlife in fenced off areas.
    The Critically Endangered Land Giants are now fetching massive profits for the Governments and people involved as the fragile wildlife nears extinction in the wild in Namibia and SA .
    The wealthiest Americans and others are massacring in the undeveloped world totally media invisible .
    WWF creates and exaggerates animal populations figures to ensure Trophy Hunting continues ; this is local knowledge ; many other organisations have told the truth in Namibia in the past and they have been asked to leave and not return by the Namibia Ministry , whereas WWF gives the Namibia Government what they want to hear to enable Trophy Hunting to continue; sending almost extinct animals populations on the brink of extinction , into total extinction with no globally understanding of the reality because WWF are not giving the correct information to CITIES…..
    The prime animals are being killed first for trophies, this is the opposite to natural selection, this is destroying the gene pool and further creating instability and the ultimate extinction of the wildlife in all the animal populations connected to one another in the natural world.
    The African ecosystem is totally breaking down as a consequence in Namibia, this is directly affecting the African Tribes and the Ancient Cultures totally dependent upon the natural world to survive , some of the poorest people in the world who have no voice are threatened ; as wildlife is tapped in enclosures and farmed in un-natural situations for canned hunts by wealthy mostly White farmers , or wildlife is imported especially from other places , e.g. tame hand reared Lions are brought in from SA to be shot or killed with crossbows , by Trophy Hunting Tourists because the Lions are almost extinct in the wild . http://africageographic.com/blog/namibian-government-responds-to-elephant-hunting-debate/
    The WWF then ask for money globally , from people who care in the world, ( the same people who have animal protection laws in their own countries for their own wildlife ) ; to save the same fragile wildlife populations , WWF have allowing to be massacred by Trophy Hunters in Africa ; then WWF asks the global community to fund projects to save the same animals from looming extinction .
    WWF are making billions of pounds allowing Trophy Hunters access to massacre fragile wildlife at the side of the poachers in Africa .. each animal can fetch hundreds of thousands of dollars each :
    The social elite are still massacring , unchallenged, totally globally media invisible , and have been for 53 years , 40 years ago American Safaris invaded Africa there are thousands of them still , and Safari holidays have never been so popular. Dallas Safari Club are active in Namibia , it is one of the main countries they kill wildlife in , they were created in 1973 , Safari Club International have over 50,000 the wealthiest people in the world that are members .
    People living in Namibia and SA have no rights , if they speak up against the Namibia Government and WWF , and tell the truth and try to protect the wildlife , they have a gun against their heads .
    WWF advise Government Policy, the EU and they inform CITIES.
    If the WWF were Bankers they would be Bankrupt …
    Why ? , in their care , in the last 53 years are we facing mass extinction on this planet of every Land Giant on earth ? when there were billions of animals 53 years ago on this planet , ??? There were more than 5 million Elephants in Africa in the 1970’s and now there are 300,000 , one is killed every 15 minutes by poachers we are told ;35,000 African Elephants were killed last year by poachers , and trophy hunters are still killing them too, no one knows how many are being killed by Trophy Hunters on top or within that figure because the true populations of wild animals are clearly not documented correctly by the WWF , who are accountable to no one .
    The Unique Adapted Desert Dwelling Elephants only 100 hundred in the world , being well documented by the ‘BBC Wildlife in Africa’ ” live in a ” VAST OLDEST DESERT ” 2 million square Kilometres in size ” , and the whole of the human population of people living in Namibia is 2 million , i struggle to see that there is a problem with competition for space between humans and animals this argument is flawed , we have a population of 64 million people in the UK ?? :

    Under the approval of WWF alone, one Critically Endangered Unique Adapted Dwelling Desert Elephant bull was shot a few weeks ago and a further 8 are going to be killed , bulls and cows have hunting permits issued .
    WWF are saying that Sir David Attenborough and his BAFTA BBC Documentary Teams are wrong from the BBC’s landmark series ‘ Planet Earth ‘ because WWF have created a different reality claiming alongside
    Namibia Government that there are 600 Desert Elephants ?
    WWF claim there are thousands of Elephants in Namibia and the Unique Adapted Desert Dwelling Elephants only 100 hundred in the world, does not exist ? .. http://africageographic.com/…/namibian-government…/
    Whereas there is proof in the BBC’s landmark series ‘ Planet Earth ‘; “that the Critically Endangered Unique Adapted Desert Dwelling Elephant are different to their Savanna cousins; “the Unique Adapted Desert Dwelling Elephants only less then 100 hundred in the world; only giving birth every 8 years and suckling for twice as long than their Savanna Cousins” After they were massacred by poachers in the 1980’s from a population of 80 , they were reduced to only 3 , they have taken all this time to recover to a population of 100 Unique Adapted Desert Dwelling Elephants in 30 years :
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qmYig9gSamY ..
    WWF are allowing 9 Elephants hunting permits to be issued out of a population of 100 Unique Adapted Desert Dwelling Elephants; 10% in the whole world, to be shot by American Trophy Hunters and others .
    We have not seen mass extinction for 250 million years since a Volcanic Disaster blocking out the sun for decades and we are now on the brink of wildlife extinction , this time a Manmade Disaster in the whole of Africa, for the first time the history of mankind we have never been here before in the whole world , .. : http://www.independent.co.uk/…/the-sixth-extinction
    Why does the WWF promote extinction ???
    because the WWF gets more money from promoting extinction and Trophy Hunting or almost extinct animals than they would promoting healthy herds . I would think about that……..
    Killing 9 animals, young and healthy prime animals . from only a population of 100 will send these Unique Adapted Desert Dwelling Elephants into extinction .
    Since the first Bull was shot a few weeks ago it has caused a great deal of stress in the herd .The Elephants are aware , grieving and very distressed , Johann Louw : who kills critically endangered wildlife for a living; attempt to kill the Bull recently , he is now in hospital and the Critically Endangered Unique Adapted Desert Dwelling Elephant, second young Bull defending himself ; has now been shot because he was deemed dangerous , the young Bull has been destroyed it has been announced yesterday ; from a population of less than 100 Critically Endangered Unique Adapted Desert Dwelling Elephants in the world .
    What is happening in Namibia is unsustainable hunting , and totally illegal , against the rules set down by CITIES , who’s goal backed by 180 countries is to stop wildlife going extinct, through poaching and over hunting ; the rarest and the Critically Endangered Unique Adapted Desert Dwelling Elephant only less than 100 in the world, should be protected and for some reason no one dare challenge the practices of WWF, no one is making them accountable for this horrific situation in Namibia; where people in Namibia and SA are powerless to stop this, they are asking for globally support.
    The WWF are directly promoting the Trophy and Non Trophy hunting of the last of ; normally mellow gentle giants; the last of the Critically Endangered Unique Adapted Desert Dwelling Elephants on earth, only less than 100 in the world, are now been meaninglessly massacred into extinction ‘hidden in plain sight’ as the world leaders do nothing to stop this .

    • Peter Hack says:

      “WWF send wildlife into extinction all over the world , by promoting over hunting in undeveloped countries with no protection and they give this an acceptable name , ‘ conservation ‘ , when in reality it is ‘extermination”.

      WWF may have faults but rarely have I seen such a grotesque misrepresentation; trophy hunting may be morally unacceptable to some but it is  quite simply at the utter periphery of serious concerns. Lousie this sort of nonsense does not help; get on the next plane to Africa and get some real time experience of the poverty and struggles of poor peoples trying to co-exist alongside big and dangerous wildlife.

      • this is coming out of SA and Namibia .. these are the real issues , the people can not speak for themselves and i am a messenger .. And the WWF in Namibia and all the corruption there is going to send the Unique Adapted Desert Dwelling Elephants into extinction …. I am not only informed , i have researched this , proved it and compared articles and with world class documentaries ‘Planet Earth ‘ . But , i would , i am an academic . And the only people who agree with such destruction are profiting directly from the corruption . I am not afraid to blow the lid off this and take it to the USFWS and stop the Imports of the unprotected critically endangered wildlife from . That is how much of a fool i am .

      • @ From Namibia ……. who conservation is backed by corruption

      • Peter Hack says:

        It may be true of namibia’s desert elephant but your generalisation re “conservation” was far broader than that; look at your post..I still think some Africa “ground” experience would be very helpful.

      • “The story of the Desert Elephants so far:
        Namibia continues to sacrifice their Rare Desert Elephants:
        There are some places on this planet where nature is stark and cruel, but also breathtakingly beautiful. One such a place is the Kunene Region in Namibia, home to the iconic Namibian Desert Elephant. Few people have had the opportunity to see them, but almost every hard-core wildlife lover would love to. For most, this will forever remain just a dream, as these elephants are being killed off by the Namibian Government at an alarming rate.
        Although the Desert Elephants are not classified as a subspecies, they are geographically distinct, occurring in this region only (Only one other such a population exists in Mali). These Elephants are uniquely adapted to living in the harsh desert environment. They have some morphological differences from regular African Elephants such as leaner bodies and slightly wider feet. They have mastered the art of digging wells with their trunks, to find water where none seems to exist on the surface. They also can store water in a pouch in their throats.
        The exposure of the massacre of these elephants happened about 6 weeks ago, when an article was published on iCNN, alleging that the Namibian Government was selling off permits to hunt these magnificent animals. It was stated that the meat, provided to local communities, would curry favour for the ruling party, SWAPO, in their upcoming election in November 2014. These communities are typically marginalized and have not been prioritized by the Namibian Government, but their support could prove invaluable in an election. In the article, it was stated that six permits are being issued.
        The ‘elephant meat for votes’ scandal created an uproar almost overnight, with social media pages flooded with the information, and petitions being signed hand over fist. Although the initial article mentioned no sources, and provided no proof, the Namibian Ministry of Environment and Tourism felt intimidated enough to release a formal statement, detailing that only two permits have been issued, and that they are part of consumptive use (own use) permits for the local communities, and will be spread over three years. They specifically stated that these were non-trophy permits.
        Almost immediately after the press release, proof of 5 permits surfaced (3 more than what the MET admitted to). Heated arguments started flowing on the internet, between pro-hunting conservationists playing the sustainable use card, and concerned foreigners (as well as a couple of brave locals).
        In the midst of all this, the first Desert Elephant, named Delta, was shot in Sorris-Sorris, a prime tourist area, and favourite route for the Elephants. Delta was killed close to his family, and a short distance from a school, where there had been peaceful co-existence between humans and animals for some time.
        Suddenly reports surfaced of Delta’s herd leaving the area, fleeing into the more remote desert where it would be even harder for them to survive. Reports came in from local camp owners that the previously peaceful herd have turned on the human developments, destroying structures on purpose. It was rumoured that they were grieving for their fallen family member. Delta was a young bull, about 17 years of age.
        Delta was killed by Nick Nolte Safaris, who stated: ‘Get used to it – we are going to kill many more elephants’.
        As public outrage grew, the battle lines were clearly drawn. On the one side there are the pro-hunting fraternity who have a financial interest in the hunting permits remaining available. (When all else fails, they start playing the ‘you don’t live here’ card). On the other side we have concerned wildlife lovers, conservationists and eco-tourism industries. (Most of whom can see the value in keeping such a special group of elephants alive).
        Just over a week ago, an article was published where the Namibian MET now changed their story, and confirmed that they had issued NINE permits for the killing of these elephants, SEVEN of which were trophy hunts. The outrage escalated to new heights, and the Minister of Environment and Tourism responded by telling the Namibian Sun Newspaper that the international outrage about the hunting of the Desert Elephants is caused by “stupidity”, adding that foreign critics do not know how to look after their wildlife. “Let them look after their wildlife in their own country. They have nothing left, now they want to tell us how to look after and utilise our wildlife,” said Herunga, siding with the pro-hunters.
        A week ago, it was reported that a trophy hunter had been trampled by a Desert Elephant in the Uukwaluudhi Conservancy. The hunting party had been tracking the elephants, and suddenly found themselves surrounded by an angry herd. The hunter panicked, fired a shot, and the elephant bull attacked him. The short-lived jubilation on the side of the anti-hunters turned into heartbreak as the news surfaced that the elephant, named Echo, subsequently been shot by MET officials, and the meat given to locals.
        The trophy hunter, named Johann Louw, ran both Johann Louw Safaris in Namibia and Southbound Experience based in Germany. Despite the Namibian Ministry selling him out as the owner of a second permit, Louw maintains that he was busy doing conservation work, and that he loves elephants and would never shoot any. His whole story was very publicly debunked with an expose of his interests and links publicly posted on facebook. Anti-hunters are outraged because Louw apparently secretly sold ‘non-hunting’ safaris to unsuspecting tourists, but seems to have gotten lured by the big money to be made by killing sentient beings.
        What is even more upsetting, is the fact that since the German trophy hunter who accompanied Louw did not get his trophy in the aftermath of the attack, another elephant will likely be sacrificed to fulfil the permit.
        Namibia has been internationally recognized as a leader in Conservation, and to this day maintain that they have a sterling record in managing their wildlife. The flagship program of community-based participation and ownership style conservancies, is Uukwaluudhi, the same place where Echo was killed. Their supposedly enviable conservation reputation suffered a devastating blow with the recent poaching of 4 rhino, before the news of the killing of Echo had even surfaced.
        The Government of Namibia steadfastly stand by their decision to remove almost ten percent of the population of these unique elephants. Foreign tourists and interested parties have called for boycotts against Namibia, and a petition against the hunting of any of these elephants have been signed by almost 18000 people at the time of writing. With many tourists cancelling planned trips to Namibia, and many more stating that they would never go there, it is invariable that the knock-on effect will be felt by the very people affected most by tourism – the local communities where these Elephants live.”
        Read more at: https://www.facebook.com/savedesertelephants
        CJ Carrington
        12 July 2014

      • ” Aafeez Jivraj shared a status update to the group Tanzanians For Wildlife.
        15 hrs ·
        Its True !!!
        This is what is going to happen with us In Tanzania as well
        We do not want hunting in the Game reserves ???? We Do not want Hunters !!!!!
        Do we have the Caliber to protect all the Game reserves that we have or its just talk !!!!
        Who will protect the Wildlife ????
        Do not get me wrong its a Serious Question I am Asking……….We still have elephants…. but only for the time we are ready to protect them. Short Fact:
        In 1984 CAR closed Elephant Hunting
        In 1986 CAR had an estimated 60 000 elephants
        In 2014 CAR can count itself lucky if it has 3000
        In 2016 CAR will have 0 elephants left if you follow the statistics
        So where did 57 000 Elephants go in less then 28 years? It stands for a mind boggling 2000+ elephants killed per year, and that stands for about 6 elephants killed in CAR per day for 28 solid years, dry and rain season. Not to count the ones that were born in the meanwhile and also shot…
        Its simple. If you are ready to pay to protect it, then it will stay but if it has no value for the country, then it will dissapear. We are on the brink of loosing the last remaining ones, we have a few hundred left in the Chinko Protected Area and the rest is mainly found in the Dzangha Sangha National park in the west.
        If you believe in conservation through giving natural resources a value that is worth protecting for the people who live in the country then please spread these short facts above! And go check the website: http://www.chinkoproject.com for more info on what they are doing to save the last elephants in eastern CAR. ”
        We are a proud suporter of the http://www.chinkoproject.com!

  42. awritersword says:

    Reblogged this on A Writer's Word and commented:

  43. Hi – have just found this and loved it. I am a Zimbabwe-born and raised writer living in Italy. Recently I have had my head full of the trauma faced by the young elephants Zimbabwe has captured and now plans to export to zoos in Europe, the United Arab Emirates and China. In 2012 it sent four baby elephants to China’s zoos and only one is now alive and apparently in poor condition. It is so hard to think that China is the planned destination for most of these young animals already dealing with the trauma of sudden separation from their herds. If you have the time here is the link to my first piece about the 2012 elephants: http://thephraser.com/2013/02/13/baby-elephants-made-in-africa-exported-to-china/. I have written a few more since then – the latest a general one referencing experts to try to explain why elephants are so extraordinary. http://thephraser.com/2015/01/13/the-elephants-are-in-the-room/. Thanks for your time and this wonderful piece Georgie

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