Maasai Mara, February 2013: Located in southwest Kenya, the Maasai Mara boasts vast acacia-dotted grasslands and riverine forests that support world-famous concentrations of animals. Sometimes you are surrounded by animals as far as the eye can see. Other times, you may feel totally alone in this vast landscape. . .until one animal appears on the horizon.
In the case of the photo above, that one lone animal was this male tusker. He was our only sighting that hour so we sat contentedly, watching him rapidly approach, seemingly uninterested in the surrounding, high grasses. He had a goal — the lone acacia tree near our parked vehicle. Elephants balance their nutritional intake with soft grasses (for easy digestion) and tree bark and branch (for fiber). A more determined elephant I have never seen as this umbrella acacia was not particularly elephant-friendly. Most giraffes would have passed it by. But with persistence, he was successful, devoting the better part of the afternoon to enjoying his meal (and delighting us with his stretches).
Bangkok, March 2013: Reaching its goal (promoted on my January 15 blog entry “Call to Action“), the WWF presented Thailand’s prime minister with a petition signed by 500,000 people calling for the end of that country’s legal ivory trade market (click here). In her opening remarks to the CITES conference, the prime minister, Yingluck Shinawatra, promised to amend the kingdom’s laws, which critics say include loopholes that have allowed smugglers to ferry African tusks to Thai markets and onward, often to China, the world’s top destination for illegal ivory. Thailand is believed to be the second-biggest market for illicit elephant tusks.
We all know about promises made by politicians; they are not exactly reliable. And Thailand has made previous pledges to bring its laws into accordance with global standards. Nevertheless, the efforts of WWF and other conservation groups involved in forcing the issue should be applauded for reaching their goal. The hard work is ahead, in Thailand and in other nations that need to take action to end illegal trade in ivory. Let’s make it our goal to help that process along, stretching our reach to its very limits.