Of Chainsaws, Royalty and Celebrity

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Elephants have been making local headlines in France recently.  Over the Easter weekend, a man broke into the Museum of Natural History in Paris and removed the tusk of an elephant skeleton with a chainsaw (click here).  “The African elephant, whose left tusk was sawn off, was a gift from a Portuguese king to Louis XIV in 1668. It lived for 13 years in the royal menagerie in the grounds of the opulent palace of Versailles where it became the star attraction. When it died, its skeleton was transferred to the natural history collection in Paris. . .”  The intruder has been apprehended after fracturing his ankle while trying to exit the museum without being caught. Authorities report the tusk was of little value as the original tusks were replaced in the nineteenth century. Sadly, this robbery is not unique; museums around the world are reporting thefts of rhino horn as well as ivory.

On a lighter note, two Asian elephants in the Lyon zoo have captured widespread attention this winter as the legendary French sex symbol and animal activist, Brigitte Bardot, threatened to apply for Russian citizenship if plans to execute the elephants were not withdrawn (click here). When an older elephant at the zoo died of TB, officials determined that they must put down Baby (42) and Nepal (43) to protect other animals in the zoo from the threat of a TB outbreak.  Bardot launched a campaign to save the elephants (click here), enlisting the support of Princesses Caroline and Stephanie of Monaco, among others.  Princess Stephanie offered refuge for the two.  Authorities stayed the execution.  Sometime soon, Baby and Nepal will move to the Grimaldi family’s property Roc Agel in the Alpes Maritimes.

Celebrity is a powerful tool and can be used effectively to raise awareness of the plight of wild elephants, as well as those in captivity.  We need more celebrities to join the chorus, although forfeiting citizenship is a bit extreme!

In the elephant world, the elephants of Amboseli in Kenya (pictured above) have achieved the greatest celebrity due to 30 years of research, led by Cynthia Moss.   For more on these elephants, click here to go to amazon.com’s page featuring a number of books about them.  Their celebrity has played an enormous role in elevating people’s awareness of why we should care about the fate of these magnificent creatures.