World Elephant Day 2017

World Elephant Day, August 12, 2017.  This is the fifth World Elephant Day, a global event launched in 2012. This year numerous organizations dedicated to elephants are honoring this day in a range of  ways:  release of new studies, contests, fashion statements and fundraising.

The past five years have been no less than monumental for elephants.  2012 and 2013 were two of the worst years ever for elephant poaching.  Media coverage, NGO activities, celebrity activism, government cooperation and public outcry combined to put pressure on closing down ivory markets in Asia and elsewhere.  As a result, additional resources were put into “the field” to track down and prosecute poachers, China announced it would end the sales of ivory by the end of 2017, world awareness to the plight of elephants was advanced and the demand for ivory actually began to decrease.  Research increased and our understanding of elephant “hotspots” has improved immensely.

The crisis isn’t over and it’s important to keep the pressure on.  That should be our commitment this World Elephant Day.  The pressures on elephant habitat and wildlife-human conflict remain.  Much more must be done in order to ensure that future generations witness wild elephants and appreciate the importance of maintaining balance between all species that rely on earth’s resources.  Keep your commitment and spend some time on the links below that offer information and opportunities to do your part.


ECF 2017 Mid Year Report Partner & Donor Version

Traffic/World Wildlife Fund Report on China’s Ivory Market

Traffic:  Reports on Elephant Ivory

Fundraising and Awareness:

David Sheldrick Wildlife Trust “Say Hello in Elephant”

World Wildlife Fund:  Saving Asian Elephants

Wildlife Conservation Society

Every Elephant Counts Contest


The Elephant Pants


The good news, all feel every day is World Elephant Day

The Ivory Game


Thursday, November 4, Netflix will premier on its service the award-winning documentary, The Ivory Game (link to full press kit).

The Ivory Game  (link to website) poses the dark world of ivory trafficking.  In the past 100 years, the elephant population has plummeted 97%.   The Ivory Game dramatically portrays the fact that we are facing a potential crisis of extinction — an extinction that is totally human-induced.  Award-winning director Richard Ladkani and Academy Award® nominated director Kief Davidson filmed undercover for 16 months infiltrating and documenting the deep-rooted corruption at the heart of the global ivory trafficking crisis.  The production also features the people who are doing the most to keep this extinction from happening.

The Netflix Original Documentary is a production of Red Bull’s Terra Mater Film Studios and Microsoft co‐founder Paul G. Allen’s Vulcan Productions in association with Malaika Pictures and Appian Way, with Leonardo DiCaprio as Executive Producer.

Living Dinosaurs

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Could elephants really become extinct in our lifetimes?  Media coverage is now referring to elephants as “living dinosaurs.”  An oxymoron? Not really. More of a prediction.

A grim future for elephants is suggested when we take a long term look at what has happened over the passed 600 years, using information from the recently released Great Elephant Census:

1500:  Around 26 million elephants are estimated to roam the African continent when Europeans began exploring there.

1900:  In 400 years, the population has been reduced to about 10 million due to aggressive trophy hunting and the ivory trade.  The US consumes 200 tons of ivory a year.

1950s:  250 elephants are killed each day to satisfy demand for ivory.

1979:  Elephants are listed as a “threatened” species under the Endangered Species Act in the US; internationally, CITES is to regulate ivory trade. Ian Douglas Hamilton conducts first pan-African survey, estimating the elephant population at 1.3 million.

1989:  Elephant population halved over last decade with 600,000 remaining.  CITES lists the African elephant on Appendix I, creating a ban on the international trade of ivory.

1990s:  Elephant populations in East Africa begin to recover.

1999:  CITES approves a “one time” sale of ivory from Namibia, Botswana and Zimbabwe ivory stockpiles to Japan. A second sale to China and Japan is permitted in 2008.

2007:  CITES implement 9 year moratorium on ivory sales from stockpiles as the increasing demand for ivory is not satisfied by these sales and leads to dramatic increase in poaching.

2016:  Death rate is one elephant every 15 minutes. Great Elephant Census shows elephant populations at 352,000, down 30% from 2007.

The calculus of this population decline is unassailable.  We will not have healthy, sustainable elephant populations in the wild in our lifetimes if the demand for ivory is not shut down. And, yes, like the dinosaurs who once walked this earth, our present-day largest land mammal could also become extinct.

Thank you to the Great Elephant Census , a partnership between Paul Allen and Vulcan, who provided the funding, Elephants Without Borders, African Parks, Wildlife Conservation Society, TheNature Conservancy, Frankfurt Zoological Society and the IUCN African Elephant Specialist Group.


Happy Holidays

EF holiday greetings for website

I’m celebrating the holidays with carpal tunnel surgery tomorrow so this will be the last posting for this year!  Meanwhile, check out the four programs listed below for great programs you may want to support during this holiday season.

iWorry” by The David Sheldrick Wildlife Trust

Space for Giants” Campaign by The Independent

“96 Elephants” by Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS)

Elephant Crisis Fund” by Save The Elephants

For news on elephants, check “In the News” section of and “A Voice for Elephants” by National Geographic.

Wishing happy holidays to all and hoping 2014 brings more support for the elephants.

The Soul of Giving


It’s “Giving Tuesday.”  Following Black Friday and Cyber Monday, we return to the spirit of the season, giving thanks, celebrating that which nourishes our souls and opening our hearts and wallets for those we love as well as those who need our help.

As you make your gift lists, remember the elephants and the wonderful organizations who are truly making a difference on their behalf.  Check “Experts” for a list of those organizations.

If elephants had credit cards and access to the Internet, they too would probably partake in holiday gift giving.  Elephants possess an innate feeling for each other, well-documented, cradle-to-grave behavior  —  from the care of a newborn to the mourning of a  lost one.

Earlier this year, The New Atlantis, a journal of technology and society, published an article,  “Do Elephants Have Souls?”.  While lengthy and scholarly, the article contains a wealth of information on elephant behavior, from fact to “elephantasies.”    Or, if you find that article too dense to finish, read this link about the tribute elephants paid to conservationist Lawrence Anthony when he died Spring 2012.  This story will make you believe!  It is worth considering what is it about the elephant that has so drawn humans to it, from the dawn of civilization.

We are concluding another dreadful year for elephant populations and, some might say, elephant souls.  Please take some time to appreciate what special creatures elephants are and pledge some of your giving to their future.

International March for Elephants — New York


Here are some scenes from the International March for Elephants in New York on Friday, October 4.  Many elephant “champions” participated in the walk, which began on the West Side at 12th Avenue and 42nd Street and ended on the East Side at 47th and 1st, in front of the UN.  “Celebrity” participants included Iain Douglas-Hamilton (Save the Elephants), Paula Kahambu (WildlifeDirect), Cyril Christo (photographer, poet, author of  “Walking Thunder”), Bryan Christy (journalist), Christie Brinkley (model, animal activist) and Kristin Davis (actress, spokesperson) — to name a few!  Congratulations to the organizers, led by Joey Cummings, and the many volunteers who worked so hard to make this spectacular show of support for elephants possible. And, thanks to The David Sheldrick Wildlife Trust for organizing the first global demonstration on behalf of an animal.  Walks took place in up to 40  cities around the world.  The level of “noise” is definitely on the increase!

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Mara Elephant Project


The Masai Mara National Reserve in southwestern Kenya is perhaps the most famous game reserve in all of Africa.  A rich ecosystem of grassy plains, riverine forests and high escarpments provides  for an abundance of wildlife seen in no other place on earth.  While the annual migration of wildebeests and zebras, with the plethora of predators that feast on the young and feeble, is the draw for many, elephants are also an integral part of the scene.  The Mara does not boast the density of elephants found in certain other game reserves, but it is an important habitat for the savannah elephant.

The Mara is an extension of the Serengeti ecosystem across the border in Tanzania.  For centuries,  Masai tribesmen have herded their cattle and claimed the territory in both countries as theirs.  Because the land is rich, farming is adjacent to and sometimes spills over onto the reserve.  The Mara’s accessibility, natural diversity, international movements of animals and proximity to human settlements combine to make it an ideal laboratory for elephant research.

In 2011, the Escape Foundation, Save the Elephants and the Kenya Wildlife Service joined forces to employ satellite tracking technology to learn more about elephant movement and to address poaching and human-wildlife conflict issues.  The Mara Elephant Project has produced a superb video describing their work, which I highly recommend you view here.

Radio collaring an elephant is no small undertaking, and it is interesting to watch the process on the video.  A warning — there are graphic scenes of poached elephants with their faces hacked off.  Not for the faint of heart.  But this effort is full of big-hearted, committed people from a number of nations and represents in my view a fine example of the type of effort needed in many parts of Africa.  Watch the video, and if you are inclined, contribute to the project.

Wild about WildAid

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There are a number of impactful organizations working to protect, understand and educate people about elephants. (Go to Experts page for links to many of them.)  One of my favorites is WildAid.

WildAid’s mission is: “to end the illegal wildlife trade in our lifetimes by reducing demand through public awareness campaigns and providing comprehensive marine protection.” This is a terrific organization and deserves support from all of us.

WildAid has been, and continues to be, a leader in educating people in China about how many animals die to supply body parts for many revered practices in that country.  Recently, WildAid, with Save the Elephants, the African Wildlife Foundation and the Yao Ming Foundation, conducted a study in China to determine the level of awareness about the illegal ivory trade and the devastating impact this has had on Africa’s elephants.  Here are the highlights

  •  More than half of the nearly 1,000 participants (over 50%) do not think elephant poaching is common;
  • 34%, or one in three respondents, believe ivory is obtained from natural elephant mortality;
  • Only 33% of all participants believe elephants are poached for their tusks; and
  • 94% of residents agree theChinese government should impose a ban on the ivory trade

In conjunction with the release of this survey (click here for the complete report), WildAid has also launched an aggressive PSA campaign in China with NBA superstar, Yao Ming, as spokesman. (Click here to see PSAs.) This is powerful stuff.  While we have known for some time that most Chinese purchasers of ivory do not realize (1) that an elephant was killed to produce the ivory or (2) that demand in China is driving the African elephant to extinction, what most of us didn’t appreciate is how strong the Chinese would feel about banning the trade once they were informed.   This is some of the most encouraging news we have had.  The task of educating the number of people in China who could make a difference is daunting.  But, with the help of a committed celebrity in Yao Ming, other wildlife groups and with your support, WildAid may indeed break the truth barrier about ivory demand.  Give them your support!

Samburu Elephants

samburubabySamburu (National Reserve in northern Kenya) is one beautiful expanse of grassy, acacia-covered desert, surrounded by mountains and divided by the palm-fringed Ewaso Ng’iro River.  One of my favorite memories is reflected above.  We came upon a mother elephant, shading a tiny body, which we feared was her dead baby.  As we watched, the still body came to life and up stood her several-day-old child. We all sighed with relief and wiped our teary eyes, happy that the little fellow or lass would have a chance to grow up and learn from his mother.  It was 1987, poaching just outside the Reserve was escalating, elephant populations were stressed, it would not have been a surprise to see a dead elephant.

Samburu elephants have been on my mind this week because of a newly released study by Save the Elephants. Save the Elephants began intensive studies of the 1,000-strong Samburu elephant population 15 years ago.  During most of the study, peaceful times existed, populations recovered from the late ’80s.  Then, in the past three years, poaching once again escalated, death due to poaching doubled.

“. . .Older animals – usually those with larger tusks – fared particularly badly. In 2000 there were 38 known males over 30 years old. By 2011 this number had dropped to 12, of whom 7 had grown into the older age class. Almost half of the known females over 30 years old were lost between 2006 and 2011, their number dropping from 59 to 32. The wave of killing altered the age structure and age-related social organisation. In 1998 42 per cent of the population was male, but by 2011 the bulls – who bear more ivory – made up only 32 per cent. Ten of the fifty elephant groups were effectively wiped out, with no known breeding females left, while thirteen had no breeding female over the age of 25.”

The report goes on to detail how unnatural loss of mature life is threatening the population even further. Without older elephants, the young will not learn survival tactics, how to interrelate to each other, and how to flourish as a community.  Mortality of the young will increase.  The study has had an unusual, and morbid, opportunity to observe and document this impact on Samburu’s individual elephants.  Poaching kills indirectly as well as directly.

For more on Samburu Elephants, view Elephants of Samburu by National Geographic photographer Michael Nichols.