Don't just blame the poachers...

Loxodonta africana or African Elephant is the largest of its species. Debates are still on going as to exactly how many species and subspecies there are and what they are called but the two main types are African and Asian​, which​ can be split into further categories​ that​ are but not exclusively to bush, forest, Borneo, Sumatra, Sri Lanka and Indian.

I'm in awe of these animals and to me there is no other land mammal that makes you feel quite so gently inferior. I remember being out in the South African bush and all of a sudden the lead guide holds his hand up, ushering us to stop, be quiet and fall in line thus decreasing our silhouette (look less threatening) and there was a 3/4 tonne male right in front of us and all I could think about other than assessing which monkey thorn tree could take my weight was when my mom used to shout at us saying 'you thump around like a herd of elephants' well that’s just not true because they are truly silent!

This big beautiful guy ignored us mostly but let us know that he knew we were there and it's at that point that your senses really kick in and you can hear their rumblings which by the way shakes you to your bones and then their smell, there's nothing quite like the smell of an elephant, unique and something that can only be experienced by travelling there (we are privileged to offer two projects, 1. South Africa and 2. Sri Lanka) and man o man can they eat! Consuming upwards of 300lbs of vegetation every day, they really shape the environment, literally changing shrubland into grassland. They are also great seed dispersers, they improve soil conditions and create water holes in dry river beds. They are termed as Africa’s keystone herbivorous species but to put all this into context they are simply gardeners. They walk along creating ecological corridors, clearing pathways and dropping fertiliser (dung) as they go, 300lbs of vegetation has to come out somewhere​. But even though these animals are capable of showing love, protection and loyalty then are still at threat from the uneducated members of this world who simply want their ivory tucks as trophies or for medicinal use - by the way there are none!

But rather than point the finger we as junior scientist​s ​or aspiring researchers/ conservationists must begin by educating people. Its not about telling people what to do its about understanding why they are poaching these elephants in the first place. Most of the reasons I've come across is because these ​farmers turned poachers​ ​have very little choice, they are paid yearly salaries for a nights work because as the dr​ought continues their livestock die, their crops perish and they are left with very little in the way of choice​, the easy option to save your family will always win and unfortunately the people paying them know it. This was put into perspective for me when I had a lecture from an anti-rhino and anti-elephant poaching team and one the members introduced himself, showed a picture of a decapitated elephant with the tusks removed and said that he had done it. He was one of these farmers who had very little choice. He now spends the majority of his time being paid to be an anti-poacher, in fact its argued that the best anti poachers were once poachers.

Always ask yourself 'why' before assuming or accusing​ because the issue lies with the demand, stop the demand and you stop the poaching and trafficking. Educate the poachers you might win or lose​ the odd elephant​ but if we can educate the buyers then ​that’s’ a win that starts to create change​.

#Elephants #Ivory #Conservation #poachers #antipoachers #Africa

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