The History of Poaching
Poaching isn't a new trade; it's actually been around for dozens of years, but most of us don't really know how it got started and how it's grown in recent years. Over the next few blogs I'm going to get in-depth and discuss the details of the trade, discussing how it began, where it exists and the consequences to both elephants and humans.
In this first post we'll talk about how the practice of killing elephants first got started: culling.
Culling is an organized, planned killing of elephant herds to keep populations from becoming overwhelming. In Africa as well as in Asia, one of the greatest issues with elephants is the human-elephant conflict that comes from sharing the same space. Culling is an approach taken by African governments to control elephant populations and to keep them from increasing so rapidly.
As thousands more elephants are being shot down every year, it's no surprise that the very society of this social species is breaking down. To help understand how this happens, let's first look at elephant society as a whole.
Elephants live in herds, composed of family members or peers. There are herds that have an entire family line and others that are just a group of bachelors traveling together. Elephants live in herds for socialization and to learn how to be an elephant. Babies learn not just from their mothers, but from sisters, aunts, cousins and grandmas. Wild bulls also congregate together to form bachelor herds, where young boys learn manners and respect from their elders.
Herds are very important for elephants. They do everything together, from sleeping to eating to playing. In fact, if you see an elephant alone (unless it's an adult male), it means something bad has happened.
In light of my favorite NFL team's recent victory, I couldn't help making a post about elephants playing football. Or, as I should clarify for us Americans, soccer.
Elephants do play football, just not American football. They play the world's football in many nations around the world, and are quite good at it. In fact, it's somewhat of a professional sport.
As we get close to Thanksgiving, a holiday I am most thankful for, I've been wondering what you would cook if you hosted a herd of elephants. As I explored possible dishes I found a few that I think pachyderms would enjoy.
As a disclaimer, we're not going to measure the sheer amount of food you'd have to fix, namely because a single elephant eats 200-300 lbs of food a day. So just looking at the dishes themselves, let's see what you could serve elephants on Thanksgiving.
As I looked over past posts, I realized I've never talked about why ivory is so valued all over the world. So in this post, let's look at why the tusks of elephants are some of the most coveted objects on earth.
Ivory is considered a very fine material, both by carvers and by consumers. Its cultural and religious value can be seen in many Eastern cultures, and its artistic qualities are revered all over the world. But ivory is also a great material to work with. It's smooth qualities make it easily carved, which is why we see stunning pieces of art with intricate designs made out of tusks. But while the ivory trade has become a hot topic in recent years, the market has been around for hundreds of years.
This post serves to answer all the little questions you didn't know you had about elephants. I hope you learn something new!
Q: Can elephants run?
A: Not exactly. Elephants are physically unable to run, according to the widespread definition. A run is often identified as a quick form of movement where the animal, at some point, has all feet off the ground at the same time. Needless to say this isn't possible for an elephant, who takes long strides to spread its weight among its four legs. But their front legs do move in a bouncy manner when they're traveling fast, so perhaps we could call their movement a wun, or maybe a ralk? Regardless, they can travel at pretty fast speeds, as Cincinnati Zookeeper Val Nastold says. According to Nastold, elephants can reach about 35 mph. Not bad for a ralk.
Q: Do elephants really never forget?
Washington state became the fourth U.S. state to pass anti-ivory laws last night. The bill, Initiative 1401, prohibits the wildlife trafficking of 10 endangered animals and their parts, including elephant and rhino ivory.
“If the biggest market is in China, the second biggest is in the United States," said Thane Maynard, director of the Cincinnati Zoo. “If you want to stop killing elephants you’ve got to stop the market for elephant parts.”
Initiative 1401 did just that last night. The bill, which passed in all of Washington's 39 counties, protects animals like sharks, tigers, lions, rays, marine turtles, leopards, cheetahs, pangolins and elephants. The bill won by an overwhelming majority of 70 percent. According to the bill, the sale, sale intent, bartering, distribution, trade and purchase of any live animal or product from the species listed above is prohibited.
However, there are exceptions to this bill, which address many public concerns and debates involving the ban of these products.
In the Cincinnati area these past two days of rain have been miserable for us humans, but if we were elephants, we'd be having a blast.
There are many reasons pachyderms enjoy rain, not just because a good cool shower feels good, but because mud combines two things elephants love best: water and dirt!
During the Halloween season, it's fun to discover what scares you, which is perhaps why haunted houses make so much money. This got me wondering, if elephants had a haunted house, what would it be filled with? I mean, there can't be much that makes the largest land mammal startle or run away, but what might those things be?
Through various research I've found a short list of things that do and don't scare elephants. Be careful, some of them may scare you too!
While we often focus on the elephant side of poaching, they aren't the only ones being terrorized. Poaching has a very strong human element to it as well, one that is perhaps even more heartbreaking than what happens to elephants.
Last week four men were killed in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, in Garamba National Park. They were part of a 10-men force working to track down the collar of a poached elephant. While tracking the collar, the men walked right into a poaching camp, where poachers opened fire, starting an exchange of gunfire between the two parties.
Kerry Skiff is a conservation advocate and recent journalism graduate of Northern Kentucky University. She follows the ivory trade around the world, and uses her voice to educate Americans about their role in animal conservation.