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Jane Davis | Greed devours elephant herds

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Toka, a 43-year-old African elephant, is one of the lucky ones. She’s living in sanctuary in California. (MCT photo)

Her name is Kamok. At two months, she is learning how to steady herself on her uncertain legs and she has loads of time before she grows into her wrinkly skin, but her eyes are alive with curiosity and playful intention.

At 6, my daughter Jayna is also learning how to make her way in this world, she too seeks independence and often trips and falls but with a heart full of love she and Kamok were without a doubt destined to find one another.

We have adopted an elephant — something that may appear odd, but seems quite natural living in Kenya. With this new role comes an abundance of information regarding the well-being of elephants in Africa and I’m compelled to share with those of you at home the state of this magnificent animal.

Preservation and conservation extend far beyond our needs as humans, yet we have the most to gain if proper steps are taken to ensure that our resources are protected.

With that being said, every 15 minutes an elephant in Africa is killed by poachers. That is approximately 36,000 annually.

If this continues there will no longer be any elephants roaming wild by the year 2025. This is absolutely unacceptable. I personally was shocked when I heard these statistics as I was under the faulty impression that the ivory trade had all but become obsolete in the nineties.

In fact, the problem is far worse than it was 20 years ago as ivory is currently worth more than gold. Unfortunately this increase has been fueled by the Far East and China, not to mention terror groups wanting in on the action, driving up the price paid to poachers making it a lucrative alternative for poor and unemployed Kenyans.

In many cultures, ivory is a status symbol or simply a symbolic religious icon and with an increase of wealth many want a piece of the largest land mammal on earth.

So greed fuels the market for what is being termed “blood ivory” and because of this elephants are dying in droves everywhere in Africa.

Poaching is directly related to 80 percent of the orphaned elephant population. Often orphaned infants are traumatized by the events that have caused the separation from their mother. Emotionally they mirror humans and have a deep capacity for caring. They grieve the loss of their families and sadly many never fully recover.

To observe a herd of elephants in the wild is to understand the importance of family structure. They are amazingly intelligent and perceptive creatures. Their beauty and gentleness makes this senseless crime all that much more difficult to comprehend.

For those of us who care about this beautiful, diverse and natural world this information should be alarming. This slaughter fueled by senseless greed must end or the landscape of Africa will be forever changed. It is time to be the voice for these gentle giants, it’s time to ensure that generations to come experience the joy and wonder that only a herd of wild elephants can emulate.

Wenatchee native Jane Davis and her daughter Jayna are spending the fall in Kenya, where Jane is teaching at a girl’s school. She can be reached at janesharpsharp@hotmail.com

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