The ghosts of 10,000 elephants will trumpet while their ivory burns as conservationists, civilians and celebrities watch. The ghosts will charge and rampage and no one will see them or hear them. They know that people will forget them as soon as the next news story comes out. The ghosts of 10,000 elephants will then turn around and walk into the imaginations of our future generations who will never see them alive.
They say this will raise awareness but I fear it’ll tell the poachers that there’s less ivory left in Africa and as the demand goes up, so do the prices and the allure to poach more. I fear this will create a concentrated effort on the lives of the remaining few great elephants we have left. We’ve not been able to protect them till now so what makes us think we’ll be able to do so when the poachers now have even more incentive?
I’m so frustrated with this ivory burning ceremony. I’m so angry with the loss of all these elephants and with this circus we’ve built around this one event. I’m so sick of seeing smiling selfies near stockpiles of tusks. This is not a win on poaching. This is not a celebration, it’s a funeral. Since 1989 we’ve been burning ivory. It hasn’t curbed poaching. It hasn’t proved to be educational. It has become an iconic recurring event. For what purpose? Poachers kill, we burn, poachers kill, we burn. A redundant cycle. Here’s a case in point; if we, the masses, put as much energy into conservation of elephants as we have into talking about the ivory burning, we’d have less dead elephants.
Conservation shouldn’t be a weekly theme. Last week it was Mohawk the lion. This week it’s the ivory. No. Conservation should be a constant duty to Mother Nature. Unfortunately, in the world we live in, we need constant reminders of this task which means that these one off ivory burnings will not serve to solve anything because they’re singular.
They say they’ll make money for conservation from this burning from outside sources but how much money has already been spent on just setting up this event? 100 million? Maybe. Wouldn’t the money in hand have helped recruit and train new rangers in order to protect the few gentle giants we have left? Isn’t that the priority now? To protect the elephants?
And how do we protect the elephants, you may ask. Well, certainly not by utilizing traditional out-dated methods that have been in action since 1989 which have not proven to do anything for educating the masses nor curb poaching. We shouldn’t parade ourselves like bare assed blue balled monkeys in front of the cameras just so we can earn a few bucks which will inevitably disappear into the pockets of a few. We need to think deeply about longer term sustainability projects on education about conservation. We need to think outside the ivory box. We need to think about creative ways in which to protect our elephants.
Raabia Hawa’s Walk With Rangers initiative hit the nail on the head on many fronts. The premise is walking through vast amounts of land in order to raise awareness. This project has such great potential. Not only did it get people from all over the world together to walk 300 odd kilometres through the wild but it also ensured that those very people learned about the plight of rangers who put their lives on the line to save our elephants. And additionally, walking through remote communities, people were able to spread the message of conservation to otherwise secluded little villages. Conservation is a communal thing.
In Botswana, they’ve created an elephant statue of tusks that is displayed in their airport for all to see. This serves as a constant reminder to people. Imagine if we had these kinds of statues all in various places in Africa where they cannot be ignored. Where the news will not only report them for two weeks. When I see the stockpiles here, I feel rage and it tugs at my heartstrings to do more. That feeling should be constant. But burning the evidence of atrocity is not the way forward. It’s morbid but the tusks serve as harsh, painful reminders that so many elephants were brutally murdered for trinkets.
Source: Africa Geographic
To top it all off, think about this. We’re burning 105 tonnes of hard-to-burn ivory in a national park full of other animals in the name of conservation. The irony seems to be lost upon us.
Don’t get me wrong. I understand the importance of media and I understand the pool of awareness that celebrities can create but it must amount to something in the end yes? And if that something is transitory, then are we really doing justice to the elephants? It’s a sensitive issue to deal with because security of the ivory is also up for debate. We live in a time where people can steal anything and so yes, there are valid reasons for destroying it too. But look at Botswana, they’ve found a sustainable way to ensure their elephant population is stable and also that the statue is not touched.
To be honest, we can’t only show up when the world’s eye is upon us because of another burning. We must all constantly work towards conservation. Every single day in small ways. Millions of people working together. I’m tired of relying heavily on the government as people have power in numbers. Education about conservation through creative and consistent methods is the way forward.
I really don’t claim to know all the answers. I hardly ever do. All I have is the knowledge that we must move with the times and we’re at an age where information is so easy to collect. That ivory does not belong to our government. It belongs to the elephants and to Kenya. Polls should have been conducted as to what should be done with the ivory. That way, you keep people interested and educated and they feel they have a vested interest in the protection of our elephants. And who knows, out of a million responses, people may have come up with even more creative and sustainable ways of utilizing this ivory for education purposes all across the planet instead of just reducing them to ash.
At this burning, grand speeches will be made and I’m sure many promises will be given. People will be moved to emotion. Tears will flow. Pictures and videos will capture it all. But then what? It is up to us again, as lovers of nature, to follow up on all these promises, on all the words that were given.
Going by the trends, no one will remember the 10,000 elephants in two weeks. It was up to us to make sure that didn’t happen. So even in their death, we have failed the majestic pachyderms.