“There is something about safari life that makes you forget all your sorrows and feel as if you had drunk half a bottle of champagne — bubbling over with heartfelt gratitude for being alive.”
Karen Blixen (Danish author best known for “Out of Africa”, her account of living in Kenya)
…. And so begins my journey to Kenya, Africa
The exotic lure of Africa, rife with rich culture and history, was a destination I had been anticipating for years. Having spent the past seven years building Elephanatics, I knew the time had come to heed the call of the elephants and make my sojourn to the land of mystical sunsets and magical people. Nothing could prepare me for the exhilaration of viewing lions, elephants, wildebeests, warthogs, cheetahs, and numerous other species in their natural settings, as close as four feet from our jeep. Not to omit the bellowing hippos outside our tent on the Mara River that woke us up every morning and charmed us all day long as they fought for territory and kept other animals at bay! Adventures come in all sizes and shapes, but an open jeep safari is as big as it gets! The trick to remember is – NEVER laugh when an elephant has its back to you! I found out the hard way after giggling from a funny episode an elephant had performed – she rightly turned around and gave us the ‘ears forward’ charge position, lunging at the jeep and stopping at 3 feet away. Thank goodness she sensed I was not a threat and retracted. My stomach hasn’t been the same since!
Our first stop was to the David Sheldrick Wildlife Trust where we visited our three adopted orphans, Larro, Nabulu and Panda. The keepers explained the situation of how the orphans arrived and what their due diligence and care of the orphans entail. The keepers spend day and night with the babies, sleeping in the same quarters, tending to their every need and comforting them when they have bad dreams – yes, elephants have bad dreams, too! They slowly integrate them back into the wild, but it takes years of love and patience to get them to that point. It was a tender moment; my appreciation for what they do has no bounds.
The Karen Blixen Camp came by recommendation from the Mara Elephant Project. (MEP) Dr. Jake Wall, director for MEP and also for Elephanatics, and Marc Goss, CEO of the Mara Elephant Project, were instrumental in making sure our stay was as comfortable as possible and it most certainly was! The genuine friendliness and service of the staff at Karen Blixen was articulated in every meal and activity we took part in. I would highly suggest KBC as your first choice when searching for a luxury safari experience. They are best known for responsible tourism, making sure their business benefits the environment and the people working at the camp and communities nearby. After a tour of their facilities, it was evident they are leaders in this genre.
Our guide, Jack, led the way with his knowledge of the local flora and fauna and introduced us to a world of stories about the Maasai people, their culture, the landscape area and rules to be obeyed between the conservancies and farmers. Storytelling is still the way used by most communities to pass cultural knowledge and history from one generation to another. Because of the varied heritages and cultures in East Africa, storytelling is a way to help bring them together. Each group, lending flavour to their own unique tale, interprets versions of the same story differently. I experienced this ‘bush telegram’ communication upon receiving news that someone had been killed in the village earlier that day. When I heard the same story told to us by our guide on our nightly safari, it was slightly different but the crux of the story was the same. It appears storytelling continues in our Western culture as well. The only difference to note in our culture is the opposition of differences of opinion, as opposed to a respectful appreciation of another’s interpretation.
We were fortunate to visit MEP a few times and learn about the ambitious initiatives they are working on. Jake gave us a tour and a presentation about what he is responsible for as the new director of research and conservation. He leads MEP’s applied research agenda aimed at enhancing the protection of elephants and the habitat upon which they and other wildlife depend. He tracks many variables related to the area, including collared elephant movements, human-elephant conflicts, and environmental variables related to elephant movements. He showed us the snares rangers have collected from the Mau forest and the old GPS collars they’ve removed from previously tracked elephants. We met Marc Goss – MEP’s CEO – and learned more about the education program. were also fortunate enough to meet elephants Hugo, Freddy and Kegol who are tracked with EarthRanger, a real-time technology used for tracking elephants and rangers. Dr. Jake Wall was one of the architects in building this software when working with Vulcan, a Paul Allen company. It was wonderful to see first hand the outstanding work they do, what their future plans are within the Mara to protect elephants and where Elephanatics’ donation dollars go.
The famous wildebeest migration that takes place every year between May and December starting in Tanzania’s Serengeti plains in the south and moving north to Kenya’s Maasai Mara in Kenya, started early this year in the Maasai Mara due to drought in the southern areas and early rains in the north. The best time to see the migration is typically in the dry season between July and October but we lucked out! We avoided the hundreds of tourists that come at that time and endured some rain much to the benefit of viewing one of the seven wonders of Africa. Unfortunately, we also saw the perils at which these great animals risk their lives to find food. Many don’t make it across the river due to high river currents, crocodiles, or going back to find a relative or friend from the herd. The banks can be steep on the river causing slippery conditions in the rain leading to death from a broken leg or becoming maimed, making them a target for prey. The migration is extremely stressful for these beautiful animals and I must admit, I felt somewhat guilty adding to the possible stress they endure by being a tourist. Every year almost two million wildebeests and a host of other animals migrate, making it a prime example of the ‘circle of life’. It was a sight to see and is one of the greatest shows on earth.
The daily tours became a natural way to start the day and end the night while relaxing during the day took on its own meditative quality. Hypnotized by the Mara Rivers gurgling flow and the abundance of animals that came sporadically throughout the day for a drink, sank us all into a state of wonderment and reverence for this beautiful land. The endless beauty of open skies and savannah plains blended with it a sense of calm and caution, a primordial response to the raw nature of the surroundings. Ones true existence can be found in the winds of Africa. Purpose becomes transparent as trees whisper messages of hope, faith and deliverance of justice for all wildlife. We need to listen to these messages and act accordingly – for all our sake.
I could continue to elaborate on the significance of visiting Africa and its benefits to my well-being, but I will not. Some experiences are beyond words. All I can say is if you have been contemplating a trip to Africa – do not hesitate any longer.
“When you leave Africa, as the plane lifts, you feel that more than leaving a continent you’re leaving a state of mind. Whatever awaits you at the other end of your journey will be of a different order of existence.” Francesca Marciano
A special thanks to Karen Blixen Camp staff / Dr. Jake Wall / CEO Marc Goss, MEP
A big thank you to Tessa, Leanne and Jett for all their hard work in my absence.
President / Elephanatics
Some ‘Did You Know’ moments from our safari:
*Jackals, who eat leftovers, bark at lions to wake them up so they hunt.
*Hippos are the most dangerous animal to humans and are responsible for more human death and conflict than elephants!
*Water buffalo is the second most dangerous animal
*At night, Warthogs back themselves into holes dug by Aardvarks for safety and in order to charge out quickly to defend themselves
*Giraffes have chaperones from the family to take care of the young during the day while the mothers graze a short distance away. They head to the village at night for safety from lions but venture far and wide during the day.
* Hyenas are more closely related to cats than dogs. Their dung is white because of the calcium in the bones they eat
* One type of Dung Beetle can navigate by moonlight alone and prefer omnivore feces to herbivore.
PLEASE SHARE THIS LINK And Please Consider A Donation – gf.me/u/s5wv2u
Save Two Captive Elephants from a Casino in Laos
Joumban, a 34-year-old male and Mae Seang, a 32-year-old female are chained up in the parking lot of a casino in Laos, adjacent to the Chinese border. They are held captive so Chinese gamblers can take souvenir selfies, posing with the elephants and the casinos’ “lady boys”. (Casinos are illegal in China so punters cross the border into Laos for their gambling fix.)
Captive elephants nearly all their lives, these two suffer inadequate shelter, lack of exercise, a restricted diet, goading by metal hooks and nightly stress from the noise and bright lights. Their eyes are glassy and lifeless. They deserve SO much more.
Elephanatics, a non-profit organisation in Vancouver, BC has been raising money for 2 years via the “Ride A Bike, Not An Elephant” campaign to ultimately free a captive Asian elephant. We recently heard that the Elephant Conservation Center in Sayaboury, Laos plans to rescue not one, but two pachyderms – approximately the week of June 3, 2019. The 422 km truck ride from Boten to Nam Tien Lake should take at least 15 hours, not counting grass-breaks.
Can you help us raise the last of our donation to help give these sweethearts a well-earned retirement together? No amount is too small as the trickles become a river that will change these two elephants’ lives forever. The center hopes to one day release Joumban and Mae Seang into a wild herd in the Nam Pouy National Park nearby. Your donation = their freedom for life.
Laos has around 400 wild elephants and 450 captive elephants. They are on the brink of extinction in what is still ironically called “The Land of A Million Elephants”. Launched in 2011, the Elephant Conservation Center is trying to save Laos’ elephants through a breeding program, endocrinology lab, positive reinforcement and mahout education – funded almost entirely through ethical tourism. Visitors do not ride the elephants but enjoy observing them in their natural habitat. Elephants get to just be elephants!
Leanne Fogarty, Elephanatics ‘ Director of Asian Elephants/ Campaign Manager, has self-funded her witness of the rescue operation and will be broadcasting live video feed from Laos on www.facebook.com/Elephantics starting June 2 (if she can tackle the technology). The 15-hour minimum rescue route should provide plenty of footage.
Elephanatics would like to extend huge thanks to the many people who have donated their time and funds to help make this rescue dream a reality. Special mention to Carol-Ann & Brian and their neighbours who have faithfully sent their recycling refunds in each month!If you have any questions at all, we would love to hear from you via this page’s contact method.
Trunks of thanks,
The Elephanatics Team
PLEASE SHARE THIS CAMPAIGN ON YOUR SOCIAL MEDIA AND please consider a donation gf.me/u/s5wv2u
Elephanatics Appalled at Thailand’s Decision to Reverse 10-Year Ban on Live Elephant Export
For Immediate Release May 22nd, 2019
Vancouver, BC – The Ministry of Commerce in Thailand has recently issued regulations regarding the rules, procedures and conditions for the export of its elephants. The trade of live elephants to other countries will be permitted, effective June 23, 2019.
The conditions under which the export of Asian elephants would be approved are:
sending elephants for research studies;
sending elephants for positive international relations; and
sending parts or products derived from elephants for academic research or as antiques/art
The Asian elephant is officially endangered with a population of less than 50,000 worldwide. Vancouver-based non-profit, Elephanatics, says this will inevitably fuel poaching throughout Asia for ivory, elephant skin, hair and elephants themselves. They strongly oppose the reversal of the ban that has been in place for ten years.
In Thailand there are approximately 3,700 captive working elephants, and around just 1,000 remain in the wild. Asian elephants became an endangered species in 1986. These regulations open a loophole which could allow for illegal trade, threatening the very existence of Thailand’s national symbol.
Captive elephants suffer terribly in captivity. Shortened lifespans, health issues, and emotional trauma from being separated from their herd, defies the standards set by the World Association for Zoos and Aquariums (WAZA) and CITES (the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species). Many of the countries importing live elephants do not have the weather or environment that elephants can acclimate to, condemning them to a lifetime of suffering.
The trade in elephant parts including elephant skin, hair and ivory fuels an already unmanageable multi-billion dollar illegal trade in wildlife that threatens remaining populations.
“Studies have shown that wherever loopholes exist in the regulation of wildlife trade – and particularly elephants and their parts – it strengthens the illegal black market. Additionally, the emotional intelligence of elephants is well documented. In this day and age it is inexcusable for elephants to be exported for displays in zoos and circuses, for research or as a gift,” says Fran Duthie, president of Elephanatics.
Thailand’s tourism trade has been shifting towards a more ethical model that encourages tourists to experience elephants in a respectful and compassionate fashion. Instead of riding elephants, visitors are encouraged to walk behind them and feed them. Sanctuaries are gaining momentum as tourists learn of the trauma and abuse inflicted on these intelligent and emotional animals.
Elephanatics strongly urges the Thai government to pursue a policy of ethical and compassionate treatment of their national symbol and reinstate the ban on the export of elephants.
Elephanatics is a Vancouver-based elephant advocacy organisation that promotes the long-term survival of African and Asian elephants through conservation, education and action.
Tessa Vanderkop – Director of Advocacy 604-789-8886 email@example.com www.elephanatics.org
Elephanatics was very pleased to be part of their event. A big thanks to Lynn Howard and Cynthia Fitzpatrick and Jackie for representing Elephanatics and our #ivoryfreecanada campaign. We appreciate it beyond elephant words 🙂
Hundreds of thousands of people are calling for a total ban on the sale of elephant ivory in Canada. Yet the government has not responded. A petition that now has over 310,000 signatures, was first sent to the federal government nearly a year ago.
It was launched by Elephanatics, a Vancouver-based elephant advocacy organization, which sent the petition and a letter to the Ministry of Environment and Climate Change in March 2018. But the ministry has yet to answer the letter or even acknowledge the petition which was one of the biggest Canadian petitions of 2018 on Change.org.
The letter was endorsed by 95 national and international scientists, conservationists and animal welfare organizations, including SPCA, Jane Goodall Institute, Born Free and Wildlife At Risk International.
Elephanatics believes a domestic ivory ban is more important than ever. A staggering 20,000 African elephants are killed each year. Scientists anticipate they will be extinct in the wild within 20 years if illegal poaching isn’t controlled. With the Convention on International Trade of Endangered Flora and Fauna (CITES) approaching in May, the need for an answer is imperative.
“We are perplexed as to why we haven’t received an official response,” said Fran Duthie, president of Elephanatics. “We believe that the war on poaching cannot be won until all domestic elephant ivory markets are closed. 71% of Canadians believe it’s already illegal to buy or sell elephant ivory in Canada. This is a moral obligation to save a keystone species and an opportunity for the Canadian government to play a key leadership role in global conservation.”
Elephant poaching is a global problem that requires bold action by countries around the world. Both CITES and the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) have asked all countries to ban their internal domestic trade of ivory to save elephants. Canada was one of only four countries to vote against this at the last IUCN conference.
Kate Brooks, director of documentary film The Last Animals,states, “It’s absolutely imperative that every country on the planet enact legislation to combat the global wildlife trafficking crisis and stop stimulating demand for ivory by continuing to trade. I hope Canada will join the countries that are standing up for elephants and the rangers who put their lives on the line trying to protect them.”
Several US states, France, China, Philippines and the United Kingdom have banned the sale of ivory within their borders. The Netherlands will close their raw ivory market in 2019; Taiwan will ban its ivory trade by 2020; Hong Kong will follow in 2021; and Singapore is considering the most stringent ban to date.
With the upcoming CITES conference in Sri Lanka in May, Canada has an opportunity to join other countries leading the fight to save elephants from extinction by enacting a legislative ban on the sale of elephant ivory within Canada.
“It’s time for Canadians to take a stand against the elephant ivory trade by banning the domestic trade in Canada,” says Patricia Sims, founder of World Elephant Day.“Canada needs to join the other countries that have already enacted domestic elephant ivory bans and to put political pressure on government at all levels for legislation to stop this senseless buying and selling of elephant ivory within our borders.”
In order to continue to pressure the government into action, Elephanatics and Global March for Elephants & Rhinos – Toronto, are launching an online campaign that will allow members of the public to automatically send an email to their Members of Parliament. With over 310,000signatures, it is clear that the public no longer supports Canada’s current position on ivory legislation.
With another year behind us, we are richer because of you.
We would like to thank all of you who have played an integral part in Elephanatics’ success throughout the year. To those of you who continue to inspire us to push forward against the unconscionable acts perpetrated against elephants, we are only as good as the people who further our efforts and help us attain our ultimate goal of ending the poaching crisis and unethical treatment of all elephants.
I would personally like to thank our Directors, Tessa Vanderkop and Leanne Fogarty, for their relentless spirit and drive, our Advisors for their optimism, encouragement and wisdom, and our Volunteers who have been the backbone to our every success. We are forever in your deepest debt and gratitude.
I would also like to thank the many outstanding elephant organizations that have achieved great strides in poaching prevention through varied technological techniques and organizations in Asia who have focused on a more ethical standard of tourism camps for elephants. We admire your strength, commitment and dedication to ending these crises. And, to the rangers who risk their lives daily to protect their heritage, we acknowledge you as the true heroes in this war.
Just recently, the UK passed the toughest legislation to date with a near-total ban on the trade in ivory. This monumental action will make law enforcement less complicated while making it easier to reduce demand for ivory amongst consumers. Through collaborations and concerted efforts we are making an impact, even though at times they appear thwarted by events taking place on a daily basis around the world that harm elephants.
Our need to be vigilant and stay the course has never been more imperative. Let’s continue on this trajectory of optimism and aim to close further domestic ivory markets in 2019 around the world to include Canada!
Please enjoy some of Elephanatics grand impressions and accomplishments during the year at our events and classroom presentations by clicking on the link below.
We wish you all a Magical and Merry season filled with hope for the future and good health, above all else.