When an Elephant Falls…
Africa’s elephant slaughter continues, as described in this short dispatch from the marine conservationist Carl Safina, who’s ventured far from his usual oceanic domain to do research for his next book. He offered the photographs and note below as a “Your Dot” sketch ahead of a long post he plans to publish on his blog next week:
The call comes on a Sunday morning as we’re eating breakfast outdoors in the Save the Elephant research camp in Samburu reserve in central Kenya. David Daballen rises to his feet to answer it, walking from the table as he talks. Moments later he returns, announcing, “Another elephant, just discovered killed, right across the river in Buffalo Springs, right inside the park, right off the road.” Last month, poachers killed 29 elephants from this population in 31 days.
We drive to the carcass. It’s Philo. Philo was a young male elephant, fifteen years old, only halfway to being a viable contender for breeding rights.
Four days ago, Ike Leonard captured Philo’s last portrait. The photo shows Philo as a promising young bull showing a bit of teenage swagger. Ike, an elephant keeper with Disney’s Animal Kingdom in Orlando, Florida, had come here to help with research, and—so that he might enhance the welfare of the captive elephants he cares for in Orlando—to observe “how wild elephants live.” What we are also observing is how wild elephants are dying.