The plight of African elephants is well documented and there is little doubt that at current rates of decline an animal that has existed for four million years could be gone in the wild in a few decades. I have spent more occasions than I care to remember standing over the putrid remains of a butchered elephant carcass, asking the question: how can this stop?
Fortunately there are lessons we can draw from the conservation movement. One of the most pertinent is the ability of key influencers to contribute.
In 1887, Theodore Roosevelt founded the Boone & Crockett Club, credited with protecting Yellowstone National Park and creating the US National Park and Forest Service. In 1892, John Muir founded the Sierra Club, which established Yosemite Valley National Park. In 1925 King Albert of Belgium established what is now Virunga National Park in the Congo, Africa’s first.
In 1967, President Julius Nyerere of Tanzania wrote the Arusha Declaration, the cornerstone of the Pan-African Initiative for Nature Conservation, stating that “wild creatures” were “an integral part of our natural resources and of our future livelihoods and wellbeing”.
In 2002, the late President Omar Bongo proved true to Nyerere’s words, establishing 13 national parks, covering 7,010,700 acres of Gabon. It is with this lesson that we today turn to Africa’s modern leaders, inviting them to form a club of their own that could take ownership of the solution to the poaching crisis.
The most controversial animal kills
The most controversial animal kills
1/6 Cincinnati Zoo worker shots and kills Harambe, the 17-year-old gorilla
Harambe, a 17-year-old gorilla was shot and killed by a Cincinnati Zoo worker after a three-year-old boy climbed into a gorilla enclosure and was grabbed and dragged by Harambe. The incident was recorded on video and received broad international coverage and commentary, including controversy over the choice to kill Harambe. A number of primatologists and conservationists wrote later that the zoo had no other choice under the circumstances, and that it highlighted the danger of zoo animals in close proximity to humans and the need for better standards of care
Cincinnati Zoo & Botanical Garden
2/6 Walt Palmer (left), from Minnesota, who killed Cecil, the Zimbabwean lion (pictured here with another lion shot in Africa)
Walter James Palmer has been named by Zimbabwe Conservation Task Force as the shooter of Cecil, a 13-year-old prized lion. He is now wanted by Zimbabwe officials on poaching charges. The lion was protected and the subject of a decade long study by the Wildlife Unit of Oxford University in the UK. He was outfitted with a GPS collar and was killed in Hwange National Park. The Zimbabwe National Parks and Wildlife Authority and the Safari Operators Association said that two men were charged with poaching in connection to Mr Palmer
3/6 Kendall Jones hunting images
Kendall Jones, a 19-year-old Texas Tech university student, has provoked worldwide fury after posting pictures of herself smiling next to animals she hunted, including a lion, rhinoceros, antelope, leopard, elephant, zebra and hippopotamus
4/6 Rebecca Francis hunting images
Rebecca Francis, a huntress who has killed dozens of wild animals has been sent death wishes by furious social media users after a picture showing her lying down next to a dead giraffe was circulated. Rebecca Francis has a website and Facebook page dedicated to the animals she has killed in hunts across Africa and America. Francis, a prolific hunter who has also co-hosted the television show Eye of the Hunter, regularly posts pictures of herself posing next to dead bears, giraffes, buffaloes and zebras, among other animals. She uses a bow and arrow to kill her prey
5/6 The slaughter of Marius, an 18-month-old healthy giraffe in Copenhagen Zoo
Copenhagen Zoo made the controversial decision to euthanise a healthy giraffe named Marius, which was later dissected and fed to lions as visitors watched. The slaughter sparked a furious backlash from social media users and zoo staff have received death threats by phone and email. Soon after the incident, Copenhagen Zoo faced an international outcry once again after four healthy lions were put down
6/6 Swiss Dählhölzli zoo kills healthy brown bear cub
A Switzerland zoo faced heavy criticism from animal rights groups, after keepers put down a healthy brown bear cub to spare it from being bullied by its dominant male father. The 360 kg male bear Misha had already killed one of his 11-week old cubs in public and was bullying the second, staff at the zoo said, because he was jealous of the attention the cubs were receiving from their mother, Masha. Both adult brown bears had been donated to Bern’s Dählhölzli zoo in 2009. Campaigners condemned staff there for not separating the cubs, who are being referred to as Baby Bear Two and Baby Bear Three, and their mother from Misha after their birth in January
It is through the collective power of Africa’s leaders to resource, to legislate and to enforce that we can secure the behaviour change needed to protect the continent’s elephants. Many have already heeded our call and so the work of the club begins. It is our hope that its legacy shall be wild African elephants, for Africans, forever.Reuse content