I’m lucky, in a way. I’ve seen the devastation with my own eyes. The rotting carcasses with their heads removed, and the little orphaned babies. When crocodiles and lions kill elephants, they go for the babies, which is heartbreaking to watch when you see it on television. But poachers go for the biggest ones they can, and that means orphans.
Out in Lamu, on the northern Kenyan coast, there were tens of thousands of them only as recently as the 1970s. Quite a few were killed by the spears and the poison arrows of the Boni tribes people. Then, more recently, the Somali Shifta turned up, with their AK-47s, and the game changed entirely. Now there’s only a few hundred in that particular area.
There are places in Africa where the last few rhinos of their kind are under 24-hour armed guard. Men guarding animals, risking their lives, and losing. Some of the poorest people in the world, killed saving animals. It’s noble, but it’s not right.
I’ve always thought what a disaster it would be for our kids and their kids to have no elephant and rhino to see in the wild in the very near future. What if we made examples of poachers by making jewellery from their bones – and see how their families like it?
But I know it’s not as simple as that. The ivory and rhino horn trade is bigger money than ever, and the elephants and rhinos aren’t the only victims. On the few occasions someone caught poaching ends up in court, they’re not rich men. The big guys are always out of sight.
It’s not too late to do something, but it will be soon. The first step seems obvious. A ban on legal ivory. Everywhere ivory is sold legally in Asia, illegal ivory is hiding behind it. And that means more deaths on the African savannah – elephant, rhino and human.
It wasn’t so long ago that Chinese politicians stopped serving Shark Fin soup at state banquets. Already it’s going out of fashion, and the impact is felt around the world, straight away. They can do the same here.
David Cameron and Prince William have invited the Chinese, the Vietnamese and 50-odd more countries to London in February to find a resolution.
In the meantime, we need a holding position. Secure elephant sanctuaries will save the species. This is what Space for Giants does, but it’s expensive.
I hope the politicians do come, and I hope a solution is found. The alternative is heartbreaking.