The Independent’s Christmas appeal, supported by the Evening Standard, has helped raise hundreds of thousands of pounds to combat elephant poaching in Africa. Here Dr Max Graham, founder of Space for Giants, the charity chosen for our support, explains how the money will be spent
I was 16 when I had the good fortune to see my first African elephant. We were driving down a Kenyan track when out of nowhere appeared a six-tonne elephant 20 feet along the road.
Our driver slammed on the breaks and stalled the engine. The bull was unimpressed, charging towards us before stopping in a cloud of red dust, towering over the 4x4 vehicle.
For a moment he stared down at us, his ears wide and two large tusks glistening in the afternoon light. Then he suddenly turned sideways and vanished into the surrounding trees. I remember thinking, “Did that just happen?” For that is the thing about elephants: their size makes them difficult to comprehend. Even now, I am still in awe of them. But I am no longer afraid of elephants, as I was during that first encounter. Now I am afraid for them.
I have spent two decades studying the relationship between elephants and people and trying to implement ways these amazing species can continue to survive, even flourish, in the wild.
An elephant I had nicknamed Robinson was the first to be killed that I knew well. He was shot by poachers for his huge tusks in August 2011.
Within weeks, other elephants we had fitted with GPS collars, stopped moving, their broken, bloated, faceless bodies, given away by the presence of circling vultures. That is why I founded Space for Giants to work to protect those that remained.
It isn’t easy. Deterring armed, dangerous and determined criminals requires well trained anti-poaching teams. It also requires adequate laws, law enforcement and a well-informed and motivated judiciary.
However, elephants don’t just need security from poachers, they also need security from development. They need secure space.
For the last month you have helped make that possible. The Evening Standard’s inspirational support for the Elephant Appeal run by its sister paper, the Independent, has helped ensure that it is on course to be the most successful campaign in that newspaper’s history.
Hundreds of thousands of pounds have been raised — every penny of which will be spent directly on wildlife conservation projects in Africa. Already we can now train and support three new anti-poaching teams, dedicated to protecting Kenya’s northern elephants.
In addition, we can implement the training programmes that will build the capacity of the Kenyan judiciary to apply its new wildlife laws through the courts. The campaign will also enable us to support the establishment of a 65,000-acre wildlife conservancy and wildlife corridor.
We will continue to seek to raise funds but our focus will also shift to the UK government conference being held in London on February 13. Fifty heads of state have been invited from across Africa and Asia, to address the poaching crisis. We intend to campaign to ensure the most effective policies to achieve real, and rapid, change are actioned.
Thank you for supporting us through such generous donations. Now we hope you will add your voice to ours and join the battle to lobby for a future for the world’s remaining giants.
Please visit our campaign page for more information on our elephant appeal and how you can help.