It’s been 40 years since the last pan-African elephant census and so we conservationists have been playing a bit of a guessing game as to how Africa’s giants are really faring in terms of hard numbers. Just how bad were the declines and where are the problems greatest? That things were not looking good in the last ten years or so has been known for some time based on what information we do have from local censuses, but the great thing about the very ambitious Great Elephant Census project, led by elephant expert Dr Mike Chase and funded by Microsoft philanthropist Paul Allen, is that it’s given us a really comprehensive picture of what’s happening to African savannah elephants for the first time.
Read the full report here if you like. I’ve tried to summarise the main points below.
The news is not good, even if not unexpected. African savannah elephant populations have declined by 30% between 2007 and 2014, equal to almost 145,000 elephants. A total of 352, 271 elephants were counted in the 18 countries surveyed, representing 93% of elephant range. This means that, when you factor in Namibia’s roughly 20,000 elephants that were not included, and consider the possible other 7%, there could be only around 400,000 savannah elephants left. That’s very much at the lower end of the bracket that we thought the population was. This figure doesn’t include the forest elephants of central and west Africa that are much more under threat and are still being counted. It’s much harder to get a hold on numbers in countries like the Congo and Central African Republic which have unstable political regimes. The rate of decline shown by the census is 8%, which is a very big worry and certainly unsustainable, given that the natural growth rate of elephants is about 5%.
I’m amazed that the IUCN still hasn’t listed forest elephants as a separate species to the savannah elephants of Africa, many years after the DNA studies showed this to be the case. These conservation cogs are turning far too slowly as separating the species would afford forest elephants better protection if they were officially recognised as Endangered. At the moment they are still lumped in with savannah elephants, classified as Vulnerable by the IUCN. A new study has just revealed that forest elephants breed more slowly than savannah elephants, with females starting to breed at the age of 23, compared to savannah elephant females at age 12-13. Forest elephant females have a calf an average of every 5-6 years, compared to every 3-4 years for savannah elephants. And the forest species are in some of the hardest hit poaching areas in central and western Africa. Surely it’s time to put some pressure on before these unique elephants are gone.
So what countries have been hardest hit and which ones are doing okay? The map below gives a fair idea. In red are the places were elephants are seriously declining and in green is where they are increasing.
This census has highlighted some areas that we didn’t know were under such serious threat, like the south-western corner of Zambia, where elephants have been almost obliterated right under our noses (95% according to the study), and right next to the prime tourism area of the Okavango Delta in Botswana. These elephants and those in the Congo and and northern Cameroon face imminent extinction. Absolutely shocking. The limited human activity (both tourists and researchers) in the Sioma Ngwezi National Park in south-west Zambia probably has a lot to do with the massive decline there. Central and west Africa remain major hot spots for poaching and haven’t been fully covered by the census to date (that information is still to come).
As for Tanzania, the Serengeti elephants are doing okay, but across the rest of the country elephants are in serious decline. Tanzania and Mozambique remain major hotspots for poaching, having both lost about half of their elephants to poachers in 5 years up to 2015. The census also revealed that poaching in Angola is very severe, a terrible shame as it was hoped that this country would provide a refuge for elephants coming across the border from neighbouring countries with large elephant populations as part of the KAZA Transfrontier Conservation Area.
In good news for elephants, look at the green areas where elephant populations are increasing, including Kafue National Park in Zambia, Kruger National Park in South Africa, Save Valley Conservancy and Gonarezhou NP in Zimbabwe, and parks in Uganda and Kenya. Increases were documented in populations of elephants in the conservation area spanning the west African countries of Benin, Niger and Burkina Faso as well, which is encouraging. Botswana still has the vast majority of elephants in Africa, with a stable population of about 130,000 elephants, followed by Zimbabwe with about 80,000 elephants.
So where does this leave elephants? Well the data is powerful and now it must lead to action to ensure populations that are stable or increasing continue to be built up, and those under major threat are protected as a matter of global urgency. Lend your support to organisations behind this cause like African Parks and Elephants Without Borders and also those leading the fight to stop the poaching on the ground with anti-poaching teams like the Big Life Foundation. Stopping the demand for ivory remains key to ensuring that elephants have a future. Get behind organisations like WildAid, a partner of our awareness campaign Let Elephants Be Elephants in Asia. This is going to be a joint effort so get on board!
Names like Ngorongoro and Serengeti are world famous, and recently on a journey there with 9 lovely folks from Singapore, I got the chance to see why. The northern part of Tanzania is part of the Greater Mara-Serengeti ecosystem, so if you’ve been to the Maasai Mara in Kenya, that’s just over the border from where this safari took place.
The Serengeti really does have to be seen to be believed. I think we did have unbelievably good luck to see a rare female black-rhino and calf in the scrub, but relatively out in the open, but when on the same afternoon, a young male leopard crawled out of his resting place up high in a tree at sunset and proceeded to walk in front of our open Land Cruiser, I just about fell out of the car. Leopards are always elusive and when you get to see one up close, it’s really something special. And this fellow was posing on a boulder like he was on Australia’s Got Talent!
But I’m jumping ahead. First we visited Ngorongoro, the famous conservation area, which is actually a huge volcanic caldera surrounded by mountains. It’s not a huge area to cross, and you can cover much of it in a day. The main feature of course is vast grasslands on which live thousands of white-bearded wildebeests and common zebras, along with both Grants and Thomsons gazelles, warthogs and Cape Buffaloes. Elephants live in the woodlands near the mountains, and move across the grasslands.
Set against the backdrop of the white salt pan, which at the time of our visit contained hundreds of bright pink flamingoes, the sheer number of animals in every direction is just spectacular. This is a public park of course, so you have to expect lots of other vehicles when you find the lions mating (which we did – about 20 of them lined up to watch the very fleeting act of feline ooh-lala). But here we also saw something you don’t see very often, a spotted hyaena making a kill of a young wildebeest right in front of the vehicle!
We stayed at the brand new Asilia Africa camp, The Highlands, which is 100% solar powered and has just been described by Forbes magazine as the coolest and most eco-friendly camp in Africa. I have to agree – it’s a beautiful camp and the rooms with their architecturally designed shapes and inside fire places are just gorgeous. The view of the surrounding mountains is spectacular. This camp is an alternative to the main lodges at Ngorongoro that offers privacy and something a little bit different, and best of all, it’s a community partnership with the local Maasai, so every night you stay gives back directly to the local people.
It’s a wonderful experience to visit the local Maasai village while you’re staying there (a truly authentic experience, away from the main tourist throngs). A warning though, it is very cold at The Highlands in winter so you really do need to bring your winter woollies! Also at 7500 feet, most people do feel some effects from the altitude (most commonly being a bit short of breath when walking).
Next it was onto the Serengeti and a 3 night stay at Asilia’s gorgeous Sayari Camp. For me and my group this was the highlight. On our first afternoon it was the rhinos and the leopard. The next day it was what we had come there to see, the Great Migration, and in particular the crossings of the wildebeest over the Mara River. We were not disappointed. The photos don’t do it justice. It was drama, tension and adrenaline. I swore out loud on more than one occasion as a young wildebeest drifted down river past the bloated corpses of dozens of wildebeest that didn’t make it, while vultures and marabou storks pierced their stinking bodies with sharp beaks. It took some time before the wildebeest decided to actually cross, as if they knew the danger involved, and more than once we watched them turn back, and then return to the river, in what seemed to me a game of follow the leader, even though it was never clear who was in charge of that decision. When they finally did cross, those who made it had to scramble up the steep bank on the other side, over the bodies of many wildebeest that had already perished or become paralysed. If the crocodiles were there, they were nowhere to be seen, clearly satiated and feeling far too full to eat another wildebeest (we all know that feeling after Christmas dinner). Everyone in my group was mesmerised and I think also a little overwhelmed by all the casualties. Everyone cheered each time a young wildebeest made it out of the river. You can’t help getting caught up in it all.
The days that followed brought more and more animals – elephants, lions in huge prides (these are the best studied lions in Africa), impalas, topi, hippos, cheetahs…. By night, the noises of animals wandering through camp made it disappointing to fall asleep – hyaenas, zebras, hippos and wildebeest sounds all rang out through the evening. By the last day of the safari, my group all said they couldn’t ask for more. One decided to sit by the pool, and let me tell you, that doesn’t happen often in a week long safari! Usually there is just one more thing you want to see…. And of course there is always more to see because Africa always surprises you, just when you think you’ve seen it all. On our last morning, a few of us who went out got to see two gorgeous little lion cubs, part of a pride of 24, and then a lioness scaled a tree, something I’ve heard about that happens in this part of the world but had never seen. Usually lions don’t climb trees, but some of the lions in Tanzania have developed this habit.
I can’t wait to go back to Tanzania again. It was simply out of this world. If you’d like to join me on my safari there next August, I have only got 2 places left. Get in touch now if you want to experience this once in a lifetime journey!
More details on my safari to Tanzania are available here. Please note that my Rwanda journey for 2017, trekking with mountain gorillas is now sold out as these book out over a year in advance, but I still have one room available for 2 people sharing for Tanzania.
Announcing my Botswana safari for 2017 is now available for you to join! This is an exclusive safari for just 8 people with me, combining the World Heritage wetlands and wildlife fiesta of the Okavango Delta, the elephant-rich woodlands of the Khwai region and the Makgadigadi Pan among the San Bushmen. It’s 7 nights in one of the world’s last great wildernesses and a safari not to be missed if you love animals and Africa at its wildest!
As with all my safaris, we’ve focused on ethical safari camps that make a difference, but also keeping to the highest standard, especially when it comes to the wildlife experience. On my last Botswana safari, my group were blown away by how much wildlife we saw at close range, including lion after lion after lion, tonnes of elephants (Botswana has the largest elephant population in Africa), spotted hyaena pups at a den, African wild dogs stalking a giraffe, cheetah, baby impalas…. We were there then in the low season (green season) but this time we’re going just after the Okavango floods so we will see the wetlands in all their glory! Take a look at the amazing shots from my 2014 safari to Botswana here. As with all the safaris I personally lead, I’ll be talking through the animal behaviours and conservation issues as we go along, and there are always great conversations by the campfire after a day out in the bush.
Here’s the itinerary for June 2017:
You will make your way from wherever you are in the world to Maun, Botswana, where the safari starts and ends. International flights are not included in the price, but all internal flights and transfers from the start of the safari in Maun to the end in Maun are included, as are all activities, meals, drinks, conservation and park fees.
June 16: Light aircraft charter to Khwai area, staying at the community-owned Khwai Camp for 2 nights among the elephants in the mopane woodlands. (NB. This camp has just changed hands so the new website is coming soon, but for those in the know it was previously on my itinerary in 2014. For full details of the camp, contact me for the itinerary. Suffice to say it is in awesome part of the Okavango with tonnes of elephants!!)
June 18: Light aircraft charter from Khwai area to Pelo Camp for 2 nights, to experience the wetlands for which the Okavango is famous. Here we will try out a mokoro (wooden dugout canoe) to see the wildlife up close on the water.
June 20: Light aircraft charter from Pelo Camp to Maun, followed by 1 hour road transfer to Meno a Kwena Camp, where we will overnight for 3 nights. Experience traditional life on a walk with the Bushmen, watch the elephants and other wildlife drinking at the river in front of camp (including at a floating hide on the Boteti River!), and see desert-adapted wildlife in the Makgadigadi Pans National Park or the Central Kalahari Game Reserve, both within easy reach of the camp. We can even do a sleep out on bedrolls in the park if you like! Click here for more on Meno a Kwena Camp & activities.
June 23: Return to Maun by 1 hour road transfer for your international flight out.
Only 8 people can come on this safari with me as I am limited by room availability, so please register your interest ASAP!
Price is US$5900/person sharing. The price goes down to US$5750/person if you bring a friend to share your room! Note this includes almost everything other than your international flights. You will need to keep some money aside for souvenirs and tips, but there are no visa entry fees for Botswana. Single supplement for those who want their own room is possible.
What more could you want from an African safari? I’d love to have you along with me on this magical journey into the heartland of Africa’s elephants, Botswana, in June 2017. Contact me for the full itinerary now and register your interest!
Today to commemorate World Elephant Day, here’s a few of my favourite elephant photos in celebration of this amazing animal… In about a week’s time I’m going to be announcing my next safari in Africa – and it’s in the home of the world’s largest population of elephants…. Can you guess where it might be?
Now I’m off to the Serengeti to see if I can find some elephants to celebrate in person…. Apparently there’s the odd wildebeest and zebra come to town too for one of the biggest migrations on the planet. Back real soon…. Happy World Elephant Day! Share this with someone else who loves elephants.
There are some parts of Africa that remove you so completely from reality that you start to wonder whether all that stuff that fills your life with worries in the ‘outside’ world really matters much. Serra Cafema Camp, in the Marienfluss Conservancy, is such a place, where traditional Himba people still live a life that is much like what it was several hundred years ago, where a river teeming with crocodiles slices through gothic mountains surrounded by sand dunes, where you can really find yourself by losing yourself in landscapes so primitive you can’t help but feel humbled. There’s no phone range or wifi up here so you can leave all that behind. And you know what – you probably won’t miss it one bit. It’s all about disconnecting to reconnect, as Wilderness Safaris puts it. This is the ultimate escape and a huge adventure.
Here’s my photos of one of my favourite parts of truly wild Africa, our escape to the most remote part of the land that God forgot, as promised in last week’s blog.
How does one summarise a week in Namibia’s rugged Kunene region, one of the wildest parts of Africa? It was just one wow moment after another! There was the cheetah mother with two cubs who killed a springbok male in the dry Hoanib River bed, the chameleon laying eggs at the Skeleton Coast, the drive through the dunes to the violent Atlantic Ocean where hundreds of seals frolicked in the crashing waves, meeting the traditional Himbas in Marienfluss Conservancy and of course, the desert lions (with cubs!) and desert-dwelling elephants…. And then there is those epic landscapes, so huge and awe-inspiring that you feel so small and incredibly humbled by it all.
It’s hard to sum up north west Namibia in one blog because it’s so much more than a holiday – it’s a life changing experience and a grand adventure! I think the photos tell the story so let’s start with that…. This week I’m sharing a few of my pictures from the Hoanib River and Skeleton Coast. Next week stay tuned for photos from Serra Cafema in the Marienfluss Conservancy, home to the Himba people. Hoanib Skeleton Coast Camp is a joint venture between Wilderness Safaris and local people in three conservancies, Sesfontein, Anabeb and Torra. Matson & Ridley Safaris also made a donation to the Giraffe Conservation Foundation from this safari. I want to thank Helen, Chuan Fong, Patricia, Maggie, Jo, Leonie, Tristan and Carina for being such intrepid desert adventurers and great company, and I really hope we meet again by the campfire soon.
CITES’ latest report on the results of the MIKE (Monitoring the Illegal Killing of Elephants) programme has some good news in it for elephant populations and some not so good. The overall number of elephants being killed for ivory has stabilised, after a peak in 2011, but there are still more elephants killed every year than are born (see BBC story).
In Kenya, things appear to be looking up, especially in Tsavo National Park, with an overall decline in poaching reported. Well done Kenya! It hasn’t been an easy few years for Kenya, with the ecotourism industry hard hit by unfounded fears of ebola (which never came close to the country) and a couple of terrible terrorist attacks, but nonetheless their commitment to turn things around for elephants appears to be paying dividends.
Of concern however is the upward trend in poaching in the world famous Kruger National Park, and a couple of other southern African sites including Chewore, Zimbabwe. In southern Africa, poaching levels are still well below the sustainability threshold, but the upward trend is of concern, especially as this part of the world is considered a real refuge for elephants.
Central and West Africa continue to be of serious concern, with poaching levels still well above the sustainability threshold for elephant populations. Read the full report here.
So overall, I think this latest CITES report suggests the great efforts made in recent years, at all ends of the spectrum from demand reduction to anti-poaching, are making a difference in some places, but it’s definitely not the time to be complacent.
What about rhinos? The recent report by IUCN showing that overall poaching across Africa for rhinos is at its highest since 2008 shows that poaching is by no means slowing down across Africa for other thick-skinned large mammals either. The South African government recently reported that rhino poaching was down in South Africa in 2015 compared to the previous year, albeit by a very small number (about 40). The big picture outlined in the IUCN report just out suggests the fight must go on if rhinos are to have a future in the wild.
Why go on fighting this battle? Lots of reasons, but a big one is that it IS possible to win.
I take heart from countries like earthquake-hit Nepal, which has had ZERO poaching of its greater one-horned rhinos in three of the past five years. Part of their success in conservation following the civil war (which took a hard toll on wildlife) is reported to be their tough penalties on poaching and a streamlined judicial process dealing with offences.
And then there is Uganda, which has seen its elephant population increase 600% from 700-800 in the 1980s to over 5000 in 2015. These countries demonstrate that it is possible to turn things around; and that political will and hard line processes are key to success. It’s amazing what can happen when governments take this problem seriously.
Happy new year and here’s hoping your year has lots of inspiration and adventures of the African kind in it!
To kick off 2016 with a resounding trumpet we’d like to share the exciting news that Matson & Ridley Safaris’ new website matsonridley.com is now live! For a dose of inspiration and some ideas on your next African adventure, please take a look and share it with your friends.
Matson & Ridley Safaris has been a labour of love of Andy’s and mine for the last two and a bit years, and we’re delighted that many of you have already been on not one but two safaris with us, as well as signing up for more in the future. I think this is a sign that we’re on the right track with the life-changing experiences in Africa that we’re offering.
You can read some of the feedback we’ve had from guests on our safaris on our Testimonials page. The overwhelming feedback we get is that people love the fact that they’re not just having an amazing experience on our safaris, they’re also learning a lot while there, very importantly, able to also give back while on holiday, and to see their positive contribution with your own eyes. You can read more about the conservation projects we support on our Conservation page.
We are learning, growing and passionate about continuing to provide incredible safaris that make a difference to Namibia, South Africa, Zimbabwe, Botswana, Kenya, Tanzania and Rwanda (and open to any others you suggest to us!). Check out our Safaris page to learn more about the destinations we tailor safaris to. Life is short and there’s so much to explore!
Our family safaris are growing increasingly popular, so if you’re interested to learn more about taking your precious treasures on the trip of a lifetime check out our Family Safaris page. There are great deals available with discounted rates for kids.
If you’ve had a great safari with us, please let your friends know about us and help us grow our business into one that can really make a difference in conservation. Go on – take a moment for an Africa fix – matsonridley.com is now live!
Ever dreamed of getting up close to endangered Mountain Gorillas? This has always been on my ‘wish list’ to do one day, ever since I read Dian Fossey‘s ‘Gorillas In The Mist’. Such close relatives to us, I really can’t imagine what it will be like to be eye to eye with wild gorillas, but I imagine it will feel a lot like meeting a long lost family member!
I’ve also always wanted to see the Great Migration in the Serengeti, and the famous Ngorogoro Crater, focusing on the time of year when the wildebeest herds are crossing the croc-infested rivers. It must feel like you’re in the cradle of humankind when you experience animals in the kind of numbers that the Serengeti is known for. I can’t imagine the wow factor when you’ve got all those animals around you and it’s not a David Attenborough documentary!
As always with my personally-led safaris, I’ve chosen the camps and safari operators to maximise our positive impacts, which means that your safari is as good as a donation to charity. Responsible tourism is all about supporting local communities, because this is what keeps poaching at bay. You will pay more on one of my safaris, but that’s because we are giving back directly to local communities and wildlife. Your contribution goes right to the ground where it’s needed most, supporting local economies based on wildlife. I’ll be with you sharing zoological and conservation insights, along with our local guides, and we can expect the very best standards from the operators I work with. You also get the added benefit of having experts in wildlife conservation come and talk to us about their work in the areas I take my groups, something I arrange personally.
In August 2017, I’m offering two amazing journeys back to back, first to Rwanda to see the Mountain Gorillas and then to Tanzania for Ngorogoro and the Serengeti. You can do either one, or both, with me, and if you like you can add on an additional few days at Mount Kilimanjaro, exploring the foothills of this magnificent part of the Great Rift Valley. This is a dream safari – both of them are actually – so get in touch with me if you’re interested at this stage as I’m taking a list. I’ll be taking deposits to secure places early next year (and hoping for an improvement in the Aussie dollar next year for my Aussie friends who want to join).
Mountain Gorilla Conservation Safari, Rwanda
“Eye to eye with gorillas… this is a journey that will touch your soul”
Dates: 7-12 August 2017
Group size: 10
Max price: US$5650 per person sharing
7 August – Arrival and transfer to Kigali Serena Hotel
8 August – Transfer to Sabinyo Silverback Lodge via a visit to the Genocide Memorial Museum.
9 & 10 August – Gorilla trekking. Overnight at Sabinyo Silverback Lodge.
11 August – Trek to see the Golden Monkeys, prior to transfer to Kigali Serena Hotel.
12 August – Transfer to Kigali Airport for flight out.
Includes 2 x official gorilla permits (US$750). Almost everything is included in the price other than your international return flight. For full itinerary and inclusions contact me here.
Why did I choose Sabinyo?
Sabinyo is Rwanda’s first ever community owned lodge. This counts for a huge amount because when local communities are owners – not just employees – they have a genuine incentive to want to conserve their natural heritage supporting the economy. This is the best kind of conservation you can get. The lodge was built by the Governors Camp Collection in collaboration with the African Wildlife Foundation and the International Gorilla Conservation Program to provide income to fund development in the local community and conserve the endangered Mountain Gorilla. Read more on the positive impact your stay at Sabinyo will have here.
Tanzania Conservation Safari
Dates: 11-17 August
(NB. for those doing the Rwandan safari too, their Tanzania safari starts on 12th and at reduced price as they don’t do the first night at Machweo, but fly direct from Kigali to Ngorogoro)
Maximum Price: US$6850 per person sharing
11 August: Collection from Kilimanjaro Airport and transfer to Machweo Wellness Retreat for overnight stay
12 August: Collection from Machweo and drop off at Arusha Airport for your flight to The Highlands, Ngorogoro Crater, followed by afternoon community visit.
13 August: Full day game drive into Ngorogoro Crater. Opportunity to visit the Empakaai crater and climb the Olmoti crater. Good chance to see wildebeest, zebra, gazelles, ostrich, cheetah and flamingoes.
14 August: Transfer from The Highlands to Kimondo Camp, where we will stay for 3 nights, enjoying the spectacle of the Great Migration right on our doorstep.
17 August: Transfer to local airstrip for flight to Kilimanjaro Airport.
All internal local flights, meals and drinks, luxury accommodation and transfers are included in the price, along with park and conservation fees.
Optional Add On:
Dates: 17-19 August
Price: US$1600/person sharing
17 August: Fly from Kimondo Camp to Shu’mata Camp at the foothills of Mount Kilimanjaro and spend some time exploring this beautiful region. This camp is linked to the Momella Foundation. 2 night stay.
19 August: Return transfer to local airport for your flight to Kilimanjaro Airport.
Why did I choose these camps?
Firstly, they are in the best areas for us to experience a private and outstanding wildlife experience during the Great Migration. There’s nothing worse than lining up behind a dozen minivans at a cheetah kill, which is unfortunately what you get if you go to the reserves in peak season in East Africa. With my groups, I opt for exclusivity and the optimum wildlife viewing experiences, in a safe pair of hands. My ground operator for this outstanding safari is Asilia, which I know I can rely on to provide excellent service, beautiful boutique style tented accommodation and local guides with an intimate knowledge the local wildlife. On top of that, Asilia is a company known for what it gives back to local communities, which directly supports conservation. Read more about Asilia’s positive local impacts here.
Contact me to register your interest in either one (or both!) of these safaris now and I look forward to sharing this amazing adventure with you!
One of the most enjoyable things I get to do as a zoologist is talk to kids about elephants. Kids give you instant feedback. There are no inhibitions, just a whole lot of questions, and when it comes to elephants, frankly, kids just get it. You don’t have to convince children to appreciate and want to conserve animals. They simply don’t understand why you wouldn’t want to. I get questions like, “Why don’t people do something else to get money other than kill elephants?”, “Why don’t we just leave the elephants to be in the wild?”, and “Why do people buy ivory instead of some other kind of jewellery?” All brilliant, simple questions that make you wonder why we grown ups are such damned idiots. The kids of today will inherit the legacy of our action – or inaction – and we need to remember that.
What happens to us as we grow up? Do we forget how much we loved animals as kids? Other things become more important, and the magic of the animal world becomes secondary to earning a living, buying the latest iPhone and upgrading the family car. I’m not criticising. As a mother of two, I know how tough it is to make ends meet and raise a young family. But every so often, I’m lucky enough to get a reality check by the young people who attend my talks on elephants, who remind me, as my own kids often do, what’s really important.
Many people don’t understand why elephants are so vital to conserve, why they’re considered a ‘keystone’ species in ecosystems. It’s not only because they are naturally the ‘gardeners’ of the forests and savannahs, having a major role in shaping habitats, they are also integral in dispersing and germinating seeds, and providing other animals with food and water and salt. A recent study also showed reptile and frog diversity is higher in areas with high elephant activity. They matter ecologically. Their dung is like pure rich fertiliser and is a great food source in itself for many animals (because much of what they eat is undigested). The habitats elephants live in would look completely different without them there. And of course, there is the intrinsic value of elephants. What would the world be without them? The deserve to be here as much as we do!
I’ve just returned from a whirlwind week of talks on elephants in Singapore and Melbourne where the importance of conserving elephants has been a key topic. I combined the Round Square Conference (hosted by United World College, Singapore) for 1000+ high school kids and their teachers from all around the world, with about 400 passionate Aussies marching at the Global March for Elephants and Rhinos in Melbourne, and snuck in a session talking elephants at the Singapore Botanical Gardens and a showing of the LEBE film at the University of Melbourne (hosted by A Future With Elephants) while I was at it. Here’s a few photos showing the highlights.
Special thanks to Belinda Duffield-Torr who helped fund my visit to Melbourne and organised the Melbourne March, Susan Edwards and the amazing team from UWC who arranged for me to be one of the speakers at the Round Square conference, Mandy Heng, Vilma d’Rozario and Winnie Wong who made my talk at the Singapore Botanical Gardens happen, and Evan Bitner for organising the film showing by A Future With Elephants. Thanks to everyone who showed up and added their two bobs worth to the discussions!
One of the most inspiring things of the week for me was when two small boys, aged 7 and 9, presented me with a cheque for our LEBE campaign. Sammy, the younger of the two, had been to my talk on elephants at his school, UWC in Singapore, about a year ago, and had been so inspired to help that he raised $500 among his family and friends! This is the sort of thing that makes me believe that wildlife has a future in the world and it just goes to show that anyone can do something for wildlife. You don’t need to be a pro!
If you’re interested in having me as a speaker about elephants at your school/business/club, please get in touch with me here.