Allow me to introduce myself. My name is Elephant but you can call me Jumbo or Tusker if you like to be quaint. I am the largest mammal on land and my species is scattered throughout Sub-Saharan Africa, South Asia and South-East Asia.
One look at us and you’ll see we have several distinct features, the most notable one being a long trunk. We use this for many purposes, particularly breathing, lifting water and grasping objects.
Here’s a fun fact. If one of our own is stressed (yes, it happens to us too. It’s a jungle out here.), we caress him with our trunks for comfort. We are gentle giants. Our incisors grow into tusks and we use them as weapons, tools for moving objects and digging.
Our large earflaps help us to control body temperature. Only Dumbo was able to flap them and fly, but then again, he’s a cartoon character.
We have pillar like legs that carry our weight. We are herbivorous and can survive in different habitats including savannahs, forests, deserts and marshes. Lastly, we prefer to stay near water.
Now that we’re well acquainted, allow me to state my reason for writing to you humans. As it stands I am an endangered creature, to the detriment of the ecosystem and earth in general. As you continue to exploit wildlife and deplete our habitat, many of us have been left clinging to existence or gone extinct altogether. We do not want to go the way of the dodo. Today the rate of extinction is 100 to 1000 times faster than the natural rate of die-offs. I understand that you have a ban on the international trade in ivory, however, we are still being poached in masses. Tens of thousands of us are killed every year.
We realize that our glorious feature, our tusks, have you looking at us with dollar signs in your eyes, but to what end? Sure, they fetch you millions in currency, but do you really care that we have the right to live? Ivory tusks make up just one part of our body, which gets us killed and our entire body wasted. If we could, we would pluck them out and hand them over to you, just so that the killings can stop.
What’s worse is that most of you do not wait for us to die before you start the extraction, making it the most excruciating way to go. Does it make you happy to watch us die with indignity? How do you sleep at night after doing the dirty work for some bustard in high offices? We hope your cut is worth it.
You sneak into our habitat and find us living in harmony and before we know it, one of us has been killed. Poisoned arrows, spears, pangas, guns and rungus among others are weapons formed by you against us. Why don’t you reach into your humanity and look for other means of making money? Why does it have to be at our expense?
According to research, our tusks have no medicinal value as purported. We are losing our lives over myths. We’re more valuable to you alive than dead. Once we go extinct, then what? What is your game plan? At least when we live for thousands of years, we bring economical value from tourists. Think about that. We don’t mind having you watch us, just as long as we remain undisturbed. That way you can see us in our most natural state. It’s a win-win for everyone.
Some of you have organizations advocating for our rights and protection. While it sounds good on paper, have you really achieved what you set out to? I mean, we are still being killed in large numbers. Do you take advantage of us and make money for selfish reasons? Others have orphaned our babies in the name of conservation. We have a great memory and thus do not forget the devastation we go through when we go back to fetch our calves but can’t trace them.
Why are we still being poached when wardens watch us 24 hours a day? Trackers? Aerial surveillance? Tough talking leadership? Amended laws and penalties? What is the point? Would we be better off if we protected ourselves? Tens if not hundreds of us die every day and we are worried. The remaining 450000-700000 will be extinct in the next few years. Are you not concerned for the coming generations? If this does not stop, they will only read about us in history books.
We carry our offspring for close to two years only for you to snatch them from us. The other extreme is that we get killed and our babies are orphaned before they can lead life on their own. We understand that the human population is growing rapidly and this has increased the need for more cultivatable land. We do not have a problem with this. Instead of applying fatal pesticides on your crops, find better ways to redirect us. When we miss our way while visiting our long lost friends, be gentle and kind to us. Call KWS rangers who are trained to communicate with us, and a solution will be found. The famous human-wildlife conflict would be a thing of the past if we respected one other.
We watched Sudan breath his last just the other day. We do not want to go in that direction. If you stop poaching us, we will multiply in a few years and bring back the ‘elephant glory’. Rumor has it that our friends in Kenya are considering allowing trophy hunting. It’s fun to engage in a sport, however, if it involves killing us, then it is selfish. We urge you humans to respect our right to live. Let us be safe in our habitat. Let us die of old age. Let us take care of our babies, and most importantly, let us help you earn revenue through tourism. Think about the future.
Sincerely and on behalf of my species,
Until next time, keep travelling…
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Eliud Ndungu, a part-time adventure travel blogger who’s been exploring his motherland-Kenya for over 5 years.