An Elephant by the River

10 January 2011

This elephant died in Katavi on January 7th. We found her where she fell, shot in the shoulder. She was about 17 years old and as a member of a family group we can assume she was with other elephants who were also shot, or shot at. She managed to escape and make it as far as the tourism zone of the park, where maybe she knew she would be safer, but it was too late for her.

She must have traveled far, wounded and afraid, undoubtedly traumatised by what she had witnessed and experienced. Had she died near her attackers, they would have taken her tusks, but she still carried them with her as proof that the poachers did not get what they had come for.

When we went to tell the rangers, they already knew about it, pulling on boots and talking into cell phones and radios. Six TANAPA (Tanzania National Parks) vehicles descended into the central zone of Katavi. For two days their air patrols flew overhead, searching. The phrase needle in a haystack comes to mind, but there is more to be done than searching for men in the bush.

Ivory has to go somewhere. The market can be traceable, and through these networks it is sometimes possible to find out who is involved. For example, there sits in prison a powerful man who was the leader of a poaching ring last year. Appeals as high up as Parliament have gone out for his release, but these have been over-ruled and he still sits in his cell, so we are told. This is encouraging news, that the effort is being made to fight back...

However, for now, there still lies an elephant by the river...

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