30 December 2011

What do you see when you look over the Chada plains? Do you see more than a herd of elephants? Does this landscape give you a sense of satisfaction when you think of the protection wildlife enjoys in Africa’s national parks and reserves? If so, then you have a conservationist’s heart, and it is time for you to see more...

Read on with care, for this may be disturbing. If you do not wish to see the fate that befalls many of our wild animals at the hands of men, go no further. The lust for ivory and the greed that fuels the quest for it is nothing for the faint of heart to look upon.

But if you can’t bear to look, what can you possibly do to help?

Where does a lion go to hunt? Where the prey is, of course. And where does a man go to find ivory? He goes where the elephants are.

This is the body of a bull who was in his prime. He was shot 15 times. His face was taken off with an axe and a machete, because a third of an elephant’s tusk length is imbedded in his skull, and greed dictates that not an ounce of ivory is left behind.

Do you wonder where the rangers are? They are here, of that you can be sure. They are fighting this war every day. They are the reason you can visit our parks, the reason for the existence of what remains. They are the reason that only two elephants were killed from a herd of many. A poacher knows his shots may be heard, so he attacks swiftly and retreats into the vastness. He is a needle in a haystack.

For two weeks every month, each ranger lives in the bush, away from his post, sheltered by a rain poncho and subsisting on field rations. He spends his days standing guard over what he believes to be the future of his nation.


A ranger also fights an enemy he cannot see. Asian demand for ivory continues unabated. The tusks of this elephant will be carried on shoulders, bicycles, vehicles, boats and airplanes until they reach the ultimate buyer.

Through informant networks, the net closes around poaching rings, uncovering ivory shipments while more poachers step up to fill the void.

If you are a conservationist, next time you are on safari, remember to appreciate each idyllic scene with a deeper understanding of the price being paid to protect it. Every ranger you meet, at every park gate or airstrip, give him a nod and tell him “Thank you.”

Ranger in a swamp, returning from the scene

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