Monthly Archives: February 2013

Battle for the Elephants Episodes

National Geographic’s  “Battle for the Elephants”  premiered last night on PBS. For those who missed the showing, or who watched it and desire to share parts with family or friends who were unable to tune in, check out these 3-5  minute episode releases:


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Breaking News from WWF

WWF submitted the petition to the Prime Minster of Thailand earlier today with over half a million signatures from 200+ countries around the world, asking Thailand to ban the ivory trade. Read details here.

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Elephant Awareness

How do you raise awareness on the issue of the ivory trade?

This weekend I traveled home. It gave me the opportunity to share my passion for elephants and the dire predicament they are currently in due to poaching. I shared teaser videos from National Geographic’s upcoming series “Battle for the Elephants” that is airing on PBS  this upcoming Wednesday evening (check your local listings for time and be sure to tune in!) We discussed how politicians like Hillary Clinton and actors like Leonardo DiCaprio are getting involved with the fight to save elephants. And over beers at a local brew pub we debated on why EVERYONE should care about this issue, not just the “animal lovers and tree huggers.” I wasn’t sure if they were engaging because they really cared, or just because I really care and they are my family. But then, this happened.


We had just finished cheering on my husband as he ran a 50K entitled “Elephant Mountain Run.” (It had nothing to do with elephants, but it was serendipitous!) To celebrate his success (he finished 3rd!) we went out for lunch. As we left, my Dad noticed a sign and said, “Weren’t we just talking about this? Look at this sign!”

No one could believe how just days earlier we were talking about this issue, debating whether or not it had an impact on our lives here so far away from Africa. Then the topic was reinforced by this poster, that they may not have otherwise even noticed.

So have you shared the poaching crisis with your family? With your friends? Why not start by showing some of the posts from this blog to them. And tune in to the documentary on Wednesday evening. Ask your friends and family on Facebook and Twitter to LIKE/FOLLOW Elephantopia and other organizations supporting the demise of the ivory trade. Together, we can kill the trade that kills elephants.

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Happy Elephants: Happy Weekend!

Check out these happy elephants from the International Fund for Animal Welfare. Hope this brings a smile to your face and that you “join the herd” to protect these magnificent animals!

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For the Love of Elephants

????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????It is extremely encouraging to see so many high-profile people speaking out against poaching and the use of ivory. Some of our favorite articles, videos and pictures from celebrities are below. We hope this may inspire you to take a stand against the ivory trade by sharing this blog with your friends to help spread public awareness on the issue, or by sending a letter to your local government urging them take action in this crisis. For Americans, consider signing this letter to John Kerry, our current Secretary of State.

1. Hillary Clinton whose “goal is to inform more people about this global conservation crisis.” Her daughter Chelsea Clinton, NBC News Special Correspondent, has produced two reports on the ivory trade. Her goal, much like her mother’s, is to spread awareness about the threatening levels of elephant poaching in East Africa. By clicking on either link, you can see some great photos and watch short clips from CBS and NBC.

2. Yao Ming, China’s most widely known public figures, is committed to spreading awareness among Chinese about the need to stop purchasing ivory products. His goal is to “eliminate the demand for rhino horn and ivory right at the source.”

theme-education-action-dicaprio3. Leonardo DiCaprio has teamed up with International Fund for Animal Welfare to lead an anti-poaching campaign called “Elephants Never Forget.”  He says, “In the past century, the number of elephants in the wild has declined by 50 per cent. Their disappearance could devastate ecosystems and have a lasting impact on the biodiversity of our planet. I hope this program will inspire and empower you to help protect elephants worldwide.”

4. Kristin Davis has a campaign to adopt orphaned elephants


which she shared on Oprah. She says getting involved with the elephant orphanage has opened her eyes. “I think it gave me more respect than I even would have ever dreamt of having for their entire being and how important it is for us to care for their world, as well…It’s such a sad commentary that animals would be becoming extinct because we’re thoughtless. It’s so awful.” Recently, she was interviewed on MSNBC with Alex Wagner .

Do you know of any celebrities or leaders who should be added to the list? Let us know so we can give these people a shout out!


Thrilled to see NBA Cares partnering with WildAid. New York Knicks all-star center Tyson Chandler says,

I am proud to team up with NBA Cares and WildAid to raise awareness about the illegal trade of wildlife products and wildlife conservation…It is my hope that together we can encourage people to stop buying and ultimately stop poaching.

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An Elephant Expedition: Asia

Part II of my dream trip: to visit the elephants of the world! Next stop, Asia. These elephants are sacred to many Asian cultures, worshiped for centuries. Unfortunately, they are often exploited. This elephant plays a key role in both the culture and religion in Asia, and is also a key biological species to the tropical forests of Asia. Check out some of these interesting facts:

The scientific name of the species is Elephas maximus. They are considered endangered, with a remaining population of only 25,600-32,750. Although there are many thousands of Asian elephants domesticated in Southeast Asia, the number in the wild is rapidly shrinking.

There are also subspecies of the Elephas maximus:

© Shah / WWF

  • Sumatran elephants (elephas maximus sumatranus) - the smallest of all Asian elephants, critically endangered with only 2500 left.
  • Indian elephant (elephas maximus indicus) - important cultural icon in India, unfortunately only 27,000 left
  • Sri Lankan elephant (elephas maximus maximus) - because there are only between 3-4,000 left in the wild, they are under the FFPO protection act and killing one carries the death penalty.
  • Borneo Pygmy Elephant (elephant maximus or sometimes elephas maximus borneesis) - rare with only 1500 left. Recently popular in the news.

The Asian elephant is the largest terrestrial mammal in Asia, although it is smaller than the African elephant. They have small ears which they use to keep cool, and only a single “finger” on the upper lip of the trunk. They have very developed hearing, vision and olfaction, and are also great swimmers (link to a cute video of one swimming in the ocean). Many adult males are tuskless, and the percentage of males with ivory tusks varies greatly by region (5% in Sri Lanka to 90% in south India - this may be due to the intensity of poaching).

Asian elephants are very social creatures, forming groups of 6-7 related females, led by the matriarch. Occasionally, these groups join to form herds, but this is not very common. You will find these animals near fresh water as they need to drink at least once a day and they spend two-thirds of their time feeding on grasses, tree bark, roots, leaves and small stems. Their favorite snacks? Bananas, rice and sugarcane. Unfortunately, finding these cultivated goodies often leads to human-elephant conflict. Originally their range was from Iraq and Syria to the Yellow River in China. Now however, they can only be found from India to Vietnam, with a very small population in the southwest of China’s Yunnan Province. MOre than 100,000 Asian elephants may have existed at the start of the 1900s. Today, that number is estimated to have fallen by at least 50%.

© Alain Compost / WWF-Canon

Why are these animals endangered? Habitat loss posses the greatest threat. Competition for living space and habitat fragmentation due to large project developments (like roads, pipelines, etc) disrupt natural elephant migratory routes and food sources. Unfortunately, most national parks and reserves where elephants occur are too small to accommodate a viable elephant population. And the use of forested areas for agricultural have increased the human-elephant conflict, with up to 300 people being killed by elephants in India each year.

Besides loss of habitat, Asian elephants are also under threat from poaching. People in north-east India enjoy eating elephant meat and in Thailand ivory trade is NOT illegal (sign the petition to change this!)

Want to make a difference? Start by clicking on the photo below. It’s time to KillTheTrade.
(Photos and information reposted from WWF)
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Posing as Poachers

This video  is part two of a series National Geographic is airing on PSB this Feb. 27. Catch up with the previous 4 minute clip here.

Undercover journalist Aldan Hartley poses as an ivory buyer in Dar es Salaam where selling ivory is illegal. However big money can be made in this criminal activity. For just 4 tusks, the seller Hartley meets wants $4000, and in China, these 4 tusks will sell for over $40,000. Currently in China there are 137 government designated shops selling ivory, most of which is illegal.

Follow Hartley on his journey as an “ivory trader,” exploring the world of illegal animal trade, as dangerous if not more so, than the narcotic trade.

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Meet Naipoki: A Journey from Thought to Action


My last blog, Why Should I Care, listed various reasons WHY the poaching crisis matters. Now I want to share WHAT people like you and me can do about it.

Two years ago I was introduced to the subject of human trafficking. I’m not sure exactly how, but the realization that humans are being traded for sex and money disgusted me. I began telling my friends and family about this modern day slave trade, called & wrote to congress to pass TVPR S. 1301 (Trafficking Victims Protection Act), and blogged about it on my tumblr page. I supported victim rehabilitation through Love146 and Women of Vision Houston, and hosted a morning of prayer at my church. I have a strong sense of justice and am very disturbed when the powerless are exploited.

Around this same time, I also heard about the David Sheldrick Wildlife Trust.

Again, I’m not exactly sure how, but the realization that elephants (my all time favorite animals) were being senselessly destroyed for ivory (which only illicets funds for terrorism, human trafficking & the drug trade all of which negatively impact the lives of fellow human beings) moved me to action. To support Naipoki. I asked to sponsor her for my birthday present. It wasn’t a huge commitment (you can sponsor for as little as $50 USD a year) but it had huge dividends with all the proceeds going towards the care, feeding & rehabilitation of elephants, as well as the keepers costs and training. In return, I was sent a beautifully painted watercolor of the orphaned elephants, monthly updates on the Trust and particular updates on Naipoki.

Then last year, I had the opportunity to meet her.I was traveling to Kenya on a vision eye clinic trip (we ran clinics in Oloitokitok where we served over 1800 people in 5 days). On the way back to Nairobi, we stopped by the Trust during viewing hours. And I saw her. I picked Naipoki out before they even named her.

And then she walked up to me. The keepers said I could touch her if she approached. She did, not just once, but twice. My hands were caked with the mud from her recent romp, and my eyes were teary with joy. It was an unforgettable moment (much like this one).

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I know that I can’t change the world. I can’t right all the wrongs. But I can make a difference for one. If everyone had that attitude, what sort of change might we see?

So what can you do? Sponsor an ellie. Or sign the petition to ban ivory in Thailand to save Africa’s elephants. Or tell your friends and family about this blog, raising public awareness. Or make art like Joshua Spies to share your passion. Or come up with creative ways to make a positive difference like Richard Turere. Or teach others like Celia Ho. The possibilities are endless. But it’s time to take the first step towards change.IMG_4205

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Happy Weekend!

Hope you have as great of a weekend as this ellie is having! Cheers!

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An Elephant Expedition: Africa

I love to travel. The excitement of new sights, sounds, smells and tastes are worth the hassle of airport security and packing. In the less than thirty years I’ve been walking on this earth, I’ve had the privilege to travel to six of the seven continents, visiting at least fifteen countries and living in three. My dream trip? An elephant expedition! To travel the world visiting the natural habitats of elephants. And where might these be? The first and most obvious, Africa (which will be the focus of this blog post. Part II will focus on Asian elephants).

This is a Loxodonta africana  with an estimated population of 470,000 - 690,000 individuals. But Africa is a huge continent. Where exactly to these beasts of nature thrive? Currently South Africa is a stronghold for the species, although with current rates of poaching, conservationists estimate extinction within 12-50 years.

Physically, the African elephant is the world’s largest terrestrial animal. Some interesting details about this animal:

1. The trunk, which is an extension of the upper lip and nose, is used for communication and handling objects. African elephants have 2 opposing extensions oat the end of the trunk (in contrast to the Asian elephant which only has one.)

2. African elephants have tusks, modified incisors that grow throughout the elephants’ life, and occur in  both males and females. These are used in fights, for marking, feeding and digging. Researcher Cynthia Moss explains more about tusks in The Truth About Tusks.

3. Another feature of the African elephant are their very large ears, which allow them to radiate excess heat.

There are also two subspecies to the african elephant:

  • Savanna (or bush) elephant (Loxodonta africana africana) - larger than forest elephants, their tusks curve outwards. Families contains 10 individuals, although many units join together to form a “clan” of up to 70 members, led by a female. Sometimes herds can form temporary aggregations of up to 1,000 individuals, but sights like this are becoming less common.
  • Forest elephant (Loxodonta africana cyclotis) - smallest elephants in Africa, they are darker and their tusks are straighter and downward pointing. These elephants live in smaller family units.

© IUCN African Elephant Red List

Where are these elephants located in Africa? Less than 100 years ago, the African elephant roamed from the Mediterranean coast to the southern tip of the continent with 3-5 million elephants in the wild. Today, 80% of herds have been lost in some regions. Now the forest elephant is found in the tropical rainforests of west and central Africa. The savanna elephant occurs in eastern and southern Africa, with highest densities in Botswana, Tanzania, Zimbabwe, Kenya, Zambia and South Africa. Their numbers very greatly over the 37 states they range with some populations endangered. For example, most countries in West Africa count their elephants in tens or hundreds, with animals scattered in small blocks of isolated forest; probably only three countries in this region have more than 1,000 animals. However, in southern Africa, there are now 300,000 elephants now roaming. Unfortunately, less than 20% of the elephant populations are under formal protection.

Take a moment to review some interesting facts about elephants and consider joining the frontline, to kill the trade.

Then spread the word to your family and friends by sharing this blog with them. (wondering how elephants affect you? check out Why Should I Care)

Part II of the Elephant Expedition, focusing on Asian Elephants, will follow shortly.

(Photos and information reposted from WWF)
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