Monthly Archives: February 2014

Chodoba and his GPS Collar


At nine years old, Chodoba (“lost and found” in the local language) is the oldest elephant cared for by the Game Rangers International (GRI) Elephant Orphanage Project in Zambia.  In 2007 he was found weak and alone, in South Luangwa National Park, and has since been cared for and rehabilitated by the dedicated team at the Kafue Release Facility. Now that he is nearing maturity, his instincts to wander from his surrogate family are growing and he is spending an increasing amount of time away from his orphan siblings and socializing with wild elephants in Kafue National Park. We expect the release process to happen gradually over a number of years. Maturing elephants will leave the security and comfort of the orphanage in their early teens, as they gain confidence and become large enough to defend themselves from predators.

In anticipation of his release, Chodoba has been fitted with a GPS tracking collar, which will enable the team to monitor his movements as he spends an increasing amount of time out of sight. The collar was funded by Pro Wildlife a German wildlife charity, and sourced from an Australian company specializing in bio information technologies: EcoKnowledge who are supporting GRI with three years of free satellite downloads.

Zambia Wildlife Authority vet Dr. David Squarre supervised the collar fitting, alongside Dr. Ian Parsons of Matobo Vet Centre and John Carter of GRI Kafue Research Project. After Chodoba was sedated the collar was expertly fitted and an antidote administered. He was back on his feet within 20 minutes. The collar didn’t seem to bother him and after a few explorations of the device with his trunk, he was avidly concentrating on filling his stomach once more!

This is a very exciting and encouraging development for the GRI Elephant Orphanage Project as we move towards our first orphan release. Thanks to our major donors the David Shepherd Wildlife Foundation for their critical and ongoing support, as well as International Fund for Animal Welfare for both financial support and technical expertise.

With sincere thanks to pilot Tom Younger for donating the aircraft transport and to Zambia Wildlife Authority Vet Dr. David Squarre and Vet, Dr. Ian Parsons for veterinary assistance.

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Find out more about Game Rangers International’s conservation projects in Zambia on our website. Follow us on Facebook and Twitter.

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Not only did the elephant’s mom try to rescue her baby, but it turned into a team effort. Several members of the baby elephant’s family joined the effort to save the baby in one of the most heartwarming wildlife rescues I’ve ever seen.

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Coffee & Clothes for Elephant Conservation


Batoka, an orphan at GRI in Zambia

Elephantopia’s goals are twofold: save elephants & build community.

If you love elephants and are concerned about the future of Africa’s communities adversely affected by poaching and crime syndicates, then these are probably your goals too. But it’s easy to get overwhelmed and wonder “how can I make a difference?” Last year Elephantopia as a blog was started with that very question. And the answers were clear: we need to save elephants and the best way to do that is through community!

Building a community of elephant advocates did not take long thanks to social media. On our blog, we share elephant videos in hopes that it will 1) teach people about elephants and 2) endear them towards this species as many people have never seen an elephant in the wild. Every week we share at least one story about elephant news and ways people can make a difference be it through contacting local governments, signing petitions, walking/marching to raise awareness and more. Three times a week on our facebook page we post an Elephant Fact of the Day (M/W/F) to continue to educate people about these amazing creatures. We also sell t-shirts for people to wear with the inscription “SAY NO TO IVORY” and bumper stickers with the reminder that “EVERY TUSK COSTS A LIFE” (click on the links or photos below to purchase yours today - they are great conversation starters and a friendly way to educate others!)

Through these education & action opportunities, we are slowly building a community of people who care deeply for elephants and are committed to seeing a long and healthy future in the wild for them in Africa.

Saving elephants seems like an even bigger task. That’s why we are partnering with an organization in Zambia doing just that:  meet GRI - Game Rangers International. GRI was formed in 2008,  with the specific aim of assisting the communities living around the Kafue National Park to better manage the natural resources of the area through support to wildlife management and protection and community outreach and education. Below are 5 main projects that take a holistic approach to the problems of conservation and development

  1. Kafue Conservation Project - providing welfare, training and support to wildlife personnel
  2. Elephant Orphanage Project - rescuing, rehabilitating and releasing orphaned elephants
  3. Muzovu Awareness Project - education projects for environmental awareness
  4. Community Outreach Project - supporting sustainable utilization of natural resources for communities living nearby to protect areas
  5. Kafue Research Project - studying Human Elephant Conflict in the greater Kafue park

Within the coming year, we aim to create a community of ele-advocates who will support the care of an elephant from the orphanage together with us.

But what’s one way you can get involved RIGHT NOW? How about drinking another cup of coffee! GRI partners with Black Mamba Coffee Roasters. All their coffee is sourced directly from Africa to ensure the African farmers get a better price for their crops.   They import the green beans into the US, roast, pack and sell the coffee here.  By having GRI as their partner they can ensure that the added value of this product is going back to Africa and used in saving the wildlife. Anyone can help the elephants at GRI simply by buying coffee from their website online store. For every half-pound (1/2lb) of coffee sold, they give GRI $2.00, and the coffee is delivered to your door. It’s convenience and conservation in a cup.


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Update from Last Week’s Ivory Summit in London

Wikipedia Image

Wikipedia Image

Last year, 50,000 elephants were killed.

In case you missed that, in 2013, 50,000 elephants were killed for their tusks. Or think of this: every 15 minutes an elephant dies in Africa. 

You may wonder, how was this number been determined. According to Shruti Suresh from the Environmental Investigation Agency:

‘This [figure] is based on the huge volumes of ivory that have been seized by enforcement authorities worldwide,’

And what exactly was that volume? In 2013, authorities seized 45,000 kg of ivory in Africa and Asia.

The next logical question is where is this ivory coming from — Is it all legal or illegal? In 2013, The UN authorised a legal ivory trade stating that “sellers would have to use their earnings for conservation and prove their practices would not affect elephant populations.” The goal was to reduce the price of ivory on the black market, but the Environmental Investigation Agency among other conservation organizations, opposed this legalization, believing that “the legal trade would stimulate the demand for ivory, it would drive prices up and it would serve basically as a mechanism to launder illegal ivory.”  And that’s what’s happening now.

The price of legal & documented ivory went up from $US 150 per kilogram, to now more than $US 1,500 per kilo. If nothing is done soon, Ms Suresh states the largest land mammal in the world and the icon of Africa, will no longer exist.


You can hear the full 10 minute interview with Ms Suresh HERE and click “LISTEN NOW” or “DOWNLOAD AUDIO” (highly recommend taking the time to listen to it).

The London Summit for Wildlife Trade last week did have some real positive outcomes. Over 50 countries were in attendance to discuss the illegal ivory trade, it’s link to terrorism, the human lives lost in the war against poaching, and the future demise of an iconic, keystone species.

Some positive outcomes this past week? The US issued an ivory ban, London pledged to destroy all 1200 pieces of ivory in Buckingham Palace, and four African countries who in the past have wanted to sell their ivory stockpiles, took a bold stance on the matter: Bostwana, Chad, Tanzania  and Gabon all agreed to a 10 year moratorium of ivory sales.  Chad and Tanzania have lost staggering amounts of elephants (50 years ago in Chad, there were over 50,000 elephants. Today, there are 1500. And Tanzania in the 1970s boasted over 100,000 elephants. Today, there are 13,084). These two nations also pledged to destroy their stockpiles. Tanzania holds the largest stockpile of ivory in the world (worthy over US$50 million) - destroying that would send a clear message that the ivory trade is not to be tolerated nor encouraged and that ivory is worth nothing when it’s not on an elephant.

Africa knows the importance of their iconic heritage, the elephant, and the toll the ivory trade has on it’s people. But as the President of Tanzania notes, in order for real change to occur, two things must be done by world leaders:

1) He said the efforts of the government on anti-poaching would only be realized if there is a TOTAL BAN ON IVORY TRADE throughout the region and the whole world at large.

2) He also said countries like China, Vietnam, and Thailand should advocate for a ‘NO IVORY BUYING’ CAMPAIGN to boost anti-poaching efforts.

To learn more about what the U.S. is doing about the ivory trade, watch this 3 minute interview with Bryan Christy (National Geographic) explaining the new ivory ban and regulations needed to save the elephant.

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Happy Weekend: Walk on the Wild Side

This short clip is from Tanzania - enjoy the sights and sounds of this beautiful country.

We are elated that Tanzania, the country with the most ivory stockpiles in the world, has agreed to a ten year moratorium on ivory sales (Tanzania was contemplating an appeal to CITES for a one-off ivory sale). Take a moment to thank President Kikwete & encourage the nation to destroy their ivory by leaving a message on his Facebook page or tweet:

 @Jmkikwete #IWTconf Tanzania, applause for the ivory moratorium. Protect your #elephants, #SayNoToIvory & destroy your stockpiles

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Save Elephants, Build Community

That’s what Elephantopia is about. How are we doing this?


The Elephants of Past, Present & Future (free wallpaper shared from

A Look Behind:

In the last year of existence, Elephantopia  created a petition with over 10,000 signatures asking Pope Francis to continue the work begun by Federico Lombardi (read his statement here).

Then in October 2013, Elephantopia joined forces with the Houston Zoo and Whole Foods Market to launch a support march for the March for Elephants Day (headed up by The David Sheldrick Wildlife Trust in Kenya). This march took place in over 40 cities around the world. In Houston, Mayor Annise Parker awarded Elephantopia with a proclamation that October 4 is March for Elephants Day Houston.

As director of Elephantopia, I personally sponsors two elephants with The David Sheldrick Wildlife Trust (Naipoki and Rombo). I had the opportunity to meet Naipoki in October 2012 and look forward to seeing her again this summer 2014 along with meeting Rombo for the first time.

A Look at the Present:

2014 has already been a monumental year for elephants. China destroyed 6 tons of ivory and has plans to destroy another 28 tons. France became the first European nation to destroy their ivory stockpiles. The US tightened it’s laws on the ivory trade, banning the importation of ivory. London is currently hosting a conference with over 50 countries attending to discuss illegal wildlife trade. And Elephantopia decided to launch as an official nonprofit. Last night, we met to discuss our values, our vision and our mission. We went on to elect a president, treasurer and secretary.

Vision: Advancing elephant conservation through community partnerships

Mission: Working locally and globally to foster a harmonious future for elephants and humans through education, action and partnerships.

Our Values: We want to see an end to the ivory trade, a sustainable future for elephants, a harmonious coexistence for elephant and human communities in Africa, education and awareness campaigns in the US, China & Africa, and action opportunities for people like yourself to get involved.

A Look into the Future:

We are filing paperwork with the federal government, re-crafting our logo and will soon be updating this website.Our next immediate step will be hosting an event to further awareness locally while raising funds for a partnership with an elephant orphanage in Zambia. I am very excited to watch this awareness blog grow into a nonprofit that will be actively making a difference in the lives of elephants and humans around the world. Thank you for being a part of this community of elephant advocates!


The Elephants of the Past, Present & Future (free wallpaper photo shared from

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Happy Weekend: Fun in the Mud!

Thika from PAWS animal sanctuary in CA, USA is really enjoying her mud bath! Hope you enjoy your weekend, too!

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Word from the Wise

“We continue to urge governments around the world to destroy their ivory stockpiles, and we need your help to spread the arguments for why this is so important. With normal products simple rules of supply and demand means that you can get prices down by increasing supply. Elephants teeth are not a normal commodity, though. Previous sales from stockpiles (1999, 2008) sent the signal that buying ivory is okay and stimulate huge demand, and allowed a dying carving industry to recover. Currently the market for ivory is far larger than the remaining elephant population can “supply” through ivory that is recovered from natural deaths. The only way to meet the demand is through unsustainable killing. This is not the answer, it is a death penalty and the path to extinction. Destruction of stockpiles is the only way forward - to signal the shame of the trade. Domestic bans in countries representing demand must follow.” -Joyce Poole

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Please, Don’t Laugh

Every day, on average 96 elephants are killed for their tusks. In the last ten years, more than 1,000 wildlife rangers have been killed in the line of duty protecting Africa’s heritage. Ivory is currently worth more than gold.

These are sobering statistics that should not be taken lightly.

Yet, I’ve met many people who are, unfortunately, ignorant of the facts surrounding the ivory crisis.  They make light of my passion for elephants, not realizing the gravity of the situation. While it’s comforting to think that “it’s just elephants” and “everything will work itself out, it will all be O.K” the truth is, it’s not “just elephants” and it’s not going to “work itself out.” That’s where education comes in.

Education is the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world (beautifully said by Nelson Mandela). But “Educating the mind without educating the heart is no education at all. -Aristotle” So today, I want to share a few stories I’ve read from those who are living this nightmare in Africa to help educate hearts as well as minds.

Meet Quanza , an elephant orphan who was one year old when she saw her mother shot dead with an assault rifle before her tusks were hacked off by poachers.

Quanza’s two sisters went the same way and the young calf was spared only because she had no ivory worth wasting a bullet on.

She is one of the thousands of African elephants left orphaned as crime syndicates linked to terrorism sell prized “white gold” to the Far East.

Jonathan Mancha, shot dead by gun-toting Somalis in Kenya’s Amboseli National Park where Quanza was born, leaving seven children between 15 and three without a father.

Jonathan, 37, had been chief ranger for 15 years when told a poaching gang was at large. He was off duty but that didn’t stop him waving goodbye to his family, jumping in his Kenya Wildlife Service jeep and heading for the scene of the massacre.

That was the last time they saw him.

The family [lives] in a tiny, stifling hovel down a rutted mud track. Old newspapers cover the wooden walls. Older brother Tim, who has stepped in to support the children, tells that Jonathan was a hero. Widow Alfonzina, 50, has to go outside [for the interview]. She can’t bear to be reminded of what happened. Tim recalls: “He was told by another ranger that men, he called them butchers, had killed a giraffe and an elephant.

“He said, ‘I’m not going home while poachers are slaughtering animals’. “It was believed these were Somali poachers and I warned him that Somalis shoot to kill, not to scare.

Families of rangers suffer too - not just when a poacher kills a ranger, but in the threats and attacks families have to deal with from the poaching gangs. Frank Bolangonga, a ranger in the Congo, shares this story with CNN:


“My wife went to buy petrol at the market,” he says. “When she was on her way back home they attacked her, tried to rape her, but she was strong. She pulled back and her dress ripped and she ran away.”

The threats intensify after arrests and raids, and did so even more after the team brought in Ghislain Ngondjo, better known as “Pepito.”

Vianney Evoura, who used to poach for Pepito back in 2004, testified against him in court. They live in the same village and Pepito’s relatives have vowed revenge.

His mother promised to poison me,” Evoura says. “I don’t go out after dark unless I am with five or six other people, I don’t eat out. I am always on alert.”

African Parks headquarters is just a 10-minute drive from Pepito’s village, which has forced Eckel to send his own family away.

There was threats of attack on the camp where we live, my family was with me at this time. I don’t want to take the risk for them because of my job,” he tells us.

And finally, a known elephant poacher who boasts of hacking off the tusks of at least 70 elephants with rudimentary weapons, has just been released from prison. In this interview  it is plain to see how this trade has destroyed his spirit. In traditional African culture, the elephant is viewed as an elder, and to hurt them is taboo. Many times, if one comes across a dead elephant, they leave small gifts, like beads or milk or green branches as a sign of honor.

But here, John Sumokwo explains the pain the elephants endured at his hands, and he shows no sign of remorse. This trade has hardened his heart. (Photos & story shared from here)

“When I killed the elephants, the others would shout. They were extremely distressed. They would run around looking for ways of defending the one I had attacked. I remember one young calf saw me kill her mum.”

“She ran off for protection from other animals. My attacks were so frequent that the elephants could not mate and have calves. There were not enough male bull elephants left.”

The ivory trade kills. It kills elephants, it kills people. It is not something to mock or something to ignore. Today, share these stories with friends you have who may not understand the real pain and agony of the ivory trade to help spread awareness about this atrocity. Awareness is the first step to awakening the soul to action.

And please, don’t laugh.

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There’s Ivory in Paradise


Did you know Hawaii is the second largest seller of ivory in the U.S.? Let’s make Hawaii a true paradise, where all ivory sales are outlawed!

Take a moment to read THIS LETTER from WildlifeDirect. Then send your own (using the sample below) to the following emails:

[email protected]

[email protected]

[email protected]

[email protected]

Dear Sir/Madam,

RE: PLEASE SUPPORT EW HB2183 and SB2024 to prohibit any person to import, sell, offer for sell or possess with intent to sell any ivory product in Hawaii.

I am writing to you to ask for help. There is a global crisis surrounding the illegal ivory trade. The elephant, a keystone species vital to Africa, is on the verge of extinction. Terrorists organizations are profiting from the ivory trade, using the funds from the ivory to cover the expenses of their operations. Rangers risk their lives fighting poachers. We need to crush the demand for ivory and the illegal trade of ivory if we are to secure the future of elephants, creating a safe & stable future for African communities. I request that Hawaii, as the 2nd largest retailer of ivory in the USA, agrees to ban the ivory trade. Hawaii can play a key role in the survival of elephants and ending the bloody massacre of elephant families for the ivory trade by setting a bold and courageous example to the rest of the developed world. This letter is to ask you to please Support HB2183 and SB2024.




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