Category Archives: Photography

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.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

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

Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

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

Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Superbowl Sunday

For those in the States, today is the long awaited “Super Bowl Sunday!” Hope these pictures of the orphaned elephants at the David Sheldrick Wildlife Trust playing ball brings a smile to your day, no matter who wins the game this evening!

(Please note: these photographs shared from google search engine, we do not claim the rights to any of them.)

This slideshow requires JavaScript.



Tagged , , , , , , , , , , ,



A Guest Blog by Barbara Garrett

In the Summer of 2013, I followed my bliss  to South Africa where I  worked at the Knysna Elephant Park. Kynsna is a tourist attraction on the Garden Route in the Western Cape. _47503517_south_africa_knysna226I volunteered for AERU, the African Elephant Research Unit. AERU has been onsite at the Park since 2009, and is studying the behavior and welfare of elephants in a captive environment. (More information about the research HERE) Apart from starting my life over again and being born Cynthia Moss or Joyce Pool or Dame Daphne Sheldrick, this was the closest I was ever going to get to doing the thing I’ve always wanted to do: study elephants.

The first few days at the park are still a blur. On top of mind-numbing jet lag, having traveled some 30 total hours, it reminded me of boot camp (even though I’ve never been to boot camp, this had to be it), and there was an overwhelming amount of information to absorb in very short order about not only the extensive daily operations and rules required to run the Park, but also about the elephants themselves.


It was hard, physically challenging work at times - mucking stalls, dragging branches, hauling heaping wheelbarrows full of soiled sawdust up the famed “dung mountain,” over and over and over again. As a 52 year-old lifelong desk job worker, manual labor is fairly foreign to me.Fortunately I am in good physical condition so while the work was hard, I hung in there with the rest of the mostly 20-something year-old volunteers. It was actually quite energizing to start the day off with some old fashioned hard work!


The work in the field was not so much physically challenging, although we did sometimes have to walk long distances as we followed the elephants around their 60-hectare (about 150 acres) enclosure, as it was mentally challenging. Recording the behavior of seven indistinguishable (initially) elephants, or calculating the distance between a single elephant in relation to all of the others at 5-minute intervals seemed at first like the hardest thing I’ve ever had to learn. Elephants are unique and they all have individual physical characteristics and distinct personalities, and we had to know who was who out in the field - massive Sally, the patient and formidable one-tusked matriarch; Nandi, the second-in-command and largest female and her daughter, Thandi, with the Dumbo-like ears that billowed up like a sail anytime the wind hit them the right way, which always made her look like she was about to charge!; tiny nugget Thato, with the funny little tail, itsy, bitsy tusks and frilly, girly ears; sweet, independent Keisha, ears tattered and torn, battle wounds she earned in translocation as a scared, lonely, and starving days-old calf; Mashudu and Shungu, the adolescent boys, always play-fighting but each gentle and sweet in their own ways; and the teenaged bulls, Clyde and Shaka. (Read the backgrounds of these elephants HERE)trunks up close up

There is a whole bunch of work that has to be done every day and as a volunteer I could be (and was) assigned to any number of tasks on any given day. Each day started before dawn and ended after dusk and included several hours of collecting data in the field. But there was also Bana grass (or “elephant grass”) to be planted or cut and hauled into the boma (the elephant’s enclosure); fruit to be chopped; food buckets to be cleaned, sterilized and filled; tree branches (or “browse”) dragged in every night for the elephants to feed on throughout the night; and every night there was a round of research to be done up in the boma loft after the elephants were put to bed. The quiet evenings in the boma were very special (even the late, late shift – an hour in the middle of the night) - there is absolutely nothing quite like the sound of elephants snoring, farting, and rumbling to each other that will endear them to you for the rest of your life.

But when I wasn’t working, I got to do the thing I went there to do the most: I went out into the field to just be with the elephants. Following them up and down and around in the field, watching them as they foraged, interacted with the public and each other, wallowing in mud holes and playing was endlessly entertaining and interesting. And if I was lucky and they stood in one place long enough, I got to touch them, feed them fruit, and caress them – patting them gently on the side or stroking the soft, tender skin behind their ears, kiss them on the trunk, look them in the eyes, and whisper to them how much they were loved by me and so many others like me.

me standing


As an elephant advocate in the U.S., I admit that I had moral and ethical conflicts about going to work at a facility where elephants are kept in captivity and are subjected to a constant barrage of tourists, day in and day out. And since I returned and shared my experience with others, I have received some hate mail for daring to call myself an advocate my handwhilst supporting an elephant tourist attraction. I am against circus elephants and elephants in captivity in general – but like anything else, there are gray areas. Some zoos are better than others, by far; the same goes with circuses. Whereas I used to be completely anti-zoo and anti-circus and anti-captivity about every, living creature, I decided I needed to conserve my energy and choose my particular battle because all of the world’s animals are never going to be 100% free. So today, for the most part, I no longer advocate against elephants in captivity or in circuses. It’s not that I don’t care. I just choose to focus my attention on elephants being poached, something that is much worse by far  than keeping an elephant in captivity in a place such as Knysna.trunk on top

My final analysis is that the elephants at the Knysna Elephant Park, many of whom came from truly horrible situations, are deeply loved, have the best possible care, and, most importantly, are safe from harm. The people who work at Knysna are committed and dedicated to their elephants. Most of the guides have worked there for years, having traveled great distances from their homes and families to live and work there. I became friends with the guides, the other volunteers, and the AERU staff. Everything about the place was transparent and all of my questions were answered.  Are the elephants captive? Yes. Do the guides carry bullhooks? Yes. Are the elephants used for tourist rides? Yes.  Nonetheless, at no point did I ever feel like this was a horrible environment in which elephants should be kept. I did not see any stereotypic behaviors. I did not see anyone abuse the elephants with bullhooks. There are tourist rides but only first thing in the morning when the elephants leave the boma and get taken out to the field. If I can anthropomorphize, the elephants there are content, and God knows they are better off than the environments from which they came.

While this experience is not for everyone – just getting there isn’t for the faint of heart – it was the single most exciting and interesting thing I’ve ever done, an experience that affected me on every level. Not a day goes by that I don’t think about “my babies” and my time there.  I will definitely go back, and when I do, I fully expect my special elephants – Mashudu, Thato, and Keisha – to remember me.

Barbara Garrett, January, 2014

solo elephant b&w
Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Where Do We Go From Here…

In honor of Martin Luther King, Jr.

“Where do we go from here: Chaos or Community?”

The illegal ivory trade not only slaughters Elephants, but it also encourages terrorism, destroys African families, and motivates greed. We are striving for a future where elephants and humans live in community. This begins with education. Please help spread the word about elephants to your family and friends by sharing this blog. This blog and our Facebook page keeps you up to date on the elephant crisis in Africa and provides opportunities for you to take action (i.e.: writing letters to your government officials, organizing events to raise awareness in your area, helping communities in Africa through development projects and elephant orphan care…) And it all starts with education & awareness raising. Let’s create a community of people who love elephants. From there, we tackle the chaos the ivory trade brings to communities in Africa. Together, I believe we CAN make a difference.

African elephants in front of Kilimanjaro

(Photograph: Juniors Bildarchiv/Alamy)

Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

China’s Ivory Crush

Today marks a monumental day in history when China destroyed 6.2 tones of illegal ivory.

Experts believe that most illegal ivory is headed to China — with some estimating the country accounts for as much as 70 percent of global demand. China has confiscated at least 16 tonnes of ivory in the past three years, according to media reports. The remaining stockpiles have not been destroyed because they are subject to “ongoing court proceedings.” However, the total volume of ivory stockpiling in China remains unknown.

Some hopeful quotes from conservation leaders about today’s crush:

“With measures like this we can still save elephants from being driven towards extinction,” said Iain Douglas-Hamilton from Save the Elephants

“China is sending a very powerful message both domestically, to the Chinese people, and internationally, that it is not prepared to tolerate the illegal trade in elephant ivory,” said CITES Secretary General John Scanlon.

“The event, the first public ivory destruction in China, was to demonstrate the country’s determination to discourage illegal ivory trade, protect wildlife and raise public awareness,” said Zhang Jianlong, deputy head of the State Forestry Administration (SFA).

We are excited to see 2014 beginning with this hopeful step in the right direction for elephants in China. However, we were disappointed to hear  the state-run China National Radio reporting that only some of the crushed ivory powder will be disposed of.  The rest will be displayed in a museum exhibit ‘preserved’ — with talk of the powder being used as an ingredient in traditional Chinese medicine.

The ivory from these elephants needs to be destroyed and discarded. Only then will China be showing it’s people that ivory is not worth anything when it’s NOT on the elephant. Ivory belongs to the elephants.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.


  1. Pledge to Protect - visit the David Sheldrick site to make your new years resolution to protect elephants by fostering an orphan, spreading the word to your friends about the elephant crisis, taking part in local awareness activities and more.
  2. Rise Up For Elephants - award winning photographer Michael North is offering a limited edition DVD containing the 100 large format high-resolution photographs contained in this video for US$145 including postage. The purchase entitles you to print any and all of the 100 photographs contained on the DVD for personal use. For every DVD purchased, an orphan elephant will be adopted in your name for an orphan from the Kenya Children’s Home or for someone special or, indeed, for yourself.
Tagged , , , , , , , ,

5 Quote Countdown

As we head into this new year, we wanted to share 5 inspirational quotes and photographs shared from The Independent. Here’s to 2014 and a harmonious future for elephants and humans!

5. “If elephants didn’t exist, you couldn’t invent one. They belong to a small group of living things so unlikely they challenge credulity and common sense.” - Lyall Watson

4. “There is no creature among all the Beasts of the world which hath so great and ample demonstration of the power and wisedom of almighty God as the Elephant.” Edward Topsell in The Historie of Foure-Footed Beastes

3. “I meant what I said and I said what I meant - An elephant’s faithful, one hundred percent!” - Dr Seuss

2. “We admire elephants in part because they demonstrate what we consider the finest human traits: empathy, self-awareness, and social intelligence. But the way we treat them puts on display the very worst of human behavior.” - Graydon Carter

1. “Nature’s great masterpiece, an elephant - the only harmless great thing.” - John Donne


This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Tagged , , , , , , , , , , ,

Mandela & The Elephant


Photograph published by Zander

Every 15 minutes, an elephant is killed for its ivory. This amounts to 96 elephants per day, thousands upon thousands per year (in 2011, record numbers for elephant poaching were reached at 22,000 elephants in one year — 2013 has already surpassed this number by 20%).  Elephants in Africa struggle against poachers while Asian Elephants are finding their migratory routes disrupted by high speed trains, their forest homes being destroyed for palm oil plantations and humans stealing their babies to domesticate and use them for tourism in the big cities (elephant street beggars, elephants “playing” in the ocean, forest ele-rides and more). And although outlawed in many areas, using elephants for logging is still big business. Then there are the elephants in captivity around the world suffering from EEHV, arthritis and obesity. The future looks bleak for the world’s largest land mammal.

To be honest, this often overwhelms me. I love elephants deeply and understand the crucial role they play in the ecosystem. Elephants create paths through forests that are used by humans and other animals. These paths also allow sunlight to reach the bottom of the forests to help regenerate the ground foliage. Elephants use their tusks to dig for water, allowing other animals to drink from the newly created water pools in otherwise dry places. Elephants eat a LOT. And that means thousands of plants depend of elephants for their survival, since the elephant distributes the plants seeds across thousands of miles. The list could go on and on about the physical benefits elephants bring to the ecosystem.

But we don’t just need elephants for survival - we need them for our soul. Elephants are some of the most caring animals in all of the animal kingdom. Scientists are amazed at how a herd displays emotions, how a herd cares for one another, how sometimes a herd even cares for other elephants from outside the herd. There was even a case of an elephant caring for a completely different species such as dogs, rhinos & even humans (click on the link to read more about altruism in elephants)! There is something magical about Elephants. If we lose these creatures, we will lose a part of ourselves.


Getty Images

And that is why I started Elephantopia. To raise awareness about these amazing creatures, to educate others about the peril they are in and to provide opportunities for people like you and me to create a harmonious future for elephants and humans to co-exist. Right now it is estimated that 70%  of the illegal ivory trade goes to China & two-thirds of Chinese people do not realize that ivory is obtained only by killing an elephant. And what about where I live, here in the US? Or where you live? How many people know what is going on? How many people even care? That’s where Elephantopia comes in. This page is meant to educate and endear people to elephants.

Sometimes I worry, “is this enough?” The late Nelson Mandela, a man whom the Chicago Tribune stated “achieved more than could be expected of any man,” is quoted as saying (and believing!):


Help change the world. Please share Elephantopia with your friends and family. Let’s continue to teach and share our love of elephants with others.

Elephant matriarch

Federico Veronesi Photography

P.S. Stay tuned for exciting news! This January 2014, I am moving forward to registering Elephantopia as a formal non-profit. There are some very exciting plans in store!

Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

The Thankful Elephant

As November comes to a close, it only seems appropriate to share a note of thanks.

Thank you for sharing your pictures, your stories and your thoughts about elephants on this blog/facebook page/tweets. I absolutely love hearing from you!

Thank you for your continued efforts to change laws and regulations by signing petitions, attending awareness events and spreading the news to your friends & family. Together, we are making a future of ele-advocates dedicated to saving the world’s largest land mammal from the destruction of human greed and vice. I can’t imagine a future landscape void of these amazing animals. And I’m glad to partner with people like you to create a harmonious future for both elephants and humans.

Finally, thank you for opening your heart up to love these amazing animals. As Anatole France once said,

Until one has loved an animal a part of one’s soul remains unawakened

Sometimes that awakening can be painful. When we hear of an elephant family slaughtered at the hands of poachers, or of a high speed train in India plowing through a herd on the tracts, it can be devastating. Sometimes you may wish you hadn’t opened up your heart to love these creatures. But we also must remember that love is power - the strongest power there is. Mahtma Gandhi said that nothing is impossible for pure love.

So keep on loving, keep on caring, keep on sharing.  And Happy Thanksgiving from the Elephantopia family to You.


© IRAW/K. Branon

Tagged , , , , , , , ,

Little Hands, Big Plans

Feel Good Friday! This awesome story about Callum’s art projects will melt your heart. This boy, diagnosed with autism and intellectual disabilities, has an incredible talent of communicating through art. He was unable to speak until he was 5 years old. But he used art to share his feelings, his thoughts and his loves. One of those loves? Elephants! He has created literally thousands of drawings of elephants which are shared below. Currently he is painting new pieces that are now for sale in prints and postcards with 20% of sales going toward the Elephant Sanctuary in Tennessee and Save the Elephants.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 4,379 other followers

%d bloggers like this: