Today their numbers dwindle with only about 300,000 remaining.
The four wheel drive slowly pulls to a stop. In the reeds, standing about five meters away is a small herd of elephants. The majestic giants lumber their way towards us as we hold our breath, desperately trying not to make a sound.
No long do you see the great herds of hundreds or thousands of elephants roaming the great plains of Africa, instead, you see what is before us; a desperate pack of seven or eight huddled together.
We watch in awe as the creatures surround us, easily dwarfing our one-ton car. For an animal so massive it shocks me how gracefully they move between the low trees and shrubs, effortlessly weaving themselves between them without breaking a branch; our clumsy vehicles could never manage such care.
These beautiful and majestic creatures are under great threat of extinction. And this extinction is brought about by the illegal trade of ivory that runs ramped on the black markets. The illegal wildlife trade is now considered the fourth most lucrative transnational crime; behind drugs, arms trafficking, and human trafficking. This black market reportedly earns criminal organizations as much as 20 billion dollars a year and it is an earning paid for by the death of endangered species and approximately 30,000 elephants annually. It is a market that funds global crime and terrorism.
As the herd moves closer to us, a calf steps out from behind its mother and into my view. I raise my camera as quietly and swiftly as I can and rest the end of it on the metal frame of the car window. The calf is about an eighth of the size of its mother but is still easily bigger than any large dog I’ve seen before. It shakes it head slowly from side to side as if dancing. As it does so, its ears fan the grass beside it, forcing the blades of grass to bow.
In hopes of stopping the cull of African elephants, there has been an international ban on the trade of ivory since 1989. This ban was enforced in response to the mass poaching seen in the 80’s which saw approximately 100,000 elephants being killed annually. This ban has slowed the culling, however, more needs to be done. Currently, the biggest consumer market for ivory is China, where ivory is often sold as ornaments and jewelry.
We sit and watch the beasts for several minutes until they tire of us and slowly walk away, further and further into the thick grasslands of Africa. These beast are my favorite of the African animals and it saddens me to think of how little of them are left.
It is believed that in the early 20th century there were between 3-5 million African elephants roaming the plains of Africa. Today their numbers dwindle with only about 300,000 remaining.
Even rarer still the rhino. An elusive creature that I couldn’t snap a photo of. A creature whose numbers dwindle in the thousands.