Guest Blogger Sheri Gann shares how she was inspired to help by elephants on her birthday.
I sat in the Land Rover straining my eyes to see any movement in the dark, and to hear any branches breaking or leaves shaking. For being in the middle of the bush it was amazingly quiet. Sitting next to me was the warden and on his lap was his toddler son, who was just as excited as me. In the bed of the truck was a ranger with a spotlight.
“Look there! Do you see it?”, the warden whispered to me. I strained my eyes even harder, but couldn’t see anything. “No”, I replied. “Just keep your eyes focused on that dark spot”, he said as he pointed off into the distance. I stared, not daring to move my eyes. They started to water, but I was afraid to blink for fear of missing something. A few seconds later I saw what he was talking about. A large, dark figure was slowly making its way in our direction.
As it came closer I made out the shape of a large, male elephant. My heart was pounding in my ears as I held my breath. It moved closer with such grace and so little sound. He walked across the road and when he was right in front of the vehicle, he turned toward us and spread his ears. My body was trembling with excitement. The toddler next to me was pointing and whispering “Sshh, sshh?” His way of asking, “Do you see?” I did see, and what an amazing sight.
The elephant decided we weren’t a threat and continued walking across the road. The ranger finally turned on the spotlight and we watched as the elephant slipped into the trees. Just as I thought the show was over, we heard rustling of leaves and the breaking of branches. The spotlight revealed three additional male elephants. They were eating and continued their buffet along the road. Soon they were out of sight and I spent a moment trying to comprehend everything I’d just witnessed.
The World Wildlife Fund recently reported that, “Over the last 100 years, African elephant populations have declined from 3-5 million to 470,000-690,000 and Asian elephant populations have declined from 100,000 to between 35,000 and 50,000. Habitat loss and conflict with people are among the biggest threats to their continued survival.” The night I saw those elephants was my birthday, and given these statistics it was a gift to have even seen them.
Elephants are indeed a gift. In fact, all animals are gifts of nature. They are not ours to own, exploit, harm, or profit from. They are ours to learn from, observe and revel in their majesty. Unfortunately, not everyone has the same opinion. According to National Geographic, “Ivory-seeking poachers have killed 100,000 African elephants in just three years.”
These are grim statistics, but if you have any desire to help save the various animals currently facing extinction, do something today! We don’t have the luxury of waiting for a better, or more convenient time.
There are so many ways to help. Volunteer with reputable organizations focused on conservation and rehabilitation, and donate when possible. Sign petitions, or better yet, create petitions advocating for these animals. Most importantly, speak up! We must be the voice for these animals. Speak out on social media. Talk to your friends and family about what’s happening. Recruit them in your efforts. We need to continue to pass on the gift of these magnificent animals. I want my daughter, and all children, to grow up with many elephant-filled birthdays, too.
Contributed by Nikela Volunteer Sheri Gann