Not many people in our country know that elephants are one of the most endangered animal species and that poaching on account of their ivory has in fact increased dramatically in recent years instead of disappearing.
Ivory is such a sought-after luxury item in Asia, in particular in China, Vietnam, Thailand, and Japan, that its value is constantly rising and the illegal trade in the valuable commodity has now become just as lucrative as the drug trade. Although the trade of elephant ivory has been prohibited internationally since 1989, 2011 was the worst year yet for the gentle grey giants. So many elephants were slaughtered that if it continues like it does now, then in ten years already there will be no more elephants in Africa. This means that these wonderful, irreplaceable animals who are highly intelligent, have strong family values and special communication skills will be completely wiped out and subsequent generations of us humans will no longer be able to enjoy these placid giants as they majestically move through the savannahs of Africa.
I support several organizations which try to do something against the extinction on various levels. One of my favourite projects is the David Sheldrick Wildlife Trust (DSWT) in Kenya. This organization for example raises baby elephants if they are still alive after their mothers and aunts have been killed and which otherwise would not have any chance of survival without breast milk and family. The organization is primarily financed by sponsorships which one can take out for the mini giants. I have adopted several elephants, have visited the DSWT in Kenya several times and have noticed time and time again that the orphans could not be in better hands.
After their rescue the orphans are first nourished in the nursery at the border of Nairobi National Park until they reach the tender age of roughly two years when they are taken to one of the rehabilitation stations in the Tsavo East National Park. There they have contact with orphans who have already been reintroduced to the wild and wild elephants so that they can learn step by step what they need to finally come back to where they belong: to an independant life amongst the wilderness.
As a foster parent, when one visits the elephants in the nursery or in one of the rehabilitation stations, it is a real joy, particularly knowing how miserable, traumatized, and malnourished they were when they arrived at DSWT, to see the elephants again so fun-loving, healthy and full of energy.
- Birgit Hampl -
Published in ONE, magazine by and for employees of KraussMaffei Group, issue 02/2012