Forgetting All About the Elephants, Colltalers
We interrupt our regular weekly homily, er, ranting about the things that make us slightly insane, to add yet another one: there’s a systematic massacre of elephants going on around the world, right now.
It’s so serious that it threatens to drive the species to extinction much before anyone would’ve predicted just a few decades ago.
What’s tragic and ironic is that such a potentially incalculable loss may happen just as we’re becoming more cognizant to how intelligent these creatures really are. Remember, not too long ago, when their numbers were in the millions, we still thought they were mute and relatively unscathed by widespread poaching.
It’s believed that there are now some 600,000 elephants in Africa, plus less than 50,000 in Asia, but these figures are far from precise. The dramatic slaughtering caused by a recent resurgence of poaching for their tusks, as widely reported that it’s been, is yet to make it to any official statistics.
With prices for ivory reaching staggering levels, more elephants were killed in the past five years than in the whole previous decade, according to wildlife organizations. Only in Tanzania, over 10,000 have been killed in average since 2008, with Kenya and other African nations following closely.
At this rate, they could disappear from the continent as soon as 2020, with the same happening in Asia just a few years later, an alarm that conservationists and organizations dedicated to wildlife have been sounding for a while now. Unfortunately, few have been heeding to it.
(Before we proceed, unlike our regular posts on Colltales, we’re not providing links to those organizations on this article. But rest assure that we’re culling the data from a host of most reputable sites, such as Nature Conservancy, WWF, International Fund for Animal Wellfare and many others.)
To be fair, there have been many progresses in our relationship with elephants during the same time. The most important zoos worldwide, for example, no longer have exhibits dedicated to them, since it became evident that, despite a hundred years of attempts, elephants proved particularly unsuitable for captivity.
Also, research into their low-frequency, acoustically intricate language has made great strides toward understanding its role as a glue for social ties, and ability to keep in touch and communicate with their kin though long distances.
So have studies into their matriarchy system, crucial to understanding the erratic behavior of young bulls during the bleak 1990s. Just like teenagers without parent oversight, gangs would roam the expansions of Africa literally looking for trouble, and engaging in destructive behavior, by stabbing to death rhinos, for instance. As it turned out, those were bulls whose mothers had been slaughtered, so they were left to fend for themselves.
So just as we begin to turn the corner on the old cliches about elephants, and finding out how they mourn and grieve over their dead, how their extended families remain close throughout their lives, and other sophisticated clues of social organization previously thought to be exclusive to great primates, we may be forced to wave them goodbye.
Which is indescribably sad. Just like with whales and dolphins, with great apes and tigers, and so many other ‘great and small’ creatures, we may be doing almost nothing to prevent them from leaving this Earth in the worst possibly way: by our own hand.
Imagine if it comes a time when we’re able to establish an effective way of actually speaking with animals, but there’s no one to speak with.
And we say to be capable of communicating with them not in a anthropocentric way, or expecting them to become one more propped up interlocutor to our endless chatter, just like robots and synthetic speech, but on their own radically different point of view. What then?
As a coda, it’s a fair criticism often aired that those who include animals in their diets, should not speak with any moral detachment about their fate. We simply don’t agree with that, not just because it’s an ultimately reactionary and intolerant argument, but because we need every single person to stop the slaughter first.
Whether this will lead to more enlightened ways for the privileged few to stop eating meat, or sustainable ways for the world hungry to live off a healthy, substantial vegetarian diet, it’s a cultural quagmire of which the outlook is muddled with politically-correct hypocrisy and infused with money and economics.
Either the massacre of elephants stops within the next few years, or we’ll be just adding another self inflicted wound to our long rosary of shallow priorities and downright stupid choices, which place a premium on a silly tchotchke made of ivory, over the majestic creatures who evolution bestowed its creation.
It’s been a different kind of week, but your invitation to stop by at Colltales remains wide open. Have a great week and see you soon. WC
(*) Exceptionally, we reproduce here the content of Colltales’ exclusive weekly Newsletter.