They plod slowly across yellow grasslands to the Zambezi River – a jumble of grey trunks and broad flapping ears and magnificent curved tusks. Babies after mothers. Heads down. Their daily ritual of returning to the life-saving river to drink and bathe, as the afternoon sun scorches the African bush.
Our plane rises above, and they get smaller, smaller, smaller. Soon, they’re but an indistinguishable blur on the landscape. An aching memory only.
It’s been several months now since we returned from our trip to Africa and our safari in Zambia’s Lower Zambezi National Park.
But we can’t stop thinking about the elephants
Across the African continent, elephants are being slaughtered in record numbers for their ivory tusks. It’s estimated that 32,000 elephants were killed last year. According to World Elephant Day, more elephants are still being killed for ivory than are being born in Africa.
Add to that the loss of their habitat due to people wanting land for houses and farms, and you have a terrible crisis.
Conservationists fear elephants could soon become extinct
Elephants could become extinct within our lifetime, says National Geographic (see this short YouTube video).
Others say within just 12 years.
Many African safari camps do their utmost to help conservation efforts.
The Cumings family, for example, who own and operate Chiawa Camp in the Lower Zambezi National Park (where we stayed), helped establish Conservation Lower Zambezi. This organization supports the Zambian Wildlife Authorities’ anti-poaching efforts in the park. (Zambia’s elephant population plummeted from 35,000 in the 1970s to only 6,000 in the 1990s.)
We’ll never forget
It would be an unthinkable tragedy if the elephants were to disappear. And become just aching memories…
In the words of actor Bill Murray at the end of Larger than Life:
“You know … they say an elephant never forgets. What they don’t tell you is, you never forget an elephant.”
Update April 5, 2016
We’ve updated this post to include the 2015 YouTube video by National Geographic mentioned above and the 2016 statistic by World Elephant Day.