Monday, February 17, 2014

Elephants: will they be gone for our children?

Photo courtesy of Richard Moller, Tsavo Trust

There were elephants tracks this morning near the camp.
And elephant dung on the forest walk I took the the other day.
Elephants are part of my daily life at Campi ya Kanzi.
Will they always be?
My best experience was years ago, in the plains in front of the camp. I was taking on safari some legendary guides and former hunters - Tony Seth-Smith, Tony Archer, Alfredo Pelizzoli, John Fletcher.
These were the hunting grounds for Ernest Hemingway in the 30s, for Robert Ruark and the Hollywood jet set in the 50s.
We saw 122 elephants that afternoon. A blessing for their visit to these places which were a must during the hunting safari era.
When I invited Tony Dyer (president of the East African Professional Hunter Association for 30 years) to my wedding he told me he would come, but had no desire to see Iltalal and the plains near camp: he wanted to remember them as they were 40 years before. He told me that his last visit to Iltalal was in the 60s, with a documentary crew. They "shot" on camera 40 rhinos, in one day.
Pashiet, the Maasai tracker who I started guiding with at Campi ya Kanzi, is of my "age set". He tells me of how, as a kid, he remembers rhinos scratching against his mud hut.
And as a kid I remember my visits to Amboseli, in the 70's: amazing yellow fever acacias and many rhinos.
Both are gone.
Peter Jenkins was the warden in charge of building a road through the Chyulu Hills, in the 50s.
From his camp, each afternoon, he liked to count the rhinos over the hills. Never less than 30, each single day.
The road is still there.
The rhinos are gone.
Rhinos were part of the normal life of guides and hunters, just 40 years ago. 
As Elephants are part of my life today.
Will they be part of your and mine children lives?
No, if things do not change.
Read this beautiful blog by amazing film makers Mark Deeble and Vicky Stone.
It is moving and it inspired me to share these thoughts.

In these days where all are focused in talking about anti poaching, I prefer to invite for a different line of thoughts.
Elephants are killed because, to many people, are more valuable dead than alive.
We will not save the Elephants with just anti poaching, we will have Elephants for our children if the people co-existing with them decide to protect them. That protection will happen if those Elephants will benefit economically those very same people who today close an eye on poachers or actually do business with them.
If you are reading this blog and you are an agent, I invite you to think about what you sell: a safari experience. If you are a person willing to go on safari, please know that in just few years it could be a zoo safari one, which you could take in San Diego, not needing to come all the way to Africa.
That safari experience will be one without Elephants, if we do not create conservation dividends for local communities.
You, being an agent or a prospective traveler, have an amazing weapon in your hand: responsible tourism. It is much more effective than anti poaching. Chose for your safari a camp that is really involving the local communities. Not with green washing marketing, but walking the talk.
We proudly do that and I have no discomfort in writing these lines and saying that visiting Campi ya Kanzi is the best form of conservation action you can take.

Luca Belpietro, Campi ya Kanzi and MWCT Founder 




No comments:

Post a Comment