Here’s a sight I’d like to see more often …


This photo does not show an enormously large male elephant, but this male had the longest tusks of any we saw on our game drive. This young man has a way to go. He can grow as tall as eleven feet and weigh up to 13,000 pounds. It was a thrill to see his magnificent tusks, but also a reminder that mature elephants with 100-pound tusks are becoming rare as hunters and poachers take the elephants with largest tusks out of the gene pool. Today there is a higher incidence of tuskless elephants in Africa compared to earlier years because tuskless elephants survive to reproduce. Having no tusks will save these elephants from poaching but will also greatly diminish their lives. Elephants use tusks to dig and to peel bark from trees and dig for water. They help other elephants by giving them a gentle lift when babies can’t get up a muddy riverbank on their own. And they use their tusks for defense. I’ve seen videos of elephants tossing predators through the air after scooping them up with their tusks.

We are all gratified by the Chinese government’s ban on ivory, but we still see daily elephant poaching in Zambia. The government of Zimbabwe continues to wrench elephant babies who are far too young away from their mothers to transport them to Chinese zoos. Many of these babies die en route. The survivors, if you can call it survival, are kept in zoos where they have no herds and relatives to learn from and cannot forage and range 30-40 miles a day which protects their joints from disease.

Poaching still contributes to terrorist groups who sell ivory to finance their actions. It’s not hard to see that ivory will still be in demand for a long time, even when it is illegal because the black market while likely continue for people who believe they must own ivory.

Also, in Zambia, we are concerned that when the Chinese run out of elephants to buy from Zimbabwe which is next door, they can send poachers across our border and start trying to take Zambia’s elephants. That’s why detection dog patrols are vital. They locate the movement of humans and game where scouts and expert humans cannot. Air patrols are another vital step in protecting elephants, and the small Cessna that Conservation South Luangwa shares with the Zambia Carnivore Programme has been highly successful working with the Zambian government by maintaining a vigilant air patrol over terrain that is very difficult not only in distance but also in topography for scouts to traverse.

We’re grateful for the many ways you help support successful Zambian programs through your donations and by traveling with us on our safaris (see the ERC Safari Travel Facebook page at https://www.facebook.com/ERCAfricanTravel/?ref=br_rs).  We also appreciate your support of our annual fundraisers where donations go straight to highly successful existing Zambian conservation programs help us fight poaching. With your support,  the next generation won’t have to look at film or in books to see the magnificence of an elephant with fully grown tusks, and they will know that this keystone species is still thriving in Zambia. Please put August 26th, 2018 on your calendar for our next “Safari on the River.”


Written by Patricia Cole

An Africa Hope Fund board member for 7 years, Pat is a writer and a conservation activist. After traveling to Zambia, she became dedicated to helping Africa Hope Fund provide education to the next generation of Africans and ensure their future by protecting wildlife. Find Patricia on Facebook and Twitter, or on her websites www.writepatwrite.com and www.patmcole.com.

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Carol Van Brugen