Isn’t it incredible how a picture taken out of context can have such a detrimental impact. That’s what I was concerned about when writing this article, but nevertheless I’m going to post it as i’d love to hear your point of view on this subject. The subject being training wild African elephants.
Rory Hensman – The Elephant Whisperer
EFAF is run by Rory Hensman. Rory is world renowned and with 18 years of experience behind him, having trained more that 60 elephants during this period, he is referred to as The African Elephant Whisperer.
There is a crisis emerging in elephant populations in South Africa, the number of elephants are on the up, yet the amount of land dedicated to these animals remains constant, in fact in some game reserves it is decreasing. Ivory sales are now illegal and black market prices are at an astronomical high which is encouraging the desperate to resort to poaching.
What is to be done with these “excess” elephants is the question? If we are not careful we could follow the route of our neighbouring countries, where poaching is rife and the elephant numbers are now dramatically low. Kenya for example.
“All wildlife reserves in South Africa, which have elephants, either have enough or too many elephants. There is little or no demand for the further relocation of elephants, even if new owners could obtain them at no cost. Reserves which have been judged as having an overpopulation of elephants cannot find new homes for their excess animals.
Certain provincial conservation authorities are now admitting that other than contraception on a very limited scale, culling is the only option to reduce excess elephant populations.”
Certainly not an option the elephants would vote for, and certainly a controversial topic.
EFAF is trying to look at this problem differently and provide other meaningful roles for the elephants in and around South Africa. Training these wild animals to provide elephant back safari tours, and even hunt down poachers with their amazing sense of smell (isn’t that ironic- the hunter becoming the hunted?). All the while the training camp is frequented by tourists and under unprivileged school kids, teaching people about these majestic animals.
Ellies love mangos
Rory uses the bilateral-ask-and-reward system for training the elephants and EFAF has designed and published more than 30 codes of practice protocols in this regard. What is most important is that Rory is hugely passionate about elephants and from observing him with the EFAF elephants you could mistake the animals for his own children, the bond is that strong.
Yet, there are people out there who are determined to undermine the work he is doing. Rory told us of one particular “greenie” who took photos upon visiting the EFAF camp and then made up stories regarding the photos.
The elephants have one foot chained to a cable for one very small part of their training program, for most probably only an hour or two a day. This “greenie” said the elephants have all 4 four feet chained up all day long. The “Greenie” also said the elephants were whipped and displayed a photo of an elephant with a water trickle down its side which resembled a whip mark.
I hope the photos I have displayed both here and on Flickr prove to you that EFAF is doing great work in elephant conservation. I wish them only the best and commend them on saving if only a few African ellies.
Without experiencing EFAF first hand it is hard to agree with the work they are doing. However, I would love to know if you are for or against this kind of program, remembering that the elephants only other alternative is to be culled…
The EFAF elephants spend the vast majority of their day grazing, splashing around in the dam, bonding with their groomers, and even helping with the herding of the nguni cattle.