“The Last Elephants” is informative, heartbreaking and well-worth the time

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I didn’t know. I really didn’t know that taking ivory from elephants meant their deaths. I thought that poachers took part of the ivory, but left the animals alive. That’s not exactly better, but at least in my version the elephant lived.

In reality, the animals are left where they are felled, to suffer and die in a horrible way.
And something else I didn’t know: The demand for ivory continues, as it has since the very first hunting safaris; therefore, poaching continues to proliferate.

“The Last Elephants” is a compilation of essays from elephant experts and writers who are responding to the results of the Great Elephant Census of 2016, which showed there were less than 450,000 elephants in Africa. Just a hundred years ago, there were over three million.

Throughout the book are exceptional photos of elephants, some poignant, some sweet, some intimidating, and some nauseating, so even without reading any of the text, you can still learn the story of elephants today. Bottom line? They face extinction in 25 years.

But what seems like a no brainer from a western perspective (save the elephants!) is riddled with real-life problems in Africa.

Elephants encroach on and damage crops that mean the difference between life and death for subsistence farmers. If not managed properly, elephants disturb and destroy tree habitats.
Elephant meat feeds villages. The key is balance and community-based problem solving.

As to poaching, reduce the demand and the insidious problem takes care of itself. If there’s no money in it, the cartels move on.

The book ends with a plea for us to get involved in many different ways, like refusing to support businesses that sell animal parts, speaking up for elephants wherever we are, and donating funds to organizations that support elephant growth.

I’m taking up the challenge by buying a beautiful black and white print of a mother sheltering her elephant calf; the proceeds will go to the sheltering of elephants in Kenya.

“The Last Elephants” is in the new book section of Johnson’s Willey Library. Please seek it out and get informed.

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