Bbbbbbrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrr. A low rumble resonated in my ears as I shut my eyes. Just for a second I thought I was back in Africa, but the round of applause that erupted brought me back into the room.
Rachael was beginning her talk about the work of Game Rangers International and had completely captivated the audience with her elephant greeting. Over the next ten minutes an emotion-rich story unfolded as she enlightened her audience and I for one was smiling with a tear in my eye!
During the talk Rachael focused on three of the rescued orphans, Zambezi, Suni and Musolole, who’s stories highlight a key topic in the education plan… POACHING.
DOB: April 2011
Musolole, named in honour of the very brave ZAWA (Zambian Wildlife Authority) officer, who lost his life fighting poachers like those who shot the calf’s mother. Musolole was less than 6 months old when he was found in Sioma Ngwesi. He was weak, severely dehydrated and covered in sores as his body had struggled to cope without the essential milk from his mother for at least a week. His skin was so thin that he bled from the smallest scratches and one of his toe nails had even fallen off. He was transferred to Lusaka by road, which took 16 hours, under the close supervision of ZAWA vetrinarian, Dr Squarre. Musolole is now enjoying life at Lilayi while the receiving the veterinary attention he needs. He seems to be recovering nicely although he is still very vulnerable due to his young age.
Globally, poaching is increasing rapidly and despite international law to protect species such as the elephant and rhino, the illegal trade in wildlife continues to bring certain species closer and closer to extinction. Musolole’s story also highlights the dangers facing those trying to tackle it on the front line.
It is a very complex problem and having been part of anti-poaching patrols and assisted in an arrest, I can tell you that the people on the ground are often merely the subjects of powerful people higher up the chain. However my focus is bringing the issue of poaching, and why it needs to stop, into the classroom.
This subject of poaching, already an important part of the Muzovo Project, will hopefully spread globally as the David Shepherd Wildlife Foundation, Game Rangers International and Dane Court Grammar, (the school where I teach) start to develop a global conservation classroom. The aim is to bring students together from across the world, engage them on the topic of poaching and wildlife conservancy and to expose them to alternative sustainable lifestyles, thus lowering the chances of them becoming involved in the trade. This education I believe needs to be driven by children and developed by them with a little help from us! Recently a group of my students researched, adapted and put together a small play to highlight some of the poaching issue.
An extract from the play:
The next morning, in the bush. The young elephants Zambezi and Batoka are out of breath and afraid, entering the stage shortly after the spotlight turns on.
Zambezi: Where’s Mother?!
Batoka: I don’t know!!
Zambezi: I’m scared!
Batoka: Me too…! Where could she be?! She was looking for fruit on the other side of the river, but she never came back across, like she was supposed to!
Zambezi: Where is everyone else? Where is the rest of the herd?! (Batoka trumpets frantically. Zambezi joins him.) Where is everybody?!! Uncle! Aunt! Sisters! Maaaamaaaa…!! (Zambezi pauses, sniffs the air with his trunk) Uncle Chamalanda is near.
I am sure you can guess what has just happened to their mother… Something that we hope we can stop through education and awareness. As mentioned earlier Rachael spoke of Zambezi when in London, who was rescued in the Lower Zambezi, which will be the finishing point for our cycle through Zambia in August 2013.
DOB: October 2011
Management staff at Baines River Camp were surprised to see that the guest splashing about in their swimming pool was actually a one month old baby elephant! Poor little Zambezi had fallen into the pool as he was desperately trying to drink water. He was skinny and very dehydrated and at such a young and vulnerable age, he had not developed the muscles and coordination to drink with his trunk. As he got down on his knees to stick his head in the water he must have toppled in! There was no sign of his mother and his condition suggests he had been alone for a few days at least. After initial care in the lodge area, he is now a resident at Lilayi, doing very well.
Although you should not have favorites, his cheeky nature very quickly grew on me and stole a big chunk of my heart.
If you would like to help us develop educational awareness and support our cycle ride please follow @CycleZambia or check out www.cyclezambia.co.uk or www.davidshepherd.org and send me an email, thank you.