by Betsy Seeton
Below is a photo of Bob Parson, CEO of GoDaddy.com, posing with the elephant he killed in Africa. It has created a media storm of controversy. Certainly, if you follow Jasper's Blog or any of the blogs on livehonestly.com, you know how much I love and respect elephants. Why he posed here with the typical trophy hunter look, is puzzling considering what he claims happened. Below his Parson's account of how he came to shoot an elephant. He also explains his smile in the photo below.
“When you see me smiling in that picture, I’m smiling because I’m relieved no one was hurt, that the crop was saved, and that these people were going to be fed — the type of smile when you get a good report card or achieve a goal,” Parson says.
Hmmm .... okay. I wouldn't be smiling over the death of any animal especially when you learn that elephants are losing their habitat and being encroached upon by humans who are multiplying and moving into their world. But we each respond to things differently. The kill made Parson smile. It would make me sad and more determined than ever to do something to help elephants and humans coexist peacefully.
To be fair, here's Parson's account of why he killed the elephant.
[click on image above to watch Parson's own video]
Here's what this story made me wonder. Next time, what if Bob Parson took some of his business fortune and used his brain and other resources to create solutions to the elephant-human conflict and worked toward a peaceful resolution instead of the last ditch effort of killing an elephant? Experts say it can be done and is being done.
The story of Parson killing an elephant has me revisiting the topic of elephant and human conflicts. Killing elephants must stop being considered a solution to this problem.
The following is a partial reprint of a December 2010 posting I made about when elephants clash with humans. In a world that is so war torn and ravaged by greed, it's heart warming to hear that some conflicts are finding friendly resolutions.
Tippi Degre in Africa -
"Living peacefully with elephants is possible," says Sereivathana TuyKOH KONG.
15 December 2010 (IRIN) - Sokha Seang, a 33-year-old rice farmer, recalls the night last spring when a herd of elephants trampled over his property.
"They were hungry. I was angry, but I understand why they did it," he said. The pachyderms ate most of his food stock.
In Cambodia, poor farmers like Seang cannot afford to lose crops; a third of the population lives below the national poverty line of US$0.75 a day, according to government statistics.
They kill marauding elephants with guns, sharp bamboo sticks, or by leaving out poisoned food. Sometimes, the elephants retaliate by running over people.
This time, Seang set aside his instinct to fight back, with the help of NGOs. "We need to live with them peacefully," said Seang, whose remote village of Prey Proseth lies in the southwest province of Koh Kong.
In Bali - by Betsy Seeton
Protecting livelihoods, preserving wildlife
Conflicts between elephants and farmers are common across Asia, one factor that has caused the animal population to dwindle and farmers to lose their livelihoods.
Experts such as Sereivathana Tuy, 40, are encouraging farmers to find ways to live peacefully with the elephants. Tuy is a Cambodia-based elephant specialist at Flora and Fauna International, a wildlife non-profit organization based in Cambridge, UK.
He teaches farmers to alternate crops such as cucumbers and white radishes, which can be harvested several times a year. This gives elephants fewer chances to eat them.
Villagers have also learned to ward off elephants by planting chilli peppers around their land, rather than maiming them with weapons, as elephants dislike the smell, Tuy said.
For Tuy, both sides can preserve their ways of life. The villagers keep their harvest while the elephant population can also be conserved, he told IRIN in Koh Kong.
In Cambodia, fewer than 500 elephants are thought to roam in the wild today. In 1995, there were an estimated 2,000 wild elephants.
'Elephant Eye' by Betsy Seeton
The clash between elephants and humans became a problem after the communist Khmer Rouge regime was ousted in 1979. In the next two decades, under-regulated development caused deforestation, forcing elephants to search for food and water on farmlands outside their traditional forests.
Some Cambodians sought expensive elephant tails, tusks and the tips of their trunks - body parts that were believed to bring power - and displayed them in their houses to show their status.
These practices led to widespread poaching, says Tuy.
As a park ranger in Cambodia in the 1990s, Tuy developed a community-based model for ending human-elephant conflicts that revolves around building trust with farmers.
Tuy's method begins with hiring teachers who teach children about elephants in four schools in remote areas. The children then pass the knowledge on to their parents, who are supposed to discuss it with the other villagers.
Before 2005, elephant killings were often reported to the police, who would arrest the perpetrators, then jail or fine them more than $2,000. Under Cambodian laws, poachers or elephant killers may also be jailed for 10 years.
Angry villagers said they knew of no other option to protect their land.
The situation might be improving, however. Tuy estimates there have been between five and 10 elephant attacks on humans since 2003, and only one death since 2005 - a sign that farmers are using safer methods to drive away the elephants.
Many methods are backed by empirical evidence. One study last year found that "community-based crop-guarding methods" - the sort of collective guarding using traditional tools that Tuy teaches to villagers - warded off elephants in about 90 percent of attempted raids around Way Kambas National Park, on the island of Sumatra, Indonesia.
"It ties in with a growing realization that a lot of the top-down methods haven't worked especially well," Simon Hedges, Asian elephant coordinator at the New York-based Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS), told IRIN from London.
"It's not really realistic for all communities across Africa and Asia to expect that the government is going to deal with elephants for them," he added.
MORE STORIES ON CREATING SOLUTIONS TO THE ELEPHANT-HUMAN CONFLICT
In 2003, Johannes Haasbroek founded Elephant-Human Relations Aid (EHRA) after personally observing the southern expansion of the desert elephant population and realizing a need for a multi-faceted conservation approach for reducing human-elephant conflict. EHRA has three main focuses: research on the movement and identification of the elephants living in the southern Kunene region, community development and assistance, and education. By researching the elephants’ biology, movements, and behavior, the information can be used to educate farmers and mitigate conflicts. Source: http://bushwarriors.wordpress.com
London’s King Alfred’s School has successfully partnered with EHRA to provide a unique opportunity to its students that also benefits the people of the Southern Kunene region. Groups of their students are sent to EHRA to complete a week of hard work building and improving the schools’ facilities, followed by a one week trek into the arid ecosystem of the area. All of EHRA’s hard work and conservation efforts support Namibia’s desert elephants, while also developing more elephant-friendly communities. They are now working to develop more ways for these local people to benefit from tourist activities, which will further promote co-existence with the elephants. EHRA sets a wonderful example for bridging a gap between humans and wildlife in many different ways. Source: http://bushwarriors.wordpress.com
The PEACE (People and Elephants Amicably Co-Existing) project—a community-based education program: helping people who live among the elephants to understand their biology, physiology and behavior and to observe them in the field, to help decrease fear and lack of information, and to appreciate the roles of all in earth's overall environment. Residents, chiefs and headmen, conservancy leaders, school pupils and tourism sector employees will have opportunities to participate in this newest phase of EHRA's conservation efforts. READ MORE
"Ask not what an animal can do for you; ask what you can do for an animal." Jasper
"The animals of the world exist for their own reasons. They were not made for humans any more than black people were made for white, or women created for men." ~Alice Walker
The source of the quote is Walker's preface to Marjorie Spiegel's 1988 book, "The Dreaded Comparison" . Her next sentence was, "This is the gist of Ms. Spiegel's cogent, humane and astute argument, and it is sound."