ElephantVoices has had another busy and eventful year and we look toward 2012 with eager anticipation and in the hope that you and others will help us to maintain and strengthen our voice!
Here is a sneak-peak at the first quarter of next year: In February: back to the Maasai Mara and to a meeting in Arusha of elephant projects being carried out along the Kenya-Tanzania "borderlands". In March: the premiere of a film in Washington DC, fund-raising visits to New York and California, a series of lectures at Colorado College and an elephant welfare summit organized by PAWS at the Oakland Zoo.
But before we get ahead of ourselves we have a short summary of the year coming to an end.
Best wishes, and peace for creatures great and small, Joyce and Petter
ElephantVoices Maasai Mara initiative - Elephant Partners
Our primary investment of time and energy this year has been to the elephants of the Maasai Mara ecosystem. By combining web-based technology, education and citizen science in the monitoring and conservation of elephants, a long-held ambition has come true: engaging individual people from all walks of life in the conservation and protection of individual elephants. It is from-the-heart, Compassionate Conservation, at work! It has been a pleasure to collaborate with our old friends at Verviant, Nairobi, during the challenging programming described below.
Mara Elephants Who's Who & Whereabouts
Using photographs of the Mara elephants taken by people from all over the world, we now have over 750 individual adult elephants described and registered in an online searchable elephant ID database: The Mara Elephants Who's Who.
Photographs together with the date, time, location and group size and composition have contributed to over 430 group "sightings", which have been uploaded by a growing community of people to a second searchable Whereabouts database. Together these two integrated databases are known as the Mara Elephants Who's Who & Whereabouts. A related Mapping function makes it possible to search for the location of elephant groups by group type and group size; you can even search for where an individual elephant has been seen or for your own observations. The resulting data are available for anyone to view and to use to toward the conservation of the Mara elephants.
The Mara EleApp
We developed the Android-based Mara EleAppso that anyone residing in or visiting the Maasai Mara can participate in the collection of data that will help to monitor and protect the Mara elephants. The data collected on elephant individuals and groups, on their wounds, injuries or illnesses, and on mortalities can be uploaded directly to the ElephantVoices server in the US.
The combined App and searchable databases make this project highly interactive. There is nothing quite like it available anywhere else and ElephantVoices is proud to have pioneered this new way to monitor elephants. Indeed, as we go to press Agness Kilena (pictured left) has uploaded an observation of an elephant birth!
Name and Protect an Elephant for Christmas!
Each Mara elephant is registered with a code number. You can contribute toward the project and the protection of the Mara elephants by Naming an Elephant. Naming donations will go toward supporting the project, providing scholarships and covering field costs.
Kerstin Bucher, a frequent visitor to the Mara from Germany, has named the beautiful matriarch f0115, "Sian", in memory of an orphaned elephant she fostered. She has also contributed quite a number of elephant photographs that we have used to augment the Whereabouts & Who's Who databases. One of our long supporters, Doug Aja, who earlier this year gave the name Tilly to f0303, has just now named a second member of her family, f0305, "Janis". Thank to both for kicking off the naming of elephants!
In September Joyce traveled to Mozambique, to assess the behavior of the elephants of the Gorongosa National Park. During a civil war that lasted over 15 years, the warring sides, RENAMO and FRELIMO, slaughtered 95% of the elephant population, exchanging ivory for guns and ammunition. Almost two decades after the end of the war, the survivors are still caught between fear and fury: They either run from tourist vehicles or they charge!
Joyce traveled to Gorongosa at the suggestion of her brother, cinematographer, Bob Poole and at the invitation of philanthropist, Greg Carr, who is leading the restoration of the incredible Gorongosa National Park. Joyce had the pleasure to meet some extraordinary survivors and ElephantVoices is discussing future involvement to help these elephants to learn that the people they now meet inside the park come in peace.
Educating via the Senses: Sound, Photography, Paintings and Film
Through a variety of activities, ElephantVoices continues to be involved in the sharing of knowledge about elephants.
From our collections a number of elephant calls, images and video, have been used by the media this year. A series of photographs describing elephant behavior appeared as part of Japanese DVD-book, which has become very popular.
A video clip, a range of elephant sounds and a series of photographs will appear in two elephant films that are due to premiere in 2012. Two of our elephant recordings will appear in Muséum-Maison de l'Eau temporary exhibition on elephants next year. The Science Museum of Minnesota is using a series of photos taken by Joyce in 1980 of Tonie grieving over her stillborn infant, to explore the question, "What makes us human?" The exhibit, still in development, introduces the concept that other animals grieve, too.
Joyce and Petter used a month-long exhibition of elephant photographs (Petter's) and paintings (Joyce's) as an avenue for two lectures on elephant behavior, welfare and conservation.
Joyce worked on two different elephant film productions, one with HBO on elephant welfare and the other with National Geographic on elephant conservation. Both films will premiere in 2012 - we will keep you updated.
We're happy to see that the number of people following us on our different Facebook Pages and Causes are steadily increasing - ElephantVoices on Facebook passed 10,000 "likes" a couple of weeks ago. Please join!
Captive elephant welfare - defining Sanctuary for Elephants
As more people recognize that elephants aren't suited to zoo environments, there is growing interest in the concept of sanctuaries.
To quote Jane Goodall in a letter included in a recent ElephantVoices news post about the Toronto elephants, "With their intense social bonds and need for large areas to roam, elephants should remain in the wild or when this is not possible, in a sanctuary that can provide them with adequate care, the chance to form natural bonds with other elephants, and large areas of natural habitat."
There is much talk about sanctuaries, yet there has been little discussion about what the word "Sanctuary" means for elephants. In line with our work on The Elephant Charter, we have, therefore, put time this year into defining the Principles of Sanctuary for elephants.
The Elephant Charter - SIGN ON and spread the word!
Once again, we urge you to sign The Elephant Charter. It is easy to share the site via social networks and, using Google Translate, visitors can read the Charter in all major languages. Please share it with your friends in other countries!
The elephants of the Toronto Zoo - ElephantVoices' welfare work
ElephantVoices participated in the successful campaign to persuade the Toronto Zoo to close their elephant exhibit and send the three remaining elephants to PAWS; on 25 October the City Council voted overwhelmingly to do so. With the climate and conditions Toronto Zoo can offer - this was the only reasonable decision for the elephants in question. We are delighted to hear that the enormously generous Bob Barker is funding the transition of these elephants from Toronto to PAWS.
Being a small organisation our priority is to engage at the level of policy where we can have the broadest influence on elephant welfare. The development of statements on selected topics concerning the management and treatment of elephants is a primary goal for 2012.
Our intention is for individuals and institutions to make use of these expert statements in a range of more specific cases around the world. While we may take a decision to give advice or provide statements on specific cases, such as the Toronto Zoo, this will be the exception rather than the rule.