For the Elephants

Heyyyy everyone. The heat wave returned this week and it returned with a vengeance. I won’t bore you all with another whiny “it’s so hot” blog post. Nor can I offer anything in depth on our usual topics of art history, modeling, music, etc. My brain feels too fried to produce thoughtful writing or analysis. Reading comes more easily, so I’ve been doing a lot of reading these past couple of days. I thought I’d share an article I read recently about a subject close to my heart – elephant poaching in Africa and the ivory trade which drives it. The piece is titled “Inside the Global Industry That’s Slaughtering Africa’s Elephants” and it was written by Matthew Scully. Scully is the author of a magnificent book about animal welfare called Dominion which I consider to be a true masterpiece on the subject of animals, and I’ve read almost all of them. The elephant article is very long and it’s not my intention to give a homework assignment to my readers. There won’t be a quiz! But the piece is extraordinarily well-written and thorough. It addresses all aspects of this cruel, ruthless practice and the politics involved. China is largely the villain but certainly not the only one.

Two Elephants by Amrita Sher-Gil:


I have loved elephants ever since I was child. Accounts of baby elephants witnessing their parents getting murdered by poachers and having their tusks ripped out, often when the animal is still alive, are extremely hard to take. And when we consider the emotional bonds these  highly intelligent creatures share with each other and their habitats, this operation becomes nothing less than a vicious, barbaric, epic crime. The elephants, being such intuitive animals, literally live in fear. Frankly, it makes my blood boil. This excerpt reveals the callous mentality behind elephant poaching:

Scientists tell us that elephants have death rituals. They will, for instance, cluster around a dead individual and touch the carcass with their trunks, and then return much later to caress the bones. Mkanga, the first poacher, is asked if he knows that elephants mourn their dead. He shifts in his chair, adjusts his Safari Beer cap, and smirks. “Sometimes when they have a funeral, it’s like a party for me,” he says. “You shoot one, and before he dies the others come to mourn for the one who is injured. And so I kill another one, and kill another one.”

Appalling. Scully goes on to write, “rarely will you find so much depravity converging on such innocence. After ages in our midst, the most powerful of creatures and among the most gentle, so completely unoffending and yet so endlessly persecuted”,  butchered just so people can eat their noodles with ivory chopsticks. One need not be a lifelong animal welfare supporter like me to recognize that what’s happening to the African elephants is an obscenity that must be stopped.

An elephant sketch in black chalk by Franc Marc:


Try to keep cool my friends. If I don’t see you sooner, I’ll see you here on Monday for my birthday. Be well.

2 thoughts on “For the Elephants

  1. Bill says:

    It’s obviously a sad situation. Disclosure: when I get outside the realm of art, music, religion, etc., I can become very pragmatic very quickly. For me, the most disturbing aspect of this situation is that an acknowledged expert like Matthew Scully seems light-years from a viable solution. (Appealing to the President and the Pope both flunk my viability criterion.)

    I’m no expert, but my next step would be to open a dialog with the Africans. It is, after all, their turf. Do they care? If so, how much? If so, why aren’t they more involved? If not, what would make them care? “We don’t have the resources” is not an answer, but rather the presumed beginning of the conversation.

    • artmodel says:


      You correctly identified one of Matthew Scully’s distinguishing characteristics. He is very high-minded and holds a moralistic, rather than practical, view of animal exploitation issues, which is admirable I’d say. But yes, he does veer into idealism and the belief that people will do the right thing if confronted with the ugly reality. Life has taught me that this is, sadly, not always the case. One of the few criticisms of his book Dominion was it’s heavy reliance on Biblical quotes and religious imagery. I was fine with it, but some took issue with it.

      As you suggested, appealing to the Africans is as good an idea as any. What disgusts me the most are these stupid international commissions which never get anything done and are rife with corruption. The IWC, the International Whaling Commission, that Scully mentioned in the article, is a perfect example of such an inept body. The movie “The Cove” examines it in depth.

      Thanks Bill for weighing in on this issue!


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