As I scour through EIA’s extensive image archive, I’m constantly confronted with depictions of death, pain and suffering – hardly surprising, as so much of the focus of our work is on environmental criminality.
When I first started with EIA more than a year ago, it was always with a pensive breath that I opened the ‘Ivory’ folder to hunt out an image – although we do have a selection of striking, moving images of living creatures, these can often seem overshadowed amid the ranks of seized ivory and poached carcasses.
These dark images are powerful and a window into a world that relies on keeping the curtains drawn, but sometimes it’s necessary to remind ourselves just what it is that we’re fighting for.
Last month, I was asked to accompany Mary Rice, EIA Executive Director and head of our Elephants Campaign, to Kasane in Botswana. While she had been invited to speak at the international Conference on Illegal Wildlife Trade, I was there to pick up some interviews in the wake of the event.
We also had the luxury of being based on the banks of the Chobe River, home to one of the densest populations of elephants anywhere in Africa – an unmissable opportunity to acquire images and footage of these magnificent animals which EIA and others work so hard to protect.
While driving through Chobe National Park, you could be forgiven for thinking that elephants were thriving; at one point, it seemed that around every corner of the dust track was another picturesque herd.
The long wetland island in the middle of the Chobe is a feeding and bathing ground for countless elephants – and our guide advised us that in the dry season there are even more out there.
We do, however, know all too well that elephants are being hammered for the illegal ivory trade as never before.
Botswana, and the Chobe, are all-too-rare instances of elephant success stories in this continent, a moving reminder that ivory belongs on elephants and that elephants belong in the wilds of Africa.