The Sultan’s Elephant in London – a true story

This is about an elephant that came to the streets of London in search of a little girl. It happened in 2006 and I wrote about it in 2015. It’s a tale about wonder where you least expect it … and about the power of elephants.

The Phraser

The Sultan's Elephant in London ‘The Sultan’s Elephant’ by Royal de Luxe, produced in London in 2006 by Artichoke. Photo copyright Sophie Laslett.

It all began on one of those long weekends when no-one was looking.  To start with it was just an ordinary, empty day – too busy to see.

Then, suddenly, people started to hear things, they started to wonder … because … wasn’t that … did they really hear an elephant in London?

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Zimbabwe’s elephants – wanted dead or alive

This began as a reblog of an old post – it has turned into a new one about a situation that continues to haunt me … the on-going sale of Zimbabwe’s wild, young elephants to distant zoos and tourist parks.

The Phraser

Zimbabwe's elephants Zimbabwe’s elephants

Elephants, the big-eared nomads of Africa, are in trouble. They are squeezed for space, many are slain for ivory, and others are sold into captivity.

Zimbabwe, in southern Africa, is blessed with large herds of elephants, some of the happiest on the continent … but there is danger, both from poaching and live export. The elephants are up for sale and buyers are waiting.

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Baby elephants: made in Africa – exported to China

Today, some of Zimbabwe’s wild, young elephants face export to zoos in China. It was the same four years ago, in 2013. This is a reblog of a piece I wrote at the time, with links to recent Guardian reports on the situation today. Nothing much has changed.

The Phraser

Picture courtesy of China Zoo Watch Picture courtesy of China Zoo Watch

Wild baby elephants (Loxodonta africana africana), born amongst the acacias of Zimbabwe, are being sold to zoos in China by the Zimbabwean authorities.

In 2012 four baby elephants, one of whom is already dead, were transported to China and it is believed that more are due to follow shortly.

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Update: Zimbabwe’s wild-born elephants flown to China

A baby elephant and family

“… But there was one Elephant–a new Elephant–an Elephant’s Child–who was full of ‘satiable curtiosity, and that means he asked ever so many questions. And he lived in Africa, and he filled all Africa with his ‘satiable curiosities …”
(Rudyard Kipling’s ‘ The Elephant’s Child’)

A deal has been done – a sale has been agreed and the animals delivered … but not everyone is happy. The animals sold are young, wild-born Zimbabwean elephants, and the buyer is China.

Zimbabwe is selling not just the family jewels, it’s selling family.  It is exporting them as though they were goods, to a remote land that has little experience of the needs of this great, intelligent species.

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Ségolène Royal says no to Zimbabwe’s elephants

Screen shot of statement from Ségolène Royal

Ségolène Royal says no to Zimbabwe’s elephants

In a statement released this evening Ségolène Royal, France’s minister for “l’Écologie, du Développement durable et de l’Énergie” clarifies that she will not authorise the import into France of elephants from Zimbabwe.

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Dear Devoted Friend – Reply to: “Dear Elephant, Sir”

Wild elephant

The elephant – “a symbol of purity, a dream of paradise lost” (words of Romain Gary in Dear Elephant, Sir)

In 1967 Romain Gary wrote an article that LIFE magazine described as “a love letter to an old companion”.  The piece was entitled “Dear Elephant, Sir”.  Almost half a century later I, with great nervousness, have attempted a reply on behalf of the elephant.  Romain Gary signed off his letter to the elephant with the words “Your very devoted friend” and then his name.

 

Dear Devoted Friend,

Should you ever read this letter you may wonder what took me so long to reply.  I trust that you did not think that I would forget.

The reason for my letter is of course self-preservation.  I, like you, know that our destinies are linked.

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