Conservation Biology, Illustration

Ivory on her throne

Blessed are those who conquer the natural world.

"Ivory on her throne" (Arlene Ellis, 2014)

“Ivory on her throne” (Arlene Ellis, 2014)

Cynthia Moss, who runs the Amboseli Trust for Elephants, in Kenya, has been studying and protecting elephants since 1968. She says she’s “heard these same arguments forever…”

Moss sees firsthand the impact a death of an elephant has on the survivors, especially the death of a female. “The killing of a female is probably more devastating for other individual elephants because they live in tight knit families. In Amboseli, you’ll see a family of 20 individuals—grandmothers, mothers, nieces, cousins, sisters. They stay in the family their whole lives and are very bonded.”

When a female is killed, the repercussions can last a very long time, Moss says. If the mother of a three- or four-year-old calf is killed, the calf will die. The survival rate of elephants up to 20 years old is even compromised if their mother is hunted. And if a matriarch is shot, “it’s absolutely devastating. It will have ramifications for years.”

Moss says that over her decades of work she has never once been persuaded by any of the arguments in favor of sport hunting. “The loss of an elephant is a tragedy,” she says. “And killing an elephant or any other animal for fun is abhorrent.” 

-National Geographic

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