Tuesday, August 27, 2013


"I was in Delhi 6 years ago... it had changed immensely but I'm sure you know that... I did visit AIS though - actually have a few photos of that day - they welcomed me grandly as one of the old students!" - Lori

in conjunction with Lori Bergemann's trip to Delhi, she also visited Calcutta (now Kolkata), where she is one of a few AIS students who attended both American International Schools. 


When Lori Bergemann was young, her engineer father took a job in India with Hindustan Motors. While at boarding school in New Delhi, she often went to the zoo to visit the elephants. “The elephants just stood there standing and swaying back and forth,” she said. “I just felt really sorry for them. I made a secret promise to myself that one day I would find a way to help them.” It took thirty years, but Lori made good on her promise.

Today she is a passionate, risk-taking conservationist whose non-profit - Amara Conservation - fights the poaching and snaring of African wildlife with education. The path that led Lori to Kenya opened late in 1999. She was in her sixteenth year working at The Earle restaurant in Ann Arbor, MI when her sister Heidi invited her on a special trip.

At first they planned to return to India, but after a chance meeting with a tour operator and wildlife conservationist in Kenya, they decided to change their destination to Africa. - See more at: http://amaraconservation.org/lori-bergemann#sthash.IIuDtdsO.dpuf

Tuesday, August 20, 2013


Kenya Wildlife Services wants the Wildlife Bill amended to provide for life imprisonment of those who kill elephants and rhinos. The Bill is due to be debated in the National Assembly. Managing Director William Kiprono said the two animal species are threatened with extinction because of poaching.

The Bill requires prescribes a fine of between Sh10 million to Sh 14 million for guilty of killing the animals. Kiprono was addressing the press in Kitale on Saturday after meeting the County security team to discuss ways of saving the animals from poachers “It is regretting that crime on animals has increased, we want to combine efforts in protecting our wildlife “he said.

He said the country earns between sh100billion to 120 billion in tourism adding 80 percent of the income is generated by wildlife sector. The wildlife sector, he said, has employed more than 300,000 Kenyans and if wildlife is not protected, Kenyans are likely to lack the jobs and the country may lose the income. In the new wildlife Bill, the director said the animal human conflict is well catered for adding if an animal kills or destroys the property of a person, then the owners of the crops will adequately be well compensated.READ MORE

Monday, August 19, 2013

How to Identify Elephants in the Wild

Elephants are some of nature’s most majestic creatures. But how do scientists know who’s who in the wild? To think like an elephant scientist, it’s important to look at key characteristics, said elephant biologist and National Geographic Explorer Joyce Poole. These traits include sex, body size and shape, tusk configuration, and ear patterns.

By knowing the animals as individuals, you can get a better understanding of their behavior, relationships, and sophisticated family dynamics. “It takes some sleuthing to ID elephants sometimes,” Poole said, “but my childhood love of jigsaw puzzles has paid off!” Poole and her husband, ElephantVoices co-director Petter Granli, created the first online digital ID registry of elephants, which features Kenya’s Masai Mara elephant population. “Instead of having just a couple of scientists and research assistants monitor elephants,” Poole said, “we thought, well, why couldn’t you include everybody in on this?”

In 2011 they started Elephant Partners, a project that approaches conservation through citizen science and web technology. The database enables non-scientists visiting the reserve to help monitor and protect elephants by adding their observations via mobile app or website. (See “Elephants Communicate in Sophisticated Sign Language, Researchers Say.”) Funded in part by National Geographic’s Northern European Fund, as well as the JRS Biodiversity Foundation and others, the project includes the Mara Elephant Who’s Who database, containing 1,046 registered elephants, and the Mara Elephant Whereabouts database, which keeps track of all the sightings of elephants.

Elephant lovers visiting the Mara can assist the project by downloading the Mara EleApp, an Android-based app that automatically records the date, time, and location of an elephant sighting. Users can then respond to a series of queries about the sighting, such as: How many elephants? Is it in a family group or is it a bull? The app allows you to take a photo and asks you to enter the names of the elephants, if you know them. Registered users can upload their photographs and observations to the databases. Learn how to identify an elephant in this video: READ MORE



China’s lust for ivory isn’t just slaughtering elephants. It’s also destabilizing Africa Gwynn Guilford, Quartz August 7, 2013 Hong Kong customs officials just confiscated a Nigerian shipment of 1,120 elephant tusks—part of a haul of rhino horns and leopard pelts that totaled around $5.3 million in value.

In July, HK customs seized 1,148 tusks worth $2.3 million in a shipment from Togo, and confiscated another 780 tusks worth $1.14 million back in January. Those three shipments alone add up to at least 1,525 dead elephants—scary, considering as few as 400,000 elephants are left on the planet. Since ivory is traded illegally, the best way to capture poaching trends is to look at customs seizures, which suggest a sharp recent rise in killings:


Elephant Listening Project


There is little more Andrea Turkalo wanted to do in life than spend her days among the elephants who roam a rainforest deep in the Central African Republic. To her, they are wondrous animals and they have revealed their secrets to her slowly, over the many years she has studied them. It was a tranquil life, until the day rebels drew near, looting and massacring civilians.

Turkalo was forced to gather her precious research, her money and leave. Now she is back in the United States, watching from afar as the continuing turbulence in the CAR takes a toll not only on the people, but also on the elephants that she has grown to know so well. They are being killed with alarming ferocity. Andrea Turkalo is a field biologist with the Wildlife Conservation Society and she works with the Elephant Listening Project at Cornell University, trying to raise awareness about the very bleak future forest elephants face.

Solving Human Wildlife Conflict


Solving Human Wildlife Conflict By Hilma Hashange, Namibia Economist 16 August 2013 To reduce incidents of human wildlife conflict in Namibia's national parks, the Ministry of Environment and Tourism through its Namibian Parks (NamParks) programme is implementing various park management activities such as the Human Wildlife Conflict Self-Reliance Scheme in areas most affected by the phenomenon.

The increasing wildlife number in both the Zambezi and Kunene Regions have dramatically increased over the past 20 years and despite the associated benefits, living alongside wildlife is proving to be costly for communities living inside national parks and conservancies. Human Wildlife Conflict incidents have continued to rise and a total of 7738 cases of livestock losses, crop damage and attacks on humans where reported in 2010 alone.

 Communities in affected conservancies have thus established innovative ways to combat Human Wildlife Conflict and have joined forces with the private sector and other NGOs. Nineteen conservancies have registered to form part of the scheme and received N$60,000 each as part of the start up capital.  READ MORE

Monday, August 5, 2013


By Karl Ammann

Two years ago, acting as the presenter, I was filming with a German TV team in a new casino town on the border between Laos and China. In such semi-autonomous enclaves, built on leased territory, the laws of the countries on either side of the border go out the window.

Gambling, prostitution, drugs, and illegal wildlife consumption become the main economic activities. The wildlife-related enterprises, including the establishment of bear bile farms, were what we were looking into. As we walked the streets we came across two clouded leopard cubs hidden in a cardboard box.

The species is classified as vulnerable by the International Union for Conservation of Nature. I took them out and played with them while the camera was rolling, until the owner started protesting and put an end to it.

In the meantime our translator was approached by a truck driver, who had his vehicle parked nearby and who had witnessed the commotion. He told our guide that if we were interested, there were two tiger cubs a few hours away that were for sale.

He gave us the address, and subsequently we went off to find the place, toward the center of Laos. When we got there we found out that the cubs had been sold to a Vietnamese buyer two days earlier for $4,000. I decided to follow up on that story on a later visit with a friend who was a cameraman. To learn more, we hired the Laotian hunters who had procured the tiger cubs... FULL STORY


By Karl Amman

So your latest model Ferrari is parked in a prominent spot outside the top five-star hotel in the capital. You are meeting friends for a drink and since it is pleasantly warm you wear a short sleeve shirt so there is no way they can miss the golden Rolex on your left wrist – they will know it is the real thing.

But what about your right arm? Maybe a rhino horn bangle worth the same as the wrist watch (about U$ 15 000) would make for a good conversation piece, not yet on the must have list of most of your friends.

The feeling when travelling through the key urban centers of Vietnam and China is that wealth is only really accepted when it can be presented in a conspicuous way. Status symbols and lifestyle products are what it is all about when competing for social status, and rhino horn jewelry and ivory have become part of this demand characteristic.

We have now visited a household which also serves as a store and workshop on three different occasions. It is about an hours drive from the Hanoi City Center. On all three occasions we saw and documented with hidden camera large amounts of raw and semi worked ivory including end product souvenir and jewelry items as well as rhino horn products.

Even on our first visit, in 2011, we were offered a rhino horn prayer bead bracelet. We watched the demonstration by the owner shining a torch light through one of the beads and explaining how we could ensure it was the genuine article.

Pushing open a door in the basement of the house we entered a bedroom with a wide range of cut up ivory pieces in cardboard boxes. Some of the ivory was already worked into finished bracelets. Since we had arrived during a local holiday the workshop upstairs was closed, however we managed to film a group of Chinese tourists being brought in by their tour guide buying a number of chop stick sets as well as bracelets.

All items were carefully measured with calipers which together with a digital scale were part of the paraphernalia used in each such sales transaction. When we asked to see some raw rhino horn an Iphone containing images of various horns was pushed into our hands. - READ MORE

Saturday, August 3, 2013


With such special understanding, awareness, and ceremonies around life and death it's truly sad that elephants in Africa are being slaughtered for profit. A species with such consciousness and connection with it's members should be revered.

Too often we become blinded by dollar signs and in turn willing to wipe entire species off the planet. Life is special, it's beautiful, and the animals that live in balance with nature can teach us a lot about ourselves. 

Organizations such as Lori Bergemann's Amara Conservation Team are necessary to raising the type of awareness a problem like this, and others like it, deserves and needs, in order to hit the mainstream.

Friday, August 2, 2013


Oprah Winfrey appeared on the popular U.S. television show "The Late Show with David Letterman" Thursday night and discussed her time in Tanzania and addressed African elephants and ivory. She emphasized that the African elephant could be gone in 12 years and states "I don't buy ivory...you would never do it again if you saw an elephant."

Dave Letterman mentioned the "brisk ivory business in China." Excellent exposure. Starts about 5 minutes into the clip below.


Elephants, like humans, have rituals for the hard facts of life. The reproduction, birth, and eventual death of an Elephant is enacted n with a special kind of consciousness that is not only aware, but full of deep emotion.

A Bull Elephant woos the female by nuzzling and becoming affectionately closer to her. The female chooses to accept his attempts by returning these gestures, and the magic process may happen - hopefully at the right time (elephants are only fertile for a few days each year).

Elephants stay pregnant longer than any other land animal. Twenty-two months is the average gestation period, and mating occurs approximately every four years. The calf can weigh up to 130 pounds, but usually settles in the 100 lbs range.

The baby Elephant will be born without sight, and the mother elephant sometimes has to jolt the young calf awake by kicking it around on the ground. This is the human equivalent to slapping a baby's bottom. Once the calf is awake, it learns very quickly how to walk in order to keep moving with the herd, as it is at a particularly vulnerable point, being just born.

Hopefully the elephant has lived a long life, sometimes they can contract a disease, or simply become old and die. Having no natural predator - except for the unlikely lion, hyena, cheetah, or, more likely; a poacher - the elephant has a life span of around 60-80 years. After one dies, especially the matriarch, the herd of Elephants will mourn it's passing in a gentle and emotional ceremony.

An Elephant parade will recognize the bones of their deceased matriarch, and will begin the mourning ceremony by first gathering around the bones in a defensive circle facing outward. Then, the whole family of elephants will delicately pick up each bone with their trunk, and caress every crevasse completely. They then touch the bones with their hind feet, letting out mournful cries of grief and sorrow.

With a such a ceremony, Elephants do seem to have a certain understanding about death, perhaps similar to our own -- or perhaps even more drenched in an ancient wisdom that we have long forgotten.

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