HOW’D YOU LIKE TO BE A POACHER KILLING ANIMALS FOR PROFIT?

THE HUMAN RACE

      DUMBO, SIMBA, TONY AND MAGILLA:  BEWARE!

     Strictly for profit, what if poachers in Africa and other countries of the world killed Dumbo, Ruby the Rhino, Tony the Tiger, Smokey the Bear, Simba the Lion King, Magilla the Gorilla, or Peter Potamus the hippopotamus?

     Of course, they’re all mostly beloved cartoon characters. But what if they were real-life animals? If Dumbo, Walt Disney’s adorable cartoon elephant, and the others were killed for cash and body parts, wouldn’t that piss you off?

     Let’s focus on Dumbo. Imagine him today as a full-grown mountain bull with massive 6-foot ivory tusks roaming the jungle in Africa’s Northern Kenya. He’s the same precious little rascal with the big heart we all remember as kids. He’s just grown up.

     Now picture this: Poachers armed with automatic weapons and poison-tipped spears or arrows are stalking him, earning as much as $2,500 a kill. They hack off his massive tusks and leave his mutilated carcass for the vultures. Loads of ivory tusks are shipped to China and other Asian countries where they are carved into small ornamental knick-knacks, jewelry, priceless chess pieces, and other crafted items earning fortunes for their remorseless marketers. Are you going to buy one?

     Since premeditated murder of innocent animals for profit is a sin, how can those who worship various Supreme Beings explain why they are making fortunes selling or buying religious artifacts made from the tusks of endangered pachyderms or horns of rhinoceros? And why, pray tell, do some of the devoutly God-fearing customers purchase such religious statuettes?

     I guess you can chalk it up as a classic case of ignorance, pomposity or a blatant act of hypocrisy.    

     By now, the slain adult Dumbo would have his own breed of babies leaving behind a grieving widow — for elephants do grieve lost ones just like humans. Experts on the subject report that in Africa alone, at least 25,000 tuskers are slaughtered yearly for profit.

     The reason I used Dumbo as a metaphor is to make this point: How many of you know of feller named Satao? Not many, I’ll wager. The legendary 6-ton pachyderm who roamed Tsavo East National Park in Kenya was killed by poachers on May 30, 2014. Some reports say he “died a painful death” caused by poison-tipped arrows or spears. Another report was he died suffering eight bullet wounds fired from automatic weapons.

     Since you might not know who Sato is, I substituted Dumbo’s name. The information I gleaned from a variety of sources including CBS-TV’s Sunday Morning News, National Geographic and The L.A. Times.

     Paula Kahumbu, a Kenya-based wildlife conservationist for Wildlife Direct, said that Sato was a celebrity in his own right; that he was highly respected not only as a “magnificent pachyderm but as major tourist attraction.” A National Geographic story quoted her saying: “All the killers wanted was his tusks so somebody far away can have a trinket on their mantelpiece.”

     The soul-searching question is: How deeply would you care if you learned an elephant named Sato was slaughtered for his tusks? After all, Sato was only one of an estimated 100,000 elephants who was assassinated across Africa over the past couple of years. If the victim was actually Dumbo, revered by children as well as adults, wouldn’t that leave a marked emptiness in your soul, a painful feeling of remorse in the pit of your conscience? I hope so.

     I realize that our society has its own stalkers, killers and drive-by shooters on the loose. And who truly cares about some big old elephant named Sato in an African reserve tens of thousands of miles from our shoreline.

     After all, there are as many as 690,000 African elephants alive today. That’s a lot of Dumbos. But compare that number to 5 million back in the thirties and forties. According to experts, more than 30,000 elephants are killed annually for their ivory. And their tusks are shipped to places like China, Thailand, Korea and Vietnam.

     Foreign criminal organizations with sophisticated weaponry kill viciously, reported CBS-TV. In a 2012 episode an estimated 300 elephants were gunned down inside a national park in Cameroon, a republic stretching from the Gulf of Guinea to Lake Chad in West Africa.     

     In recent years, says one report, “dozens” of rangers were killed fighting to protect wildlife from poachers in Africa. Is waging such a war against those who kill animals for profit so horrifying when humanity is hard at work killing its own kind by the millions? For God sakes, we’re even decapitating the heads of journalists to make a political point, and stoning women to death because they refuse to obey the demands of the ruthless males who dominate their lives.  

     Since we’re talking about cartoon animals, let me ask one last question: If you were a poacher, how much would you charge to kill an adult Dumbo for his valuable tusks and his sturdy legs used occasionally for coffee tables, Ruby the Rhinoceros whose horns are made into dagger handles or ground into power used for medicinal purposes as well as an aphrodisiac, Peter Potamus the hippopotamus for his cute ears and big toothies, Magilla the Gorilla using his powerful hands and feet for trophies, Tony the Tiger for use as a throw rug which includes his handsome head and sharp fangs, Simba the Lion King for his mane and mandibles, Smokey the Bear for his huge paws and claws?

     You already know how I would feel.

        — Boots LeBaron —

(Boots’ book, THE HUMAN RACE, is available on

Kindle and in Amazon paperback. It contains

inspirational and humorous stories, essays and

light poetry dealing with the trials and

tribulations of people confronting adversity)

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