By Cindy Jackson
February 19, 2020
The ever-popular Story and Song bookstore located at 1430 Park Avenue recently celebrated its second anniversary.
Part of the success of this bookstore is due to the fact that it serves as a very popular venue for music, panel discussions and interesting speakers. One such presenter during their week of celebration was Dane Waters who was there to discuss The Elephant Project.
Google Mr. Waters and you will find bios that describe him as “a political strategist, elephant protection advocate, builder and designer, author, and direct democracy advocate.” Another goes on to say that he “has worked on six continents providing strategic advice to campaigns, governments, activists, academic institutions, and NGO’s (non-governmental organizations).”
As a result of his work in Nigeria and Myanmar, he was led to take on the cause of protecting the elephant species.
During his presentation, he debuted three minutes of a documentary, also known as a “sizzle reel.” The film is still in the production stages but like the nonprofit organization born just three years ago, once released, the documentary will also be titled “The Elephant Project.”
If you go to the nonprofit’s website (www.theelephantproject.net) you will read some alarming statistics. For example, “the world’s elephant population has been in a dramatic decline for the last several decades from poachers, human-elephant conflicts, and profiteers. They are in danger all over the world. In Africa, 100 elephants are killed every day for their ivory. . . In 2015, a terrible milestone was achieved when the number of elephants killed was more than those born.”
Started in 2017, The Elephant Project has a mission which is all about “New Ideas. New Solutions. A New Future.”
The ultimate goal of The Elephant Project is to “find a sustainable way to help elephants,” said Waters, underscoring the fact that “the second largest killer of elephants is human/animal conflict.”
But what does that mean exactly?
As explained by the World Wildlife Foundation, (WWF), “In many parts of the world, people and animals are increasingly coming into conflict over living space and food. This is mainly due to expanding human populations and the continued loss of natural habitats. The impacts are often huge. People lose their crops, livestock, property, and sometimes their lives.”
One Green Planet says, “Elephants, in particular, are feared because of their large size and ability to trample an entire field of crops in mere minutes.”
Global warming, deforestation from aggressive timbering and other catastrophes both natural and manmade have created a combination of factors resulting in what might be described as “perfect storm,” so to speak.
Deprived of their natural habitats, elephants are forced to go in search of food and water and have been known to descend upon a village whereby destroying the crops. In so doing, the elephants become the enemy. Yet, as Waters emphatically stated, “elephants destroy crops only as a last resort . . . “
Waters also spoke about poaching and the difficult, if not impossible, task of stopping illegal trade.
Poverty and corruption go hand in hand. Nigeria, a country about the size of Texas where 170 million people live on just $5 day, happens to be the busiest hub for wildlife trafficking. It’s big business – estimated to be in the billions of dollars.
Ivory from elephant tusks, “blood beads” made from their skin and other illicit products command high dollars. “Extreme poverty means some people see wildlife as valuable barter for trade,” says the WWF. To that end, Waters was emphatic when he said, “We have to look at the entire package . . . we have to help humans find a better way of life.”
Transforming cultural beliefs is one thing and transforming the thirst and desires of “the rich and famous” is yet another.
The Elephant Project, says Waters, takes a three-prong approach, noting “we have to care about both, [humans and elephants] . . . it all ties together.”
Conveyed Waters, “ . . . it’s a complex situation in need of a sustainable approach.” The Elephant Project incorporates these goals:
1) Ending the market for ivory and other elephant parts and the inhumane treatment of elephants
2) Ending human-elephant conflicts; and
3) Developing humane economies that will provide perpetual funding for the care and protection of wild and captive elephants
To learn more about Dane Waters and his vision for The Elephant Project, visit their website at (www.theelephantproject.net).
. . . and be sure to keep abreast of who’s on the speaker list at Story and Song.
Editor’s Note: Born in Hagerstown, Maryland, Cindy received her BA in Political Science from Dickinson College. Upon graduation, Cindy began her career on Capitol Hill working as a legislative aide and director. She later became a part of the public relations and lobbying team of the American Iron and Steel Institute and served as director of the office of state legislative affairs for the Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association (AOPA). Cindy was involved in economic development with the state of Maryland, and served as executive director of Leadership Washington County. As a community volunteer, Cindy participates in numerous volunteer activities serving as a member of Sunrise Rotary, and as board member of Cummer Amelia Board of Directors.