Saving the Elephant
This s a critical moment in the fate of the elephant species and is one of our last chance to halt their extinction.
Over 100,000 elephants have been killed in the last 3 years, a pile that would reach the international space station
This portfolio is a photographic essay on behalf of UK charity Stop Ivory, in support of their aim of preventing the extinction of one of the planet's most iconic species, the African Elephant. The finished portfolio will exhibit at the CITES Conference of Parties in Johannesburg in September 2016. It's aim is to present a compelling case to decision makers at the moment they cast their vote on legally binding policy for elephant protection. If successful, it would lead to the closure of all domestic ivory markets worldwide
The portfolio of photographs chronicles not only the majesty of this beautiful animal, but also the extraordinary people with whom they coexist - conservationists and communities alike.
“In an underground bunker in Nairobi I viewed 140 tonnes of collected and confiscated ivory; $100 million-worth that will be burned in a symbolic ceremony in April,” says Middlebrook “Amongst the horde were some of the largest tusks that once roamed the savannahs and forest of Africa. If anything remains, it will be a subspecies with impoverished tusks – in an evolutionary war, it now pays to be small.”
Elephants search for the shade of trees as the midday African sun demands a change of pace. Resting against the bough of a tree, elephants seem to enter a state of trance. © Martin Middlebrook / Stop Ivory
A ranger from Kenyan Wildlife Services holds the tusk from a Tusker Elephant. The ranger is 6” tall and yet is dwarfed by the ivory he holds - which in itself is modest for a tusker at just 30 kgs. The ivory stockpile holds tusks of up t o 48 kgs. The stockpile contains hundreds of these massive tusks, the last witness to a DNA oddity that created giants - giants that will not be seen again. © Martin Middlebrook / Stop Ivory
The primary school in the Leparua Community in Kenya. The community has benefited greatly from the new philosophy of community conservation. After an acceptance that billions of dollars had been wasted over 40 years of conservation effort, this much needed rethink in approach has begun to cement the future of both wildlife and people - alleviating if not entirely preventing future conflict. © Martin Middlebrook / Stop Ivory
A ranger en route to his drop off. Each night teams of two, camp out in the Sera Conservancy. They work in total silence without light, listening for the sound of poachers. Beyond the possibility of encountering poachers, they have to endure constant mosquito bites and the threat of scorpions. In the last twelve months, two rangers have contracted malaria and one helicoptered out due to a life-threatening snake bite. © Martin Middlebrook / Stop Ivory
A Samburu women in the town of Seriolipi, Kenya. The Samburu, unlike many tribes across Africa have a special relationship with elephants. If they come across a dead elephant they will place branches, leaves or flowers on the carcass, in exactly the same way they would place flowers at a funeral. They deem elephants to be their ‘elders’ and accord them an almost reverential respect. © Martin Middlebrook / Stop Ivory
Only the speed of a camera can capture the explosion of an elephant dusting itself. © Martin Middlebrook / Stop Ivory
To observe an elephant is a profound privilege. They have a majesty that connects us to them, and them to their environment. To lose them would be a damning indictment of humanity. © Martin Middlebrook / Stop Ivory
Tipper the Bloodhound is trained to apprehend a suspect, whilst the rest of the dog team team move in and secure the scene. In addition to supporting the work of anti-poaching teams across northern Kenya, they are also integrally involved in apprehending bandits and cattle rustlers. © Martin Middlebrook / Stop Ivory
Samburu tribesmen hope to sell goats and cattle at the Seriolipi cattle market. Held each Sunday in a specially built compound on the edge of town, employees of NRT (Northern Rangelands Trust) take the opportunity to leave the conservancy and talk with the Samburu. Community outreach, the building of strong relationships, is at the heart of modern day elephant conservation. © Martin Middlebrook / Stop Ivory
As pastures begin to dry to the north of Kenya, an annual migrations begins that sees herds move south through Lewa, before navigating the Elephant Corridor to traditional grazing lands in Mount Kenya National Park. © Martin Middlebrook / Stop Ivory
Members of the NRT anti-poaching team, and environmental images to illustrate the landscape of Sera Conservancy. It is a punishing but beautiful terrain, and a brutal climate, that exacts physical demands and requires great passion and commitment to operate in. Samburu County, Kenya. © Martin Middlebrook / Stop Ivory
Kenyan anti-poaching rangers have four days off per month, and a month of annual leave. The punishing schedule, and a deep commitment to their profession mean that there is only one way to keep in touch with family and loved ones - the mobile phone. At night around the kitchen area in Sera, constant conversation lights the sky like fireflies - ribbons of light trace the meandering of rangers. © Martin Middlebrook / Stop Ivory
With the spread of agriculture, and the building of infrastructure projects, elephants traditional migratory routes became increasingly obstructed. An Elephant Underpass was built, connecting Lewa to Mount Kenya . Once again the annual migration can continue unimpeded. © Martin Middlebrook / Stop Ivory
Julius Kimani, Former Acting Director of the Kenyan Wildlife Service (KWS). By 1989, Kenya’s elephant population had plummeted to just 16,000 (from a high of 130,000 in 1973). It now stands at close to 100,000. These figures stand in bleak contrast to much of Africa. If Africa is to retain its diversity of species, Kenya is the model they should follow. © Martin Middlebrook / Stop Ivory
140 tonnes of ivory, a black market value of $100 million, each tusk a dead elephant. Tusks are either collected from naturally dead animals, or confiscated from illegal poaching. The ivory stockpile at KWS contains five separate rooms packed with individually marked and catalogued samples. The largest tusks weigh 48 kg each, and the stockpile contains many of the last great Tusker elephants. © Martin Middlebrook / Stop Ivory
Oleyaso Lonyamal from the Lewa Anti-poaching Team. Rangers camp out for seven days at a time, choosing high positions that overlook 45,000 hectares of rich savannah. From here they can observe any infraction, and coordinate with Lewa HQ and the Lewa Dog Team. © Martin Middlebrook / Stop Ivory
The elephant’s trunk contains over 40,000 muscles, divided into as many as 150,000 individual units. It is compelling to observe these powerful animals use its primary tool so delicately with tender social caresses tightening family bonds, and then rip branches off trees with an unequal ease. © Martin Middlebrook / Stop Ivory
A slash of gold, a solar panel glints as the sun sets over the Sera Conservancy. The solar panels drive boreholes that extract deep lying water, filling water holes that support this delicate and complex ecosystem. © Martin Middlebrook / Stop Ivory
As Sir David Attenborough says “The question is, are we happy to suppose that our grandchildren may never be able to see an elephant except in a picture book?” © Martin Middlebrook / Stop Ivory
Elephants follow tracks that have been pounded for generations. From the air, they are all too easy to see. © Martin Middlebrook / Stop Ivory
The head of security for the Ivory Stockpile, KWS, Nairobi, Kenya - in the Ivory Stockpile strong room. © Martin Middlebrook / Stop Ivory
Jonathan Nanyoi (left) and Sepengo Ndina discuss their options. From the Manyangalo Community, and whilst grazing their cattle on government land on the Lewa Conservancy, a dozen or so cattle have spilt from the main group and find themselves in the company of three agressive black rhinos. Unsure as to how to proceed, a ranger from Lewa drove to the cattle and pushed them away and back to the main herd. Such a simple act can build bonds and promote common interests. © Martin Middlebrook / Stop Ivory
There is some suggestion that terrorist organisations such as Al Shabaab have used revenues from illegal poaching to fund their activities. Chinese investment in both Ethiopia and Kenya has seen the construction of a major road route connecting these two countries. With Somalia bordering both Ethiopia and Kenya there is evidence that Al Shabaab use these arteries to launch their attacks. The road is peppered by countless police check points designed to check for both terrorist activity and the trade in illegal animal parts. © Martin Middlebrook / Stop Ivory
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