Wild life

How do we save the elephant? It’s simple: eat them

People would then start ranching elephants instead of poaching them — and you could feed half a million people with the elephant meat currently going to waste

23 April 2016

9:00 AM

23 April 2016

9:00 AM



I sip my Tusker beer on the veranda, staring at the elephant. He’s not the elephant in the room. He’s the elephant on what should be my croquet lawn. I thought he might go away, but he hasn’t. Instead he’s brought his friends — more and more of them as time goes by. They say the elephant will become extinct within a few years. Across Africa, poachers are decimating elephants — just not here, where they apparently feel safe enough to crap on my sward.

Today, the fashionable argument promoted on Twitter, and followed by princes and prime ministers, is to burn all stockpiles of seized ivory in the world. This, they argue, will help shut down the illegal trade in ivory. Poachers, some believe, must be fought with special forces-trained rangers with night-vision goggles and helicopter back-up.

Currently, they say around 30,000 elephant are being poached annually. This is mainly for their ivory, from which the African bandits who pull the trigger make but a few coins. Instead, the lion’s share of profits is gobbled up by criminal gangs smuggling tusks to the Far East, where hordes of Chinese consumers want the ivory carved into miniature statues of their grandmothers.

Others argue that the best way of saving elephant and other wildlife is through commercial sport hunting. It’s hard to disagree with the numbers, given that wildlife populations have thrived mainly in those parts of southern Africa where big-game hunting is also a lucrative industry. But it disturbs many that the future survival of megafauna should depend on them being shot by rich dentists and oilmen from Texas, together with their wives. And it appears unlikely that much of the money from commercial sport hunting would ever reach the impoverished populations it could benefit, who instead have the crops on which they subsist flattened, or their children squashed dead on the way to school.

Whenever I look at Facebook there’s a white cat lover saying these Texan hunters should be ‘hunted down’ themselves. This is the type of person who says humans are a ‘disease’. Fewer people = less global warming = more elephants.

The problem is that if Prince William succeeds in stopping the illegal trade in ivory completely, elephant populations will explode and, since their habitat is dwindling fast as Africa’s people multiply, they will come ever more into conflict with humans. Just down the road from us recently, crowds of poor people protested against the destruction of their maize crops by attacking a herd of elephants until they were driven off with a helicopter. The only way to put money into the pockets of those poor farmers is for Western tourists to fly in to take photos, while burning lots of fossil fuels — except they tend to stay away when they get scared of terrorists.

I imagine anybody who has a view on what to do about elephants, that white cat lover even, would like to rescue Africans fleeing poverty from drowning in the sea. They might be concerned about fresh famine in Ethiopia and world peace in general.

So I have a proposal. I don’t want to offend anybody, but the aim here is to save the species while making humans happy.

Why don’t we eat the elephants? Most of the meat from these poached animals is discarded. Aside from providing teams of Western television journalists with B-roll, the carcasses become elephant graveyards across Africa, decomposing uselessly.

An adult bush elephant weighs around six tonnes. Based on the poaching statistics, if all these elephant were put through abattoirs rather than going to waste — and killed out at about 50 per cent live weight — this might produce roughly 90,000 tonnes of protein. About three kilos of maize stolen by a pachyderm from a poor person’s farm converts into a third of that in meat. Better than pigs.

A really big T-bone steak is around 500 grams. I bet most of you couldn’t even eat a T-bone that size. I can, but most can’t. Not everybody would get a T-bone elephant steak. Some of us would. The rest would get a nice bit of heart, liver, kidneys. Imagine the size of ’em. Elephant tongue is good, I hear. Trunk is OK if you slice it well. The best bit, according to the early explorers, is elephant foot roasted overnight on hot coals. You can feed 50 campers with an elephant’s foot.

If you fed refugees 500 grams of elephant a day, you could feed around half a million people year round with the elephant currently going to waste. Suddenly, people would have an incentive to stop poaching elephant. They’d start ranching elephant — and the larger numbers would be welcome, not a nuisance.

In UK supermarkets, you could have elephant meat ethically grown by Third World communities. Or an organic line supported by Prince Charles.

I should have a chat with President Robert Mugabe. He ate an elephant at his birthday party last year. I take another sip of my Tusker.

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Show comments
  • davidshort10

    Well said. How many cows would there be in the English countryside if we didn’t eat roast beef or beef curry?

    • Andee_oneill

      why do you need cows in the English country side? Id rather look at a magnolia or an English oak or cherry blossom. Or a field of brocolli. No one needs to eat meat. There wouldnt be any fighting dogs if it wasnt for dog fighting.

      • davidshort10

        Oh, do shut up. And if you’re a veggie, please learn how to spell broccoli. I presume you are ten from the level of your spelling and your argument. Please come back in ten years. Until then I certainly won’t respond to you.

        • Andee_oneill

          Sorry, but where is the flaw in my argument.
          Please don’t get annoyed at my poor spelling. ( ” learn tons spell “).
          Please understand that typos happen, especially if written in haste on a mobile device.
          I’m guessing you’re impervious to any reasoned debate regarding the animal industry and its effect on health and the environment, neverminding the unnecessary deaths of billions of animals each year.

      • NormanWells

        If you’d rather look at plants, buy the land and grow plants to look at. Personally, I’d rather look at elephant hunting videos and there’s lots to choose from. Glad someone does it.

  • #toryscum

    The only 2 models of successful large game conservation in the world; North America and southern Africa are based on hunting.

    • Leon Wolfeson

      …Which isn’t the same as farming.

  • Andee_oneill

    Aidan, I’m sure you’ll agree that Africa needs to increase the value it places on life, not decrease it. The less we kill the better. If Africa needs to control its elephant numbers maybe a sterilisation programme could be considered.

  • Jaria1

    Find a way of removing its tusks and replacing them with plastic substitutes

    • luciteehee

      Leave their tusks ALONE! Their ivory should stay INTACT unless the elephants are used for feeding the population! Use plastic substitutes for CARVING images! Or semi precious stones, granite, flint, soapstone, etc.! Be creative!

      • Jaria1

        Try being realistic luciteehee the elephant with substitute tusks is of no use to the poacher so is more likely to live .

        • luciteehee

          Being “realistic” is knowing replacement tusks are NOT going to be sufficient to help them survive! As I STATED, let the people who BUY the ivory for carving images use the plastic or OTHER substitutes! The elephant is left to die in agony, then rot, since the tusks are the only thing of value to these barbarians! Another way to stop the slaughter is embed a chip into the elephant that alerts authorities if too close to humans! I don’t KNOW the answer, but someone COULD!

          • Jaria1

            The elephant is killed for the ivory in its tusks as is the rhinoceros I’m sorry you find that difficult to accept. Perhaps if you tried to sell something carved out of plastic against something carved out of ivory reality would strike you.

          • luciteehee

            REALITY is; Beautiful creatures are destroyed to feed someones selfishness! It doesn’t MATTER to those making the biggest profit, NOR those who do the carving, that a magnificent animal was sacrificed! THAT’S the REALITY!

          • Jaria1

            I think it best to let you believe whatever you want to.

  • NormanWells

    The most value from elephants for the people who have to live with them is to sell permits to hunters to shoot them, with money from guiding, lodging and permits going to the local communities, meat as well. And the tusks could be used in a carving industry such as walrus is by the Inuit, with the shavings going to the Far East for medicinal purposes. The animals will then be considered an asset, rather than a liability and protected from poachers to maximize revenues.

    • Andee_oneill

      Cultural imperialism…. Because Africans are doing so well on their own….

      • NormanWells

        Why do you want to control their resources? Where paid hunting sees permit and other revenues accrue to local people in Zimbabwe through the CAMPFIRE Programme, incomes are 15-25% higher than in areas where they are not. And Zimbabwe has a growing elephant population while Kenya, where hunting is illegal, has a declining population.

    • luciteehee

      That makes PERFECT sense! But that won’t “work” for linguinni! Two brain cells not close enough to “spark”! They just “wave” at each other from a distance!

  • Kandanada

    Meat is resource intensive. If the numbers were checked, we might find that hundreds of thousands of elephants would need to eat the entire cultivated crop output of Africa to survive.

  • Ingmar Blessing

    Sounds a bit like how the Japanese do it with whales.

  • Lynn Guini

    I’m sure this asinine article was posted to create controversy. Fine. If you were truly serious, you would be promoting human BIRTH CONTROL. Too damn many people and not enough wildlife! Your croquet lawn is in reality their home! And when humans plant their crops in trails that Elephants have traveled for hundreds of years, guess what is going to happen. Better planning would be advised. (I told myself not to weigh in on this absurdity, that it is a total waste of time. Should have listened to myself.)

    • plainsdrifter

      Who for? Try Muslims, Africans and Indians for starters.

    • sudyrand

      You know the only ones promoting birth control, have already been born. You think there’s too many people? Then kill yourself and maybe your family and then there would be fewer people. Oh, you are shocked by such a suggestion? Well get over yourself, you aren’t that important. When you die, there will be three born to take your place.

      • luciteehee

        THANKS, sudyrand! I NEEDED that! You took the words right outta’ my mouse!

    • luciteehee

      Glad you DIDN’T! I needed the chuckle!

  • Big Shumba

    This writer ‘gets it’. Elephants are thriving where they are legally hunted. However, where there is no elephant hunting, their populations have diminished greatly. The DO GOODERS who have so much venom for those who hunt elephants may be well intentioned, but their intent is misplaced. And, they are doing nearly as much harm to elephant populations as the poachers themselves.

  • Leon Wolfeson

    Tip – Having farmed animals does not negate the desire to also have wild ones in their natural habitat.

  • Bennie Bennett

    How and why would anyone want to shoot an elephant?

  • Goinlike Billio

    And an elephant hoof makes a lovely ashtray.

    • Elephant DaZe


  • Jackthesmilingblack

    Elephant tastes like $hit, but you can live on it.

  • Elephant DaZe

    Even the idiot Mugabe did not eat the elephant…that was hyperbole..how about creating mixed land use? Or better farmer techniques…Amsterdam has created amazing advances with hydroponics…Africans don’t have to be farmers…you have SOLAR…and you could create this industry to avoid using fossil fuels.. Chili is using so much solar now they’re giving away electricity…More ideas welcome, but eating / farming elephants is unsustainable…What about veganism?