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Mourning the loss of two great Tuskers in Africa, killed by poachers.

22 Jun

Two iconic and well known jumbo elephants in Africa have been killed by poachers for their ivory tusks. These majestic elephants known as Mountain Bull and Satao, were known as Tuskers with Satao thought to be the largest elephant in Africa. Both were studied by conservationists, both were under 46 yrs old and both were survivors of previous poaching attacks. Sadly, both also ended up being killed by poisonous spears, which took several weeks to slowly and painfully cause their demise. All for the illegal ivory trade – blood ivory.

Mountain Bull was killed in Mt. Kenya National Park in May, and he was very well known and studied. In 2012 his tusks were cut down, in order to make him less desirable for poachers. The study of his migration routes assisted conservationists in developing a safe route for wildlife to pass from Mt. Kenya to Lewa and Samburu, without conflicting with human development. His acceptance and use of the new trail led to over 2,000 other elephants following the path. For the past 8 years he had a GPS collar tracking him by Save The Elephants, which alarmed the organization when they noticed it had stopped moving. The search team from Lewa Wildlife Conservancy found his body, with his tusks removed. He had survived at least one previous poaching attack, which left 6 bullets in his body. The loss of Mountain Bull was a shock and has deeply affected all that knew him. He was also featured on the CBS Evening News and CBS Sunday Morning regarding the poaching crisis in Africa. Their video report on his death can be found HERE. Mountain Bull was only 46 years old.

Photo Credit Lewa Wildlife Conservacy

Mountain Bull – Photo Credit Lewa Wildlife Conservancy

Mountain Bull - Photo Credit Lewa Wildlife Conservancy

Mountain Bull – Photo Credit Lewa Wildlife Conservancy

 

With the despair and frustration of Mountain Bull’s death still on many minds, the news of the great tusker Satao’s death was like blow to the body that you never feel you’ll fully recover from. Satao was thought to be the largest elephant in Africa, with his tusks almost reaching he ground.  He was from the Tsavo East National Park. Due to the size of his tusks he was under almost constant watch by the Kenya Wildlife Service and the Tsavo Trust. But sadly, the good guys can’t be everywhere all the time and poachers were able to spear him. The Tsavo Trust located his carcass on June 2, 2014.  Several months prior to that he was found with spear wounds, which luckily were treated in time for the poison to kill him.

 

I first heard of Satao earlier this year through a blog post by Mark Deeble, a wildlife filmaker in Africa. His blog post here talks about his observance of Satao and how his habits had changed in recent months. As Satao came across elephant carcasses in his travels, he most certainly realized that since their tusks were missing, that his may be a target as well. He would move through the bush in zig zag patterns, waiting and watching, and not trying to hide his body but rather hiding his tusks. It is highly possible that he knew his fate, and he was right. Satao was only 45 years old.

Satao. Photo: Richard Moller -Tsavo Trust

Satao. Photo: Richard Moller -Tsavo Trust

 

Satao. Photo: Mark Deeble

Satao. Photo: Mark Deeble

 

It is thought that the remaining tuskers are all in Kenya. A petition was started demanding the Kenyan President declare presidential protection for the remaining few, which would provide round the clock protection for them. President Kenyatta has yet to comment.

The source of poaching is directly caused by the demand for ivory, mostly in China. The majority of the buyers don’t even realize the crisis of poaching, and most have no idea if the ivory they’re purchasing is white ivory or blood ivory (recently poached ivory). The better their economy improves, which is steadily improving, the greater the demand. In addition, the true and traditional artform culture of carving ivory, which goes back 2,000 years, has been deemed a national intangible heritage in China. For those and other reasons, it’s undeniably an uphill battle. The chain of people from the poacher to the buyer of an ivory trinket or carving is rather long, and everyone is making money. For the poachers themselves, it’s an opportunity to make sums of money that they never have a chance of otherwise. So much that they’re willing to risk their lives for it. Everyone else in between is involved in corruption, and are helping to fund terrorist organizations and human trafficking rings.

My heart is with Kenya, and the rest of the continent as they’re losing elephants on a daily basis. The demand for ivory will cause the extinction of the African elephant if something doesn’t change. No…..not something, everything.

 

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It’s been 1 month, 3 days and 21 hours since I had a cigarette.

27 Jan

I was so cool when I was 15. Wearing the coolest clothes, listening to the coolest music, hanging out with the coolest people, and doing what they did – smoked cigarettes. Except for some reason, 29 years later, I’m still a smoker and most of them aren’t. With the exception of my two pregnancies when I completely quit, I’ve been a consistent pack-a-day smoker for almost a third of a century. I was completely hostage to the habit, and disgusted by it, yet still enjoyed smoking. All that ended on Christmas Day when I smoked my last cigarette.

Now, I didn’t quit cold turkey. But I can tell you that in the past 29 years I made three serious attempts to quit smoking. The longest I lasted was 12 days. I tried the patch, I tried the gum, I tried whatever that prescription pill was, and of course I tried cold turkey. Every attempt started with the best intentions and determination, but in the back of my head I couldn’t get the thought that I enjoyed smoking to go away. Turns out, it’s just the nicotine that I’m addicted too. Not the other 4,000 poisonous chemicals in cigarettes, or even the flavor of tobacco.

Christmas Day I got the best present any smoker could receive – an electronic cigarette, or e-cig as they’re commonly referred to. It’s a handheld device similar to the size of a fancy ink pen that turns liquid nicotine into vapor. You “vape” rather than smoke. So you get your nicotine intake, and here’s the key reason why this is working: you satisfy the hand-to-mouth addiction that you loose by quitting smoking any other way. That’s half the addiction right there. The combination of the nicotine intake and vaping an e-cig emulates smoking so much that there’s no need to ever light a cigarette again. Having failed at quitting in the past, I can honestly say that this time it’s different. It’s like a magic switch flipped in my head. The pack of cigarettes I had open on Christmas Day is still sitting on my dresser half full. I leave it there to test myself on a daily basis and there isn’t even the slightest desire to spark one up. I’ve passed pretty much all the tests. I’ve been in social situations with other people smoking around me, I’ve been drinking alcohol, I’ve had stressful days at work, my daily coffee, you name it..never once have I craved a cigarette.

There’s many reasons to quit smoking, the health risks, the public health risks, the money, but until you actually do quit you don’t realize all the little things that come along with it. The liberating feeling you get is a combination of many things. Here’s just the top 10: First, I have to say the money. Cigarettes in my state are $7.00 pack, $58.00 for a carton. That’s about $200.00/month savings for me. Second, no more poison. No more risk of cancer, or heart problems. Third, no more lighters, no more fire. And no more risk of a live ash burning a hole through anything or even worse, starting a fire. Fourth, no more offensive smelly smoke. An e-cig produces vapor and has no smell. This means vaping can be done anywhere and nobody would even know, unlike smoking. This also means I can rent a hotel anywhere now and not have to worry about getting a smoking room. The advantages of this are actually endless. Fifth, no more ashtrays. No more ashes, no more smelly burned cigarette butts, so less garbage and stale smell. Sixth, nothing in your house or car will turn yellow anymore. No more yellow fingers, no more re-washing white clothes that hang in your closet. Seventh, the people and pets around you. No more second hand smoke. Eighth, not having to inconvenience the people around you by stopping whatever you’re doing for a smoke break. Ninth, having your taste buds and smells come back. You don’t notice this when you’re smoking, but both senses are crippled. And finally tenth, knowing that you just made a change that will add years to your life. It’s a great feeling.

To be fair and completely honest, the e-cig may or may not be for everyone. Nothing completely replicates an actual cigarette, so you will never have the exact same sensation, smell and taste as you do with a real cigarette. But you are getting your nic-fix so do with that what you can. Unlike cigarettes, there is some routine maintenance involved with an e-cig and the chore of buying the e-liquid, or liquid nicotine. It’s pretty cheap, you can vape for a month on about $10 worth of e-liquid. There are basically three parts to an e-cig. The battery, which has to be charged every other day or so. The cartridge that twists onto the battery and holds the e-liquid. Then the e-liquid itself. The cartridges will last about a month or two depending on use, then you have to either clean or replace them. They’re about $3-$5.00 and come in lots of cool colors. I’ve always been a gadget type person, so I’m getting along great with the whole process. I’ve purchased colored batteries, carry cases, extra chargers, etc. Kind of like you do when you get a new cell phone. The e-liquids come in many different flavors and different nicotine strengths. I started with the strongest nic strength and a marlboro flavored liquid. I quickly started experimenting with flavors, and have found myself partial to the sweet ones. Specifically the cheesecake flavor and the vanilla cupcake flavors. Yummy. I will slowly start decreasing the nicotine strength, eventually down to zero, then it’ll just be a matter of breaking the habit of vaping and I will be completely free.

One concern that I have not overlooked is the actual studies and safety concerns, if any, of using an e-cigarette. They’ve only been in the general public for about 8 years altogether. Clearly long term studies have not been done. Nicotine has been heavily studied so we know it’s no more harmful than caffeine, but what is the vaping doing to my lungs? I can’t help but think it’s not nearly as bad as what tar and cigarettes were doing, so I’m willing to take the chance. I spend a great deal of time researching things on this amazing information superhighway we have at our fingertips, so I’ll be staying on top of the latest research and studies. In the meantime, I’ll keep patting myself on the back and enjoying my current vapor flavor, Berry-Berry. And I will continue to spread the word to all the smokers I know out there, because lets face it….if I can quit smoking, anyone can.

~ LT

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