Born to be Wild

November 29, 2012

Gao Gao, giant panda


Quick Update

November 27, 2012

I took a hiatus due to a job hunt and losing a sense of sureness about doing a cartoon. I feel like my drawing has a long way to go.
But I read a linkedin article about whether you should do what you love or do what makes a living for work. Also I read a related blog entry by Gene Luen Yang (
I’ve decided that while I can, I will plan to publish a cartoon every Mon., Wed., and Fri.

Humanist Condor

November 27, 2012


This is one of the three giant pandas at the San Diego Zoo. It is probably Bai Yun but I’m still learning how to tell the pandas apart. This panda favors reclining on its back while feasting on bamboo. Often the pandas are closing their eyes while eating. They really love their bamboo, sometimes holding it in both forepaws and even a hindpaw.

Little Neepo is the youngest calf at San Diego Safari Park. He is pretty notorious however. His favorite past-time is climbing all over any calf who is lying down, presumably trying to nap. Little Neepo has a lot of chutzpah for being a 7-month old calf.

Neepo - elephant calf

Little Neepo’s bravado

If you have a fondness for elephants and would like to know how to help ensure they will survive and maybe even thrive, these are some organizations involved in elephant care and research.

  • David Sheldrick Wildlife Trust – This organization gets the most press (National Geographic, BBC) for their Nairobi nursery where they take in baby elephant orphans and hand rear them. Around the age of three years, the orphans and transported to sites in Tsavo National Park where staff will continue to hand rear them and lead them daily to socialize with former orphans and wild elephants. There are satellite projects like mobile veterinarians, anti-poaching patrols, community outreach, and land conservation. From the Orphans Project area, you can view a list of Orphan Elephant Profiles and select elephants to foster for $50/year.
  • Amboseli Trust for Elephants – This is a research organization for elephant conservation. The program director is Cynthia Poole, who has been following the Amboseli elephants since 1968.
  • Save the Elephants – This is a research and conservation organization for elephants. It is headed by Iain Douglas-Hamilton, who was one of the earliest African elephant field researchers. One of their projects includes tracking elephant migration by GSM to ensure the conservation of important migratory paths and reduction of human-elephant conflicts. Douglas-Hamilton has been actively lobbying CITIES to ban the ivory sales that have led to increased elephant poaching.
  • Elephant Voices – This organization is headed by Joyce Poole and her husband, Petter. Poole’s elephant research became focused on communication (vocalization and hearing). She continues to do research and educational work sharing information about elephants for conservation.
  • Elephants Without Borders – This organization does research for the conservation of African elephants near the borders of Namibia, Botswana, Zambia, and Zimbabwe. It follows elephant migrations using radio collaring and satellite tracking. This organization partners with the San Diego Zoo’s Institute for Conservation Research.
  • The Elephant Sanctuary – This is a 2,700 acre wooded land in Tennessee which is like a retirement home for former circus elephants. It is not a zoo and does not allow visitors but many of its residents became injured or sick and unable to continue working. Both Asian and African elephants live in the sanctuary. This is the home of the elephant and dog who were best friends.

I fell in love with elephants some time before starting on this project. As a result, it’s hard to follow some of their stories and then hear of individuals passing (like Mumbushi, Sasab, Loisaba, Umoya). It’s difficult to understand why nature takes some seemingly before it’s their right time. There is limited comfort knowing that some orphans were spared harsh deaths by either starvation or being eaten by wilder animals, and at least spent days or years in the care of loving keepers and their own kind (other orphaned elephants). For Umoya, at least she was spared from death by shooting, and lived some peaceful years. But since for the par, elephants seem relatively gentle creatures (except for the males largely), it seems they ought to be granted the civility of dying peacefully and naturally.

These are trends causing stress on elephant populations, making some species endangered:

  1. Poaching
  2. Global warming/drought
  3. Human population growth; overlapping land use

These are a few recent stories about the effects of poaching and human encroachment on migration paths: