Watch the world’s first virtual elephants marching to raise funds to fight poaching


Date Published

See link for video of the march.

Let us hope digital elephants are not the only kind left in the future.

In the first week of March, one of Africa’s oldest and largest elephants was killed in Kenya by poachers. Fifty-year-old Satao II was one of the last remaining “big tuskers” – a species whose population has dwindled alarmingly thanks to ivory-poaching.

To remind everyone of the elephants that were killed, a herd of digitally-generated 3D elephants paraded on electronic billboards across five cities last week to make sure that the real ones left in Africa have a future.

The campaign, #MarchforGiants, invited sponsors, whose brands or logos were placed on the digital elephants marching across the screen. The money raised will be used by Space for Giants, an international conservation charity working in Africa with a mission of protecting half of the continent’s remaining 380,000 elephants by 2020.

The population of African elephants has fallen roughly to that number over the past decade according to the International Union for Conservation of Nature. This drop is reminiscent of the time African nations were trying to shake off colonial rule – from an estimated 3 to 5 million elephants in the 1940s, only 600,000 were left in the 1980s.

British zoologist Ian Douglas-Hamilton called it the “elephant holocaust” after conducting aerial surveys over sub-Saharan African countries.

The 1970s saw a boom in the sale of ivory, which was a prized possession for colonisers and, later, for people in Japan and Hong Kong, among other countries.

Douglas-Hamilton’s extensive research into the alarming decline pushed most governments into banning international ivory trade in 1989 – only for it to be lifted a few years later.

As the brief history of poaching in the video below suggests, the hunting of elephants will continue as long as the ivory trade exists. This is a challenge that global as well as grassroots organisations in Africa have to face.