Giraffes and elephants are known and loved by people all over the world; both by people who live in the same countries as these animals, and people who know them from zoos, story books, toys, and films.
Surely the universal love for these species will help protect their populations in the wild because people want to protect them?
A recent study by French scientist Franck Courchamp and colleagues suggests this may not be the case. Courchamp and his colleagues determined the ten most charismatic species of animals to people using several types of information including surveys of school children and frequency or appearance on zoo websites. They determined that the ten most charismatic animals are the tiger, the lion, the elephant, the giraffe, the leopard, the panda, the cheetah, the polar bear, the gray wolf, and the gorilla.
All of these species have experienced severe population declines over the last century and are critically imperiled in the wild. Courchamp et al. performed surveys and polls about the public’s awareness of whether these charismatic animals are endangered. From this data they determined that the public is largely not aware that these well-known and loved animals are endangered and in need of urgent conservation.
Celebrating Africa’s Giants exists to help develop this public awareness and conservation engagement for giraffes, elephants, rhinos, and their fellow savanna inhabitants and their ecosystems. Our goal is to help these species remain popular in films and books and in the wild for the 21st century and beyond.
Story by David Brown. Photos by Wild Nature Institute.
The Society of Illustrators is the premiere showcase for illustrators, featuring 400 pieces of the most outstanding works created throughout each year. Open to artists worldwide, thousands of entries are considered by a jury of professionals, which include renowned illustrators, art directors and designers. This year, on the Society of Illustrators' 60th anniversary of publication, Wild Nature Institute is proud to announce that an image by Kayla Harren from our new children's book, Our Elephant Neighbours, was accepted in the annual exhibit! The book was produced in collaboration with our partners at PAMS Foundation here in Tanzania.
Congratulations once again to the extremely talented and deserving Kayla Harren. We are so lucky to have Kayla bringing to life the stories of Africa's giants - giraffes, elephants, and rhinoceroses - for children in Tanzania and around the world through her captivating images. The illustrator-author team of Kayla Harren and Monica Bond together have created Juma the Giraffe, Our Elephant Neighbours, and the in-progress Helping Brother Rhinoceros, all of which are used in educational programs designed to teach themes of individuality, empathy, and teamwork while inspiring children to love and care for Africa's precious wildlife.
An elephant herd leisurely grazes through a savanna in central Kenya. A small elephant calf playfully chases his older sister through the brush while their mother, the matriarch (leader) of the herd, strips bark from a large acacia tree with her tusks and grabs leaves with her trunk. As the matriarch approaches the next tree buffet she suddenly halts. She starts shaking her head and throwing dust over her shoulder, signs of great agitation. She sounds an alarm call and the entire herd of a dozen elephants runs shrieking away from the trees.
There are no lions or other predators around, and there are no people – these are the things that usually agitate elephants and make them run away.
What could be threatening the elephants and make them go screaming away from the trees?
Dr. Lucy King has studied that question. It turns out that it was something small that scares elephants when they get close to certain trees.
A mouse? No, it is only a myth that elephants are scared of mice.
Elephants are scared of bees.
African honeybees are very aggressive. They form swarms of thousands of bees that attack any animal that gets too close to their hives. They sting their victim as a single unit, delivering thousands of stings within seconds.
These attacks can kill people, but are they enough to kill or harm an elephant? “Yes,” says Dr. King. “It seems that over the millennia elephants have learned to avoid trees with beehives. We think this must have come from elephants trying to forage in Acacia trees, accidentally knocking open a wild beehive and as a consequence being stung in the face, around the eyes and up the trunk.”
Dr. King collected data to show that elephants are afraid of bees. “We have collected a lot of anecdotal stories about this from herdsmen, farmers and rangers who have witnessed elephants being stung by wild bees. They run away as quickly as possible!” she explains. “I recorded the sound of very disturbed angry bees and played it back to families of elephants resting under trees using a hidden wireless speaker system to see how they might react should a wild hive be disturbed nearby. They ran away just like the anecdotes suggested. I've witnessed one family running from real beehives and it’s true - they just get out of there as fast as possible.”
Written by David Brown.
We spent a wonderful two days with Mike Chedester, Director of Education for the Living Desert Zoo and Botanical Gardens in Palm Desert, California. The Living Desert is generously supporting Wild Nature Institute's "Celebrating Africa's Giants" environmental education program to conserve Africa's mega-herbivores giraffes, elephants, and rhinoceroses.
Mike visited 4 primary schools and 2 secondary schools in the Tarangire-Manyara region where we have been implementing giraffe-themed educational programs. The teachers and students were warm and welcoming and we all had a wonderful time.
The Living Desert is not only financially supporting our giraffe education program in Tanzania, but they are implementing the program at the zoo and in schools in Palm Desert, including using our children's book Juma the Giraffe to teach about giraffe physiology, ecology, and conservation. This creates a bridge between Tanzanian and American children as they simultaneously explore the unique beauty of this magnificent mega-herbivore. On October 1, the Living Desert is launching their 'Year of the Giraffe' with fun and games and lots of cool information about giraffes. Giraffe scientist and Wild Nature Institute's California program director David Brown will be speaking at the kick-off event as part of the Desert Conservation Speaker Series.
An illustration from Juma the Giraffe was accepted into the 2017 Communication Arts Illustration Annual and won an award of excellence. Communication Arts is a professional journal for designers, art directors, design firms, corporate design departments, agencies, illustrators, photographers, and others involved in visual communications. For over 58 years, CA showcases the current best in design, advertising, photography, illustration, and typography.
Of the 3,995 entries to the 58th Illustration Annual, only 178 were accepted, representing the work of 159 artists, making the Illustration Annual the most exclusive major illustration competition in the world. Big congratulations to Kayla Harren, the extremely talented illustrator of Juma the Giraffe! See more of her images at www.kaylaharren.com.
We are excited to report that the distribution of our giraffe-themed environmental education materials in Tanzania has been a resounding success. This month's distribution is a follow-up to the teacher’s workshop we hosted last October, where teachers received advance copies of our giraffe storybooks, activity books, and posters, and learned about lesson plans and activities to accompany the books and posters.
Thanks to Wild Nature Institute’s educational consultant, award-winning science teacher Lise Levy, and a terrific community organizer from our partner organization Masai Advancement Association (MAA), over the past month we have delivered a Swahili version of our Juma the Giraffe storybook and Juma poster, another poster about the amazing physiology of giraffes, and an activity book Twiga Na Rafiki Zake (Giraffe and Friends) to more than 4,600 children in 14 schools surrounding Tarangire and Lake Manyara national parks! We will be monitoring how the books and lesson plans are being used, and making more visits to the schools to help implement the fun learning activities.
The goals of our giraffe-themed environmental education project are:
Welcome to Celebrating Africa's Giants: Environmental Education for Conservation of Giraffes, Elephants, and Rhinoceros.
Giraffes, elephants, and rhinoceros are Africa’s giants, majestically roaming across savanna landscapes and awing safari-goers and zoo visitors around the world. These largest of land mammals play critical ecological roles where they live, but they are endangered due to conflicts with humans.
We are a team of conservation scientists, educators, illustrators, and designers who develop and distribute innovative, culturally relevant Environmental Education materials.
Our children's books, posters, activities, and lesson plans are for children, their parents and educators in Tanzania, America, and around the world.