Turning objections into challenges

Daily Brew you can't stain elephant tusksYahoo Canada ran a “Daily Brew” article a few days ago about staining tusks to stop poaching. The expert quoted, Anne Lambert of the Internat’l Conservation Fund of Canada, says, “Darting and applying dye to elephants would involve a huge cost and stress and risk to elephants.”

I agree with this.

Ms Lambert dismisses the idea of staining tusks as thus “impractical to impossible.”

That I disagree with.

painting elephant tusks pink poorly

Wildlife experts say this is how NOT to stain an elephant’s tusks. Yes, I think we’d all agree on that. So, how can we do it? (photo Sayyid Azim AP, w Photoshop’g)

The objection is that you can’t knock out the elephants and paint their tusks.

The challenge then is how to deliver the dye into their system in something they’ll eat or maybe in something off-the-wall like a skin patch (like a nicotine patch) that has been plunked onto the elephant’s flank by flatheaded arrow spread with a bit of 3M’s finest adhesive. Without tranquilizers and with no stress. No impractical and expensive teams of elephant handlers.

dyeing elephant tusks with doum

This might be one way to stain tusks. Tanzanian elephant enjoys a ripe doum fruit. Doums are quite a healthy snack which might well be healthier laced with a bit of indelible dye…

You’ll probably need several doses of dye to stain the tusks fully, and elephants are suspicious eaters, so it’s an ornery problem. Still, doesn’t it seem manageable enough to look into? (Laugh, but Nestles makes pet food. I’d ask them for suggestions – and funding. Or Clairol. You think that they’ve never thought about the market potential of hair dye in a pill?)

If you have suggestions on how to proceed, please comment. If this is a non-starter, tell me why.

Why stain tusks to fight poaching?

I go into this at All We Do for the Elephants . . . Exactly, but let’s take the example of Tanzania. Poaching there has been intractable. 65,000 or 60% of their elephants were killed in 5 years. The government is thought to be complicit in poaching and ivory smuggling. (Officially, the government takes a “Who? Us?” line. To them, the loss of 12,000 elephants in one reserve is “the greatest wildlife mystery ever.”)

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