Mark Deeble has been making films in East Africa with his partner, Vicky, for 24 years (www.deeblestone.com). Now, they’re making a film about elephants and by the time it is finished, they’ll have devoted five years to it. In that same time about a quarter of a million elephants will have been killed in Africa, by poachers.
Not surprisingly, they think about elephants a lot, interact with them on an almost daily basis and would find it hard to imagine a world without them. They’ve been there since 1987 and it’s inconceivable for them to think of Tsavo without elephants. Today there are 11,000 elephants in the Greater Tsavo Ecosystem.
Mark said: “We all have different points from which we measure change through time. Call it a ‘benchmark’, ‘baseline’ or ‘point of comparison’ – that point of comparison is normally defined by our age or experience.”
It dawned on Mark that we don’t miss what we’ve never known. For the first time he looked around with eyes wide open, and wondered what might have gone before.
“In conservation, ‘benchmarks’ are crucial – without benchmark surveys, we just don’t know what we are losing and the rate that it is disappearing. Too often we roll our eyes at the phrase, ‘It was better in my day’ – but, when it comes to habitats and wildlife, with very few exceptions, it was. As a result, we lose both wildlife and habitat and we barely notice that it is happening.”
For Mark and Vicky, as new arrivals in East Africa, their ‘benchmark’ was dated September 1987.
When they arrived on the continent, rhinos had already been almost poached out of existence.
Because they had never known them, they didn’t miss them.
The tragedy now, is that it is happening with elephants.
They would be devastated if, like the rhino, elephants fade into ecological extinction. If their decline continues to accelerate as it is, it is quite probable that the next generation won’t know them as they do.
That is why Mark thinks that in the future, we won’t miss them – as we simply won’t have had the chance to get to know them as we do today.
“It makes it all the more important to put a stop to the ivory trade now – while we still know elephants and can experience them – not just intellectually, but emotionally.”