Kristin Davis Moves From Park Avenue To Pachyderms.
The World Is The Richer For It.
When I was a little girl, my German grandmother gave me a beautiful ceramic chachka in the shape of an elephant. Inscribed on this trinket was the phrase, “I'll always remember.” It was a gift from the heart that penetrated my own and served as the beginning of my love and understanding of elephants.
Since that day, I’ve learned a lot about elephants, including how closely similar they are to human beings, how critical their species actually is to our ecosystem, and how dangerously near to extinction these great beasts continue to be at the hands of uneducated or uncaring poachers. To clarify, if we don’t get a handle on the aggressiveness of this murderous practice, the African elephant will be extinct by 2020 (four years from today, folks). I can’t even imagine it...no African elephants to share with my six year-old son by the time he is ten. That possibility certainly hits home as does the notion that his only opportunity to share them with his own children will be through 2D images and historical accounts and writings. Tragic!
And so believes Kristin Davis as well, who is using her high-profile status and gigantic heart to fight for the lives and futures of elephants. Her gripping documentary Gardeners of Eden is one of the most moving and enlightening films on the issue that I have ever seen (See link for trailer). Frankly, there are moments throughout this film that are literally excruciating to watch, so raw and real are they. Her ability to capture and encapsulate them reflects that of an old soul, impassioned teacher, committed soldier, and consummate sage eager to lead this species to a permanent safe haven.
It is with the help of The David Sheldrick Wildlife Trust that she will, undoubtedly, continue to serve the elephant population in ways only human beings can -- as protectors and propagators of good. So goes Charlotte York on the journey of a lifetime...well beyond Sex in the City and her Park Avenue diggs and into a terrain where the pachyderms need more than just scripted characters to save them. They need Kristin as well as you and me. Read her interview below and learn how to lend a hand to this mighty cause before it is too late to make any difference at all, never-the-less, save each and every last one of them. Current and future generations will thank you, whether or not they know anything of the severity of this devastating plight!
What is your personal mantra?
"Be the change you want to see in the world" - Ghandi
What is it that made you identify so closely with elephants as to take up championing their fight?
Ever since I was a child, I have always had an affinity to elephants. I had a stuffed elephant that was one of my favorite toys. But it was when I went on safari in Africa and I got to see these majestic animals in their natural habitat that I really understood their magnificence. It was fascinating to watch the elephants interest in their family unit, much like humans interact together. It was then that I also began to learn that their existence is in jeopardy and I knew I had to learn more and fight to help save them.
Your documentary “Gardeners of Eden" is highly graphic, compelling, and informative. It is a film everyone should watch. How is it currently being used to help this cause?
We have been showing the film at film festivals and sharing it with State Department policy makers. It was also available to the public on Pivot. It’s currently on Netflix and iTunes and we are hoping we can use it to develop a program for schools. Gardeners of Eden recently won the International Elephant film Festival in association with the UN whose goal it is to use the winning films to educate people all over the world about the poaching crisis.
I’m honored to be a Patron for The David Sheldrick Wildlife Trust. I became involved with them in 2009 when I was unexpectedly involved with the rescue of an orphaned elephant in Kenya. We were able to get the elephant to their orphanage in Nairobi. Since then I have been visiting the Trust at least once a year and using what I learn first-hand to help educate the public and policy makers on the crisis and the success stories. I also help them to raise money to support their efforts.
Share a few critical facts about elephants many don't realize?
One elephant is killed every fifteen minutes for its ivory. At that rate elephants will be extinct in the wild within the next ten years. Humans are elephants only predators. If they go extinct, it is because we allowed it to happen. Elephants are called the Gardners of Eden because they are instrumental to the survival of an ecosystem. If we destroy all the elephants, it will have a ripple effect on the other species and the environment.
As poachers, generally, poach for money to feed families and ensure their own survival, how do we get these people to "not" poach given the reason they are doing it?
The issue needs to be addressed from the top. A lot of the money from illegal animal trade goes to fund terrorist groups and crime syndicates – it is a global security threat. We need to ban the sale of all ivory because - until there is no market - there will always be people on the bottom rung doing the dirty work for evil and greedy people directing them. But an answer more specific to your question, there are programs in place to help the local communities to understand the importance of protecting, not killing the animals. As one example, the DSWT started a program to help communities surrounding the park to raise bees and use their hives to build fences to keep the elephants safely in the park. Elephants are very afraid of bees! It’s a win-win; the community can make money selling honey; they can help protect the elephants and also help support tourism. DSWT is also involved with community outreach and education. They bring school children to the orphanage to see the baby elephants. Seeing them first-hand creates a connection that children cannot have by just seeing them in photos.
What do you say to those who believe that there are lifespans for all species and no amount of effort in this world will circumvent the eventual extinction of elephants?
Humans are the only predators to healthy adult elephants. It is greed for their ivory and land that is causing their potential extinction within in our lifetime. I would tell any person who says this as an excuse to justify the extinction of elephants, that it is an unacceptable answer! We, as human beings, need to take responsibility for what we are doing to the planet and the animals who inhabit it. As Daphne Sheldrick says in Gardeners of Eden “ We are really talking about our own extinction, because we will go the way that the animals are going if we ruin our natural habitat. “
What can my readers do to help?
First, never buy ivory and petition your government to ban the sale of ivory. Educate others you know on this very real issue and the serious implications it has such as destroying the elephant species and funding terrorists groups that threaten our own security. For something more tangible, you can “adopt” an elephant at The David Sheldrick Wildlife Trust for $50 a year and you can be a part of that little orphaned elephants healing and be a part of the solution. They will send you monthly updates for a year on how your elephant is doing It’s a wonderful gift idea.
What have you learned most about yourself in being involved in this effort?
I have had to learn how to do many new things! I would never have engaged with social media if not to help the elephants. I am very proud to say that I worked very hard on a crowd rise campaign for DSWT, and we won! It was so difficult to find creative ways to ask people to donate, and certainly I am not skilled in this area, but I did it and with lots of help from our avid and loyal followers, we won! I’m proud that I can step out of my comfort zone to do these things (also public speaking-AH!) for the purpose of educating people about the poaching crisis.
When all is said and done, how would you like to be remembered?
I would like to be remembered for being a good parent, a loyal friend, and a person who helps other people and animals, including the elephants, who deserve to be walking free on our planet.
They shoot them. They snare them. They poison their drinking water. They ax off their tusks and they wrench out their hearts...all for dollars and ego. And then they hand both over to the terrorists who our out to do the same to our own species. What a sick cycle and mess we've gotten ourselves into. None of it makes sense. Thankfully, Kristin Davis sees this as well and possesses the courage of a lion to help prevent it. Maybe you do too?
Become involved. Adopt an elephant. Make a donation. Find time to watch Gardeners of Eden....any effort is better than no effort. You won’t only be saving an elephant’s life. You will be saving your own and that of future generations.
Many thanks to Kristin Davis and the team at PMK*BNC for making this interview possible