Thursday, 10 October 2013

Elephant No. 38: Excelsior

I came across a bag of excelsior yesterday in a dollar store, and thought it would be an interesting thing to try for today's elephant. As children, my siblings and I loved it when crates arrived from overseas, because they were always crammed with excelsior. We usually ended up climbing in and out of the crates until we looked like scarecrows, at which point our mother usually asked us to kindly remove ourselves and go play somewhere else.

The bag calls this "wood hair" which sounds very unappealing to me, and most parts of the world call this "wood wool". I prefer the much prettier American term—originally a brand name—so I'm going to stick with that.

I started by flopping the contents onto a piece of white bristol board. Not sure what to do from here, I began tugging it into something that might resemble an elephant.

I realized right away that, if I pulled too hard, I was going to separate the strands and end up with something that wouldn't really hold together. This is stuff that you can't push back together once it's been separated. Working gently on various sections, I teased out a long trunk, a small tail, and some legs.

The head was a bit harder, because I wanted to create the impression of an ear, but didn't want to pull off a chunk excelsior and plop it on top. I also tried to smush the excelsior around to model the body of the elephant a bit, but it's not a terribly mouldable material.

Given that I didn't really feel like making an elephant today, I was happy that this was quick and easy. Not as quick as I'd expected, but also not as stupid as it could have been. If I were to keep this, I think I'd spray it with glue and remould it slightly, then add some alcohol ink to liven it up and give it a bit of definition. But for today, this works for me.

Elephant Lore of the Day
I don't usually write about the politics of the ivory trade and elephant poaching, because there are many who do that much more effectively than I ever could. However, I thought this story was interesting, sent to me yesterday by Sylvie Morel.

Speaking at the International March for Elephants last week, Khamis Kagasheki, Tanzania's Minister for Natural Resources and Tourism, suggested a new tactic: shoot poachers on sight. Faced with a record number of elephant-poaching incidents in his country, Kagasheki suggested that only the strictest of punishments had any hope of curbing the trade in illegal ivory.

Calling poachers "merciless people who wantonly kill our wildlife," Kagasheki also remarked that they "do not hesitate to shoot dead any innocent person standing in their way"—including game wardens trying to protect Tanzania's wildlife.

Although conservationists around the world are struggling to curb the poaching of elephants and rhinos in particular, many took issue with the idea of killing poachers—although not with the idea of harsher punishments. Noting that it is sometimes difficult to determine who actually killed the animal, conservationists suggested that killing poachers might result in increased violence, and that high-tech solutions might be more effective in the long run.

In his address, Kagasheki announced that the Tanzanian National Assembly will be reviewing a new anti-poaching bill in November. And perhaps not before time. As home to the Serengeti National Park and game reserve, Tanzania has one of the largest elephant populations in the world.

In recent years, however, its herds have been decimated by poaching. It is estimated that poachers kill 30 elephants each day in Tanzania and, in every year from 2009 to 2011, 37% of all seized elephant tusks originated in Tanzania, making it the world's leading exporter of illegal ivory at the time.

To read more of the original story, click here. To read an October 2012 National Geographic Magazine article on "blood ivory", click here.

A single tusk from one of these elephants in Kenya's Tsavo National Park
can fetch $6,000—enough to support an unskilled Kenyan worker for ten years.
Photo: Brent Stirton

To Support Elephant Welfare
Boon Lott's Elephant Sanctuary (Thailand)
Wildlife SOS (India) 
The Elephant Sanctuary (Tennessee)

David Shepherd Wildlife Foundation

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