Friday, 12 June 2015

Elephant No. 132: Tusker Earrings

I picked these up recently at Equator Coffee Roasters in my favourite nearby village of Almonte. I love Equator for being truly fair trade and for ploughing a lot of money back into the developing world.

I noticed these as Terrence was buying a pound of coffee, and had to have them, partly because they have Tusker beer caps, featuring elephants, and partly because they're just plain fun.

The company name Takataka literally means "trash" in Kiswahili, and the earrings were produced in Kisumu, Kenya, by local artisan groups known for turning trash into treasure. For more on the fair trade Takataka Collection, click here.

The story of how Tusker Beer came to use an elephant as its symbol is a bit odd—to me, at least. Brewed by Kenya Breweries (now East African Breweries), the elephant commemorates a death. And this time, not the death of an elephant.

Originally owned by brothers George and Charles Hurst, Kenya Breweries was established in 1922. In 1923, George went on one of his periodic big-game hunting expeditions, this time hunting elephants. Instead of bagging his expected trophy, however, he was killed by an elephant near Dar-es-Salaam, Tanganyika. History is sketchy on the precise manner of Hurst's death, but in his brother's honour, Charles named the first batch of beer, "Tusker". 

Photo: Tim Bishop/Diageo
Source: TIME

The word "tusker" itself is a rather quaint nickname for African elephants, most of which have large tusks. In India, however, the term "tusker" is generally limited to male elephants, as female Asian elephants are tuskless.

I love these earrings, and may even try to make something like this myself someday. In the meantime, however, I'm happy to support artisans who can take recycled wire from car engines, seed beads, and Tusker bottle caps, and turn them into these eccentric little works of art.

Elephant Lore of the Day
In April of this year, a young bull elephant killed professional hunter Ian Gibson in northeastern Zimbabwe. At the time, Gibson wasn't even tracking elephants, but lions.

Gibson, who was working for Chifuti Safaris, was scouting for lions on behalf of an American hunter. While tracking lions in the Zambezi Valley, he encountered a young bull elephant, likely in musth. Elephants in musth are dangerous and highly unpredictable, and this one was no exception. Charging Gibson—who managed a single rifle shot—the elephant knocked Gibson down, then knelt on him, crushing him to death.

Zimbabwe is said to be overpopulated with elephants at the moment, which is why hunting is permitted. Ironically, when funds for wildlife protection are limited, hunters are often a country's best line of defence against poachers. In areas where elephants are plentiful enough that hunting is allowed, poaching is also rampant. Hunters are often the first to learn of poachers in a given area, and are thus often the first to force them to clear off.

Adolescent African elephant.
Photo: Per-Gunnar Ostby/©

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