Legendary Guns N’ Roses Guitarist Slash’s Plea To Help Save Elephants

ICONIC ROCKER SLASH IS DOING HIS BIT TO HELP CURB ELEPHANT POACHING

If former Guns & Roses guitarist Slash hadn’t put all his heart and soul into music and becoming one of the world’s greatest rock guitarists, perhaps he would’ve sought a career in zoology?

He is a trustee of the private, non-profit Greater Los Angeles Zoo Association (GLAZA) and shot a commercial for Los Angeles Zoo and Botanical Gardens with veteran actress Betty White to promote their new exhibit The Lair, which displays over 60 species of weird, rare and endangered amphibians, invertebrates and reptiles. He has shot other ads and PSAs before for the zoo.

“I used to not believe in zoos as a concept, but now because there are so many endangered animals; there’s so much poaching,” Slash tells Samaritanmag. “With zoos now, it’s really about conservation. They become safe houses for a lot of species so, I think, now, zoos are really necessary places, not totally about just family entertainment at any cost. It’s about education; it’s about conservation.”

Anyone familiar with Guns N’ Roses, Slash’s former band, knows he used to own snakes — as many as 80, which he got rid of when he became a father. He has been on the cover of Reptiles magazine and even had a band called Slash’s Snakepit post GNR. But he’s actually a lover of all animals.

Slash has been visiting the LA Zoo since the age of 5 and later in childhood went every weekend, sometimes twice. As a touring musician, he often visits the local zoos on his downtime.

in 2011, Slash received the inaugural Tom F. Mankiewicz Leadership Award from GLAZA at the 41st Annual Beastly Ball recognizing his long-time support of the zoo and the welfare of the world’s natural and civic environment (filmmaker Mankiewicz was GLAZA chairman who died in 2010).

The award will recognises his long-time contributions to environmental welfare programs and his support to the LA Zoo and zoos around the world.

GLAZA (Greater Los Angeles Zoo Association) President Connie Morgan declared:
‘Tom [Mankiewicz] advocated opportunities for interaction among our diverse communities and championed the cause of animals and the environment through education and on-the-ground conservation. He strongly believed the Los Angeles Zoo exemplifies both missions as a place where people come together having a good time while learning the importance of saving and protecting wildlife.’

To which Slash responded:
‘The biggest compliment for me is that it’s Tom’s award. I really adored that man. I miss him very much, and that aspect is very special and resonates deeply. Additionally, I profoundly appreciate the implications of the award itself. It’s a fantastic honour.’

But Zoo director John Lewis could not stop there:
‘Slash is a great example of our mission of nurturing wildlife and enriching the human experience. He is a champion for wildlife and conservation and has introduced our mission, his passion, to millions of his fans’.

“I just try to help the zoo,” says Slash of his role as a trustee. “We all on the board support and help the zoo’s best interests. We just try to keep all that together. It’s a pretty big thing. It’s a city-owned zoo and we’re trying to make it a private zoo and there’s just always something going on with that.”

In 2012, while on a trip to Australia, Slash took wildlife warrior Bob Irwin up on an invite, but left the meeting by signing on to aid Irwin’s new conservation initiative.

SLASH loves reptiles. So does Bob. And that’s enough.

A deep affinity for the cold-blooded creatures has forged an unlikely friendship between the legendary Guns N’ Roses guitarist and wildlife warrior Bob Irwin.

Irwin, who is the father of late ‘Crocodile Hunter’ host Steve Irwin, reached out to the guitarist when he learned the tour was coming to Australia, and invited him down to Queensland to visit the crocodiles and snakes.

After lending his support, Irwin returned the favour by urging his followers to catch one of Slash’s performances while he was visiting the country.

SLASH Bob Irwin Wildlife Conservation Foundation 2012 (1)
Slash and Bob Irwin at the launch of the Bob Irwin Foundation

In 2013, Slash performed in South Africa with rock super group Kings of Chaos and spent extra time seeing the local wildlife. Although he had been aware of the diminishing numbers of Elephants in the world, the former Guns N’ Roses guitarist learned on this trip that the situation was becoming increasingly more dire. While poaching rangers had increased their efforts to stop the illegal ivory trade, Slash believed that people needed to be more aware of the situation.

The guitarist also released the “Beneath the Savage Sun” video, which details the illegal ivory trade and tells the story of an Elephant who has lost a loved one from the Elephant’s point of view.

“How many killing seasons can you justify?” he asks. “How many dead and bleeding / only for an ivory lie?

“I was shocked that the poachers still manage to get away with it,” he told Rolling Stone in the above video. “A lot of people don’t know that every time they purchase anything that has even a smidgen of ivory in it, it comes from a dead Elephant. I think if people were more aware of that, it would have a dramatic effect on the whole ivory trade.”

Slash’s singer, Myles Kennedy, was equally affected by the situation. Kennedy wrote the lyrics for what would become “Beneath the Savage Sun,” a doomy hard rocker told from the perspective of an Elephant who witnessed the death of a fellow pachyderm.

SLASH AND MYLES KENNEDY

Slash made a powerful video for the track – which is featured on the guitarist’s last solo album, 2014’s World on Fire – illustrating the brutality of the ivory trade with written facts, images of both living and murdered Elephants and poachers’ spoils. The video notes that the U.S. is the world’s second-largest consumer of ivory, so Slash hopes the clip serves as a wake-up call.

“We wanted to give the viewer an idea of the atrocities that are going on, to hit them full in the face with it,” says Slash, an animal lover who is on the board at the Los Angeles Zoo and has long been active in animal conservation. “It’s more of an immersive experience. The most important thing is to reach as many people as possible.

“Elephants are so beautiful, intelligent and sensitive,” the guitarist continues. “They have emotions we’re all familiar with. They care for their young. They move in big family groups that live on for generation after generation. They very visibly mourn their dead. When you actually meet Elephants and get to know them a little bit, they have a whole myriad of personalities.” (Slash was previously part of the campaign for Billy the Elephant.)

In addition to educating people about Elephants, Slash has also partnered with the International Fund for Animal Welfare (IFAW), an organization he reached out to personally because he had worked with them in the past and liked how they were “hands on” in their causes.

Jeff Flocken, IFAW’s regional director, North America, has been working with the Obama Administration to draft and implement laws to regulate ivory. “Any legal trade of ivory encourages illegal trade,” he says. “Our laws are riddled with loopholes like Swiss cheese.”

He believes that if the U.S. led by example, real change is possible. “Last November, the U.S. crushed six tons of ivory that was seized illegally here in the U.S., and within months, China crushed 6.1 tons of their own ivory,” he tells Rolling Stone, adding that China is the world’s Number One ivory consumer. “It’s the first time they’ve ever done that. It shows that other countries are watching what we’re doing.”

Trade in elephant ivory is driving these amazing animals to extinction; largely at the hands of criminal networks that kill local wildlife rangers and support organized crime, smuggle drugs and transport illegal firearms. They do all this to meet the lucrative demands of consumers in China, the United States and elsewhere, many who don’t even realize that every piece of ivory comes from a dead elephant, but who still value the stuff as jewellery, trinkets, and yes, instruments.

Flocken added that the anti-ivory movement has begun facing opposition from the N.R.A., who want to protect ivory for ornamentation on gun handles, among other causes. Slash says that ivory ornamentation is not necessary and uses musical instruments as an example.

We love our instruments. We know that many of you love your guitars with ivory bridges and pianos with ivory keys, but we need you to think about where things came from and what are your ethics when buying and selling them?” Piano keys don’t have to be ivory,” he says. “It’s not important. And for inlays on guitars and tuning pegs, it’s absolutely not necessary and I won’t use it.” Do we really want to profit off of the extinction of such a beautiful and majestic species?

To prove his point, Slash donated proceeds from the sale of the song to the IFAW and has redesigned his website to provide more information about the ivory trade and serve as a place where people can donate to the organization. Supporters can also donate to the IFAW.

“Donating is great – that’s hugely necessary – but the other thing to do is to stop purchasing ivory,” Slash says. “Do not buy it. I think the more people that stop buying ivory is going to have a significant effect on the Elephant poaching trade.”

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An Obituary To Tolstoy, One Of Africa’s Few Remaining Tuskers

TOLSTOY

18th March 2021: Just after dawn, Tolstoy lumbers into view. A wandering giant, with tusks almost scraping the earth, this great elephant has roamed beneath Mount Kilimanjaro for nearly 50 years.

He has survived ivory poachers, spear attacks and terrible drought, but the mighty bull could be confronting a new threat to his natural realm: surging demand for avocados.

A turf war has erupted over a 180-acre (73-hectare) avocado farm near Amboseli, one of Kenya’s premier national parks, where elephants and other wildlife graze against the striking backdrop of Mount Kilimanjaro, Africa’s highest peak.

In 2020 Kenyan agribusiness KiliAvo Fresh Ltd received approval from the National Environment Management Authority (NEMA) to start its own avocado farm on land in Kimana, southern Kenya it purchased from local Masai owners. [Yasuyoshi Chiba/AFP]

Opponents of the farm say it obstructs the free movement of iconic tuskers like Tolstoy – putting their very existence at risk – and clashes with traditional ways of using the land.

Adjacent landowners and wildlife experts say elephants have already collided with KiliAvo’s electric fence – proof that it impedes migratory routes used by an estimated 2,000 tuskers as they depart Amboseli into surrounding lands to breed and find water and pasture. “Can you imagine if elephants in Amboseli died of starvation so that people in Europe can eat avocados?” Kenyan conservationist Paula Kahumbu, who heads the campaign group WildlifeDirect, said.

HUMAN WILDLIFE CONFLICT

16th March 2022: The Elephant named Tolstoy is a living natural wonder, carrying some of the largest tusks on the planet. So when Big Life’s rangers don’t see him for a while, they go looking.

They searched beyond their normal patrol areas and eventually found him resting under a tree. All appeared fine, until he took a step… something was badly wrong. Tolstoy could barely walk. Upon getting closer, the rangers could see the problem: a puncture wound in the joint on his front right leg.

Tolstoy being treated for his leg wound

A wound like this was no accident. Tolstoy frequently plays a high-stakes game called crop-raiding. When he wins, he comes away with a bellyful of highly nutritious crops. But when he loses, he gets speared.

Tolstoy doesn’t know it, but his crop raids can cost a farmer their entire season’s income in one night, and these farmers (justifiably) care little that Tolstoy is one of Africa’s dwindling number of ‘super tuskers’. It’s not the first time this has happened: in 2018 he was treated for three spear wounds, also a result of crop-raiding.

The Kenya Wildlife Service vet unit, funded by our partners at Sheldrick Wildlife Trust, was quick to respond, but the decision to treat him was not made immediately. Darting an animal of this size, particularly with a wound in a sensitive joint, is extremely risky because the Elephant may not be able to stand after treatment. The decision was made to wait 24 hours and see if his condition improved.

Big Life’s rangers stayed by his side, spending the entire night out with him, but the wound showed no signs of improvement. The decision was made to dart him, and it was done quickly and professionally.  His wound was thoroughly cleaned and treated, and Tolstoy was given antibiotics and painkillers before a jab to wake him up.

Tolstoy comes round watched by members of the KWS team

With great effort, he finally stood and stared back at the treatment team, before retreating into the shade. For now, his prognosis looks good, but he’s not out of the woods just yet as he continues to heal. Big Life rangers will continue to monitor him while he recovers. And they will continue to spend their nights out in the farms, keeping Elephants safe and helping farmers to protect their crops, in order to prevent this from happening again.

The elephant named Tolstoy is a living natural wonder, carrying some of the largest tusks on the planet. So when Big Life’s rangers don’t see him for a while, they go looking.

They searched beyond their normal patrol areas and eventually found him resting under a tree. All appeared fine, until he took a step… something was badly wrong. Tolstoy could barely walk. Upon getting closer, the rangers could see the problem: a puncture wound in the joint on his front right leg.

A wound like this was no accident. Tolstoy frequently plays a high-stakes game called crop-raiding. When he wins, he comes away with a bellyful of highly nutritious crops. But when he loses, he gets speared.

Tolstoy doesn’t know it, but his crop raids can cost a farmer their entire season’s income in one night, and these farmers (justifiably) care little that Tolstoy is one of Africa’s dwindling number of ‘super tuskers’. It’s not the first time this has happened: in 2018 he was treated for three spear wounds, also a result of crop-raiding.

THE SADDEST DAY

27TH April 2022: “This is so painful.”

These few words spoken by ranger Daudi Ninaai describe well how we are all feeling at Big Life. Tolstoy, one of Africa’s biggest ‘tusker’ Elephants, and an icon of the Amboseli ecosystem, has died at 51 years old.

He was speared in the leg 6 weeks ago, almost certainly by a farmer defending his crops from one of Tolstoy’s night-time crop raids. The wound was treated, but the resultant infection has ultimately had the worst possible consequences.

Big Life’s rangers in Kimana Sanctuary have been monitoring Tolstoy since his treatment. Yesterday morning, they found him lying down. This was not unusual for an Elephant who took frequent horizontal naps despite his enormous size, but upon getting closer, the rangers could see signs of his failed struggle to stand up. They knew that this time was different.

Tolstoy was still alive and two Kenya Wildlife Service vet units (both funded by the Sheldrick Wildlife Trust) responded. He was given further treatment, but getting him on his feet again was unlikely from the start. For hours the rangers and vets tried to pull him up with vehicles and ropes, with no success. A front-end loader was called in as a last desperate attempt, but Tolstoy was just too weak to stand.

With the rescue team running out of ideas, and night fast approaching, Tolstoy finally ran out of strength and died, surrounded by the rangers who have looked over him for so long.

Ranger Job Lekanayia is one of these: “Today is the saddest day in my job as a ranger, having lost one of the Elephants that I treasured the most. We tried everything that we could. I thought he would wake up, but he just couldn’t lift himself up.”

After 50 years on earth, there isn’t much that Tolstoy hadn’t seen. And there isn’t much that looks the same. His home has been transformed by the human species, and it is the consequences of rapidly expanding farmlands that eventually killed him.

His death is a reminder of the vulnerability of even the largest of animals, as well as the urgent need to protect habitat for wildlife and manage the interface between wild animals and human activities. There are solutions, and we are making progress despite a tragic setback such as this.

Over his long time on this planet, Tolstoy had a positive impact on countless people, and will be remembered as a calm and gentle giant. As ranger Lekanayia says, “All I can say is: rest in peace Tolstoy, we will miss you.”

TOLSTOY

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REMEMBERING SATAO, THE ELEPHANT KILLED BY POACHERS FOR HIS TUSKS SO LONG THEY TOUCHED THE GROUND

THE MAGNIFICENT SATAO ~ RICHARD MOLLER/TSAVO TRUST

Satao was one of the largest Elephants in the world. His weight was estimated to be over 7 tons and his tusks were so long he could rest them on the ground.

By logic, his size should have made him unreachable for any natural predators. However, in a world of destruction and corruption, logic doesn’t prevent the extinction of the African Elephant. Satao fell prey to poachers for his ivory in May 2014, which triggered a huge wave of grief in Kenya followed by international outrage in the news and on Twitter and Facebook.

Born in the late 1960s in Tsavo, Satao caused great amazement to everyone who ever caught a glimpse of him; rangers, tourists but also poachers. Many believe that Satao had the understanding that his tusks were beyond the ordinary. In fact, he had adjusted his behaviour to keep his tusks out of sight, which was incredibly impressive and heart-breaking at the same time. Impressive, because this once again proved how very intelligent Elephants really are, and sad, because Satao was nonetheless poisoned by arrows that caused his death.

The Tsavo Trust had been monitoring the Elephant’s movements using aerial reconnaissance for the last 18 months, and thanks to his enormous tucks the beast was ‘easily identifiable’ from the air.

But the technology was not enough to save the iconic beast from the hands of the poachers.

A Tsavo Trust spokesman said at the time: ‘With great sadness, we report the death of Satao, one of Tsavo’s most iconic and well-loved tuskers.

‘This magnificent Elephant was widely known in Tsavo East National Park, where he was observed with awe by many thousands of Tsavo’s visitors over the years.

‘No longer will Tsavo and Kenya benefit from his mighty presence.’

‘Satao, whose tusks were so long they trailed the ground, was discovered with his face hacked off at Kenya’s Tsavo East National Park’

He added: ‘The arrow had entered his left flank and he stood no chance of survival. We spotted his carcass on 2nd June but to avoid any potential false alarms, we first took pains to verify the carcass really was his.

‘Today it is with enormous regret that we confirm there is no doubt that Satao is dead, killed by an ivory poacher’s poisoned arrow to feed the seemingly insatiable demand for ivory in far off countries.

‘A great life lost so that someone far away can have a trinket on their mantelpiece.’

‘Rest in peace, Old Friend, you will be missed, he added.

Photos of his hacked off face and tusks circled the Internet and recorded the bitter loss and undignified death of this incredibly rare tusker.

AN UNDIGNIFEID END: SATAO WAS FOUND WITH HIS FACE AND TUSKS HACKED OFF!

Wildlife filmmaker based in Kenya Mark Deeble who had written a blog post Satao: last of the great tuskers about how poachers had been hunting Satao for some time and how he was injured but managed to escape until now:

He said “I was thankful that the bull’s wounds were healing and that we hadn’t had to dart him, but I was devastated that poachers had somehow managed to predict his movements and get close enough to fire two poison arrows into him. I am appalled at what that means – that the survival skills that the bull has painstakingly learnt over half a century have been rendered useless by the poachers’ use of mass-produced Chinese goods, GPS smartphones, cheap motorcycles and night vision goggles.

I think the old bull knows that poachers want his tusks, and I hate that he knows.

More than anything, I hate the thought that poachers are now closing in on one of the world’s most iconic Elephants.”

His fears came to reality on the 30th of May 2014!!

RIP Satao, you will NEVER be forgotten.

SATAO DRINKS AT A WATER HOLE IN TSAVO EAST NATIONAL PARK, KENYA, IN 2013, WHEN THE MAGNIFICENT TUSKER WAS IN HIS PRIME – MARK DEEBLE

NO ONE IN THE WORLD NEEDS AN ELEPHANT TUSK BUT AN ELEPHANT. ~ THOMAS SCHMID

A variety of styles of Nobody In The World Needs An Elephant Tusk Except Elephants tops are available at Save The Elephant with all proceeds helping Elephant charities.

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