Just a super quick note pointing you in the direction of Richard Madden’s piece for The Telegraph.
Entitled Would you pay $20,000 to help shoot and tag a Serengeti elephant?, it’s a fine example of a growing trend for safaris with purpose, in this case Madden’s ‘ once-in-a-life-time opportunity’ to work with Singita Grumeti’s wildlife and community development arm Grumeti Fund to collar a bull elephant – largely as a means of tracking and, therefore, pre-empting human-elephant conflict.
As reported elsewhere, Wild Philanthropy has partnered with Singita to help facilitate trips which give travellers rare behind-the-scene access to the Fund’s work, and I’m delighted to say that Madden’s trip is absolute proof of concept. It opens with the elephant being darted from helicopter, and then a 25-minute on-the-ground collaring operation, one in which Madden is very much involved, his role being to hold open the elephant’s jaws whilst its teeth are inspected.
‘Each of our roles,’ he writes, ‘is a unique opportunity for close-up intimacy with these incredible creatures. As if in a dream, I hold open the elephant’s jaws, smelling its veggie-breath and running my fingers over its teeth, watching the twitches of its eyelashes , feeling the underside of its feet and removing ticks from behind its ears.’
Apologies for quoting Madden at length. However, I do so knowing that the experience of what he speaks about is almost as rare as hen’s teeth. I know people who have been in the business all their lives, and are yet to know what it is like to be so close to an elephant as to smell its breath. Plus, it’s not invented for the price tag. It’s a real experience, a role that fits with an operation that includes a trunk-master, an ear-cooler, and a paint-sprayer, all vital parts of an operation that either keep the elephant alive during sedation or afterwards.
‘More elephants,’ says Stephen Cunliffe, the Grumeti Fund’s executive director, ‘in the western Serengeti are killed due to interactions with humans than poaching. As well as elephants, human lives and livelihoods are at risk. Our job is to help both parties.’ This is serious work, as Madden’s piece more than shows, a work that is partly funded by the eco-luxury set-up – ‘surface-glamour’ – he experiences as guest at the likes of Serengeti House, but which is increasingly looking to travellers for whom safari with a purpose has the most immersive of meanings.