Joan Embery

Joan Embery Discusses African Conservation

Joan Embery

September 22 is World Rhino Day, and wildlife celebrity Joan Embery was good enough to talk to International Expeditions about the current state of elephant and rhino conservation efforts in Africa.

"Being the largest animals on land, elephants are a sight to behold roaming the plains of Africa. I’ll never forget my first trip to Africa after years of handling and caring for elephants at the San Diego Zoo. I was overwhelmed at the sight of these amazing creatures – large herds of females with calves and the immense, lone bulls.

"Having no natural predators and a lifespan of 60 years, it is unthinkable the elephant population has plummeted at the hands of human-induced activities. While once numbering in the millions, elephants now number in the thousands due to poaching, conflict with humans and habitat loss and degradation.

"If you can imagine a majestic animal weighing up to 15,000 pounds but having skin so sensitive it can feel a fly landing, that has a trunk with 40,000 muscles useful for uprooting trees or picking up a blade of grass, one who’s extremely intelligent, social and plays a key role in maintaining the balance of all other species in the community, you have the African elephant. What a tragedy it would be if rather than having actual elephants to celebrate and be in awe of, we have only our imaginations.


"Like elephants, rhinos too are in serious decline as victims of poaching and habitat loss. Since 1960, the black rhino has been reduced by 97.6%. Rhinos are killed almost exclusively for their horns, which are inaccurately thought to possess medicinal qualities and are revered as a status symbol. The horns are simply keratin – the same material found in your hair and fingernails.  Also like elephants, rhinos are integrally tied to biodiversity – when rhinos are protected, many other species interacting with them and sharing the same habitat are too.

"Since my first trip to Africa I have seen the steady decline of rhino and the need to engage the public for spreading awareness and supporting conservation. Conservation efforts do work! The Southern white rhino would not exist today if not for it.

"Together we as humans can navigate the issues and alter the landscape in a positive direction for both these animals and ourselves."

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