Blood Moon Rising

More Elephants Slaughtered in Northern Kenya

I watched the full moon rise in the east as the sun was setting, falling behind the clouds like a glowing ball pulling the moon up. Blood moon tonight, I thought—I don’t like this. I was far away from where the elephants live, 300 miles in a straight line southeast, bobbing up and down in a small boat over red-lit waves in Manda Bay, with the sun on one side and the moon on the other. Soon we would have only the bright full moon lighting up the tropical sea, with a warm wind blowing. Beautiful as it was, a full moon on Saturday night filled me with foreboding.

The moon was so bright I had to call someone for reassurance. But there was no answer. I called again and asked, “Is anyone out there? This is bad for the elephants.”

“Yes,” came the reply, “we are alert.”

Two hours passed. I was having dinner, as the moon blinked on and off through white clouds racing by as if in a hurry to get somewhere. I noticed three calls on my cell. I sent a message back: “Is there a problem?”

And then I read, “TWO ELEPHANTS SHOT.”

I knew that out there men were hacking at tusks, sweating and bloodied. Reports came in of gunshots heard at dusk. Sharp-eyed scouts gathered. Moving fast they found the tracks of four, maybe eight, men who had all night to run and hide. Another message came saying the scouts had found an older female elephant with a young male beside her, tusks gone, and a bloody trail.

Striding over the rocky hill, carrying axes and tusks, the killers took their loot south to the road. Was someone waiting in a car? They got away—and behind them, scrambling through the bush all night, the scouts searched, until the sun rose and closed the night.

Were these the same men who had killed Changila?

And then I heard that Phylo was shot. Phylo was only 20 years old. Another butchered, faceless male elephant who hours before had strolled on the golden grass.


Phylo’s mutilated carcass. Was this 20-year-old male killed by the same men who hacked the tusks out of Changila’s face on January 3? Photo by Gilbert Sabinga, Save the Elephants.


  1. Ragni Wilson
    February 14, 2015, 11:15 pm


  2. Ragni Wilson
    February 14, 2015, 11:14 pm

    Why isn’t the politicians doing something about this. Put sanctions against China or some thing to stop this inhumane suffering of these majestic animals. Come on all u FILTHY RICH PEOPLE AS WELL , DO SOMETHING ON THIS PLANET WITH YOUR LIFE THAT IS WORTWHILE…..

  3. Shanaz Petker
    Bulawayo, Zimbabwe
    March 3, 2013, 12:14 pm

    It has been really nice to watch The Secret Lives of Elephants. I have always enjoyed reading about Iain and Oria Douglas-Hamilton since i was a young child. I love animals very very much and i so wish that i could be more involved in being able to help them. I come from a family that loves animals and am proud to say that my eldest brother has worked as a guide for Touch The wild safaris.It distresses me so much to see so many animals being poached especially elephants and rhinos. Please keep up the good work.

  4. Mary Renshaw
    United Kingdom
    February 10, 2013, 3:03 pm

    I absolutely refuse to buy anything more that has been made in China until those people take action to stop the poaching of elephants for their ivory. Please follow me and think about what you are buying and how this contributes to the illegal slaughter of some of the most beautiful creatures on the planet.

  5. Aleck LsC
    West Malaysia
    January 31, 2013, 8:23 am

    A voice for elephants! Today’s death toll for Pygmy Elephant is 14 dead at Sabah Malaysia. @natgeo please do a cover story for these Pygmy elephants too. Let people knows that these poor creatures, the Pygmy Elephants also need more help support and protections because we are losing them fast. Thank you.

  6. Jacob Bateman
    January 31, 2013, 7:17 am

    I personally find this to be an abhorrent story by itself and I love the wildlife of Africa and stand for it with my heart. However, there is another side to the story. Would these men really slaughter the elephant if they were not forced to do it? Africa’s place in the world’s economy is extremely insignificant, and without the proper governing of the financial state of the countries of Africa, men living in poverty would have to resort to such reckless and inhumane measures. Hence, instead of blaming these poachers, we as a global society should aim to bring aid to the needy and have an alternate solution to poaching, that would pull out the root of the problem.

  7. waye
    January 31, 2013, 6:59 am

    what in hell is wrong with this world?

  8. Jerry Haigh
    Saskatoon, Canada
    January 30, 2013, 2:12 pm

    Mostly to satisfy the greed of ultra-wealthy Chinese or religious fiolks who belive that ivory is next to their version of a god, and better as a carving than on its original owner. The Chinese have a state sponsored ivory carving factory. They don’t give a tinker’s damn about wildlife, other than the panda of course. Did you read the Vatican’s fatuous long-winderd reply to Bryan Christy’s articles and blogs.

  9. Nina Phillips
    Denver, Colorado
    January 29, 2013, 3:36 pm

    Elephants belong to the world & not just to those in Africa who claim them to be theirs due to geographical proximity. All corrupt humans want to do to ele’s is kill, harvest, poach, hold captive, torture, etc.. It is this egocentric attitude along with GREED that drives the illegal wildlife trade, but it is ALL of the wolrd’s citizens who will suffer

  10. Susan Babka
    USA, New Hampshire
    January 29, 2013, 1:36 pm

    I am sickened by this. I have fostered at DSWT. My heart is so sad for these innocents. We have got to do something. Rather than us giving f-16’s to the Arabs…we should be giving money or resources to stop this. Intelligence should be getting involved with tracking devices and satellite. It is EGREGIOUS what is happening to these animals.

  11. Janey Francis
    United Kingdom
    January 29, 2013, 1:15 pm

    So deeply sorry to hear of this murder. Heartbreaking. What can I do to help?

    • David Braun
      January 29, 2013, 1:28 pm

      Share this link and photo on Twitter, Facebook, anywhere and everywhere. The more people become aware the greater will be the prospects of turning popular opinion against the slaughter of the world’s remaining wild elephants.

  12. Tamsin Leakey
    United Kingdom
    January 29, 2013, 10:11 am

    The ‘Ecoside’ of Africa’s priceless flora and fauna is at unprecedented levels despite the courageous and heartbreaking efforts of all those of you on the ‘frontline’, what more can we do to help you win this ‘war’? It seems to me that the current levels of poaching have come to a climax in the ‘perfect storm’ of political neglect, insufficiency and corruption in Kenya (a last free-for-all before a change of leadership?) at the critical point when Chinese ‘investments’ for raw ‘products’ of every kind and Middle Eastern land deals are a richer pot for politicians to feed from than the $billions of International Aid (predominantly from Western Donors?) The fact it’s happening across Africa is symptomatic of the real-politick of C21st global power and the new Colonisation. As Mugabe famously said “If it pays it stays”. The idea of Conservation and biodiversity as a moral imperative and invaluable in itself simply doesn’t seem to register in the minds of most African politicians. They will sell off the Jewels of Africa to the highest bidder, regardless of whether there will any left for posterity or future generations, not only for Africans but also the rest of the world. Of course in saying this it’s so easy for Kenya’s politicians to pull the race card, as always. But after 50 years of independence, this blood bath seems to testify to a shameful history of personal greed by those supposedly ‘serving’ their country, wasted good will from those who have funded and tried to help with ‘development’ and conservation, and apparent disinterest in environmental, moral or ‘internal’ affairs by the new masters with big cheque books! How is ‘Poaching’ playing out in the Presidential election campaigns? It is a matter of ‘National Security’ surely, and more so, it should be a matter of National Shame that it is being allowed to continue. All best wishes. T xx

  13. Vickie Alanis
    Austin Texas USA
    January 29, 2013, 9:57 am

    Why do they have to butcher the elephants like that? Why not just take the ivory!? Makes me sad and angry! What did the elephants to to these awful people? My heart is crying!

  14. Val Gall
    January 29, 2013, 8:18 am

    More sad news of elephants poached for their ivory.
    I will be in Samburu from Sunday for a week & I am dreading
    what I will find. There have been so many killed in 2012 & more already this year.
    Save the Elephants work so hard to monitor elephants – many thanks to them all

  15. Alex sandro lekalaile
    Samburu Northern Kenya
    January 29, 2013, 6:51 am

    My heart always cries to here an elephant massacared, its almost out of control, Terrible. It’s never too late i believe. It’s going to be late the day we gona keep quite!