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August 12, 2015

Back when I was in my early 20s in the 1980s and 90s, I was passionately opposed to the Chinese syndicates that were profiting from ivory. Photo by Mic Smith


I had a friend who told me a story about an elephant gun. He had been working remotely in the Northern Territory and one night a car came upon his camp and started to circle it threateningly. I don’t know if it was true (he used to tell a few tall stories) but he said he had a big calibre elephant gun and he shot the engine of the car. The bullet went through the engine block. The occupants fled (where to I don’t know, this is a bit of a weakness in his story lol). After that I got the idea of being a one man vigilante and going after the Chinese syndicate bosses with an elephant gun. It was very poetic. My girlfriend at the time was an artist and she worked up images for tattoos for me and we talked a lot about this. I never got a tattoo and I never went after the Chinese syndicates. Photo by Mic Smith


My girlfriend and I had another friend, a “bluesician” harmonica player from Zimbabwe. We talked about the ivory syndicates with him and I was surprised he didn’t feel the same way about elephants. He said that elephants were a nuisance in Zimbabwe. They would trample right through your house or your farm. The people feared them, he said. There were too many of them. It was good to get a different perspective, but I remained on the elephant’s side. Photo by Mic Smith


More than 20 years passed. I hadn’t thought about elephants really for a long time. But in Vietnam in 2011, I worked on a few stories about elephants and then of course I discovered the horrific amount of elephants that were being killed for their tusks in Africa. OMG 25000 a year poached. I engaged in debates about the legalisation of segments of the ivory trade. I’m against it. It wasn’t until I came across a drawing I did with my girlfriend in an old sketchbook that I could see that I had regained my passion for elephant conservation. Or more significantly that at my core I hadn’t changed. “Man elephant” was the name of the sketch. I’m a journalist now so I had traded the fantasy of an elephant gun for a tactic that aligned much better with my character – writing. Photo by Mic Smith

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