My nieces – wildlife advocates – collaborators – A plea to save Elephants and Rhinos from extinction

My nieces Ella and Taya have been great supporters of the Global March for Elephants and Rhinos. This post is a collaboration between the two. Ella wrote it in French and Taya translated, edited and added her editorial precision to the content of this piece.It’s a work of real collaboration.

My niece Ella she has been raising money, marching, and giving talks to her friends and fellow students about the crisis facing Africa’s wildlife. This was written after the girls visit with their family to Kenya this spring. I think they’re remarkable, Ella is 12 and Taya is 14.


I’m asking you, if you love elephants, rhinos, and animals, are you doing everything you can to help them?

My family and I recently went on a trip to Africa. While we were there, we saw some amazing animals and surreal sights. Some of the most fascinating animals we saw were the eight elephant herds, and about twenty five rhinos. I find that it’s crazy to think that, at the rate we are going all the rhinos will be extinct in ten to fifteen years and that in fifteen to twenty years,elephants will be gone as well.

One of the worst things about this crisis is that we, as humans, are in full control over this problem and over their lives. The two main reasons for their disappearance are ivory poaching and habitat loss. Ivory poaching is what I find really astounding.  How could people want to kill these beautiful animals for their tusks? And then they use them as a symbol of their high social status, or to show people they have money. There is still hope of ending ivory poaching, but with every day that goes by, their chance for survival decreases.

Did you know that in the last one hundred years 95% of the elephant population was killed for their ivory tusks? And up to one-hundred elephants are killed each day. There are now only about 400,000 African elephants left in the world. Maybe this number seems big to you, but it is actually quite small compared to how it used to be. In 1940, only 75 years ago, there were about 3 to 5 million African elephants in the world.

Elaphant 2

Rhinos are in greater danger because many they are rapidly approaching extinction. The main reason that rhinos are killed is because their horns are believed, by many countries, to be a cure for disease.  For example, in Vietnam, they believe that  rhino horn can cure cancer. However, their horns are made of the same thing as our nails, so biting our nails and using rhino horn for the treatment of diseases has virtually the same effect.

For some time, it appeared that there was hope for rhinos. In 2002, the number of rhinos killed was 25 which was surprisingly small. It kept improving each year, and in 2006, ten rhinos were killed. In 2007, that number went down to seven and it looked like an end to rhino poaching was approaching. However, since 2008, the numbers of rhinos killed each year has dramatically increased. The years following “the big improvement”, the situation has gotten worse, to the point where, in 2014, we have killed 1215 rhinos for their horns.

In Africa, we were able to see one of the five remaining northern white rhinos left in the world. We also saw the southern white rhino, and the black rhino. There is no hope for the northern white rhino, as they have tried to introduce them to each other and they will not mate, They will be officially extinct as soon as the five remaining rhinos die. The black rhinos are also endangered, with 4,848 rhinos left. The southern white rhino came back from an extremely close call with extinction and they now have a status of a near threatened species with 20,000 southern white rhinos left.

The poachers, even though they are the ones who kill elephants and rhinos for their ivory, are not the main reason for the approaching extinction of these animals. The big problem we face is the consumers. Their demand for ivory is the main reason these species are endangered, as without the high demand, the poachers have no reason to kill the elephants and rhinos.

In order to stop ivory poaching, we need to stop the consumers from killing elephants and rhinos. In a poll back in 2007, the IFAW (International Fund for Animal Welfare) discovered that 70% of Chinese, the largest consumers of ivory, weren’t aware that they had to kill  elephants in order to get their ivory. The word for ivory, in Chinese, means elephant teeth, so many thought getting ivory was similar to pulling out somebody’s teeth. As a result of this poll a campaign was launched to raise awareness of ivory poaching. The campaign was simple enough- a poster explaining ivory poaching and how they got the ivory. The advertisement done by JC Decaux, the biggest outdoor advertising company in the world,

The posters had an outstanding impact on people’s views of ivory. Another survey, this one in 2013, showed that the posters had been seen by 75% of the population, and the number of high-risk consumers of ivory (those who are most likely to buy objects made of ivory) had been cut in half. There is still hope for the animals if we act fast, and are committed to making a difference.

When my family and I were in Africa, we saw many incredible things, but there is one memory in particular that stands out. While we were driving through the plains, we came across a group of about eight rhinos. We drove a bit closer, and we saw eight piles of rocks there, under a tree. There was a sign beside the tree.  Ol PejetaThat was when you fully realize the effect of poaching on these animals. The rhinos had a life before they were poached; they had a family, friends, and others who would remember them, much like us.

Their death affected the other rhinos, just like the death of someone we knew and cared about would affect us for the rest of our life.

We need to save these animals while we can. There is still hope, but how long will it last?Rhino 2Elephant 1

Rhino 1

Elaphant 2

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Pledge for a Sustainable Community – Changing the world one business, one community at a time

This is a project I oversee, manage and helped to develop. It was recently shortlisted as a finalist in the category of CSR at the World Chamber Competition in Turin. This week we are off to present the project to an international audience and fingers crossed – we might win. Either way, it’s an honour.

Here’s a little bit about the program:

The Burnaby Board of Trade’s Pledge for a Sustainable Community program has been selected as a finalist in the category of “Best Corporate Social Responsibility Project” at the 2015 World Chambers Competition.

The Pledge program, which is a comprehensive online resource and planning tool with the goal of helping businesses large and small reduce their carbon footprint, was one of only four entries selected as a finalist out of a record number of submissions from across 39 countries. Finalists will present their projects to a panel of judges at the 9th World Chamber Congress in Torino, Italy in June.

Read more here!

Wish us luck:) Changing the world is possible. Believe it.

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Postcard Fiction: Meyer Got the Fuzzies

Meyer reached over to the night table beside him. With his head on the pillow and one eye shut he struggled to find his half empty bottle. With that keen sense of awareness that always warned him when something would go terribly wrong, he knew the bottle would spill over before it did. And it did. Meyer groaned. Fuck. HIs head was pounding and the stench of stale cigarettes, booze and old furniture filled his nostrils. He thought he was going to be sick.

He lay back in bed fighting back the waves of nausea that overcame him. His shaking hands reached for the overturned bottle.  He sat up, tipped the bottle back and drank what was left. Ahh. He could feel the warm liquid travel down inside. Already he felt that small feeling of recovery. If he could have another drink he could make it , he thought. He wondered what day it was and reached back in his mind for anything that might anchor him somewhere in time.

It was just like Sharon said. “The booze is going to eat your mind.” she said. “It’ll kill you Meyer.” Christ.. The truth is he was too much of a coward to take his own life. Too squeamish. PiIlls. He had a hard time taking even baby aspirin. A gun. Too messy. Hanging. What if he miscalculated. The brain damage would be horrible for Sharon and Trish, never mind his mother. She’d never forgive him. Drinking himself to death seemed like the path of least resistance and somehow it seemed cleaner. At least that’s what he thought until he sat up and looked around his apartment. Fuck. What a stye. That’s what Sharon said last time she visited.

“You’re a pig Meyer. What the hell happened to you. Brilliant career. Great kid. Me. Now look at you. A dog wouldn’t even eat off this floor. And you stink like hell. When’s the last time you changed?”

He sat up. His single sorry bed reminded him of himself. A sorry mess, single and alone. His sister always told him he had no stamina. She was right.  No stamina for life much less anything else.

Suddenly he remembered out of nowhere what day it was. Saturday. Fucking christ in hell. It was Trish’s birthday party. He was supposed to pick up the cake and the balloons and come to the party by 4:00. What the hell time is it? There was one person in the world he was more afraid of then his wife Sharon and that was his 7 year old daughter Trish. She would look at him with those steely blue eyes and see right through him. He was sure she never blinked. Sometimes he wasn’t even sure if she was human. She had this ‘other’ kind of quality he couldn’t quite put his finger on. Then other times he would never feel so loved. She’d wrap her arms around his neck and he could feel the warmth of her little stringy body. He could feel tears welling in his eyes. He reached for his cigarette, lit it  and checked the time. 2:15. He hadn’t missed it but he couldn’t waste any time and wasting time was something Meyer knew how to do better than anybody else.

He ran is hand through his wavy black hair. What  the hell. His hand hit a bump. Warm, fuzzy, pulsing. Meyer wasn’t given to fights but occasionally he came home with bruises, broken glasses, war wounds. He had grown accustomed to them.It was the price of giving up.

He slowly sat up and wandered over to the mirror. Jesus Christ. He looked at himself in the dim light. He looked for his broken glasses. I’m getting’ old he thought to himself. Can’t see a fucking thing. He peered harder in the mirror and saw two distinct bumps on the top of his head. What the fuck?  If Meyer didn’t know better he’d say they were horns. As one of the former leading criminal defence lawyers in the country he’d been called many things including the devil and those times when he allowed himself to feel anything he sometimes felt like the devil but he didn’t actually think he was the devil. Sharon, who’s acute sense of social justice weighed like a dead cement block on his mind, was right. He had finally been won over completely by the dark forces.

He reached up and touched his right horn. Small, furry glowing, it felt warm to his touch. As he stroked his horn it rotated on his head while the left one bent over double like a limp weed. He reached up and stroked his left horn and it stood up straight like a soldier on duty. They stood about two inches on the top of his head. He pulled at them thinking it was some kind of bad joke. They didn’t budge. Every time he touched them he felt this warm glow inside. Like a fire. He wondered if it was Satan’t torch. It almost felt like the warm glow of scotch after his first sip.

Fuck. I gotta get to the birthday party or my kid will sue me. Like father like daughter ,he thought. He was panicked by the new additions to his head but he was more panicked at the emotional exile he would feel if he fucked this up. And oddly, the warm glow emanating from his horns soothed him in a way he hadn’t been soothed in a long time.He didn’t know what they meant but he knew he had to get his sorry ass over to his ex-wife’s or he’d be dead meat. Deader than he already was.

He grabbed the cleanest pair of kakis’ he could find which were wrinkled and stained but not smelly and an old   t-shirt. He didn’t know what to do with his head. Towel wrap? No. Ridiculous. Baseball cap? He set the cap on his head. The cap rested on top of his horns. Admittedly the slightly skewed cap gave him something of a jaunty look and it brought a slight smile to his face. He looked around his ashtray strewn apartment with crap everywhere. Piles of dirty plates, empty bottles,and clothes everywhere.  What the hell. His eyes finally came to rest on the red beret. Then he remembered Eizerman had been here one night. Eizerman was an artist but these days he was mainly a junky.A big mellow sad-eyed junky who wore a red beret.He came here one night and they sat up and talked and drank till dawn. They both passed out and when Meyer finally woke up he was gone. Never saw him again but he left his beret.

Meyer grabbed the beret and put it on his head. The hat fit over the top of his horns perfectly. He looked at himself in the mirror and he recognized something about himself from when he was younger. For a brief moment he saw that hopeful optimism of his youth  but it came and went in a flash and Meyer was left with nothing but himself, his horns and this god awful beret that stunk like bad beer and made him look like a transvestite.

Alright he said to himself. I gotta get the hell out of here and to my kids party.  Just the act of saying that brought him back to that world and place he occupied just a few short years ago. Accomplished lawyer, husband, father, member of the community and empty shell of a man. He thought of Sharon. A woman as hard as nails and uncompromising in her pursuit of justice.  But she was as hard on herself as she was on him. When sex was still something he was able to think about he thought about her. Her long legs, her long black hair her unruly sense of dress – often accompanied not unllke himself by some stain. Curry, mayo, mustard. Generally a condiment but not always. It was the one way in which they were alike. He loved her. Did he just think that? Was he crazy? He never let his mind go there anymore. t was over. Enough of that he thought as he lit another cigarette. He reminded himself to splash some aftershave and bring some chewing  gum before he arrived or his kid would give him the smell test and then give him hell. What were they teaching them in school these days anyways?


He arrived at the party at 4:27 exactly, just late enough to be given a mouthful of hell. “Meyer, what the hell?” Sharon said as he stood outside the door in the pouring rain.  He looked at the Frank Lloyd Wright rip-off house that he and Sharon bought together and which he had walked away from.  He couldn’t believe he had ever lived there.  Who was that person anyways?

“Where were you? This is a kid’s birthday party not some cocktail party you show up fashionably late to? Come in here. You look like hell by the way. What’s that on your head? Jeezus Meyer what’s going on?

“I don’t know what’s going on Sharon. I feel like I’m losing my mind.” ”

“Believe me Meyer, you lost your mind long ago.”

“Sharon, I know. But look at this. I woke up this morning and look I don’t know what the hell they are or where they came from.” Meyer removed his red beret and stood before Sharon his horns straight and at full alert.

“Jesus Meyer. What the hell. You’ve grown horns. Two of them!”. Sharon stepped closer to Meyer and reached up to touch his horns.

“They’re soft. Christ they’re moving. It’s like they’re looking at me.” Her voice softened in a way he hadn’t heard in years. They hadn’t’ stood this close since their divorce when she had pushed her finger in his chest and called him an asshole for giving up. This time her voice was soft.

“I can’t let Trish see them.”

“Meyer don’t be an idiot. The most forgiving person in your life is your daughter. Until she’s an adult of course and she’s realized how much you’ve screwed her over but until then she’s the most forgiving person in your life. Go show yourself Meyer. She’s a good girl.”

Suddenly Meyer felt like he was 5 years old again. Naked, young, uncynical, reborn. Standing as tall as he could he went upstairs to look for his daughter before  her guests were to arrive.

Post script:

I wrote this as a result of a challenge from a friend over wine and drinks one night. She gave me the topic and I had to write whatever I wanted. This isn’t my usual style of writing at all but I was reading the Yiddish Policeman’s Union at the time and I was heavily influenced by the voice of that author. I did this purely for the fun of it.

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Poem of the Week: What If the Hokey Pokey Really Is What It’s All About? by Mark Kraushaar via Poetry Mistress Alison McGhee

What If the Hokey Pokey Really Is What It’s All About?
– Mark Kraushaar

You put your right foot in,
            You put your right foot out … ,
            That’s what it’s all about.

            —The Hokey Pokey, Larry LaPrise, 1948

Of an evening filled with wide-set
bright stars I think of my friends, Ray, Sara,
Father Hay, and Phil and Joe.
I think of them together and I think of them alone:
Friends, what better than to put your right foot in,
and what better than to take it out again?

What better than to leave your jacket
and your drink and join
the circled strangers on the floor?
What better than to put your left foot in
and then to take it out since
who’ll explain this strange life anyway,
the problems with love, the trouble with money?
It must be what is meant, this must be what’s intended.
What better than to leave your silent trying behind
and put your right foot in once more
then shake it all about?
What better than having said too little
or too much you join the farmer with his wife
and daughter, the couple with their
squeaky walkers, the FedEx man,
the florist and the LPN?
It must be what is meant,
this must be what it’s all about:
what better than to join the high-heeled,
high-haired waitress first pausing and laughing,
then leaning to her friend the grinning busboy
who, putting his elbow in then out again,
now shakes it all about.

For more information on Mark Kraushaar, please click here.

For Poetry Mistress’ Facebook page.

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Global March for Elephants and Rhinos Oct 3 & 4 2015


I am an animal lover and an advocate for species at risk.  I have pledged to raise awareness and funds for elephants and rhinos. I advocate on behalf of elephants and rhinos who are poached, elephants who are enslaved in entertainment or in horrific conditions as working animals. (Asian Tourism, circus elephants).

I am also the co-organizer for the second annual Global March for Elephants and Rhinos on October 3rd, 2015. I am grateful for my co-organizers Fran, Andrea, Jake and Christine at Elephanatics who have jumped into the madness with me along with the growing number of incredible volunteers, not the least of whom is Dave who works tirelessly for animals.

Please find a city near you or better yet organize a march in your city! Without our help, without a global effort these two species face extinction.

  • Last year 137 cities, and over 50,000 people marched. Let’s double it this year. Let’s scream and yell and make our voices heard. Let’s change this outcome for these animals. Come on. Let’s do it.
  • Last year 35,000 elephants were poached, 100 a day, or 1 every 15 minutes. There is a growing market for ivory from China with the US being the second biggest market for ivory. Political instability and terror groups use ivory to fund their activities. Ivory is now worth more than gold. Poaching is wreaking havoc on elephant populations and on communities.
  • Less than 100 years ago 5 million elephants roamed Africa. 90 percent of them are now gone. On our watch.
  • Rhino horn is prized for its “medicinal” properties. This miseducation has left us with only 25,000 rhinos and a rapidly growing market in Vietnam and Asia.
  • Ivory funds terrorism. Elephants and rhinos cannot fight the war that is being waged against them without our/your help.

You can find out more about the Global March for Elephants and Rhinos right here. Find your city and join the many others who are lending their time and effort to speak up on their behalf.

Here are some pictures from last year’s march.

The Vancouver march will be held at the Vancouver Public Library North Plaza from 12:00 pm to 2:00 om Saturday October 3rd. Join us.  These guys need all the help they can get. We’ll have music, speakers, face painters, cool stuff for sale and of course we’ll sign petitions and make as much noise as we can so the world hears and responds to this urgent issue.

Join the Vancouver march here.

Find your city here.





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Ted X – Steven Wise on why chimps should have legal person status – Non Human Rights Project

This is an extraordinary Ted X presentation by Steven Wise founder of the Non Human Rights Project on why chimpanzees ‘(and other animals) legal status needs to be changed from ‘thing’ to ‘person’. For those of us who love animals and understand their voicelessness at the hands of people, this talk represents a sweeping step in the right direction.

“Chimpanzees are people too, you know. Ok, not exactly. But lawyer Steven Wise has spent the last 30 years working to change these animals’ status from “things” to “persons.” It’s not a matter of legal semantics; as he describes in this fascinating talk, recognizing that animals like chimps have extraordinary cognitive capabilities and rethinking the way we treat them — legally — is no less than a moral duty.”

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Poem of the Week by Osip Mandelstam via Poetry Mistress Alison McGhee

The Necklace
– Osip Mandelstam (1920, translated from the Russian by Christian Wiman)

Take, from my palms, for joy, for ease,
A little honey, a little sun,
That we may obey Persephone’s bees.

You can’t untie a boat unmoored.
Fur-shod shadows can’t be heard,
Nor terror, in this life, mastered.

Love, what’s left for us, and of us, is this
Living remnant, loving revenant, brief kiss
Like a bee flying completed dying hiveless

To find in the forest’s heart a home,
Night’s never-ending hum,
Thriving on meadowsweet, mint, and time.

Take, for all that is good, for all that is gone,
That it may lie rough and real against your collarbone,
This string of bees, that once turned honey into sun.

A big thanks to Alison for curating these lovely gems.

​For more information on Osip Mandelstam, please click here: ​

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