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Of Elephants and their battle for survival...

This weeks Blog is more of a re-direct to the World Wildlife Funds brilliant Wildlife Pages, but let me firstly just set the context:

I'll let you into a secret; I really quite like elephants.

Tread Softly, Matt Smith, 2017

I could sit drawing elephants all day long. I have this theory that the wrinkles on an elephants skin each tell part of the story of that particular elephant. For each wrinkle; a story. And so when drawing elephants, I can get lost for hours in the detail. Capturing each wrinkle. Desperate not to miss any part of the story.

The original Tread Softly sketch (above) was a drawing in part for my mum and in a quiet and unobtrusive way my Mum must take a great deal of credit for cultivating my love of elephants.

Last Christmas, I was sitting in my Mum & Dad's lounge during that 'no-man's-land' time between Christmas Day and New Year's Day and found myself day-dreaming about elephants. When I eventually snapped back to reality I wondered what had caused my mind to drift onto elephants. I took in the familiar surroundings of the lounge with a keener eye. There were no fewer than 5 elephant ornaments adorning the mantelpiece and hearth and a herd of elephants embroidered into the lounge curtains. There was my answer. It's little wonder that elephants had slipped into my consciousness.

Into the Mystic, Matt Smith, 2017

There is certainly something magical which draws us towards these beasts. There is no question that is has something to do with their size, but also (and prehaps more so) it has to do with their gentle, quiet grace.

We are moved to want to sit quietly and observe them. Reach out and touch. Extend to the Elephant the same controlled and quiet peace which they emit toward us. Friends recently visited an elephant sanctuary in Puckett and they met a 67-year old female elephant. When they showed me the photo's I was almost in tears. It wasn't a particularly attractive elephant - not at all - but for some reason I just wanted to reach out and touch it. I had to draw this elderly old lady and you can see her here on my Instagram page

You see, that's what they do, they inspire you. They roll and pad along the red dirt tracks of Africa - capable with their size and power - of untold destruction should rage and fury descend. And yet, they naturally hold that power and strength back. They are such quiet, calm and seemingly loving creatures operating within the structure of their herds.

Sadly, it is we who have descended upon the elephants with our rage, fury and greed. We are wiping out the African and Asian elephant population.

What is it about us? How is it that we can take something so stunning and beautiful and destroy it? What are we thinking?

Thank goodness for organisations like the World Wildlife Fund and for people like David Shepherd CBE, FRSA, FRGS, OBE

David Shepherd CBE, OBE with his beloved elephants

David, who sadly passed away in September last year is recognized as one of the world's foremost wildlife artists and he too loved elephants. In-fact, his epitaph may well echo the title of the first volume of his Autobiography; 'A Man who Loved Giants'.

In 1984 he set up his own Conservation Foundation - The David Shepherd Wildlife Foundation. The Foundation continues to champion the cause of wild elephants seeking to protect them from habitat loss and poaching, which threatens the survival of this most remarkable of beasts.

David's focus in setting up the foundation was in part to 'repay a debt' to the animals he painted by 'bringing home to people that elephants deserve a better fate than to be killed for their ivory'.

Today, the numbers, particularly of African Elephants, being killed for their Ivory is really quite staggering, shocking and wholly unacceptable. I'm not going to give you the statistics, and indeed, I'm not going to bleat on anymore - because what I'd like to do this week is direct you to the World Wildlife Fund's brilliant Wildlife Pages on both the African and Asian Elephants so you can find out for yourself!

Enjoy finding out about our massive grey-wrinkly friends and perhaps take a moment to share with me any stories, thoughts, memories or anecdotes that you may have about these graceful creatures. You can add a comment below, or drop me a note on my Instagram or Facebook pages.

Much love to The Elephant.

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