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  • Writer's pictureEPI Secretariat

Goodbye to one of Ethiopia’s best known giants, Shulure.

This elephant brushed with death many times over his long life, and there is a sadness in the surprised relief that he has died of natural causes.

Earlier this month, one of Ethiopia’s best known elephants, nicknamed Shulure, died naturally of old age, having lived a long and eventful 60-70 years.

Shulure’s life was marred with regular conflict with humans, reflecting the rapid population growth in Ethiopia over his lifetime, the rise of poaching for ivory, and the increased encroachment into national parks and wilderness areas. In the last few months, Shulure spent his time in the marshlands, looking for softer foods as his teeth began to wear down. But before this, Shulure spent most of his life in the thick riparian forests of Chebera-Churchura, the deepest, wildest areas of the park. Far from the beaten track, it was in these areas that poachers thrived. Shulure’s majestic ivory tusks made him a valuable target, and the large bullet hole in his left ear indicates just how close he came to being another victim of the ivory trade.

From such encounters, Shulure developed a deep fear and resentment of humans. He became known for crop raiding and petrifying local communities by charging and trampling the villages out of the blue, regrettably sometimes fatally. Shulure’s aggressiveness towards humans should also be seen in the wider context of the violence also inflicted against him. It is a clear message that if we do not take care of our natural world, it will not take care of us.

Adane Tsegaye (pictured), Park Warden at Chebera-Churchura, alongside his team of rangers, have been crucial to protecting Shulure and the park over the years, followed his activities daily, allowing him to pass away naturally after a life long lived. The collective relief that he passed from natural causes rather than poaching, highlights the sadness that this should come as a surprise. What does this say about the prospects for the other titan’s of Africa’s elephants?

The EPI Foundation’s Lead for the Horn of Africa, Greta Iori emphasised, ‘The natural world is a harsh one, and survival both for wildlife and communities is a daily, if not, hourly struggle. Finding a way that allows for wild animals and humans to coexist in Ethiopia, Africa's 2nd most populous country, is truly one of our greatest challenges.’

The EPI Foundation is supporting the Ethiopian government to develop secure ivory storerooms, alongside strong ivory management procedures. This will ensure that tusks such as Shulure’s will be safely and securely stored. The effective management of ivory stockpiles may sound mundane in comparison, but it is crucial to elephant conservation and keeping illegal ivory from the black market.



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