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Monday Maul: “True Blood” Star Kristin Bauer Joins Anti-Poaching Effort

Vin Paneccasio

Despite the sincere well-wishes I have exchanged with friends, family, and acquaintances in these early days of the New Year, I remain unable — and unwilling — to shake an enduring melancholy. As long as soulless humans find spiritual or material reward in the exploitation, torture, and murder of other species, I’ll gladly forfeit any claim on contentment. As I write this, South Africa’s white rhinoceros faces an escalating holocaust.”

On July 4, six months after I wrote those words as part of my January 3 commentary “Rhino Poaching, Hunting: Holocaust in South Africa,” Kristin Bauer van Straten, who stars in the HBO series True Blood, shared with the public what she was thinking about on Independence Day.

While “most of the country” was “overeating and watching things explode,” van Straten says in this video, she was preparing to ask folks like you and me to help bring an end to a shameful and sickening holocaust that continues to bloody the African soil.

In his August 2011 Vanity Fair story “Agony and Ivory,” Alex Shoumatoff wrote: “Across the continent, in their 37 range states, from Mali to South Africa, Ethiopia to Gabon, elephants are being killed, some believe, at the rate of around 100 a day, 36,500 a year.”

Shoumatoff described one of these brutal killings thus: “A Kenya Wildlife Service official and Soila Sayialel, the deputy director of the Amboseli Elephant Research Project, have invited me to come along as they investigate the carcass found on the Kuku Group Ranch. … We are greeted by the nauseating stench of rotting flesh. Fifty yards from the blood trail, the dead, decomposing elephant is kneeling in a pool of its own fluid, which is swarming with flies. … Its face is completely gone, hacked off by a machete: no eyes, no trunk, no tusks. The trunk, Soila suspects, was taken by hyenas. The tusks were chopped out with an ax. The elephant’s cheekless mouth is a gaping black hole, like one of Francis Bacon’s silent-scream paintings. The elephant’s tail has been sliced off. … The animal has been speared on both sides, 23 times.”

Africa’s rhinoceros population is also being brutally victimized by the escalating holocaust.

According to a July 17 Agence France-Presse report, “poachers in South Africa have killed 281 rhinos so far this year, with the world-famous Kruger National Park accounting for over half the killings … Last year poachers killed 448 rhinos, up from 333 in 2010 and just 13 in 2007. … The animals’ distinctive horns are hacked off to be smuggled to the lucrative Asian black market.”

Similarly, albeit in much greater detail, Shoumatoff explained why and likely for whom the elephant he saw was viciously butchered on the Kuku Group Ranch.

“This new crisis is driven by China’s nouveaux riches, or bao fa hu (the ‘suddenly wealthy’),” Shoumatoff wrote in his Vanity Fair piece.

Shoumatoff explained that “eventually most of the ivory arrives, by land, sea, air, or a combination thereof, in Guangzhou.” And while he pointed out that “China isn’t the only problem,” Shoumatoff made it clear that “obviously, no ivory should be sold, legally or illegally. It has to be taken off the table completely. You can’t keep feeding the demand and providing incentives to poor Africans to continue killing their elephants. That — and educating the Chinese — is the only hope for the remaining ones in the wild.”

Van Straten wants us all to contribute to that education, as she explains in the above-mentioned video, which the actress made for a Kickstarter campaign she launched on July 20 to raise money for a documentary film titled Out for Africa

In the video, van Straten describes being moved by a talk given by the International Fund for Animal Welfare’s Jason Bell and lamenting later that “these moments pass.”

“You may be moved after seeing this video … but these moments pass,” van Straten says in her Kickstarter campaign video. “And we go back to our regular lives and we hate to even think about it because we feel like, ‘What the hell can I do about it?’ … I thought about that question, and I thought, ‘All right, what can we do about it?’ And it became we.”

Van Straten offers a variation on a famous Edmund Burke quote — whose misattribution is equally noteworthy, as was explored in Martin Porter’s A study of a Web quotation — saying, “Every single thing in history that’s happened — that we’re ashamed of, that we wish hadn’t happened, that we let go on too long — was because enough of us didn’t do something.”

I’m hopeful that van Straten’s Kickstarter campaign will engage those who may not read Vanity Fair, those who may not have been aware of the escalating holocaust in Africa but are compassionate enough to joint the fight against the greedy savages who seek spiritual and financial reward through the brutal butchery of other species.

Van Straten is not asking us to travel to Africa to teach elephants and rhinos how to wrest the tools of cruelty from their would-be murderers’ blood-stained hands and cut off their noses to spite them. But she is asking us to do something, by helping her give those “heroes in Africa that are literally spending their lives trying to save a species, a voice.”

And while she’s hoping Out for Africa will give African activists “a voice,” the larger goal, to be sure, is to provide a loud and unignorable voice for species other than our own.

Monday Maul cartoons are created for The Daily Maul by New York-based artist Vin Paneccasio. Providing a fix for your schadenfreude jones, while spiritually rewarding, can be physically and emotionally exhausting. You can keep us alert and fairly lucid by keeping us caffeinated.

2 Comments

  1. Andy wrote:

    So sad. On a positive note, I’m pretty sure economic, political and ecological catastrophe are just around the corner, and the human population will be all but wiped out by its own shortsightedness, greed, and stupidity. Hopefully we won’t render elephants, rhinos and other beautiful species extinct before we self-deport from the planet.

    Thursday, August 9, 2012 at 9:01 pm | Permalink
  2. David Brensilver wrote:

    Andy,

    The extinction of mankind would make the world a much better place. Anything you could do to help make our species’ self-deportation from the planet a reality would be much appreciated.

    David

    Sunday, August 12, 2012 at 12:33 pm | Permalink

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