Jennifer Perkes | Managing Director,
Jennifer and her husband, Phil, set up Travellers together back in 1994, driven by
their mutual enjoyment of travelling, their love of animals and their desire to
help disadvantaged children. When Phil died unexpectedly in August 2004, Jennifer
carried out Phil's wish and set up a non-profit Foundation whose objectives are
to help threatened animals and to improve the lives of disadvantaged children.
The photo is of camera-shy Jen showing excited children on one of Travellers' projects
in South Africa the photo she had just taken of them. Jen's hobbies include messing
around on computers, music, writing, playing with her dog and trying to find time
to smell life's roses!
PS from Jen: This is why we do what we do!
We have worked with this Conservation Project in Wasgamuwa (Sri Lanka) for many, many years. This report from them about poachers is just one small example that summarises why my husband and I started this organisation. I can't physically do everything that our projects achieve, but we can help them to do it! And that is very satisfying (if heartbreaking as well because of the fact that this type of work is needed).
Poaching is epidemic in Sri Lanka and Wasgamuwa is no exception. Steel snares and trap guns are frequently set along forest paths to kill game such as sambhur, Axis deer, and wild boar. The height at which these guns are set depends on the chest height of the animal (for a lung or heart shot) the poachers are attempting to kill. So almost all of these guns are set up at 3 feet or lesser height with the lowest been for wild boar. Unfortunately elephants become collateral casualties of these traps.
Trap guns typically inflict wounds on the lower extremities of elephants’ generally on their limbs from the elbow and knee downwards unless a small calf triggers the gun. Then it could be lethal for the calf. If the home made slug goes into muscle then there is a good chance the wound will heal. But if the slug hits an artery or shatters bone then the elephant is definitely doomed. A fracture means a protracted death from infection and gangrene. Once an elephant breaks a major bone there is no chance of it ever healing. Elephants with shattered femurs, knees, ankles and wrists basically rot to their deaths, especially during the wet season, when they are highly susceptible to infection.
Steel snares again are set for game such as sambhur, Axis deer and wild boar and also to catch smaller game such as mouse deer, pangolin and porcupine. These snares get entangled in the feet and trunks of elephants. As it is for other animals, the snares are not life threatening to elephants. When elephants get entangled in snares they snap the cable from its anchor and drag the cable along or sometimes manage to break it off at the knot. We have encountered several elephants inside and outside the national park dragging cables that were attached to their legs. Although they are free the cable causes a ligature that eventually cuts into the flesh and becomes embedded in the bone.
If these elephants are treated as soon they are encountered many of them can be easily saved before the snares cause mutilating injuries such as severed trunks and rupturing wounds in their limbs. Elephants with such injuries when spotted should be treated swiftly to ensure they will not suffer unnecessarily. However, the challenge is the lack of field veterinary facilities to mobilize immediately when such elephants are encountered. So tragically most of these elephants go untreated. For some with grievous injuries by the time an effort is made to treat them it is too late.
We have set up remote cameras along several major elephant paths to identify and monitor elephants injured from trap guns and snares. This information we provide the veterinarians of the Department of Wildlife Conservation immediately. Through this process we have managed to treat a number of injured elephants in Wasgamuwa.