Joan Bakewell references Kenya trip during House of Lords ivory trade debate

Baroness Bakewell House of Lords
Baroness Bakewell discussed her experience at the David Sheldrick Wildlife Trust in a House of Lords discussion about the ivory trade.

Baroness Bakewell of Hardington Mandeville has discussed her experience in Kenya during a discussion in the House of Lords about the ivory trade.

The debate, instigated by Lord Carrington of Fulham moved that the House take note of the impact of the trade in ivory on endangered species, and of the efforts being made to eliminate that trade while protecting the cultural heritage of antique ivory.

Agreeing with Lord Carrington, Baroness Bakewell recalled that as a young woman in her first job, she had saved her wages up to afford an ivory necklace she had seen in a shop window. Although she loved the item of jewellery, as time went by she realised that perhaps ivory was not the wisest ornament to wear around her neck. So she painstakingly removed all the ivory beads and keep them hidden away in the back of a drawer.

For the debate, she wore that same necklace, minus the beads, adding that she believed that it looked just as good without the ivory.

She then went on to discuss the plight of African elephants who fall foul of poachers, and recalled a visit to the David Sheldrick Wildlife Trust in Nairobi.

“The plight of animals who have the great misfortune to have ivory as part of their anatomy is a very precarious one indeed. We have all seen television programmes about poaching elephant ivory and rhino horn for profit.

“We have seen the devastated carcasses left strewn around. We have sometimes seen the pitiful picture of an elephant calf left by its mother’s body, mourning her loss.

“I have had the great privilege of visiting the David Sheldrick Elephant Orphanage in Kenya. This was an extremely moving experience—seeing the elephant calves transferring to their keepers the affection and attachment they would have had for their mothers. Each had their own keeper who stayed with them all day and slept with them at night, covering them with a blanket in the heat of the day so they did not get sunburn. In the wild, they would have been shielded from the sun by the shade of their mother.”

– Baroness Bakewell

She went on to recall seeing an elephant with a white rhino in the wild, which although terrifying was an experience she wouldn’t have missed “for the world”, adding that she wants others to also see these creatures in their natural habitat and how a strategy needs devising to stop the hunting to extinction of these animals.

“While in Kenya, I was able to see the majesty of the African elephant in its homeland and to stand in a clearing with a white rhino. To say that I was terrified and did not move an inch is an understatement, but it was an experience I would not have missed for the world.

“I want my children, grandchildren and other people to have this opportunity, if they are able to. We have to devise a strategy to which all can sign up to stop the hunting of these creatures to extinction.”

– Baroness Bakewell

Rounding off her part in the debate, Baroness Bakewell said she believes making it illegal to trade ivory and clamping down on poachers and export is only part of the solution.

“To be completely successful, the solution to this abhorrent practice will need to involve educating the communities that share the landscape with these magnificent beasts and providing an alternative source of income for those who carry out the poaching and their families,” she said.

“We cannot enforce our standards on them unless we help them to understand the importance of preserving ivory-bearing animals to the landscape, their tourism industries and the wider world. A ban on trading ivory is a start, but it is not the whole story. There is much, much more to do. Preventing poaching at source is an essential part of any strategy to save the elephant, but I hope that the Minister will fully support the proposed ban,” she concluded.