In a week of tragic animal news, a relatively positive story about a large African mammal appeared from an unlikely source on Tuesday.
Actor and former California governor Arnold Schwarzenegger posted a video to YouTube and his Twitter account Tuesday of his chance meeting with a African elephant while on safari in South Africa.
“I couldn’t have written this safari encounter better if it was a movie,” Schwarzenegger wrote in the video’s description on YouTube. “I’m absolutely in awe of these beautiful, strong animals, even though some of us had to change our pants after this.”
Passengers in Schwarzenegger’s safari car appeared to leave the encounter unscathed, but the encounter with the elephant in the middle of the road was pretty tense. Near the beginning of the video, the elephant nudges the car with one tusk, causing the driver the start the engine. As the car readies to go, the elephant circles the vehicle, eventually charging the departing car just as the video cuts off.
Schwarzenegger left the encounter with only good things to say about his brush with the monumental mammal.
“We need to stop killing them,” reads the rest of the video’s description on YouTube. “Take a photo, not a shot. Would you rather be able to experience these creatures or a hunk of ivory? I thought so.”
Some scientists estimate that African elephants could be extinct in 20 years, largely thanks to poaching. Though poaching has gradually reduced from accounting for 75 percent of African elephant deaths in 2011 to 60 percent in 2016, poaching remains well above sustainable levels. Overall, African elephants are being killed faster than they are being born.
Despite a worldwide ban on the ivory trade enacted by the United Nations Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES), ivory from African elephants is still coveted worldwide, especially in China. Some African countries still sell ivory both legally and illegally, and trophy hunters, including Donald Trump’s sons, still trek to Africa to kill the beautiful creatures for fun. In addition, extension of agriculture into elephant habitat has been known to threaten African elephant populations outside of protected areas.
Elephants kill about 500 humans each year, mostly in India and Sri Lanka, but an estimated 35,000 elephants are killed each year for their ivory. Maybe Schwarzenegger, who recently came out in support of gay marriage, could become a spokesperson for his new Big Best Friend.