June 4th, 2008
04:53 PM ET

Planet in Peril 2: An ivory massacre

[cnn-photo-caption image=http://i.cdn.turner.com/cnn/2008/images/06/04/art.ellistill.jpg caption="Philip's photo of one of the elephants killed for their ivory tusks."]
Philip Littleton
Senior Photojournalist

It was the eyes of the baby elephant that got to me: they were gone. Lying next to its mother, who along with 64 others, had been savagely slain for their ivory a few months ago. Slain by nomads who had lived off the same land as them for eons. Why would they do this? To them the elephants are only lumbering animals, and who cares anyway, they’d say, when there is so much misery and suffering across the boarder in Sudan.

I stand in the Zakouma National Park in Southern Chad, trying to make sense of this senselessness. Why would I even be here? Simple. I am looking for the conflict lines which are to become the theme of Planet in Peril 2.

Filming PIP2 is going to be challenging. I know we are going to see joy, but also tears where the hopelessness of the animals and despair of the citizens who live alongside them collide with the pressure of the outside world, leaning heavily on them to change and conform.

Today I am in Rwanda, a success story where citizens and gorillas share the mountains. All I can hope for is being able to hear the people and the cries of the animals, and let the camera feel their pain and hold the images and sound, and let you decide where to get on or off, either way this is not going to go away.

Let’s speak again soon.


Editor's note: You can read about this and other Planet in Peril stories here.

Filed under: Planet in Peril
soundoff (18 Responses)
  1. kay, Huntsville, AL

    I have always been taught not kill an animal or waste it. You do not have to kill an animal unless it is trying to harm you or you have to have it for food. It is wrong to kill something and leave it laying. I feel sorry for the elephants. It is wrong to kill something and leave its poor carcass like that. What a waste of an intelligent animal!

    June 9, 2008 at 11:10 pm |
  2. deborah,OH

    This is horribly sickening, Phillip. But very courageous of you to shoot the picture & share it. Please don't be a stranger to the Blog.

    Can't wait for PIP2! These reports on the environment, wildlife, & overpopulation help people to understand how this planet works. And how MUCH needs to be done to protect it.

    Again, am looking forward to Anderson's 'on-the-spot' reporting–a lot of us miss him doing, because it's what he does best!

    And, come back with more reports, Phillip.

    June 5, 2008 at 4:21 am |
  3. Christina, Windber, PA

    I'm sure there are words to describe how sad and hearbreaking that picture is, but I can't find them right now. Seeing the picture of that baby elephant for the first time felt like getting punched in the stomach. I'm looking forward to Anderson in the new Planet in Peril; I loved the first one. Hopefully, these programs will keep wildlife and the environment foremost in people's minds.

    June 4, 2008 at 9:56 pm |
  4. Annie Kate

    The slaughter of the elephants for their ivory is horrible; I'm glad that PIP2 will cover this – if every person who bought something made of ivory knew what they were supporting with their purchase I would hope the demand would dry up. Until it does more elephants will be killed.

    Annie Kate
    Birmingham AL

    June 4, 2008 at 9:37 pm |
  5. Barbara-Dalton Ga

    I hope this is a story you guys stay on top of. Maybe by bringing the story to the masses it will help stop this kind of terrible thing from
    happening. Stories like this are so sad, it breaks my heart to know
    that mankind can be so heartless.

    June 4, 2008 at 9:20 pm |
  6. Cherisa

    Thank you for reminding us that other concerns still linger. I look forward to posts and reports that move us to action for the sake of all creatures on this planet.

    June 4, 2008 at 9:17 pm |
  7. Penny

    This is such a tragedy, it leaves you speechless, how terrible, I'm so glad to hear it will featured on Planet in Peril.

    June 4, 2008 at 9:07 pm |
  8. Jo Ann

    Dear Philip,

    It is such a relief to see you returning to the types of stories that have made AC360 so special! This photo is so heartbreaking! I know that it must have been difficult to witness such unnecessary brutality.

    The loss of habitat and the ivory trade are the greatest threats to these gentle giants. These killings seem to have escalated lately; poachers killed fourteen elephants in Virunga National Park during a two-week period in April. They blame Rwanda militias and Congolese militias and soldiers for the killings.

    I know that your report will be difficult to watch, but showing it on 360 will help to bring this terrible tragedy to the attention of many viewers who might be willing to help with this cause.

    Thank you for your sensitivity towards these animals.

    Jo Ann
    North Royalton, Ohio

    June 4, 2008 at 8:02 pm |
  9. Maggie OKLA

    People in far too many countries are over-populating their family and national resources. These are the same people who do not think twice about the slaughtering of animals for a few bucks. This is very sad indeed. A simple death is too good for people who slaughter like this.

    June 4, 2008 at 7:31 pm |
  10. Maritza


    I felt as you did when you saw this baby elephant and his mother , the image stabs you in the heart , with all of the violence in Sudan , and the economic dispair inflicted on the people that live in this region , the consequences of such injustice comes down to innocent and beautiful creatures, elephants are very social animals that depend entirely on their group , they have a very wide range of emotions and even cry, I hope your valuable time there will serve in a positive way that can somehow prevent this tragedy from occuring again, or at least bring the world wide attention it so deserves , I hope in some way this will end. Anderson , please do a segment on this very tragic event.


    June 4, 2008 at 7:14 pm |
  11. Renee

    Hi Phil:

    Wow! Who knew PIP 2? Wow! Son is very happy. We have PIP in our DVD and just watched Jeff again with the elephants.

    I have to tell you how many of the elementary age kids watched PIP last time. I think they we so excited about Jeff Corwin who most of the kids know from Animal Planet.

    As I said before on this blog remember how educational these pieces are for the kids. So if you can I would appreciate something in the G rating range. I am willing to explain the cultural differences of our world, but please try to limit the violence in the final on-air editing.

    I was fortunate enough to see Jeff Corwin with my family. Most all of the questions were from PIP. I was amazed by the wide range of people who were at the lecture. I guess from about 4 to 80 years old.

    Thanks for your contribution and I look forward to your dispatches.

    June 4, 2008 at 6:29 pm |
  12. Betty Ann, Nacogdoches,TX

    Hi Phillip,
    This is an outrage! Does suffering in Sudan beget more suffering? What man does to the planet does it not come back full circle?
    As an animal advocate, I can tell you that these creatures cry real tears when they loose a family member.
    Often, they cling to a dead relative (elephants live in family units)
    which leaves themselves open to the heartless poachers.
    We must respect all beings that inhabit this planet if we are to survive, much less have PEACE.
    Thanks, (i guess) for the depressing report. We can't change the perils of the planet if we are uninformed.
    Humans are not the only sentient beings in the world, we just act like we are~

    June 4, 2008 at 5:39 pm |
  13. Melisa

    I hate to admit this, but with the media attention so focused on politics and rising gas prices, I had forgotten about the horrifying daily ordeals that other country's are trying to deal with. Thank you for your blog – it made me take notice again!

    June 4, 2008 at 5:22 pm |
  14. Janna

    Philip, I cannot thank you enough for your contribution to this incredibly important series. People are finally listening, I think. I also hope that the viewers will be given some everyday, practical ways to get involved.

    June 4, 2008 at 5:15 pm |
  15. Lorie Ann, Buellton, California

    Until all human beings respect animals as our partners on this earth, we'll hear more stories like this. What can we do? I guess all we can do is try to educate the people who kill these animals, that money is not a good enough reason for murdering an animal anymore. It never was, and never will be.

    Lorie Ann, Buellton, Calif.

    June 4, 2008 at 5:15 pm |
  16. Cindy

    It is so sad that these elephants are being killed for their tusks. What a waste! I can see how the people who live there may see them as a nuisance to their way of living but it seems that the government would do more to educate these people on why these elephants need to be saved rather than killed. And if the government was better at helping their people maybe they wouldn't feel the need to kill them to make money off of their tusks.

    Looking forward to this report and to PIP2.


    June 4, 2008 at 5:11 pm |
  17. Megan O. Toronto, ON, Canada


    It is so nice to see a post from you 🙂

    The story of these elephants is so sad. Thank you for bringing us both the bad and the good in this story of our planet in peril. I am so looking forward to November to see the stories you will be bringing to us.

    Don't be a stranger to the blog!!!

    June 4, 2008 at 5:10 pm |
  18. Lisa

    What is the adage - "As go the animals, so does man"?

    And when the elephants are gone, what then will they slaughter for trade?

    It is too bad that man is so incapable of learning lessons from the past. It isn't about dominance or who gets what resources ... it's about living in harmony so that everyone gets something. Let's hope for more stories such as Rwanda in the future and fewer such as Zakouma.

    June 4, 2008 at 5:08 pm |