There’s an elephant in the room and Dag Goering and Maria Coffey are prepared to address the issue.
The founders of ecotourism company, Hidden Places, the veterinarian (Goering) and author (Coffey) have dedicated their lives to elephant conservation, travelling the world in search of the majestic beasts and taking others out to see what they’re talking about.
Whether in Thailand, India, Rwanda or Laos, the couple are always looking for ways to protect the animals that have become the centre of their personal and professional lives.
“I think our elephant work and its offshoots will keep us busy for the rest of our lives,” said Coffey, in an email interview from Rwanda.
The pair got started on the venture following a chance encounter will an 11-hour old elephant.
Elephant mothers are protected by the females in their herd as they give birth. Goering was invited to come in and visit the new creature among its mothers as the elephants circled, cleaning the baby and helping it take a crack at standing by pulling it to its feet with their trunks.
Although the vet was technically supposed to be studying camels at the time, the purpose of his trip was soon lost.
“He came home a man transformed, vowing to help the plight of captive and wild elephants,” Coffey said. “The camel train was put off indefinitely and we’ve been following
the path of elephants ever since.”
The adventures have been wild in every sense of the word.
Just last month, for example, the couple joined a group of women who make paper from elephant dung and bead it to sell in tourist lodges.
One young woman in the group had received an entrance scholarship for Nairobi University, they were told, but her father barred his support as she refused to undergo female genital mutilation.
The couple used the Elephant Earth Initiative to create a scholarship to see her through all four years of school, and their touring group pitched in to ensure it would happen.
The couple will be in town to share more of their adventures, the animals and the lives they’ve helped change on Oct. 26.
They will be giving a talk in the Rotary Centre for the Arts from 7:30 to 9:30 p.m.
Entrance is by donation to the Elephant Earth Initiative (www.elephantearth.org). To find out more about their talks, the 12 books they’ve written between them and the plight of the elephants go to www.hiddenplaces.net.