People can be quite lazy about answering letters. Brigitte Bardot for instance. I wrote to her once.
That delectable, pouting French film star of the 1950s who, in later life, became an animal rights activist (and is very sun-dried these days) – had written an impassioned plea to Nelson Mandela.
She asked him to intervene in an international dispute concerning elephant culling in Zimbabwe and Botswana.
Zimbabwe and Botswana wanted to cull their elephant herds but had, up to then, bowed to pressure from Europe’s “bunny-huggers”. As a consequence 70 000 elephant which travel to and fro between these two countries irreparably damaged the ancient riverine forests along the Linyati and it was a case of either cull or face further ecological calamities.
There are 100 000 now.
It is difficult for people living in areas where elephants are rare – such as San Tropez and say, Manchester’s southern suburbs – to understand the environmental impact of elephant overpopulation
And certainly the people of Europe have no idea of the flatulence problem that elephants have. Their voluminous bowels are filled with methane gas. This is why these animals are so enormous.
If an elephant were to be totally degasified it would be the size of a warthog. Few people appreciate this.
If you were to light a match behind an elephant you could create a bizarre parody of the 1937 Hindenburg disaster.
I felt honour-bound to send a letter to Miss Bardot with whom I was in love from about 1954 until around 1969 when I switched to Francoise Hardy:
Ms B Bardot
Mon petit cabbage,
Bonjour, etc. Comment ca va? Enchantee, I’m sure.
I fear you do not understand what all these surplus elephants are doing to our environment here in Africa.
Do you realise how much flatulence – if I may be so bold – there is in just one elephant? I know I can discuss such matters freely with you because I saw you in Doctor in the House in 1953.
One elephant lets off half-a-ton of methane gas a year! Five hundred kilograms! (Don’t ask me how scientists weigh it but, indeed, they have.)
There are 70 000 elephants criss-crossing between Zimbabwe and Botswana. If they are left to go on increasing – and elephants breed just like rabbits except they huff and puff a bit more – will produce enough methane gas to greenhouse the world.
And because they have demolished the forests that used to sustain them, they now have to live mostly off grass which produces in them a degree of flatulence you’d not believe.
They could, one day, blow a hole clean through the ozone layer. They could turn your precious St Tropez into a tropical hellhole filled with mosquitoes and rampaging government troops and crazed dictators.
A herd of 70 000 elephants, living off grass, will release in one year, 35 000 tons of methane. When even a small herd passes through a wooded area, yellow-eyed canaries fall out of the trees like ripe plums.
Elephants live 50 to 60 years. Thus, in a lifetime, this herd will produce 1.7 million tons of gas!
Bearing in mind that methane, as a greenhouse gas, is 20 times more efficient than carbon dioxide, these elephants are going to pass into the atmosphere (if you will pardon moi) the equivalent of 30-million tons of carbon dioxide.
Then you have the problem of elephant dung. Well, YOU don’t because you are fortunate enough to be sitting on the beach at St Tropez rubbing dolphin-friendly sunblock on your bare whatsits. But WE do.
Seventy thousand elephants would leave more than 2 million tons of le poop grand in the veld in just one year. And, if we don’t cull them, the volume will increase by 5 percent per annum compounded.
Can you imagine 2 million tons of this stuff, compounded?
Imagine the methane arising there from?
Just think, in a few years from now, how innocent people will be wading about central Africa, knee-deep in elephant droppings! Imagine if somebody were to carelessly strike a match.
Well, mon petit epinard, I hope you now realise how misguided your campaign against culling is.
Au revoir mamoiselle,
James F Clarke
(Je suis votre trés grand devoté 1954-1969)
She never did reply.