Long-term studies of animals in their natural habitats have led conservationists to recognize that the well being of individual animals has an impact on the survival of entire societies. The lives of individual animals matter, because what we do to them has consequences for their well being and for the health of the complex societies in which they live. The continued existence of populations of social species, like elephants, is dependent upon the endurance of friendships and the integrity of families and clans.

Individual elephants are the building blocks of elephant families and it is the relationships within and between families that makes a functioning society. Yet, in the name of conservation and "sustainable utilization" these individual building blocks of societies are often forgotten, purposefully ignored and disposed of as organizations and nations barter away lives to supply the ivory trade, provide for a hunter's bullet and supply captives for zoos, circuses and elephant-back safaris.

The committment of individual people to individual animals lies at the heart of the newly recognized field of Compassionate Conservation - an approach that has always formed a foundation of ElephantVoices. We work toward a day when individual animals, their habitats and ecosystems are protected and sustained by individual people, their families and entire communities. Through our citizen science projects, Facebook, ElephantVoices.org and other outreach, we endeavor to link elephants and people across countries and continents.

The presentation embedded below was given at the Compassionate Conservation conference held at University of Oxford in September 2010. There were 150 participants from 22 countries representing all continents. The recognition of compassionate conservation was long overdue.

Elephants on the edge: The use and abuse of individual and societies, lecture by ElephantVoices.