This Man Shot 40,000 Elephants Before He Figured Out That Herds Of Cows Can Save The Planet

Ecologist Allan Savory blamed elephant herds for destroying African grasslands. It turns out, what all grasslands need to survive is more animals eating them.

The world’s grasslands are essential for holding soil in place, storing water and carbon, and providing food. And yet, up to one third of the Earth’s land surface is at risk of becoming desert, with potentially catastrophic consequences, not least for climate change. But figuring that out took a lot of catastrophic consequences for elephants.

In this recent TED talk, the ecologist Allan Savory explains Holistic Management, a land management technique that he says can rescue grasslands.

For a long time, experts blamed desertification on over-grazing. And in Africa, where Savory was working on national parks, he blamed elephants. So they started culling them, eventually killing 40,000 of the animals (this was back when you could kill elephants with impunity).

But killing the elephants didn’t work. Looking at parks around the world, Savory saw the same desertification happening everywhere. That’s when he realized that the key is to use animals to mimic the behavior of ancient herds that used to roam the land, and keep it in natural balance. Just like old herds of wild animals, cattle, sheep, and goats, move over the land, eating the grass, defecating, and pushing down the vegetation, so it decays, and can regrow. Leave it alone, and it starts to oxidate, and the only way to clear it is to burn it. That releases pollutants to the atmosphere, and offers only a partial fix.

Savory claims that Holistic Management is reversing desertification around the world, and could play a big part in reducing carbon in the atmosphere. He estimates that regenerating half the world’s grasslands could take us back to pre-industrial levels of CO2. His talk is worth a watch.

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  • MerrilyG

    Mr. Schiller's title is very accusatory and ambiguous. Mr. Savory did not personally kill elephants, his research did. But don't forget it was peer-reviewed and government backed! I applaud Savory for not giving up. I don't believe he needed to take the blame, but commend him for humbly doing so. I was inspired by his new conclusions and am relieved there are many pilot programs underway. Our planet and future children have hope, thanks to brave, relentless scientists willing to accept immense criticism, and continue anyway. Bravo Mr. Savory!

  • SageThinker

    This man Savory has a savior complex, and he has a guilt trip for his horrible part in the killing of 40,000 sentient beings. He has psychological problems, and he's posing as a world-saver distracting us from serious work to stop climate change. He could really use a cold shower and a bonsai garden.

  • bobcatstospare

    if poachers deserve to die then Savoy needs to be the first to die and I volunteer to pull the trigger- gladly.  Just another example of know it all eggheads who son't have the common given a locust.

    My room mate asked me what was causing desertification and that culling herds (read massacring) didn't work. In five min I figured it out and all I did was ask myself " what do roaming herds to their environment?"  I thought of the necessity of periodic forest fires.  I thought - well the hoofs kill the weaker weeds allowing the stronger grains to grow, the urine provides nitrogen and phosphates as does the feces.  And of course the grazing.  so the next day I told him.

    To think overnight the answer came to me.  But you might say - yes well you had the benefit of the knowledge that the culling failed.  True but I think I would tried to rig a case control study of farmland before killing 40k defenseless.  I yes I would kill Savory.  He has some nerve speaking out about it now.  That's like Hitler saying - oops my bad.  didn't handle the final solution very well.


  • Gerald Singer

    This is what leftist busy bodies do. They destroy in the name of saving. Just look at Detroit.

  • Nicholas DePofi

    So... to sum it up 'environmental policy backed by the idiots in government slaughtered 40,000 elephants for a THEORY.'   

  • John H

    I have read more than this article on this subject and Savory is correct. His methods have been tried and proven on ranches throughout the US. Every time the Givernment steps in and blocks off rancher access to an area, the land dies. The use of cows and goats to rehabilitate the land actually works quite well and leads to self sustainment.



  • Fuckaduck

    oh and killing more than one elephant a day is taboo? elephants travel in herds fool, meaning more than one can be shot at any given point.

  • Questionmarkorama

    how can he live with himself after killing all those incredible animals.

  • John H

    Because the governments of the countries in question paid him to do it, in the name of "environmentalism".

  • Robertdrobert1944

    THAT OLD FART never killed 40,000 any thing, hes just a legend in his own mind,if indeed he even has a mind

  • D4

    The headline is very sloppy sensationalism. However, has anyone ever read anything by the actual croppers (like Peter Capstick or A. Hunter) about how this was handled, at least in some countries? Cropping also saved farmers (their land, work, and often their lives), and the meat and ivory was often used efficiently -- or as efficiently as the technology of the day allowed. Also, in many cases, elephants in concentration would destroy their own habitats so quickly that they and other animals would suffer as a long term result. Too simple to blame one man here for any of this -- and a world with 40K more elephants today would not necessarily be better. Let's use own brains before we simply rail against easy targets, people.

  • circeherbivora

    Knowing now what this man did, I can barely stand to see his face.  Why would I want to listen to him?  No amount of rationalizing should allow any non-sadist to kill 40,000 beautiful and exotic animals.  He's a monster and belongs in a cage- not a stage.

  • SageThinker

    He advised the government of Zimbabwe to kill 40,000 elephants. I agree with you. Why should we listen to a man who made this huge mistake that led to a holocaust upon elephants. "Oops, my mistake. But really listen to me this time! I'm sure i'm right this time!"

  • Fritz

    The article did not say he killed 40,000 elephants. What I have in mind for you circeherbivirus is not  a cage but it involves padded walls. Grow the heck up.