The Death of an Elephant

May 12, 2011 by Categorized: Fur and Feather, Nature in the News.

Recently Bob Parsons, CEO of the web hosting company GoDaddy, released a video of himself hunting and killing an elephant in Zimbabwe. This has caused a great deal of controversy for both the CEO and his company. PETA was a client of GoDaddy and they have now put out a statement that they will not be using GoDaddy’s services any longer. A Number of other companies and organizations have also done such.

The Dogwood Local Council (DLC), a southern affiliate of Covenant of the Goddess (CoG), released a statement of their own; swearing to never use GoDaddy’s hosting services or for its domain registering services. (see bottom of this article for full press release)

In their press release, the DLC site an article from the New York Times about how elephant aggression is largely the fault of how humans interact with the elephants. This is not unlike how in North America we see mountain lion and bear attacks increase when we encroach on territory, remove food sources and do not treat animals with proper respect. (People have been known to try to bait bears with food to get a good photo of them, with disastrous results)

Some highlights from the article:

“Decades of poaching and culling and habitat loss, they claim, have so disrupted the intricate web of familial and societal relations by which young elephants have traditionally been raised in the wild, and by which established elephant herds are governed, that what we are now witnessing is nothing less than a precipitous collapse of elephant culture.”

Elephants are becoming increasingly destructive and dangerous, trampling huts, crops and even people seemingly out of spite.

“He confirmed that a small group of elephants charged out one morning two years earlier, trampled the fields and nearby gardens, knocked down a few huts and then left.”

It seems that the greatest cause of this change in elephant behaviour stems from the changing dynamics of how young elephants are raised. With less territory, less food sources and poaching, elephants are not being socialized by their elders as they ought to be. In a sense elephant society, is experiencing a dramatic break down. Elephants rely heavily on the herd: the family or clan system, with this deteriorating, we see the results in aggressive (usually young male) elephants that become dangerous. They are a danger not only to the humans who live near their migration routes or at the edges of their protected parklands, but they are also a danger to other elephants. Researchers have found that young male elephants are killing each other at alarming rates.

“This fabric of elephant society, Bradshaw and her colleagues concluded, had effectively been frayed by years of habitat loss and poaching, along with systematic culling by government agencies to control elephant numbers and translocations of herds to different habitats. The number of older matriarchs and female caregivers (or ‘‘allomothers’’) had drastically fallen, as had the number of elder bulls, who play a significant role in keeping younger males in line. In parts of Zambia and Tanzania, a number of the elephant groups studied contained no adult females whatsoever. In Uganda, herds were often found to be ‘‘semipermanent aggregations,’’ as a paper written by Bradshaw describes them, with many females between the ages of 15 and 25 having no familial associations.”

It seems that Mr. Parsons encountered such a young and aggressive male elephant on his trip to Africa. These elephants are referred to as “rouges”. The people of the village Mr. Parsons was visiting reported this dangerous elephant to the authorities and with their help; Mr. Parsons hunted and killed it. The people of the village rejoiced as they butchered his carcass and distributed the meat. There was not enough meat for everyone it the village and it quickly became something akin to vultures in a feeding frenzy, with much pushing and shoving. The video show Mr. Parsons proudly posing as he leans on the dead elephant.

Here is a link to the video (which has become harder and harder to find as Mr. Parsons tried to claim copyright and have it shut down) It may not be appropriate for the easily squeamish.

Mr.Parsons is not a villain; let us not paint him with that brush. Thing are never that cut and dry. While his hunting practices may be unethical he also does a great of good work. GoDaddy does a great deal of charity work, including raising funds and awareness for the folks in Haiti. Mr. Parsons served as a rifleman in the Vietnam War, where he was wounded on duty. It is quite possible that he felt his actions in Zimbabwe were altruistic in some fashion. In response to the outrage Parsons explained,

“The tribal authorities requested that I and others like me patrol the fields before and during the harvest.”


There has been speculation that the release of the hunting video was part of some kind of publicity stunt, which I find myself doubting. GoDaddy is indeed known for it “extreme” advertising, having had commercials pulled from the Super Bowl and such. However, the initial release of the hunting video came from Mr. Parson’s blog and Twitter account, which he often posts videos of his activities to. The blog itself is certainly part of his promotional tool kit, but I find it unlikely that he posted the hunting video specifically to generate controversy and Internet drama. Generally the man uses sex to sell his product, which is much more effective, don’t you think?

Bob Parson’s hunting practices do not strike me as within the lighter side of the grey area that is ethical hunting. But to give ourselves some perspective, his big game hunting practices are not much worse than those done right at home. Behold, for example, the mirrored hunting hide:

Is this really necessary for hunting deer?

Honestly, if I was a former rifleman carting around a big gun in Africa and some local villagers asked me to remove an elephant who was making it dangerous for them to tend their crops and bring in the harvest … I’d kill the elephant. I’d do it after ascertaining whether or not all other possible avenues had been tried. Though I’m not sure if banging pots and pans or setting up a few bonfires will deter a pissed off pachyderm.

I’ve lived on farms, I’ve had to deal with my share of coyotes going after the flock and I lost a horse to a hungry bear last year. We always tried everything we could to encourage those animals to go elsewhere, from hanging motion sensor lights to wind chimes to shooting blanks. But I understand very well that if your own livelihood, and the ability to feed your family is being threatened, you take up you gun and you shoot that coyote. Or you ask the very nice rich man from America to kill that elephant. Sorry guys, but I’m not going hungry to feed a jack rabbit who is eating my food.

Obviously we should look to the root of the problem; we are encouraging elephants to attack people in Africa, just as we as the root cause of a mountain lion attacking a person right here at home. We move into their territory, we don’t respect them, we mess with the food chain, we change the dynamics of the herd, and this is the result. These things do need to change and we need to start making those changes now.

However, I am not so strong as to look a mother in the eyes and say “I’m terribly sorry about your elephant problem ma’am, but you see, it’s your fault for expanding your crops into elephant territory. So yeah, good luck with that, hopefully one of your kids doesn’t get trampled to death.”

Maybe Mr. Parsons is not that strong either. Or maybe he simply had a hard-on for killing something as large and impressive as an elephant. There has always been plenty of people like that around.

Some of them are considered heroes

Maybe Mr. Parsons saw himself as part of a line of men like Teddy Roosevelt there. It’s easy to convince yourself that you’re doing the right thing. Or maybe he’s just a spoiled millionaire who likes to shoot things. I can’t climb into his head to know for sure, nor can you.

There are some positive outcomes from the death of this elephant. The carcass of such a large herbivore can feed a dozen different species of predators and scavengers, and not just hyenas or flies, but humans as well. Certainly the villagers in the video seemed thrilled to butcher the carcass and distribute the meat.

It is certainly positive that the DLC and PETA (and others) are moving their services, since they have chosen to seek a provider that is more Earth conscious. It’s good to put your money where your mouth is. An organization which follows an Earth centric spirituality, or which promotes animal rights, ought to be making such choices and thus be an example for us all. I expect organizations to follow their principals.

Whether you boycott GoDaddy or not is your choice (or the choice of your organization). I do hope that any decision is made with careful consideration and not a knee jerk reaction, or jumping on the bandwagon.

For myself, I’m not a GoDaddy costumer to begin with (I buy my hosting from a Canadian company, since one of my principals is to buy as local as possible). If I was a GoDaddy client, well even after writing this article I am uncertain s to whether I’d take my money elsewhere. What would you do?


Southern Witches and Wiccans join the protest against Go Daddy CEO’s slaughter of an African Elephant.

Atlanta – The Dogwood Local Council (DLC), a southern affiliate of Covenant of the Goddess (CoG), has formally decided to discontinue the use of GoDaddy’s hosting services after the release of CEO, Bob Parsons’ hunting video.  In March of 2011, Parsons released a video depicting himself and others shooting a “troublesome” elephant.  As he explained to reporters, these elephants, “trash fields and destroy crops” leaving villagers to starve.  According to Parsons, the hunting is a welcomed activity which brings both food and safety. (As reported by The Los Angeles Times)

“We understand that Parsons’ acts were within the legal limits of Zimbabwe’s laws.  And he may believe that he is doing good.  However, the ends do not always justify the means.  After careful consideration, we, as Witches and members of humanity, have decided to protest these killings,” states Hawk, First Officer of Dogwood Local Council and High Priestess of GryphonSong Clan.

In the hunting video, Parsons comments on the well-documented fact that there has been a noticeable increase in elephant attacks.  However, as noted by Dogwood’s members, Parsons fails to identify the reason for this elephant problem:   humanity’s own aggression toward the elephants.  In a 2006 New York Times Magazine article, entitled, “Elephant Crack-Up?” written by Charles Seibert, this proverbial Catch 22 is well illustrated. Seibert writes, “The great paradox about this particular moment in our history with elephants is that saving them will require finally getting past ourselves; it will demand the ultimate act of deep, interspecies empathy.” (As published by The New York Times Magazine, October 2006)

In their discussions over the GoDaddy Video, Dogwood Local Council’s members repeatedly expressed the need for a genuine and reciprocal balance between humanity and animal cultures as expressed by Seibert.  The teachings of Wicca and Witchcraft do not place humanity over the natural world but within it.  According to the Pagan world view, humanity is as much a part of nature as the elephants.

“While we do not want to see humans starving as a result of these roving elephants, we cannot condone the progressive annihilation of a species simply because they are in our way.  And the African Elephant is still on the WWF endangered species list,” adds Hawk.

Moreover, Dogwood members echoed the concerns of others that Parsons’ video was merely a publicity stunt for GoDaddy services.  Questions have been raised by various media outlets as to whether the hunting event was, in actuality, a selfless attempt to come to the aid of a starving village. After all, GoDaddy is known for its somewhat risqué advertising and marketing campaigns.

“Was this a true act of humanitarianism or was this an outrageous promotional stunt for GoDaddy?  If it was purely an act of goodwill, was it really necessary to release the video and, more poignantly, the photos of villagers wearing “GoDaddy” hats?  Does Bob Parsons always carry around a few hundred logo caps on those yearly trips to save people from marauding elephants?” questions Lady Miraselena, Public Information Officer of Dogwood Local Council.

The Witches of Dogwood Local Council will now join others in moving its website from GoDaddy’s hosting services and no longer use the company as its domain registrar.  Dogwood strongly urges all concerned individuals to follow suit.  Currently, the Council is in the final stages of deciding which new hosting service would best fit their needs.  They are hopeful to find one that derives some of its power from green energy sources; thereby, making two strong statements and taking two steps forward on behalf of the Planet, nature and their Goddess – Gaia.


For more information about Dogwood Local Council,please visit or follow @dogwoodlc on Twitter.

For more information about Covenant of the Goddess, please visit or follow them on Facebook: /pages/Covenant-of-the-Goddess.

Dogwood Local Council (DLC)

Throughout the United States, the Covenant of the Goddess has Local Councils that serve CoG members on a state or regional level. Alabama and Georgia are served by the Dogwood Local Council. A Local Council is a smaller branch of the Covenant, consisting of at least three member covens of at least two different traditions, in reasonably close geographic proximity to each other. Dogwood Local Council (DLC) sponsors annual festivals, speakers and a variety of seasonal events.  They are based out of Atlanta.


Covenant of the Goddess (CoG)

The Covenant of the Goddess is one of the largest and oldest Witch and Wiccan associations and was incorporated as a nonprofit religious organization in 1975. The Covenant is an umbrella group of cooperating, autonomous Witchcraft congregations and individual practitioners with the power to confer credentials on its qualified clergy. CoG fosters cooperation and mutual support among Witches and Wiccans and secures for them the legal protections enjoyed by members of other religions.


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8 Responses

  1. Thank you to the DLC for leaving GoDaddy and to PETA for leading the charge in spreading the word and the video. I do feel that Parsons wasnt helping any kind of human situation as its been made pretty clear that his prime intentional goal was entertainment. Its mostly been found that he’s used the “save the villagers” excuse after the fact.

    Thanks so much for reporting on this!

  2. I appreciate your mentioning the actual consequences all this has on the Africans who live at ground zero, as it were. In many ways they’re suffering the effects of Western policies as much as the elephants are: things have been orchestrated such that most of them have no place else to farm. There’s layers of problems here that need to be addressed.

  3. Nicely balanced essay, Juniper. Bob Parsons is not the hero he claimed to be, but the whole situation isn’t as black and white as some are portraying it. Things are rarely that simple.

  4. Thank you for this, Juniper. What you have said here as made me think of the way we sometimes view things. Thanks for letting me see both sides of the story.

  5. I enjoy a perspective that goes beyond the Parson BAD, elephant GOOD dichotomy I’ve seen on other blogs. Great to see some balance instead of fervor.

  6. This reminds me of something my wildlife management professor said while I was in grad school.

    His opinion is that if they need to cull elephants, they need to kill *entire herds*, from the matriarchs and old bulls all the way down to the calves. Leave no one alive.

    Killing only some elephants from multiple herds may actully be more cruel, as this article points out. I’m glad that the complexities of elephant society are starting to become better known, and that it’s becoming acceptable for wildlife biologists to speak of animals as having “culture”.

    Of course, I hate the idea of having to kill elephants at all, but if they must, then killing entire herds together is the best way to do it, rather than leaving some survivors lost and leaderless and ready to take revenge on humans.

    Very sad situation.

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Continuing the Discussion

  1. [...] No Unsacred Place as Ruby Sara writes about sacred eating in earth-centered ritual,  Juniper Jeni tackles the controversy over Bob Parsons shooting an elephant (then eaten by local villagers), Cat Chapin-Bishop charges that “we eat uncaringly, [...]

  2. [...] has a great post up on Wolf and the Environment.On No Unsacred Place Junpier provides an interesting discussion about Bob Parsons’s killing of an elephant.Galina Krasskova has put up a rather interesting piece on her beliefs on spirituality, the Gods, [...]