Spring 2017

Jumbo Mission

A new group at the university is working to save wild elephants.

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Photo: Alonso Nichols

Wild elephants will no longer roam the Earth by 2030 if poaching continues at the current pace of one death every 20 minutes, according to the 2016 Great Elephant Census.

“Saving these magnificent creatures will take untangling a web of social, political, economic and cultural forces—such a nuanced dynamic that it will require an intellectual army. Fortunately, we have that army right here at Tufts,” said Ellen McDonald, a Fletcher School librarian who helped found the Tufts Elephant Conservation Alliance.

Tufts faculty are attacking the problem on several fronts—conducting conservation field research, studying acoustic equipment that can detect and protect distressed herds, and ensuring that the importance of biodiversity is reflected in the university curriculum.

Felicia Nutter, V93, director of Cummings School’s international veterinary medicine program, and Allen Rutberg, director of its Center for Animals and Public Policy, are teaching a new course for undergraduates this spring, “A Jumbo Imperative: On Elephants and Elephant Conservation,” with colleagues in the schools of Arts and Sciences and Engineering.












Height in feet of Jumbo, the Tufts mascot, when Tufts trustee P.T. Barnum purchased him in 1882 (above). After Jumbo was killed by a runaway train in 1885, the circus showman donated the stuffed hide to the Barnum Museum of Natural History at Tufts. Alas, the building burned to the ground on April 14, 1975. What remains is “The Greatest Tail on Earth,” in the university archives, and a life-size bronze statue that stands outside Barnum Hall.


For more information about the Tufts Elephant Conservation Alliance, go to go.tufts.edu/savejumbo. Make a gift to support the cause at go.tufts.edu/TECA.

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