The African elephants have lost a grand and valiant champion. Pierre Pfeffer, director of research at both the National Museum of Natural History in Paris and France’s National Center for Scientific Research, passed away on December 29 at the age of 89.
Dr. Pfeffer developed a love for Africa’s elephants at an early age, publishing his first technical paper on the species in 1949. Alarmed by the abuses of the ivory trade, he made protection of elephants the focus of his life’s work, infusing many others with this noble mission during the following decades.
Dr. Pfeffer worked with many African governments to preserve elephant habitats and provide better training and equipment for rangers. He inspired journalists to research and publish the abuses of the ivory trade—all the time attracting more and more admirers, as well as exasperating a goodly number of ivory trade apologists who sought to preserve the status quo.
Dr. Pfeffer was a knight errant—a Don Quixote—who would always respond to those who questioned his chivalry by quoting the French novelist Romain Gary: “It is time to show that we are capable of preserving this gigantic, clumsy, natural splendor which still lives in our midst … that there is still room among us for such freedom.”