The future is gray

After an ele­phan­tas­tic expe­ri­ence today, a blog with flop­py ears. Some time ago we saw Ahmed the ele­phant, who lived from 1919–1974 in the north of Kenya. Because he seemed to have enor­mous tuskers, con­ser­va­tion­ists were afraid he would be an attrac­tive tar­get for poach­ers. So he got pres­i­den­tial pro­tec­tion of Keny­at­ta (father of the cur­rent pres­i­dent). In the end, he died of nat­ur­al caus­es. When he was found, it turned out that his tuskers were not that big, but seemed to be because he was not that big him­self.

Although ele­phants have been a pro­tect­ed species for decen­nia, recent years show an increase of poach­ing. The ille­gal ivory trade is the biggest threat for ele­phants, a prob­lem that exceeds Africa. From Kenya, the ille­gal ivory is most­ly smug­gled to Chi­na.

Today we vis­it­ed the David Sheldrick Wildlife Trust, an organ­i­sa­tion that has an orphan­age for ele­phants. These ani­mals are found in dif­fer­ent cir­cum­stances: beside their dead moth­er who is killed for her tusks; in a well that they fell into; wound­ed or roam­ing around on their own. When they are 3 years old, they are tak­en to a Nation­al Park where they grad­u­al­ly find an ele­phant fam­i­ly that wants to take them in; a process that takes 5 to 10 years. It was a very spe­cial expe­ri­ence to see these big babies from up close.

The man who is cam­paign­ing a lot for the ele­phant here in Kenya, is Jim Nya­mu. This year, he walked from Mom­basa to Nairo­bi, and lat­er from Nairo­bi to Masai Mara and Sam­bu­ru. This month he is even going to walk in Amer­i­ca. The ele­phant is also impor­tant as flag­ship species for the African wildlife.

Jim Nyamu (Source: Elephant Neighbors Center)

Jim Nya­mu (Source: Ele­phant Neigh­bors Cen­ter)

For the peo­ple whose farm is close to the ter­ri­to­ry of ele­phants, they are often a nui­sance. Fences around nat­ur­al parks are not always strong enough to keep the ele­phants in the park. The herds need a lot of ter­ri­to­ry to feed, and they can­not stick to rules since they´re ani­mals. One of the farm­ers that Fred­dy inter­viewed, told that the ele­phants often come when the maize is ripe. He once slept out­side, to guard his crop, and then was almost tram­pled to death by ele­phants. Often the ele­phants are chased away with a group, using stones and fire. There is not much love between the farm­ers and the ani­mals.

There clear­ly exists a big gap between con­ser­va­tion­ists (main­ly active in Nairo­bi) and the peo­ple who suf­fer from ele­phants roam­ing around. Maybe this last group can get free entrance to the ele­phant orphan­age. Noth­ing will melt your heart like the inno­cent eyes of a baby ele­phant…

Children's drawing in National Museum

Chil­dren’s draw­ing in Nation­al Muse­um