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.
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…