A drought in Kenya has become so severe that the riverbeds have dried up, the grassland is nothing but dust, and so far, nearly 100 elephants have died.
There are 23,000 African elephants in Kenya so this isn’t a question of imminent extinction but all the same wildlife experts are concerned. Apart from the elephants, other animals have also suffered. The drought has killed hundreds of cattle and many acres of crops, threatening the people here with famine. There is another problem. Kenya’s elephants are a massive tourist attraction, largely responsible for drawing a million tourists a year to this region. Without them, the industry will struggle to break even. Zoologist Dr Iain Douglas-Hamilton – the founder of Save The Elephants – has been studying the problem and says that the elephants – especially the young and the old ones – are dying of malnutrition, which damages their immune systems meaning they catch all kinds of diseases and die. Elephants have no natural predators and must roam widely in order to find the 200 litres of water and the 300 kilos of fodder that they need every day to survive. But now there is almost no water left, and the grass is almost gone. But it isn’t only the drought that is affecting elephants. There is the perennial problem of poachers who kill elephants for their ivory tusks. The situation isn’t any better over the border in Chad. There, the elephant population has declined from 3,800 three years ago to just 600 today. Obviously if the situation continues, elephants will be wiped off the face of the planet. Lions aren’t faring much better. In Kenya there are only 2,100 lions left and conservationists estimate that with population decline running at about 75% across Africa, there may be as few as 25,000 lions left on the entire continent. The threats are numerous: poisoning, shrinking habitats, lack of prey, trophy hunting, poaching and illegal lion trading… and now, a new agricultural pesticide called Furadan which is banned in America where it is made, but is still sold in Africa. The Born Free Foundation wants the product banned. There is another conflict of interest. Many of the lion habitats are close to the herding communities in the Rift Valley and these people often kill lions to protect their own livestock. In an effort to raise awareness of the importance of lions to the ecosystem and to the economy, 50 statues of lions were recently unveiled around Nairobi. But is this enough to save Africa’s wildlife? For more information about the Born Free Foundation see http://www.bornfree.org.uk For more information about Save the Elephants see http://www.savetheelephants.org For more information about Nairobi see http://www.magicalkenya.com