Over much of Kenya you will find derelict land occupied by a few squatters. In our area of Laikipia there are two huge ranches that have been taken over by squatters. The land has been totally denuded and all the trees have been felled for charcoal. Here is a picture of a the boundary between a well managed private farm on the left and a farm that has been taken over by squatters on the right.
Why in gods name i ask is squatting a good idea? This land is worth millions of dollars. If this property could be purchased it would most likely be purchased by someone who would revive the natural habitat and manage for wildlife since tourism has been shown to be one of the best means of making a living in this area. The buyer would then need to employ many people to help look after the property as well as the businesses on it. It is likely that the buyer could hire more people than live there anyway. Squatting rights is one of those things i will never understand. Why a country like Kenya allows people to steal and destroy private property is beyond me.
We went recently to visit Tumaren at her new home at The Sheldrick Trust Orphanage. What a pleasure it was to see how happy she was with all her friends foraging in natural bush within Nairobi National Park.
I couldnt determine if Tumaren recongnized me after our long streesful night together a while back but his keeper felt that she did. She and many of the other young Elephants would suck our fingers which evidently allows them to get to know us. Another common method for greeting an elephant is to blow into its trunk.
After hanging with the Ele’s out in the bush for a while the keepers whistled and told them all it was time for milk. It was amazing to see how quickly they responded to the command, knowing exactly the routine and lining up for their march back to their comfortable quarters.
Back at milk time we met with the other group of orphans returning from their afternoon foraging. At the Sheldrick Elephant Baracks we were so impressed by the comfort and care provided to each and every orphan. Above each enclosure there was a hanging cot for each keeper. With baby elephants this is necessary as they are rather ‘needy’ and can deteriorate without companionship.
This year the orphanage has received more elephants than ever. The drought here is stressing the herds and many younger elephants are dying of starvation and even adults like Tumaren’s mum are succumbing to drought related illnesses. In times like this we must be very thankful that there is such a warm and caring place as the Sheldrick Orphanage.
The following image tell the whole happy story. Please spread the news about this great place that so helps animals in need.
Kerry, Rufous and Tumaren
The gang foraging in Nairobi National Park
Jamie and Tumaren
Julia Glen and Tumaren
Julia Glen and Tumaren
The Eles are told its time to go for Milk.
The Milk Train.
Jennifer being followed..
Tumaren at his quarters.
On the cute scale this ranks rather high…
This baby Aardvark was found during one of our camel safaris on Aug. 28th. This morning I took him to the vet for an x-ray after sleeping with him in the same bed. He has a broken leg and rib. The leg surgery on Thursday will be long says Dieter Rottcher the leading wildlife vet here. We just hope he will make it till thurs….
Here is a good article that outlines the effectiveness of Family Planning and, sadly, the consequences of cutting its funding. Population is the issue that international and domestic environmentalists are forced to ignore for political reasons but it is absolutely the most pressing issue (environmentally as well as politically) facing Kenya.
Before saying anything i would like to state that i’m not a global warming sceptic. People have to do this these days so that they are not accused of being a Nazi empathizer or in the pocket of the oil industry. Human beings follow trends and one that has been quite long lasting has been a total focus on carbon emmissions. While there is surely some merit to these concerns I find that the carbon debate too often supersedes all other issues that could possibly also be influencing our weather. A principal and most basic example is deforestation. Kenya like much of the world has been deforested over a great majority of its arable area. If you take away the trees the rivers stop, the surface temperatures rise and weather patterns change. And yet despite these obvious repurcussions the international press remains confident that Africa’s problems are imposed utterly by greedy westerners watching their flat screen TVs. Does the western world use too much of the world’s resources? YES, again – obvious, but this is to me not the sole issue at play when it comes to droughts like the one that we are experiencing in Kenya now. If you remove a massive percent of a countries trees, there will be repurcusions. This is what i beleive is happening here in Kenya. And yet, there was this article in BBC yesterday about how many African Leaders are meeting in Addis to conspire how best to squeeze “Climate Change Cash” from the first world.
How many of these leaders have made forest conservation a priority during their time in office? How many of these leaders have safeguarded their own forest and water resources for the wellbeing of their people? “Climate Change Cash” is one of those sickening ideas that will spell nothing for the average African suffering from drought. “Climate Change Cash” is one of those ideas that will only improve the lives of the leaders who can grab it as well as their friends in the climate-NGO world who will broker the deal and drive all over Nairobi in their gas guzzling Toyota VXs.
One of the principal reasons that global warming is so resonant around the world is that so many people actually feel that their world is warmer than it was when they were kids. While this may be true, the majority of these people are from suburbs of large cities (nobody listens to people from the country). These suburbs are far less treed than they were when these people were young. Less trees, more concrete and tarmack parking lots and…. I think you know where I’m going. It may actually be that global warming would not be discernible to many world citizens if it had not been for localized deforestation during the course of their lives. Not surprising also, is that many of the temperature recording stations worldwide are located in these same suburban, degraded habitats and so have confirmed these suspicions by showing increases in localized temperatures since they began recording.
With all this said it does seem that global average ocean temperature (a much more improtant indicator) has been increasing but to all the members of the Global Footprint Army, I ask, How do you distinguish the influences of carbon from the influences of deforestation? Is the world all going to be saved if we all drive a Prius? What about the trees kids?
Tumaren, as our Elephant had become known, spent the night in Hassan’s room at our main Office/Camp. She had a very long night pacing and bellowing in a shriek-type call i can only compare to the noises Dynosaurs make in hollywood films. Because she was under the same corrugated iron roof as everybody else it was a long night for all. Our original plan was to keep her window open so that she could check on me in my bed that i had set just beneath it. I had gone with this idea rather than sleeping inside the room because Tumaren was still quite feisty and she would have squashed me while i slept. The problem though that i found just as i was saying goodnight to Tumaren through the window was made quite clear as she launched both front feet up onto the sill and used her head and trunk to drag the rest of her body up so that she was teetering on the sill, trying to escape completly. Now i found myself in the strange position of wrestling an elephant alone at night in a window. I screamed for help. With the assistance of Leshilling and Tation we were able to get Tumaren back into the room. We then had to seal the window to prevent any further escapes.
After about 2 am Tumaren calmed a bit and while he kept pacing he stopped screaming. I got up every few hours to look in on him and allow him to smell me and be reassured.
In the morning we made a plan with some Kenya Wildlife Service representives to inspect Tumaren’s mum and get the go-ahead to send Tumaren to the orphanage in Nairobi. Mr. Dixon Too, Senior Warden for Laikipia and Senior Elephant Programme Co-ordinator Mr. Moses Litoroh.
After having a look at Tumaren’s mother they concluded, as we did the day before, that she should be put down. Afterward, It was a releif to know that she was no longer in pain and it was also good that we had removed Tumaren the night before so that she was not present at such a horrible moment.
As soon as we we able to, we called The Sheldrick Trust to notify them that Tumaren was ready for pick up. When back at the office we entered Tumaren’s room to calm her a bit before moving her. She was drinking well and even eating soft grasses that we picked for her.
After tying her legs, placing a blanket on her head and wetting down her skin a bit we drove Tumaren on her side to the Kimanjo Airstrip. From there she was picked up by a Boskovitch Airways Flight and brought successfully to the Orphanage.
We will keep you all up on Tumaren’s news as she fits in with the other orpahns. We are told to expect that she will loose some condition in the next week as she deals with the stress but that she should begin to regain condition after that period. Good Luck Tumaren!
Yesterday afternoon we received a report from one of our returning walking safari teams that they had passed a dying mother Elephant with one small young. The guys said that the elephant had appeared like it was sleeping but it was shortly realized that it could not stand up even as it struggled with the fear of approaching humans. Our team left the mother and young and returned to our camp to report what they had found. We jumped in the car and found this sad scene, the young female nibbling on her mums ear and appearing stressed and worried.
After deciding that the mother had a very short while to live, we decided to take the young Elephant to our camp rather than risk an almost certain death at night by Lion or Hyena. When we approached the little ele tried to defend her mum which was very heart breaking.
After a bit of a struggle we got the little elephant to the ground tied her feet and covered her eyes with a blanket to reduce stress. We then drove her to our camp where we lodged her in Hassan’s room.
With orphaned baby elephants it is important to reduce stress (as much as humanly possible), retain warmth and keep fluids up. This is why we had to keep the blanket on our little friend and also why I remained inside her room for long periods of time so that she would become accustomed to us and to realize that we were not going to threaten or kill her. To begin with she would ram me with incredible power into the wall. I learned to use the mattress below to divert her from squashing me completely matador style and then stroke and comfort her so that she knew that i was not going to harm her.
Conclusion of our long night to be told tomorrow as i slept very little last night. In the course of the evening we decided that our little friend should be named Tumaren.
In the past month a number of Elephants in our area have died of a strange, yet undiagnosed (atleast by us) disease. Our tracker Leshilling Lemanyass says that he has seen this problem with Elephants many times and that he suspects it effects their stomach and digestion. We have found two sick animals on us both of whom appeared to have trouble passing their manure (legs spread in a prolonged and uncomfortable looking way). Our guys who work for us as Rangers and as trackers on our safaris have also described skin problems corresponding with this dissease. If anyone knows anything about this dissease which has been killing many elephants in the greater Laikipia / Samburu area we would love to know the what it is. These sad pictures are of a young female that we found this morning as it was dying. Its mother was still guarding it and it was only for a few minutes that we were able to get to her. We assumed that she was already dead but she was still breathing but with no movement from any other part of her body besides her blinking eyelid. Very sad.
This is an image of the mother and matriarch guarding the body:
Here is the young female:
When I first heard suggestions that Chinese Road and infrastructure workers were behind a great deal of the recent wave of ivory and bush meat poaching in the country i was skeptical. It sounded like a simple racist jab at some hard working people. And yet the story is everywhere. I even heard a story about KWS officers who found a whole crocodile in a Chinese Road worker freezer last week. This story like many could not be verified but what can verified is beginning to leak slowly to the press. Here is a short list of stories i picked up from a simple google search:
Here is the sad story of another poached Rhino. This pressure will never ease until more effort is spent addressing the underlining cause, the unbelievable market value for the horn. We in Kenyan conservation spend so much money breeding Rhinos but i question whether it would be money better spent instituting stiffer sentences, laws and education in those places where Rhino horn is being purchased by the end user.