Around the world people watched yesterday as Mwai Kibaki and Raila Odinga finally reached an agreement. Kenyans are celebrating – and those of us who love Kenya hope that a foundation for a new and constructive era has been put in place. While the price has been high, we have been reminded about the value of democracy, fair play and long term stability.
We urge Kenya’s leaders to maintain good spirit during the hard work and reconciliation efforts that lie ahead – the current enthusiasm and the desire of the Kenyan people for peace should be of inspiration. Poverty and desperation do not make a viable environment for engendering harmony between people and animals. Agreement between the political camps means that we can all get back to working for a more prosperous future for all.
And what about wildlife conservation in general? In a comment Ann asks what the accurate situation is. In truth it is highly variable, species to species, country to country, and place to place. From our perspective the future is dependent on how people deal with the fact that resources are in limited supply and are dwindling. Are we individually and collectively willing to put enough aside for other creatures, like elephants, gorillas, and chimpanzees as well as the myriad of less charismatic species that share our planet? It is as simple and as difficult as that.
Despite the recent spearings, Amboseli is a success story. The work of Amboseli Elephant Research Project (AERP) over 35 years has contributed substantially to the conservation of the ecosystem’s elephants, which today number around 1,500 individuals. The challenges are many for those in Kenya Wildlife Service, the local community and AERP who work tirelessly to achieve this success. While poaching for ivory is not a problem, confrontations between people and elephants can be. It is more than fair that local people feel that a share of the money generated by wildlife tourism helps to improve their lives – which is one reason why AERP and the Amboseli Trust for Elephants has initiated numerous community projects.
For the lives of Amboseli’s elephants and the many other species, including people, who inhabit the ecosystem, the conservation struggle is certainly worth the effort. The benefits don’t stop there, however, for millions of people from around the world have visited Amboseli and have benefited from the joy of seeing these magnificent animals – and millions more have watched and learned from Amboseli’s elephants on TV documentaries.
Studying elephants and being in their presence is a continuous reminder of why elephants deserve our attention and support. Experiencing their affection, compassion and loyality for one another and witnessing their extraordinary teamwork is a humbling lesson in the meaning of humanity – or perhaps a better term would be “elephanity”.
‘It is not possible for a free man to catch a glimpse of the great elephant herds roaming the vast spaces of Africa without taking an oath to do whatever is necessary to preserve for ever this living splendour.’
Romain Gary, Roots of Heaven, 1958
Best wishes, Petter and Joyce