On 30 January we posted a message entitled “Troubled times for people and wildlife” in which we worried about the cost to wildlife from the fallout of political unrest in Kenya. Well, trouble may already be brewing for the elephants of Amboseli. The number of elephants speared in the last month has soared. It is hard to say what the specific causes are, but it is tempting to speculate that the increase is related to the general climate of political unrest and lawlessness.
Over the years increases in spearing have been related to dry conditions and it has been extremely dry in Amboseli. During droughts elephants and people compete for the same resources – food in the vicinity of water and shade during the heat of the day – and therefore come into closer contact, sometimes with negative consequences. The long rains last March and April failed as did the short rains in November and December, and so there is reason to blame the dry conditions, but rarely have we seen such a spate of spearing. Soila sent a message yesterday saying that spearing in the last month alone has resulted in the death or injury of 11 elephants: affecting 3 adult females, five calves and three adult males. In addition, two more adult males were speared in December.
One of my very favourite elephants, Tulip, is among the elephants killed and her youngest calf has died as a consequence of her death, and another of her calves is injured. This family has already experienced so much suffering as a result of human intervention Tuskless, Tulips’ mother and previous matriarch of the TA’s, was killed in 1997. Tulip, herself, was speared in her trunk in January 2004; treatment by KWS veterinarians saved her life. With all of the suffering one would have expected Tulip to be aggressive. Instead she was extraordinarily gentle. She often came to camp and wandered in between the tents. We will all miss her tremendously.
Captions, from top:
- Petter works in camp while Tulip and calf feed in the swamp beyond.
- Tulip and her calf in camp.
- An always peaceful Tulip feeding between our tent and research vehicle.
- Tulip bleeds profusely from a new spear wound in her trunk in January 2004.
- Tulip is treated by Kenya Wildlife Service Veterinarians for the spear wound.
- Tulip (far left), Tonie and their calves respond to a playback of hyenas squabbling over a kill.