The welfare of Kenya's Elephant remains a precarious and complex reality with crucial habitats and biodiversity shrinking, development of infrastructure interfering with natural Elephant migration routes and human and elephant conflict in areas of cultivation prevalent all over the country. Despite these obvious challenges, Elephant numbers have been said to have increased by 12% over the Laikipia-Samburu-Marsabit region in a recent study published by Lewa Conservancy.
Photo Credit: Anja Scherer
El Karama guests are lucky to see Elephant daily here and most months we have at least 20-30 individuals on the 14,000 acres that we protect. Often family herds with young, the presence of Elephant here is both a blessing and a significant challenge as they spend longer in areas like this one where healthy trees are available and grasslands for feeding their young. An adult Elephant can eat up to 300 lbs of food every day to sustain itself and due to their high levels of intelligence, we surmise that they know exactly which areas will provide fodder and protection from conflict making El Karama a safe haven and prolonged stay for them when compared to other more challenging areas further North on their routes.
This presence is a palpable change from 20 years ago where Elephant would come and go in search of forage and their numbers do pose an issue for trees and crucial regeneration in this area. Acacia Nilotica and Acacia Girardiaii, for example, are being knocked down and destroyed at an alarming rate as the presence of Elephant is now continuous rather than sporadic. Without the long absences this land used to experience, it is very difficult for the baby trees to regenerate and we are watching a serious landscape change taking place.
As a team we are working out various approaches to possible reforestation efforts including using current exclusion zones such as the lodge compound, farm compound and other already fenced areas to regenerate the Acacia Nilotica population through seed collection, germination and planting. This project is just scratching the surface but it is a start and as it is self-funded by El Karama Lodge our guests are intimately involved and can plant a tree each time they visit.
Photo: El Karama Lodge
Wildlife and Conservation is an interesting area to watch right now, having been recognised as flagship Private Public Partnership providing a crucial meeting point between Government, Private Sector (Conservancies) and Civil Society (NGO's). Kenya has the opportunity to show case a new and arguably more sustainable approach to wildlife conservation, which involves high levels of collaboration across various sectors. Stories like this one illustrate how well these relationships can work and we would like to extend our thanks to the Kenya Wildlife Service, Daphne Sheldrick Wildlife Trust, El Karama Conservancy team, the Horse Patrol, El Karama Lodge and all other stakeholders involved in this delicate operation!
Last week, the new horse patrol led by Mark Lawrence and Sarah Kellard, spotted a lone young elephant with extremely bowed legs near one of the large dams in the centre of the conservancy. Prior to this sighting, this young elephant had been seen in a small herd by one of the sheep herders a few weeks earlier and because of his obvious deformity, the El Karama Rangers had been monitoring it inside the herd until it was then found alone by the horse patrol, apparently abandoned by the herd. He was in poor condition, looking dehydrated and thin and when he was approached seemed keen to be helped and did not reject attempts to encourage him towards where the water was. The lodge car found him later on that evening grazing in a small area near the Murera lugga, attempting to walk short distances on severely deformed back legs and from that point all teams on the ground were involved in monitoring his welfare.
El Karama Conservancy rangers, who are instrumental in maintaining wildlife security and funded by the revenue generated through tourism conservation fees, immediately reported to the Kenya Wildlife Service who mobilised the regional vet team and came to assess the situation.
Wildlife in Kenya is owned by the Government of Kenya and therefore when there are serious issues affecting wildlife like injury or illness occur on private land and wildlife conservancies, the first port of call for the team here on the ground is to alert KWS so that they can do an immediate assessment and formulate a plan of action.
The KWS team arrived quickly and established that the elephant was around 3 years old, unable to fend for itself alone and it was decided that the best course of action would be to monitor it for a few days and if he remained alone, relocate him to a safer environment due to the high risk of malnutrition or predation. In the intervening days, while the KWS team in collaboration with The Daphne Sheldrick Trust worked out a rescue plan with Conservancy MD Michael Nicholson, rangers, guides and horse patrols monitored this little orphan until help was at hand.
Video Credit: El Karama Lodge
Lion prides are prevalent at the moment and we were all extremely concerned for this vulnerable little Ellie, who was calm around humans but unable to defend himself against predators. Fortunately, he instinctively remained near water, feeding off the long grass that was greener and easy to reach and remained hidden in the thickest part of the Euclea that hugs the edges of the dam. He was calm around the horses and the car sent to monitor and we all became very fond of him, spending the nights until his rescue listening out for the lion prides and hoping upon hope that they would not find him.
Photo Credit: El Karama Lodge
On Saturday morning, the Sheldrick Team and KWS arrived with a large canter full of hay and blankets and with air support from KWS Pilot Ian Lemayian, the little Ellie was located. The Conservancy Ranger team, Horse team and El Karama Lodge guides and guests assisted and finally the elephant was loaded carefully onto the canter and taken to its new home at the Daphne Sheldrick Trust in Nairobi National Park for rehabilitation, "once he is strong enough he will hopefully be moved out to Umani, where he can live in comfort and safety for the rest of life" (Michael Nicoholson MD).
Photo Credit: El Karama Conservancy
The update from Angela Sheldrick on arrival put all our minds at rest : " the little guy is doing well - settled in and made friends with Kiasa who is in the stockade next door at night - he is feeding well, sleeping well and drinking milk from a bottle and behaving very much as if he has been longing to be helped - such a sweet little chap...."
Video Credit: Angela Sheldrick
We look forward to hearing how little Rama progresses and should any of our guests be visiting Nairobi at the beginning or end of their trip, we recommend that they visit the DSWT and sponsor Rama! Guests who adopt an Elephant are given the chance to watch feeding and the interaction of these small orphans with their dedicated keepers. It is a must see experience in Nairobi!
To find out more about The Daphne Sheldrick Wildlife Trust, you can visit https://www.sheldrickwildlifetrust.org/about/mission-history
And to adopt an Elephant click here :
For more information on our impact driven, mixed safari itineraries that build in support for some of Kenya's biggest success stories in conservation, just email email@example.com and we will get your started.
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Photo Credit: Tui De Roy