Two days after an upsetting e-mail about the slaughter of a pregnant female elephant from our long-time friend and Kenya Elephant Forum collegaue, Kuki Gallmann, we received another. A second pregnant female elephant has been killed for her ivory. She was shot on 22nd, but survived another two days. We are talking about tiny tusks. Males with big tusks are rare to see in Laikipia these days. We are talking about a wonderful, intelligent creature and her unborn baby, killed because of greed; supplying what the market is willing to pay for. A long chain from the killer, to the unscrupulous local middleman, through the big-wigs greasing the wheels of corruption (likely public servants on both side of the ocean) to the dealer and into the hands of the uncaring or ignorant buyer, most likely in Asia. Kenya's heritage, tourism and work places are not factors. Nor is the suffering of the young female and her unborn child.
Joyce is just back from China, a growing super-power which, based on reliable facts and figures from CITES, accounts for 40% of the illegal ivory trade. China should be embarrassed by these photographs which represent the reality of the demand for ivory as a status symbol among the country's growing middle class. Meanwhile, those of us in Africa continue to be confronted with the daily brutality, trauma and death among the declining elephant populations in many elephant range states. Official mortality figures don't include the deaths of the orphaned babies who cannot cope without their mothers. In the case of a pregnant elephant the result is obvious and heart-wrenchingly sickening. Read Kuki Gallmann's words to us as part of the Kenya Elephant Forum. The world must wake up - NOW!
With a sinking heart I report from the field: Birds waking up in the garden, festive dogs, promise of sunshine, work to do. One early morning like many others. Then... Radio call, phone calls, phone messages, all at once. Another elephant found. Dam Kiboko. Dead in the water. Tusks intact. Pitiful tusks. Rangers deployed, KWS deployed and I drive there, with Sveva.
Official facts and figures:
Estimated age: 20
Cause of death: Shot by poachers
Date of incident: 21/6/ 2013
Date of death: Night between 23/24 /6/2013
Location gps: 37N 0202345 UTM 0055820
Location-found: Dam Kiboko. Time: Today 24th, 7 am
By: Driver Wilson Chelule
Weight: 2 kg and 2.1 kg = total 4.1 kg
Shot by: Same three men as report 21/6/2013; they wounded her
Comments: Pregnant and about to calve
This is the second elephant female we find in two days; the second casualty overall in 2013. Shot in same incident, at dusk. Wounded, she survived two days. Very pregnant. Very young: first calf. Conceived here, she was born here, grown here to follow her mother and family, migrating periodically to the Aberdares through increasingly fragmented dangerous land, back here every June in the migratory season along their now interrupted migratory routes. Back here again to be bred in the mating season: and now back to give birth, in what used to be their safe heaven. She died in the water. She died in a dam with pelicans, where elephant play; in a forested area they love, where they used to be secure.
Kiboko Dam, April 2012.
Kiboko Dam, 24th June 2013.
What did she die for? Three dead elephants in two days. Two here one at Mugie, next door. But all pregnant females, dead are the calves. Six dead. What has changed after a peaceful year? Why now? The Rift Valley dealers are back.
Young pregnant females are giving birth, now, here. THEY ARE COMNG BACK FROM FAR. WE SEE NO MALES. THOSE HAVE BEEN KILLED LONG AGO, IT IS THEIR CALVES THAT ARE BORN TWENTY-TWO MONTHS LATER. We need more rangers to look after them, and we need help.
Joyce is from 19th February and for a 10 day period in Maasai Mara, meeting up with and training some of the people that are contributing elephant observations to the Elephant Partners initiative. On this page you will, with the help of a cellphone app and Google Earth, find out a bit more about where she is going, and what she sees together with our collaborators. The infrequent "reports" below are mainly meant to give you a peak, while we also gain some experience in new ways of collecting data and sharing field experiences with those interested. We will later post a more comprehensive report from Joyce's current field visit.
It may a bit of time before the page loads, depending on your connection speed. By clicking on each point on the map you will find a photo, with a caption. We hope you will enjoy being with us in the bush!
Joyce looking for elephant signs from Olerai to Enchorro Ololali - seeing many.
Wonderful day with Gini Cowell and David Kimutai starting from Siana through Ol Kinyei and on to Mara Naboisho where we picked up Derrick Nabaala. Saw perhaps 100 elephants and returned to Siana at end of day.
Petter and I just returned from a fabulous field trip in and around the Maasai Mara. We had a wonderful time and we learned a lot, too! We had far too little time just being with elephants, but in the context of involving others in conserving the Mara elephants, that was ok. One main goal during our tour through the ecosystem was to present the unique Mara Elephants Who's Who & Whereabouts databases - developed as part of the Elephant Partners conservation initiative.
The Mara Elephants Who's Who is populated with over 750 elephants and the Whereabouts hold some 400 sightings of elephant groups; both are continuing to grow by the day. The Mapping functionality, which draws on both databases, is completely searchable and highly informative. With each additional sighting we learn something new - and we hope that you will, too.
Elephants respond rapidly to change
The Mara ecosystem represents a patchwork of different habitats, management strategies, and human interventions that create a mosaic of threats and opportunities for elephants. We are beginning to learn how elephants respond to these, and it is fascinating. Some areas are almost entirely occupied by family groups, while males prefer other areas. Although this is typical of elephants, the pattern in the Mara is, to a large extent, influenced by human activities. And these are in flux. The new conservancies are providing safe havens for elephants that didn't exist only a few years ago; migration routes have been blocked by settlement; agricultural areas are on the increase offering nutritious forage; and poaching is on the rise. The elephants are learning and responding rapidly.
We started our field trip in Mara Naboisho Conservancy on 6th October, where we joined a couple of Norwegian groups hosted by Basecamp Wilderness who had requested a special introduction to elephants. There we also continued our work with African Impact and their volunteers, and gave a lecture on elephants to the students at Koiyaki Guiding School (KGS). Founded seven years ago, KGS is a very successful endeavor - educating local youth for careers in the tourism industry. Through KGS the percentage of local employees in camps and lodges is growing. These students are important ambassadors for the Mara, for wildlife and for elephants! We also spent a day on Ol Kinyei Conservancy where we met with Jake Grieves-Cook, Porini Camps.
Between 13-19th October we worked in Nairobi with our programmers to perfect an Android-based mobile phone application, the Mara EleApp. The App allows for the collection and upload of field data on elephant group sightings, injury and sickness as well as detailed mortality information.
Diminutive female elephant on Olderikesi
On 20th October we drove to Olderikesi Conservancy on the eastern side of the Maasai Mara National Reserve. There we were generously hosted by Calvin Cottar at his 1920s Safari Camp and were introduced by Keith Hellyer to the challenges of the area. While there we were able to add 6 groups to the Whereabouts and 16 new elephants to the Who's Who, including a diminutive female elephant, f0341. The elephants on the eastern side of the Mara gather in large groups and two of those we observed were aggregations of at least 70 elephants.
We spent the next few days back on Mara Naboisho Conservancy in the company of three ElephantVoices donors/volunteers: Junia Machado and Ana Zinger from Brazil and Elena Fieni from Italy. During our stay there we had the pleasure of meeting a group of 85 elephants. Although we knew many of the individuals, about half of the families were new, including a right-one tusked female with an old wound on her right hind leg, probably caused by a spear years ago. We also spent more time with African Impact and introduced to field coordinator, Lincoln Njiru, one of the ten phones for data collection donated by IFAW.
More training of scouts and guides
On 26th October we drove west to Olchorro Conservancy where we stayed at Richard's Camp and met with Richard Roberts, Iain Douglas-Hamilton (Save The Elephants) and Mark Goss who are coordinating the new Mara Elephant Project (MEP). We also had the pleasure of flying with Iain and Richard to look for elephants and areas hit by poaching and conflict. We were introduced to some of the MEP scouts and had the opportunity to watch a parade by conservancy scout recruits.
On 30th we drove to Olare Orok Conservancy where experienced the kind hospitality of Ron and Pauline Beaton. While there we also met with Conservancy Manager, Rob O'Meara, and his wife, Sarah, and Warden, James Kaigil. Sarah shared her Olare Orok elephant photographs with us to help us build up the Mara Elephant Who's Who, and is also organising the use of a phone with the Mara EleApp on Olare Orok and Motorogi Conservancies.
In the hope of meeting new elephants we were taken to neighboring Motorogi Conservancy by the Warden. We were delighted to find a group of 30, which turned out to be Big Mama and her large family. It was wonderful to see her there - she has now been spotted in four separate areas of the Mara and our knowledge of her home range is expanding! We also stopped in to visit guides, Meshack Sayialel at Porini Lion Camp and Ping'ua Nkukuu at Mara Plains, to explain the functionality of the Mara EleApp and to encourage their participation.
Meeting up with old friends - and making some new
We proceeded on to the western side of the Mara where we were guests of Sanctuary Olonana. There we met Marcus Westberg who shared his beautiful photographs of elephants in Mara Conservancy. On 4th November we met Asuka Takita at Mara Conservancy headquarters to catch up with her news and to explain to her the use of the Mara EleApp. From there we proceeded over Mara Bridge and through the Mara Reserve to Basecamp near Talek. Along the way we covered new ground and discovered "new" elephants. We were also pleased to meet a few individuals who were already in the Who's Who. Among others, we met the well-known asymmetrical tusk matriarch, f0576, as well as f0246 with a newly broken left tusk.
The following day we trained Basecamp Guide, Agness Kilena, to collect elephant observations and to use the Mara EleApp.
The end of a fascinating Mara tour
On 6th we proceeded to our final destination, Siana Conservancy, where we stayed with Nick, Betsy, Will and Gini Cowell. Siana has experienced substantial ivory poaching this year and it was not surprising to see that the elephants there were wary. Gini is now working with us, representing Elephant Aware, collecting vital data on the elephants who use this part of the ecosystem.
On our way out of the Mara we passed by Sekenani, to follow up our contact with Park Warden, James Sindyio. During an informative two-hour meeting we discussed all kinds of issues, and collected our permit to access the Reserve when needed. Approaching Narok we made one last stop at the Kenya Wildlife Service District Office to meet with KWS Veterinarian Dominic Mijele. Dominic treats many elephants in the Mara and beyond and we felt that he would be a good person to have the last phone.
Plenty of challenges ahead - join Elephant Partners!
The Mara ecosystem is facing plenty of challenges, with human population growth, poaching and over-grazing to name a few. The need to find ways for humans and wildlife to live in more harmony is ever more critical for all stakeholders - including elephants. Telling both sides of the story is what Elephant Partners is about. By engaging people in the lives of elephants, we are building a community of people that care. Together we'll ensure the survival of the Mara elephants and their habitat. Help us make Elephant Partners go viral - participation of many is key to the future of the Mara elephants! Join us on Facebook, and spread the word.
We deeply appreciate the support and collaboration of the many people and entities mentioned in this informal travel report - and we very much look forward to be back. Thank you!
On Wednesday 20th July 2011, almost five tonnes of contraband ivory will be burned during a ceremony at Kenya Wildlife Service's Manyani Field Training School in Tsavo West National Park. The ivory is part of the June 2002 seizure that took place in Singapore. An estimated 600 elephants died to produce the 335 confiscated tusks and 41,553 hankos that will be destroyed in the pire. Hankos are seals or signature stamps used in Japan, China and Korea. The ivory was found to have primarily originated from Malawi and Zambia. ElephantVoices fully supports this move, which sends a strong signal that ivory should not be in the market.
During the 2010 Conference of the Parties (CoP15) of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES) in Doha, Qatar, ElephantVoices was among those orgaizations strongly opposing any trade in ivory. We argued that down-listing and more "one-off" sales would further stimulate the market for ivory and lead to increased killing of elephants (See Elephants, Ivory, and Trade (395.07 kB). In an important victory for elephants, CITES voted against requests from Tanzania and Zambia to down-list their elephant populations and sell their stock-piles.
ElephantVoices standpoint is that the potential global market for ivory is far greater than the amount the entire world population of elephants can supply. Any market for ivory will stimulate increased demand and, therefore, a spiraling illegal trade and further killing of elephants. We believe that the market for ivory is impossible to control and to satisfy, and that previous sales have just driven up demand, established more smuggling routes and a growing carving industry. The result of recent sales and the surrounding speculation, has stimulated demand, which is now having deadly consequences for ten thousands of elephants every year.
ElephantVoices urges governments and law enforcement agencies around the world to act forcefully to curb the current boom in illegal sales, smuggling and poaching - and we hope that the symbolic ivory burning on 20th July will inspire people and countries to work together to protect elephants.
The ivory burning is the fourth of its kind after Kenya's in 1989 (12 tonnes) and in 1991 (6,8 tonnes, see below), and in Zambia in 1992. African governments have recently been asked to join forces to fight poaching and other environmental crimes as way of protecting their economies. The ivory burning in Tsavo on 20th July is the first regional exercise of this kind. Kenya's President Mwai Kibaki will preside over the burning, which is the climax of the first-ever African Elephant Law Enforcement Day celebrations on the theme: ‘Fostering cooperation to combat elephant poaching and ivory trafficking in Africa’. The day is meant to recognise the plight of the endangered African elephant, and to celebrate its importance and appreciate challenges faced in its conservation. The burning of the ivory was a decision of the Lusaka Agreement Governing Council in line with CITES.
On 18th July 1991 - designated as Elephant Day - Kenya held her second ivory burning. It was preceded by an elaborate parade through the streets of Nairobi, demonstrations by school children and speeches by VIPs. Kenya was celebrating the result of the 1989 burning, the ban on ivory trade and the Appendix I listing; elephant poaching was already way down.
As then Elephant Program head ElephantVoices' Joyce Poole organized the parade and the ivory burning on behalf of Kenya Wildlife Service. She has fond memories of this special day. This year's burning comes at a time when poaching is spiraling out of control. We are extremely disturbed by the current boom in illegal trade and poaching. (All photos ElephantVoices)
"Leadership in elephants: the adaptive value of age (335.01 kB)", was published online in Proceedings of the Royal Society B on 16 March 2011. Joyce was one of the authors of the paper in a study led by Karen McComb in Amboseli as part of the Amboseli Elephant Research Project. The research shows, once again, the importance of older leaders in elephant society. Unfortunately, because older elephants tend to have larger tusks, and because they come to the fore in defence of their families, they are precisely the individuals targeted by poachers. Protecting the lives of these wise leaders of elephant society is one more reason to put an end to the gruesome trade in the teeth of these intelligent animals.
Abstract: The value of age is well recognized in human societies, where older individuals often emerge as leaders in tasks requiring specialized knowledge, but what part do such individuals play in other social species? Despite growing interest in how effective leadership might be achieved in animal social systems, the specific role that older leaders may play in decision-making has rarely been experimentally investigated. Here, we use a novel playback paradigm to demonstrate that in African elephants (Loxodonta africana), age affects the ability of matriarchs to make ecologically relevant decisions in a domain critical to survival— the assessment of predatory threat. While groups consistently adjust their defensive behaviour to the greater threat of three roaring lions versus one, families with younger matriarchs typically under-react to roars from male lions despite the severe danger they represent. Sensitivity to this key threat increases with matriarch age and is greatest for the oldest matriarchs, who are likely to have accumulated the most experience. Our study provides the first empirical evidence that individuals within a social group may derive significant benefits from the influence of an older leader because of their enhanced ability to make crucial decisions about predatory threat, generating important insights into selection for longevity in cognitively advanced social mammals.
Authors of the paper are Karen McComb, Graeme Shannon, Sarah M. Durant, Katito Sayialel, Rob Slotow, Joyce Poole and Cynthia Moss.
One of ElephantVoices' lion playbacks from 2005 showing the importance of older matriarchs at times when decision-making affects survival. Chloe and her family are startled by the sounds of nearby lions. They bunch together in self defense, and then matriarch, Chloe, takes the lead to inspect the lions. She moves forward, with a determined, aggressive posture, and then signals to her family to join her in the attack. Photos/editing by Petter Granli, narration by Joyce Poole, ElephantVoices.