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:
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.
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.
After a tractor pulled the dead elephant out of the water, the rangers removed the tusks and slit the stomach for the predators to speed up the recycling process. Photo: Sveva Gallmann.