We were in Amboseli again between 14 and 22 February, primarily for Joyce to work on a film production for National Geographic Television. The January rain had been good for Amboseli, and the elephants were in lively groups of up to three hundred.
In our research camp office much of the time was used in analysis of previous recordings (Sarah), and populating the newly designed ElephantVoices Database (Joyce). Joyce and Amboseli Elephant Research Project’s (AERP) Training Manager, Norah Njiraini, had the pleasure to finalize the selection of two recipients for the Amboseli Trust for Elephants new secondary school scholarship program for Maasai girls. AERP is engaged in numerous community projects, support of local students at secondary (two girls per year) and university level (currently three) being one of these.
Meanwhile, Petter focused on upcoming web-challenges, video recordings as well as the daunting task of trying to answer the many requests and comments that comes in through ElephantVoices.
Quite a few Kilimanjaro elephants visited the camp and it’s surroundings during our stay. The “Kili Eles”, as they are called, come from the forests of Kilimanjaro and look quite distinct from our Amboseli elephants. The Kilis are darker in color, smaller in body size with relatively longer legs, and have smaller more triangular and wrinkly ears. In addition many have what we call “prune-heads” (wrinkled foreheads) and are missing most of the hairs on their tails. They do seem to communicate like “ours”, though when they were in camp Joyce commented on a different “tone” in their voices. The Kilimanjaro elephants are less used to people than the Amboseli elephants and probably suffer more negative interactions with humans than their Kenyan counterparts, hence they are usually rather wary. But over the years they have really calmed down and the three families that were visiting seemed to be quite relaxed around us. Perhaps they have come to learn that they are among friends.
Left: KWS’ mobile vet unit darting and treating Tulip - one of our favorite elephants. A male in musth on the left and family members on the right monitor the hectic activities anxiously. Right: A family of “double-tuskless” Kilimanjaro elephants feeding close to the research camp, obviously feeling relaxed and safe. (©ElephantVoices)
Two elephants were darted and treated by Kenya Wildlife Service veterinarians during the week of our visit. One was a year old member of one of the Kilimanjaro families. Its left hind leg had been caught in a snare some months earlier and was extremely swollen. The Vet was able to remove it and felt sure that the calf would recover.
Although a wildlife corridor has been set aside for wildlife moving between Amboseli and Kilimanjaro National Parks, the area is surrounded by agriculture and game meat poachers frequent the corridor itself. These two threats mean that more and more elephants are returning to Amboseli with snare and arrow wounds. Tulip, meanwhile, was treated for a second time for spear wounds in her trunk. The Vet also said that she is healing well. Conflicts between people and elephants are increasing in number and are currently the biggest challenge facing the Amboseli ecosystem.