Skip to comments.Kenya Begins Massive Elephant Relocation Project
Posted on 08/27/2005 6:14:59 AM PDT by Our_Man_In_Gough_Island
Once in danger of being wiped out by poachers, elephants have overrun a Kenyan coastal preserve. They've raided nearby farms and even attacked villagers, forcing wildlife authorities there to move about 400 of them to a bigger game park farther inland in Africa's largest-ever elephant relocation.
A family of five elephants was the first to be relocated Friday from the coastal Shimba Hills National Reserve to the much larger Tsavo East park about 150 kilometers farther inland. About 400 more pachyderms will be sent packing by Kenyan wildlife rangers.
Kenyan wildlife officials say it's the world's largest-ever elephant relocation.
About 600 elephants had overrun the tiny Shimba Hills National Reserve, just south of the Indian Ocean port city Mombasa. Some of the elephants had taken to raiding farms, gobbling crops of mango and cassava and bananas, and threatening anyone who stands in their way.
The reserve is supposed to accommodate about 200 elephants, but the elephant population has soared in recent years, causing massive deforestation. The Tsavo East region, where the elephants are being moved, lost most of its elephant population to poachers during the 1970s and 80s.
Edward Indakwa is the spokesman for the Kenyan Wildlife Service, which officially launched the $3 million operation Friday. "We have a lot of conflict problems with communities," he noted. "People have been injured, crops have been destroyed. And apart from that, the ecosystem itself is really choking from that population of elephants. We are talking about an extra 400 elephants. That's too big for the ecosystem."
Ranchers and farmers near the Tsavo East National Park are concerned that Kenya's wildlife service is just transplanting the elephant problem. They want assurances that their ranches and farms are protected from elephant intrusions.
"All of them have been radio-collared so we will be able to monitor them using GPS [Global Positioning System], and move our rangers in to drive them away before they can break into private farmland," explained Mr. Indakwa. "We have dug five water holes in the area near the release site. Mostly, [these] problems lead to the pack to go outside in search of water. With water assured there, that problem will be minimized."
In addition to the water holes, Kenya's wildlife service erected a 41-kilometer electric fence to discourage the elephants from wandering near community farms.
Kenyan game rangers plan to move more families of elephants on Sunday.
But all elephants are massive...
I wonder how, precisely, one goes about relocating an elephant.
"I wonder how, precisely, one goes about relocating an elephant."
First you get a big bag of peanuts.....
Don't step in the elephant movement! It could take a while to dig you out!
However measures were set up during the 70s and 80s (primarily during the 80s) that led to a serious cut down of poaching incidents. In some cases army units were sent on hunter-killer missions, and in several incidents even special forces were applied against them as training. Anyways, poaching went down. And everything seemed perfect.
Around the same time government controlled culling, where the government would kill a number of elephants every year to control numbers, also disappeared. It had fallen foul of various environmental groups who thought it inhumane and cruel.
The result of all this was a huge explosion in elephant numbers. And I mean serious proliferation of tuskers in the parks and reserves. This had several results. For one it meant there was a greater likelihood for jumbos to invade the farms of people who lived adjacent to the park. And trying to drive off an invading jumbo (or jumbos) at night with flaming torches and farm implements is a sure way of getting killed (although I know one dude in Kenya, who in a drunken stupor, actually managed to go to a female elephant and milk her. And he lived. But I guess that is one of those rare cases when Darwin is having afternoon tea with Murphy and thus ignoring such normally fatal incidents).
However the biggest impact was to the parks. The thing is elephants are very voracious eaters. And not only that but very destructive ones as well. For example they will knock down trees, which tends to kill trees by the way. They also have a knack for stripping bark from trees, a practice that is also not gang-busters for any tree. In the right numbers that is ok, and part of the cycle of life. However have several thousand extra tuskers than the park can handle and what you have is an ecological disaster that is affecting each and every living thing in that park.
And now we get to the loggerjam. What to do? South Africa has tried shooting elephants with drugs that make them infertile, but not only is that expensive but rather ineffective in real terms. Kenya has tried trans-locating (by shooting them with tranquilizers and trasporting the) jumbos from reserves with huge numbers to those with smaller numbers, but they are running out of musical chairs pretty fast since those other places have also been efficient in saving elephants. And the only country in Africa that Kenya could really trust with elephants is South Africa, and the only country South Africa could trust with elephants is Kenya; so that would just be like swapping spit and thus a problem. And anyways it would not be pragmatic transporting large numbers of tuskers long distances.
So what options are left? Culling. The problem with that is that due to the large numbers that would have to be culled the various enviro-groups would be there en masse with their video cameras and digital shots. And it would look like a veritable slaughter of thousands (yes, thousands) of elephant, something that the average tourist may not like (especially if they believe enviro-group spin that what is happening is evil). Hence the choice is cull the elephants, and risk tourists staying away; or do nothing, and watch the elephants literally eat the park to starvation. At which point the enviro-groups will say not enough was done or some other spiel.
This is a really messed up situation for the two countries
What about downtown Ithaca?
They would be nicer than the lions the eggheads want to place in my neck of the woods.
can they come pick up Cindy Sheean while they're at it?
I'm wondering whether they will de-tusk them, to thwart the poachers.
OTOH, they are unbelievably destructive, and not just to crops.
My late FIL was delayed in Africa for several weeks due to rampaging elephants. The charging herd totally destroyed a just completed ore conveyor system he was in charge of building, and he had to stay to get it rebuilt.
I have read it can be even worse with the indigenous farmers. The elephants rip through their fields in a couple days, and there is nothing left thereafter for the whole year. If the village has no surplus to share and is living close to the margin of survival, that in turn means the farmer and his family will starve.
Yes, but the elephants will live!