CNN’s ‘Inside Africa’ examines elephant conservation efforts in Kenya
This week’s ‘Inside Africa’ on CNN International focuses on Kenya’s great elephant herds, following a group of conservationists addressing the threat to the animals from poaching and human development.
The programme reports from Kenya’s Southeastern Savanna, where it meets members of the David Sheldrick Wildlife Trust, one of Kenya’s most active conservation organisations.
‘Inside Africa’ learns that the trust is making hundreds of rescues of orphan elephants, who have been left parentless by a combination of the climate, poachers and conflict.
‘Inside Africa’ speaks to Dr. Cynthia Moss, an elephant scientist and co-founder of the Amboseli Trust for Elephants, who explains why the family structure is so important for the animal: “It takes a long time for a calf to grow up… They still need their mother even at that point, and even in our studies we found that when a female dies any calf below two will die.”
Alongside accompanying an orphaned elephant to a specialist nursery in Nairobi where it receives full medical treatment, ‘Inside Africa’ also travels to the Amboseli National Park to examine elephant conservation efforts further.
For the last 44 years, Dr. Cynthia Moss has studied and catalogued Amboseli’s elephant herds, having originally arrived in Kenya as a tourist in 1972. Now one of the longest animal studies in the world, Moss’ work with the Amboseli Trust for Elephants has proven groundbreaking on understanding elephant behavior and structure.
Moss explains to ‘Inside Africa’ what drew her to return and what makes the area so unique: “Amboseli was very different, the elephants were still moving in and out of the park on old migration routes that were at least 400 years old and this was, again, because the Masaai are tolerant of wildlife. This made them even more natural than some other populations.”
Now 76-years-old, Moss continues to research the park with an all-female team, using their knowledge to aid the conservation of the 1,700 elephants currently living in Amboseli.
Moss outlines the importance of balancing research and conservation efforts to ‘Inside Africa’: “We’re not just here to study them, we’re here ultimately for the conservation of elephants. This is the whole point, you don’t just study in a vacuum, you’re here to study as much about elephants so we can help to conserve them here and elsewhere.”
Due to the scale of the Amboseli park, conservation groups rely heavily on technical innovations such as GPS collars to observe and track the elephants in their natural habitat.
Steve Njuma of the International Fund for Animal Welfare – East Africa, explains the complexity of trying to monitor the animals in the Amboseli: “We don’t know where these majestic giants go to. In the evening, you’ll see them slowly walking out of the park and in the mid-morning you’ll see them come back. Where do they go to?… The only way you can do that is to place a communication gadget that allows you to trace their movement.”
By tracking the elephant’s new migratory corridors, conservationists will be able to further understand their routes and keep them clear from potential poachers.
For Dr. Cynthia Moss, the upcoming threat to the animals comes from further human development in the region: “The ecosystem here in Amboseli is definitely under pressure from human endeavors. It’s worrying actually because there is a lot of land to change. I think the long term threat to elephants is habitat loss, and habitat loss is caused by development and changing land use patterns. What might have been open savannah pastoral land is getting farmed and getting fenced off, and that’s a big problem.”