By Susan Lentaam, Loisaba Assistant Conservation Officer
August 12th is World Elephant Day, which was first celebrated in 2012. This special day was created to draw attention to the urgent plight of African and Asians Elephants and encourage the global conservation community to work towards the conservation of these superlative and gentle creatures, which portray the finest human traits.
Elephants are Important in the Ecosystem
Elephants are a keystone species in the northern Kenya Rangelands, playing a vital role in maintaining the ecosystem in which they live. Being an icon of the Africa Continent, elephants attract funding that help protect and conserve the ecosystems where they live. Elephants improve the health of the ecosystem as they play a key role in spreading seeds far and wide, as they roam from woodland to grassland, and create gaps in vegetation to allow the growth of small plants. In areas where streams are the main source of water, elephants use their tusks to dig for water. This not only helps the elephants to survive, but also acts as a source of water for other wildlife species.
Main Challenges Facing Elephants in Northern Kenya
One of the main challenges facing elephants in Northern Kenya is habitat loss. Currently, African elephant have less land to roam than they did many years ago. As the human population expands and livestock numbers increase, pastoral communities are now encroaching into wildlife habitats to search for water and pasture, which increases chances of conflict. In addition, with the demand for agricultural products increasing, farms are also expanding – blocking elephant migratory corridors and limiting their movement. This means elephants are confined to smaller areas, and is changing elephants’ behaviour who have been known as migratory animals.
Human Elephant Conflict
Human elephant conflict is another major problem facing elephants. Protected areas can support elephant populations during wet season, but during dry seasons elephants often move into community land to search for food and water. This increases the chance of human elephant conflict due to the frequent contact with elephants and, as a result, loss of life occurs on both sides. Elephants are gentle creatures but dangerous when scared or threatened.
Loisaba’s Efforts Towards Elephant Conservation
Loisaba is situated in an elephant corridor, and has always focused efforts on elephant conservation. We partner with Space for Giants to carry out the following:
- Habitat protection and wildlife security
- Intensive ranger patrols which often result in the rescue of elephant calves (which are taken to Reteti Elephant Sanctuary)
- Elephant monitoring through collaring and individual identification (which helps us to estimate their population and home range as well as monitoring injured elephants)
- Coordinate with the KWS for treatment of sick and injured elephants
- Electric fence monitoring to keep elephants away from crop fields to reduce the human elephant conflict
- Training rangers and local communities on elephant conservation techniques to reduce human elephant conflicts.