Miss France in Kenya: elephants of Amboseli are increasingly threatened

We arrived in Nairobi last night and by 9 am this morning we had already set off for Amboseli National Park.

We flew to the park on a plane belonging to the Kenya Wildlife Service. The International Fund for Animal Welfare works with them to protect the park’s remaining elephants from their two most pressing threats—poaching and habitat degradation.

During the 45-minute flight, we could see from the window the magnificent savanna and got our first glimpses of elephants.

After lunch at the hotel, we met with authorities from the Kenya Wildlife Service. On the journey, the Amboseli wildlife was everywhere around us—wildebeest, gazelles, zebras, and elephants of course—all of it set against Mount Kilimanjaro off in the distance.

The Kenya Wildlife Service has a team of men and women who are responsible for protecting Kenya’s wildlife. Together with the IFAW team, I gave KWS a check for $70,000 from IFAW to help them fund what is needed to increase the presence of park rangers on the ground, starting with fuel for example.

One of IFAW’s on-site staff, Steve, explained and helped me better understand the two major threats facing elephants and how they are hastening their extinction.

First, poaching.

Poachers are now armed with military-issue weaponry and have become extremely effective. Poaching, which barely affected Amboseli only a few years ago, has now become a scourge here too.

Poaching kills elephants, but it also kills people: six rangers have been killed here in Kenya by poachers. Helping the rangers is a first step, but we also need to suppress demand for ivory, essentially in Asia.

This is why IFAW’s office in China is organizing public awareness campaigns to explain that buying ivory means killing elephants.

The other threat is habitat loss.

The communities that inhabit the Park and its surroundings are growing.

Agriculture, trade, and other human activities are slowly but surely encroaching on elephant’s stamping ground and narrowing their migration corridors. Elephants end up destroying crops and sometimes even attacking people.

IFAW works with communities to explain this phenomenon and find solutions that will enable people and elephants to peacefully co-exist. Steve summed it up well, “If we want to manage elephant populations, we need to start by managing the people who live side by side with them.”

This meeting with IFAW’s Kenyan team and the rangers from the Kenya Wildlife Service made me realize just how risky their work can be on a daily basis.

Without them we have no chance of saving the elephants.

They need support.

They need resources.

They need animal lovers like you and me to help them.

--DV

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Experts

Céline Sissler-Bienvenu, Director, France and Francophone Africa
Director, France and Francophone Africa
IFAW Elephant Expert
IFAW Elephant Expert
Grace Ge Gabriel, Regional Director, Asia
Regional Director, Asia
James Isiche, Regional Director, East Africa
Regional Director, East Africa
Jason Bell, Program Director, Elephants Regional Director, South Africa
Program Director, Elephants, Regional Director, South Africa
Peter Pueschel, Director, International Environmental Agreements
Director, International Environmental Agreements
Vivek Menon, Director of IFAW partner, Wildlife Trust of India
Regional Director, South Asia