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Amboseli Elephants are renowned for their tolerance to close proximity to human beings. This makes them easy to study and offers a close wildlife encounter to tourists. The lack of fear is mostly displayed by individuals and families that use and forage in conflict-free areas and by those that mainly use the park as their home range. It’s a different case with families that are exposed to poaching and human-elephant conflicts: they won’t let humans get to within fifty metres before taking off in a frenzied run.
The Amboseli National Park Management and Scientific Authority recently organized and undertook a wildlife census on 23rd July 2011 in the Amboseli National Park. This was towards the need to monitor population changes and habitat use by wildlife species.
I am proud to announce that we have finally recorded our first successful Elephant birth of 2011 after a stillbirth that was witnessed by Katito and Graeme in a previous post. Our records show the last birth dates back seven months ago. This high decline in birth rate correlates with the 2009 drought when few female elephants came into estrus. Elephant breeding patterns are mostly determined by the availability of food, and they may conceive in response to a good rainfall period, resulting in an increased birth number 21 – 23 months later.
An elephant family mainly consists of adult cows, who are either sisters or cousins, with their calves. These families may be as small as a mother with one or two dependent offspring or as large as 50. The size and cohesion of families varies depending upon a combination of factors, including the elephant species or sub-species, individual personalities, the formation and dissolution of individual social bonds, the strength of the matriarch’s leadership, historical events such as deaths of influential individuals, the type of habitat, the season and individual preferences.
We trained 15 community game scouts, who will be running two elephant anti-poaching camps situated to the south of Amboseli National Park. As elephant and other wildlife guardians the scouts will alert ATE and Kenya Wildlife Service personnel of potential threats to elephants. The camps will be strategically set to ensure that there are frequent crossborder (Kenya and Tanzania) patrols to curb potential elephant poaching.
For many months now Elephant observation has been few with groups not exceeding more than fifteen individuals. More often than not we have been recording single Elephants even calves ranging from three and a half to five years old. The few that are seen are skinny, dull, weak and slowly dragging themselves desperately in search for food.
Adam [the AA family unit boy] was born in 1968, son to Alyce, who was born in 1950 and died in 1979, and he had a brother born in 1979 but died same year – which might have been due to his mother's death. Adam and his sister Amelia – born in 1973 – are the only survivors in their nuclear family. Amelia is doing quite well with a family of 7 (There's Anghared – first born female, Abel – second born male, Ann – third born female, and Ava – fifth born female.
The EBs are still not together, sometimes Enid and Eleanor come together but only stick for some time. Ella's whereabouts are still unknown, but we hope she is safe and staying out of trouble. It is very dry in the entire ecosystem and most of the elephants are outside the park. Edwina and her calves are not moving far, they are always in Oltukai Orok, where the Elephant Research Camp is situated. Eliot who is "mama" to all orphans, spends most her time with Esprit and Eudora spends most of the time with Elspeth and their calves.
KWS intelligence officers visited our office at Oltukai in the evening just for our usual updates on what is happening in the ecosystem, Mr. Daniel Yiankere accompanied by Hamdi Ahmed. They informed us that they were called upon to rescue an animal that the community at Ilbisil did not have an idea what it was. They produced a baby cat from a small box and I asked them what it was but they did not have a hint. They bought it into our office and immediately I identified it to be a Caracal kitten.