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Drought in Amboseli
I flew down to Amboseli on Saturday, the 28th. It’s very dry here. During the period referred to as the “long rains” of March-May, we only received 40% of the normal rainfall (the 4th and 5th bars from the right on the graph; the line shows the 38-year monthly averages). No rain is expected until November, three full months from now. We are well aware that there will be stressful and difficult times ahead.
Because of the permanent swamps fed by fresh water from Kilimanjaro, the animals do not suffer from thirst, but the lack of rainfall means that there is little vegetation for the herbivores. It is at times like this that the wildlife and Maasai livestock come into conflict. They are all concentrating in the few areas with fodder and sometimes a cow, sheep or goat will get killed by an elephant, more out of fear when suddenly coming upon a domestic animal than anything else. Traditionally, the Maasai retaliate by spearing an elephant, any elephant will do, and the crisis escalates with more livestock killed and more elephants speared.
Ten years ago the Amboseli Elephant Project initiated a program to pay the Maasai owner for the loss of his animal. This consolation program has been very successful at reducing retaliatory spearing. In fact, there is virtually none when livestock is killed. Spearing still occurs when a person is killed (fortunately rare in Amboseli) and sometimes when young warriors are trying to prove their bravery. In our community outreach program we are working to eliminate these other types of spearing.
In the meantime, we know that there will be livestock deaths due to elephants in the next three months and we are preparing ourselves. Unfortunately, the major donor who funded this consolation program is no longer donating to the project and we are concerned that we won’t be able to pay for what we know will be numerous incidents. Please consider helping us at this difficult time by donating to: Amboseli Trust for Elephants, 10 State Street, Newburyport, MA 01950 or through Click & Pledge (on the left side).