While a prolonged dry spell continues to plague Kenya, wildlife experts worry that the country’s 23,000 elephants might be in danger. More than 40 elephants have died in the past two months in the Laikipia, Isiolo and Samburu districts, as the severe drought challenges Kenyan wildlife’s capacity to feed itself, the Guardian reported Thursday.
“Preliminary investigations reveal that the elephants have not been getting enough fodder, especially the young ones,” Moses Litoloh, a senior scientist with the Kenya Wildlife Service, told the Daily Nation newspaper. “Young elephants are unable to keep up the pace with their mothers while grazing. They are also not able to browse tall trees which are the only source of food left.”
Even in times of normal precipitation, elephants roam extensively to supply themselves with as much as 200 liters of water and about 300 kilograms of grass, twigs and leaves a day. But as rivers are drying up and grasslands are shriveling due to insufficient rain, the animals – particularly the young and old ones – struggle to get their daily rations.
The poor diet also weakens the elephants’ immune systems, making them more vulnerable to disease.
While the species is still far from facing extinction, zoologists fear that Kenya’s famous savannah animals might be in serious danger, if seasonal rains do not come in October or November.
Meanwhile, scores of cattle have died and hectares of crops have failed in Kenya, threatening the food supply of millions of people who rely primarily on small-scale subsistence farming. In August, the United Nations’ World Food Programme said that 3.8 million Kenyans need emergency food supplies, especially in the rural areas of the country.
Source: The Guardian
, a Bulgaria native, is a Chicago-based reporter for Circle of Blue. She co-writes The Stream, a daily digest of international water news trends.
Interests: Europe, China, Environmental Policy, International Security.