Tuesday, August 23, 2005

Sign of the Times: Kenya Wildlife Service to Move Elephants

Now humans are having to move elephants.

From: http://news.yahoo.com/s/ap/20050822/ap_on_re_af/kenya_packing_

Kenya Wildlife Service to Move Elephants

By TOM MALITI, Associated Press WriterMon Aug 22, 2:48 PM ET

The Kenya Wildlife Service will move 400 elephants hundreds of miles to the nation's largest animal reserve from a smaller park that has been holding too many of the animals, a spokesman said Monday.

The $3.2 million exercise will begin Thursday and involve transporting elephants 218 miles to the northern part of Tsavo East National Park from Shimba Hills National Reserve, said Edward Indakwa, a spokesman for the wildlife service.

The government is funding the relocation, Indakwa said.

The first 50 elephants, comprising six families, will be tranquilized and moved by truck in a trip that will take 10-12 days, Indakwa said. Officials will then wait to see how they fare in their new environment before moving the rest, he said.

"With a current elephant population of 600, the (Shimba Hills) National Reserve is choking. The elephants destroy the habitat, break park fences and cause mayhem and destruction in villages surrounding the park," said Indakwa.

He said researchers estimate that Shimba Hills, on Kenya's southern coast, can only hold 200 elephants, while Tsavo East National Park, several hundred miles to the north, has 10,397 elephants, down from a peak of 25,268 in 1972.

Tsavo East suffered its heaviest loss of elephants during the 1980s and early 1990s when poachers devastated Kenya's pachyderms. But poaching has since subsided, helped by a 1989 global ban on the ivory trade that has seen prices drop.

Kenya Wildlife Service Director Julius Kipng'etich said his organization has increased security in the area where the elephants will be relocated.

"We deployed 83 young ranger recruits to Tsavo East last month. ... If the poachers come, they will find us ready," Kipng'etich said. He said that they will also have regular aerial patrols.

Kipng'etich also said the wildlife service had taken steps to reduce the possibility of elephants damaging nearby farms, a constant threat facing authorities as Kenya's population grows and more people move to once-empty land to farm, at times close to national parks.

The service also has tagged six matriarchs and will monitor their movements so that its rangers can drive them away before they reach private farms, Kipng'etich said.

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