Tuesday, 6 January 2015


Kenya’s elephants are an important national asset critical to sustaining a functional ecosystem in the dry lands of Kenya and are an essential draw for tourism.
Wildlife tourism is one of the country’s major sources of foreign exchange, and elephants are one of the most important elements in wildlife tourism. The status of Kenya’s elephants has always been controversial. During the 1970s and 1980s it is estimated that Kenya lost over 80% of her elephants due to infamous poaching for ivory. Both the savanna (Laxodonta africana africana) and the forest (Laxodonta africana cyclotis) elephant species are greatly endangered, because as each dawn breaks in Kenya and Africa, the incentives for illegal ivory plummets amidst government's endeavor to curtail this unprecedented poaching of the jumbo.

Former president Moi, in July 1989 set flame to 12 tonnes of illegal ivory stockpiles intercepted from poachers or smuggled from border entry points in what came to be known as the Ivory Bonfire. The war against this poaching is still far from being won, perhaps because humans fail to understand that elephants should not only be conserved because of tourism, but also because elephants, like any other of creation, deservedly need to co-exist with man for their many obvious importance. Indeed, different ecologists and conservationists have arguably asserted that a live elephant is 76 times worth than a dead one. This mantra holds every relevance.

But exactly what are the impediments to elephants' conservation in Kenya?

Threats facing Kenya’s elephant populations differ across the country.

• Kenya’s major forest populations of Mt Kenya, Aberdares, Shimba Hills and Mt Elgon are at present not threatened by poaching. The greatest threats to these populations come from conflict with surrounding communities, encroachment of human settlement and agriculture, habitat loss and changing land uses. These populations are becoming increasingly isolated; former migratory routes have been cut-off by human settlement and local communities have cultivated adjacent to the forest boundaries.

• Land-use changes pose a threat to the Mara and Amboseli elephant populations. The Maasai pastoralists have adopted a more sedentary way of life and recent expansion of large- scale farming has reduced the elephant range. Both of these populations are relatively secure from poaching at present, this is as a result of a combination of factors including high tourism, presence of resident researchers and a buffer zone provided by the surrounding Maasai communities.

• In Kenya’s northern and Tsavo populations, poaching has increased over the last 2-3 years. The situation of elephants in these areas has become more precarious with banditry that has increased over the last few years and with this has come an upsurge in the level of poaching.
Elephant population is dwindling, and at a very alarming rate.
With or without commensurate government action against this prohibitive elephant poaching, all is not lost, because Kenya is one of the best destinations in the world to grace these mammoth wildlife. Did you know these 7 great spots in Kenya that are home to herds of thousands of elephants in Kenya?

1.      Tsavo East and West National Park
The Joint mass of the Tsavo East and West National parks forms one of the largest national parks in the world and covers a massive 4 % of Kenya’s total land area, an equivalent of 13747sq. kilometers. Guarded by the limitless lava reaches of Yatta plateau  and patrolled by some of the largest elephant herds in Kenya has earned the monicker, Theater of the Wild. The azure site of dust-red elephants in Eden wallowing, rolling and spraying each other with the midnight blue waters of palm-shaded Galana River is one of the most evocative images of Africa.

2.      Samburu and Laikipia Eco-system
Over 900 individual elephants are resident or visit this eco-system throughout the year, alone in the Samburu National Park. Owing to recent elephant census, 5400 elephants inhabit  the combined Samburu-Laikipia Ecosystem, an area of approximately 28490 sq. kms(11000sq. miles). This is the definite jungle with a gallant excellent photographic opportunity to capture the real bull elephants paddling mightily hither and thither this habitat.

3.      Mt. Kenya National Park and Reserve
The Mt. Kenya National Park, formerly forest reserve is a biosphere reserve designated UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1997 covering a vast 715 sq. km. To behold here, among the great lower lying scenic foothills and arid habitats of high biodiversity, are the 12 remnant glaciers that continue to dazzle the world as one of the finest mountain tourism spots in Africa.Connected to the north via a 9.8 km elephant corridor to the Lewa Wildlife Conservancy is the best selection to site and study the migrating route of the African elephant.

4.      Masai Mara National Reserve
Much has been said of the Masai Mara, because it is ostensibly the only easily accessible and widely studied ecosystem in the world. It is the land of Big Cat Diary and Disney's African Cats and the location of the Great Migration, the eighth natural wonder of the world. It is speckled with gloriously beautiful, wildlife-rich savanna landscape. The short grass savannahs of the Mara River basin, between the Loita Hills in the east and the Oloololo Escarpment in the west, hundreds of big-manned lions, cheetahs, leopards, spotted hyenas and jackals co-exist with over 1500 elephants in the Mara Triangle. Here, you will find all the Big Five, and also a great variety of wildlife from the smallest dikdik to the largest eland species. If you couple this with the phenomenal Balloon Safaris in the Mara, and the renowned Mara Culture, it is a real magnet for safaris of every stripe. Come and see the Great Wildebeest migration and live to tell it to generations over.

5.      Aberdare National Park and Reserve

Elephants dominantly rule the waterholes and salt licks. There are other animals which also come to drink water such as lions and hyenas; they have to contend with elephants seeing them off at great speed. Some animals such as Leopards are shy and mostly seen under the night-time floodlight.

6.      Amboseli National Park
The park is famous for being the best place in Africa to get close to free-ranging elephants. It is home to around  1500 elephants in just 392 sq. km.
The park is famous for being the best place in Africa to get close to free-ranging elephants. It is home to around  1500 elephants in just 392 sq. km. The best elephant stories have been told and retold here, beautifully captured by lens, of bull elephants with Mt. Kilimanjaro in the background. If you have that great passion for these memories, you would choose no other spot.
The best elephant stories have been told and retold here, beautifully captured by lens, of bull elephants with Mt. Kilimanjaro in the background. If you have that great passion for these memories, you would choose no other spot. 

7.Mt Elgon National Park

Mount Elgon is the eighth highest mountain in Africa and has the largest base area of any free-
standing volcano in the world. The elephants on the mountain are Savannah Elephants (Loxodonta africana africana), not the forest elephants of West & Central Africa
The most frequently visited cave in Mt Elgon is called Kitum ('Place of Ceremonies' in Masai) and it stretches for 160m into the mountain.

As well as the extraordinary elephants, Elgon is home to colobus monkeys, blue monkeys, leopard, giant forest hog, bushbuck, eland, buffalo, duiker, and golden cat.

8.      Meru National Park
The Park is most famous as the setting for Joy Adamson's book "Born Free" -- the story of the Adamson's life and research amongst lion and cheetah. "Elsa" the lioness was the most well-known and her grave is marked here.

In the 1970's the park  boasted of more than three hundred Black Rhinos.  By 1997, this population had been reduced to zero. The plan right now is to re-introduce about 30 Black Rhinos.  After the 1989 massacre of the white Rhinos,  the lone survivor Mukora was re-located to Lake Nakuru.   In 2002, seven White Rhinos, including Mukora were once more re-introduced  from Lake Nakuru National Park.

Restocking Meru National Park will go in conservation books as one of the largest big mammal trans-location undertaken in human history.  In total 66 Elephants trans-located from Laikipia Private-Sweetwaters game sanctuary and Ol Pejeta Conservancy.

Other top elephant sites in Kenya include and not limited to the vast Mau Forest Basin, Shimba Hills National Park and Mwaluganje conservancy in the south coast and Arabuko Sokoke Forest in north coast.
Let us all unite in concerted efforts to conserve our elephants, by keeping our eyes to and hands off them. Kenya is a great destination for wildlife tourism, and there cannot be tourism without the leviathan jumbo. Remember, a live elephant is 76 times more worth than a dead elephant"

Now hit the road, talk to us and we shall make your dreams come true with our erudite guides who have mastered these eco-systems and the jungle law verbatim, where life opens into reality.

To visit some of these magnificent spots you can book Our Best of Kenya Tour by clicking here.

For any inquiries please contact charles@inclusiveholidaysafrica.com

 Stephen Mwasio is a Tourism Consultant and CEO for Inclusive Holidays Africa – Twitter @inclusiveafrica

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