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The Newsletter for 1998 is available in only text format which appears below. Thank-you for your support!
 

THE DAVID SHELDRICK WILDLIFE TRUST

P.O. Box 15555, Nairobi 00503
Kenya.

Tel: - +254 (0) 733 891 996

Website: http://www.sheldrickwildlifetrust org
Email:
info@sheldrickwildlifetrust.org

N E W S L E T T E R  F O R   1 9 9 8

Few informed conservationists actively concerned with the welfare of Kenya's National Parks, will find it easy to come to terms with the decay of the past four years. Therefore, probably the less said about it the better, for it is a dark Chapter best forgotten in the 50 year history of our National Parks. Suffice to say, however, that all the disturbing predictions contained in the Trust's controversial 1996 Newsletter, unhappily, came to pass.

On the 19th September Dr. David Western was removed from his office as Director of the Kenya Wildlife Service for the second time in the year, the first time having been reinstated following pressure from certain sympathetic Embassies and large Aid organisations. To everyone's amazement, none other than his predecessor, Dr. Richard Leakey, was appointed Director of the ailing Kenya Wildlife Service in his place, a post he previously held from 1989 until he was forced to resign in 1994 due to political leanings. No one even dreamt that the return of Richard Leakey would be politically feasible, but few doubted that he was probably the one person best equipped to salvage the demoralized and totally bankrupt Service, once again riddled with in-house corruption. After all, no one knows the players, the problems, and more importantly, the politics of the day better than he.

Only the chosen few who had waxed fat within the upper echelons of what has become known as "The Gravy Train" did not greet Leakey's return as good news. Elsewhere it was widely celebrated in every Park, as it was by most concerned folk, for the administration of the National Parks had gone sadly wrong, An earlier precursor that triggered a glimmer of hope and which came as an equally welcome surprise was the appointment of Kenya's highly esteemed erstwhile Attorney General, Charles Njonjo, as the new Chairman of the K.W.S. Board of Trustees, and also the establishment of a new more representative Board.

Thus we embark on the countdown to the new millennium on a note of cautious optimism, wishing all our Supporters a VERY HAPPY AND PROSPEROUS LAST YEAR OF THE NINETEEN HUNDREDS.

For us 1998 has been one of the most challenging the Trust has ever had to face. A particularly traumatic event was the August 7th bombing of the American Embassy which inflicted untold misery and suffering on thousands of innocent Kenyans as well as the targeted Americans. One such tragic death that touched us deeply was that of Louise Martin, one of the Trust's most dedicated Volunteers. It was she who so painstakingly and diligently nursed our injured Rhino "Scud" for the 10 long months it took for the calf she was carrying to be born, and today at two years old he is the living memorial to the commitment of this very special lady. Louise will be sorely missed by all who knew her and our heartfelt condolences and prayers are with her family, as they are with the relatives of all those affected by such a senseless and brutal act of terrorism.

On a happier theme, Daphne's second daughter, Angela, had a little boy on the 26th May in Capetown, and Daphne took a much-needed break to be there for the big occasion. He weighed in at 7 1/2 lbs. and has been named TARU (after the Taru Desert, which, in effect, is present day Tsavo), with DAVID and ROY as second and third names in honour of his two grandfathers. One thing is sure, as he grows to manhood, he will be tutored carefully about the environment and particularly about the need for sensitivity to all animals, both wild and tame, and hopefully will be able to leave his mark when the time comes, assuming, of course, that there is sufficient left to make a difference with!

Reviewing 1998, our sincere gratitude is due to all our Supporters, for it is their donations that have empowered us to be able to make a difference when and where it was most needed, particularly within our main area of focus -Tsavo East National Park. For the past two years, the Trust has had to dig deep into its reserves to purchase fuel to keep the anti-poaching forces mobile and the surveillance aircraft flying. But for our input, the poachers would have had it all their own way, which doesn't bear thinking about, not least because the destiny of our orphans is inextricably entwined with that of the wild elephant community. It is the funds generated by the 14 orphaned elephants and 2 young rhinos through the International Fostering Scheme, so ably run on our behalf by Care for the Wild, that has funded the security vital for the safety of all Tsavo's elephants at a time when the Kenya Wildlife Service was unable to meet this commitment. We are therefore deeply indebted to all who have faithfully renewed their sponsorship year after year and by so doing enabled us to meet this challenge.

We also owe a huge debt of gratitude, of course, to Care for the Wild International, not just for their administration of the Fostering Scheme, but also for their financial input into Tsavo which has been even more substantial than our own. It is they who raised the money to keep key tourist routes passable in the wake of El Nino and who purchased much needed spares to keep the large earth-moving machines functional during the devastating fires that struck in July, reducing half the Park to a blackened plain of ash. But for the input of Care for the Wild, and our own, the entire Park would probably have gone up in smoke.

To us, it seems outrageous that Tsavo seemed to feature so low on the list of priorities of the past regime, for it is undoubtedly Kenya's most important Park. Not only is it the largest last bastion of pristine wilderness protected by law, but it harbours the country's greatest single population of Elephants, currently standing at 8, 100. It also shelters the last of the great herds of buffalo some of which are a thousand strong, plus healthy populations of all the country's indigenous predators, including the now extremely rare African hunting dogs. Tsavo's compliment of lions, leopards, cheetahs, spotted and striped hyenas, plus all the smaller carnivores, is still intact, at a time when predators are under severe pressure in the smaller Parks where numbers are dwindling fast. It is also in Tsavo that the rarest African antelope, the Hirola, has the best hope of long-term survival, for mounting human pressure threatens its existence within its only home range in the North.

Yet, despite all this, even David used to complain that Tsavo East had always been the system's Cinderella, and for the past year it seems to have been relegated to the bottom of the barrel, limping along without even the presence of an Area Warden. It is time, we feel, that this Park is afforded the importance it deserves, for if the conservation battle is lost in Tsavo, then it will surely have been lost altogether in Kenya.

So, we embark on the countdown to the millennium with a prayer - that Richard Leakey will succeed in retrieving the Kenya Wildlife Service, even though this will be no easy task; that he will bestow on Tsavo the significance it deserves and again succeed in controlling the escalating poaching of elephants, which under the past regime has tended to be kept under wraps. Even more urgently, we sincerely hope that he will be able to shut down the rampant bush meat trade which has been subjected to so much abuse, and is now totally out of control along, and beyond, Park boundaries. Rampant snaring and the fudging of quotas by some unscrupulous private landowners threatens the very survival of the smaller meat species countrywide, except perhaps in one or two select private ranches where there is adequate control.

Along the Tsavo boundaries, the snaring of larger animals such as buffalo has reached alarming proportions. With game meat so abundant all along the main Mombasa/ Nairobi highway, carcasses are often left to rot and only the fat removed. Poached game meat is readily available all along the route, picked up by transporters and sold to small rural butcheries throughout the country, which, without exception, are filled with it. Zebra meat continues to be sold as cheap dog food in Nairobi, and given this scenario, it is not beyond the bounds of possibility that in Kenya the zebra as a species will follow its Southern cousin, the Quagga into oblivion. Thomsons's gazelle, eland and many other species are becoming scarce and, added to this, a new and sinister hitherto unknown form of poaching has taken hold which targets smaller creatures such as dikdik and impala -"Spotlighting" at night, whereby an animal is dazzled by a powerful beam of light directed at its eyes whilst a second man creeps up from behind and dispatches it with a club.

We wonder if people ever pause to wonder why wildlife is now so scarce in West Africa, or for that matter in Western Kenya. It is as a result of the bush meat trade, where more and more people have persisted in eating dwindling populations of animals until there are none left. Consumptive utilisation of free ranging wild animals already subjected to natural controls is something that can never be "sustainable" - a word glibly thrown around to whitewash commercial interests in the bush meat trade. In reality, certainly in this country, consumptive utilisation cannot be adequately controlled and it certainly cannot withstand the predation of a burgeoning human population that is also depriving it of habitat. We are killing the goose that lays the Golden Egg. In this respect, it is the gregarious herd species that are particularly at risk, for they need the stimulation of numbers in order to flourish. Nor can anyone react in time to cater for the toll of natural disasters such as droughts and floods, which exact their own punishing losses on free ranging wild animals. We seem to be caught up in a steamrolling attitude "kill it while you can for tomorrow it may be gone" and this is incredibly disturbing. In other words, it is the Sickness of Self-fuelled by greed that seems to plague today's world.

Whilst Daphne was in Capetown in May, another little orphaned elephant calf was successfully rescued, this time from Lewa Downs. Since the age of the calf was estimated at I year, he was flown directly to Tsavo, because at that age he would need the input of the other orphans to calm him and impart in him the will to live. Once again, we are deeply indebted to Mike Seton of East African Air Charters who as usual made a plane available free of charge for the rescue of the baby. "Lewa" is the only orphaned elephant we have been able to save this year, not, I'm sure, because there haven't been others in need of help, but simply because there have not been people out thereto rescue them. Like "Uaso" before him, "Lewa" was fortunate to have been found on private land where there was a presence to alert us to his predicament.

On arrival in Tsavo, as always, he was immediately taken into the large heart of Malaika, and being the smallest, instantly usurped the privileged "favourite" position previously held by "Uaso". For a few days he gave the Keepers a rough time, but soon realised that the bottle that was constantly being thrust at him contained what he needed most - milk!

Meanwhile, the incredible El Nino rains of 1997 continued unabated well into the first half of 1998, merging with the long rains of April/May, so that the whole country remained awash until June, and everyone was in danger of developing webbed feet! Floods and washaways continued to disrupt lives and traffic alike with the main Mombasa/Nairobi highway often impassable for days and long lines of traffic back to back for miles. Many travellers simply had to sit it out in the mud beside their vehicles until bridges and washaways were repaired! Areas of black cotton soil such as Borana Ranch, where Angela and Robert now live, became isolated quagmires where even a plane could not land, and in the North the persistent wet conditions took a heavy toll of animals not accustomed to such weather, particularly Greater Kudu and Eland which succumbed in droves to footrot, pneumonia and Rift Valley Fever.

One form of life that flourished during El Nino were the tiny red and black "Nairobi Eyes" which hatched in swarms, and left their mark (literally) on almost everyone. When inadvertently brushed or squashed, these minute beetles exude an extremely potent acid that causes a painful blister prone to spreading. Those that escaped the mark of the Nairobi Eye were few!

Back at home, the spring that popped up beneath Jill and J.F.'s rustic shack gradually imparted a perfume of mould to their entire establishment that they had to learn to live with. It then coursed briskly on down the hill to transform the rhinos' normally artificial mudwallow into a wetland housing an army of rowdy frogs and even a young python. By the time the rains abated at the end of May, just about everyone, including our two rhinos, had had their fill. For months they had been going around with shiny wet bodies, polished toenails and tails erect denoting discomfort and mild disapproval!

However, Tsavo was transformed as though by magic into a lush, dense, tropical jungle filled with wild flowers and the perfume thereof, where every bush had its compliment of colourful butterflies and was festooned with the snow white blossoms of the creeper lpomoea mombassana. Our older elephant orphans, collectively known as "THE BOYS", (namely Olmeg, Dika, Ndume, Edo, and that rascal, Ajok) immediately became conspicuous by their absence, off cavorting with the wild herds far afield, although in mid March they put in a brief reappearance, accompanied by Taru and Lissa, who have long been "wild" elephants. As usual, Olmeg took this opportunity to do another quick appraisal of the airfield and his pet hate, Daniel Woodley's plane, whilst Ajok gave Sandy Owen, one of our Volunteers, a spirited display, detaching himself from a wild group to "floppy chase" her car playfully down the Aruba road! Since then, however THE BOYS have been absent, which must surely be good news, because, after all, the objective is that they should eventually become normal wild elephants again However, we have no doubt that once the dry season truly sets in, the older members of our elephant family will return to the fold, but, like all 11 parents" we can't help feeling somewhat anxious about such a prolonged absence with no news!

Elephants are highly intelligent animals who communicate with infrasound over distance and cannot get easily lost. When it came to escaping the fires, they would have taken their cue from experienced Matriarchs, so there is no reason to suspect that they are not alright, for, thanks to Daniel Woodley, who plies the skies on a daily basis, aerial surveillance within Tsavo, and around the boundaries, is thorough in spite of all the constraints on the ground.

Following such exceptionally heavy rains, it was not long before all the road systems became overgrown or even disappeared altogether, and the bush became so thick that the lions had to take to the trees in order to spot their prey! Those of Nairobi Park, however, fell on lean times when the migratory herbivores left as usual for the Kitengela dispersal area, now becoming more densely settled by humans. There they run the gauntlet of snares, are hounded by tribesmen hunting with dogs, or shot legally or illegally for the meat trade. This year, when the herds normally return in the dry season, only very few have showed up, and this must be a signal for concern.

For a time the Nairobi Park lions resisted following the migrants out, but inevitably became extremely hungry, forced to eke out a living on wily residents such as the warthogs. One day at noon, just as all the visitors were leaving after the rhinos' mudbath, a lion leapt out of hiding in the long grass and pounced on a warthog who had meandered in to likewise enjoy the mud once the rhinos had left. The warthog managed to break free, with the lion hot on its heels, and headed straight for Daphne who happened to be close by at the time. Shooting past her legs with inches to spare, the pig nearly downed her in its desperate bid for life whilst the lion braked hard at the last moment with a frustrated growl and Daphne nearly died of fright! She was thankful not to add to the chapter of accidents 'felled by a warthog in addition to an elephant, and worse still, possibly scratched by an angry (and hungry) lion', not mentioning, of course, previous episodes such as the Eland horn in the eye and the duiker punctured knees following involvement in a territorial battle - never a good idea!

Eventually, however, the Nairobi lions were forced to leave the Park in search of easier pickings and unhappily many were either poisoned or speared beyond the boundary. Those that made it back, like the prey species, were precious few, which is hardly a convincing advert for the much-flaunted Parks beyond Parks concept. Now a comprehensive aerial count of the Nairobi Park migrants is planned to determine what numbers remain, and, indeed, if they do, and assuming that they do, where most of them are, because they are not where they should be at this time of the year.

Meanwhile, the statistic used to reinforce the Parks beyond Parks concept, that 75% of all wildlife exists beyond the boundaries of the Protected Areas, finally came under scientific scrutiny and, indeed, was found at best to be misleading and at worst, fundamentally flawed something most people had long suspected anyway. It was Disraeli who said, "There are lies, damned lies, and statistics"!

Down in Tsavo, Malaika forwent the festive season with the others to faithfully remain behind and keep an eye on the group known as THE BABIES, comprised of 5 year old "Emily", our miracle baby, "Imenti" (born on 30th January 1994),"Aitong now aged 4;"Uaso" who is 2, and the new arrival, one year old "Lewa". To this setting Daphne and the Care for the Wild team flew down to record the dramatic affect of El Nino for the 1998 Fostering Video, and spent a happy day with the orphans at play at a brimful waterhole, where they were enjoying El Nino's bounty to the full. With Olmeg absent, Malaika was taking advantage of a romp with his hallowed old playlog known as "the Rubber Duck", normally out of bounds to all but him. She and the log appeared and disappeared in unison in the middle of the pool, whilst little "Uaso" who, like Malaika is a true water -baby, busied himself chasing butterflies in between dashing in to join her amidst a shower of spray to disappear from view with just the tip of a tiny trunk visible above the surface.

Before leaving, Daphne and the Care for the Wild team also had a taste of El Nino when they ended up stranded in the swollen Voi River beside Satao Camp on their way to catch the plane that was to fly them out. With floodwaters flowing over the bonnet, the car finally spluttered to a halt midstream, which meant that the occupants had to squeeze themselves through the windows in order to escape. Having waded the raging torrent, (not without difficulty), they and their luggage then had to continue the journey clinging precariously to the back of the old Camp Tractor, and on arrival at the airfield, where Daniel Woodley had also just landed, this sight gave everyone a good laugh, as did the sight of those left behind perched forlornly on the roof of the almost submerged vehicle!

Soon after this, and much to everyone's astonishment, orphan EDO, now over 8 years old, and as such one of THE BOYS, who had gone off with the others at the onset of El Nino, suddenly returned on his own to join Malaika. We were surprised that he chose to come back at a time when the Park was at its lushest and he must surely have been enjoying the season of plenty with his peers, and also that he came back alone. We can only surmise that Malaika must have sent him an infrasound "trunk call", there being no elephants other than the babies to keep her company in the area at the time. With all inland waterholes brimful and lush growth everywhere, all elephants had long since left. Edo was always Malaika's special friend during their shared time in the Nairobi Nursery with Dika and Ndume. Now that he is too large to be a target for the lions, he does not sleep in the Night Stockades with Malaika and the little ones, but invariably is waiting outside each morning to accompany them on their outings into the bush. Should he be late and miss their departure, he soon meets up with them out in the bush wherever they happen to be, yet another example of the sophistication of elephant communication.

A great deal of mystery still envelops elephant communication. An expert in this field is, of course, Dr. Joyce Poole, who has studied "elephant language" over the past 20 years in Amboseli National Park, Edo's birthplace. One night Daphne's daughter, Jill, happened to be camped up at the Elephant Stockades in Voi, when she heard a curious sound the like of which she had never heard before and which she could only describe as similar to the booming of a ship in the distance. Since Jill has spent a lifetime in the bush and is familiar with most bush noises, curiosity prompted further investigation. For a while she could not ascertain the exact origin of the sound, but then she noticed that every time it ended, Imenti took a huge breath. On questioning the Keepers, they, of course, knew all about it, and said that the orphans made it most nights, but usually only at night, and those that did it most frequently were the elephants from the North - Malaika, Ndume and Imenti, all from the beleaguered population of the Imenti Forest, but also little Uaso who likewise is a Northerner from Laikipia.

We passed this "discovery" on to Joyce Poole who went down with all her gadgetry to record and monitor the frequency of the sound, pretty confident that it was merely another of the many elephant "rumbles", all of which have a specific meaning. However, it turned out that even she had never before heard an elephant make this noise and furthermore her recordings showed that it was not a botched attempt at infrasound either, which is what we had suspected. She could only describe it as a "song" Perhaps therefore it is an elephant lullaby, or possibly even a requiem for all the lost elephant souls of the North, for when the elephants make it, they are all very relaxed with ears and trunk at rest. The sound of an Aboriginal musical instrument used to summon ancestral spirits is also similar, but in elephant terms, it is a vocalisation that is new to Science.

Sadly, even the bounty of El Nino could not last beyond June and as the dry season began to tighten its grip, the mass of vegetation became tinder dry. Unhappily, repeated warnings about the fire hazard simply fell on deaf ears, for the new Officers that ended up in Tsavo following the mega shuffle of the Regionalisation experiment were inexperienced in this respect, and not inclined to make themselves unpopular by fighting for the requirements of a Park they did not even know. Mindful of the ravages of uncontrolled fire within the fragile environment of marginal land, David Sheldrick had designed Tsavo's roads in such a way as to divide the Park into blocks bounded on four sides by a road from which backburning could be undertaken at night when the dry season winds subside. In this way a fire can be contained within a specific block and habitat damage lessened. Now with both roads and firebreaks alike completely overgrown, there was no hope of being in a position to deal with the wild fires that we all knew would follow El Nino. In a bid to prompt some action, Care for the Wild and the Trust made available emergency funding for fuel to clear the most sensitive Eastern Boundary firebreak, but to no avail.

Inevitably, on the 16th June, what we all feared would happen, did. The fires started near Mackinnon Road lit by illegal charcoal burners actually within the boundaries of the Park, to which the authorities, with their community bias, had turned a blind eye. Fanned by strong winds, the blaze soon gathered momentum and became a raging inferno, burning on a front that covered thousands of acres, with flames 30 ft high and travelling at 15 miles per hour, leaping across roads and luggas alike and taking an enormous toll of nestling birds, reptiles, young animals and everything not equipped to flee fast enough to escape. Hard pressed field personnel battled day and night without respite to try and bring the blaze under control, Trevor Jennings and his Staff fighting to save Satao Camp and Daniel Woodley directing operations from the air. However, it was hopeless. From the air a baboon was spotted marooned at the very top of a tree, screaming in terror as a wall of flame raced towards this, its last hope of escape, but for this baboon, like so many others, there was no escape, and within seconds it was enveloped by flames and smoke.

And, still those in authority at Headquarters in Nairobi seemed impervious to the gravity of the situation, far removed from far off Tsavo. The Regional Assistant Director was absent as usual, immersed in one of the interminable Workshops characteristic of the time, and even the usually energetic public relations machine was silent as though what was happening was of no consequence. At the time a well-known ditty seemed apt, about four people named Everybody, Somebody, Anybody and Nobody. Whenever an important job needed to be done, Everybody was sure that Somebody would do it. Anybody could have done it, but Nobody did. Somebody got angry about that, because it was Everybody's job and Everybody thought Anybody could do it, yet Nobody realised that Everybody wouldn't. So it ended up with Everybody blaming Somebody when Nobody did what Anybody could!"

Finally, but not before the fire had already been burning for 3 weeks and had destroyed no less than 3,600 sq. kms., some action was forthcoming to assist and relieve the exhausted field personnel, but it was too little and far too late. The crucial assistance was needed when the fire first started and it came not from K.W.S. Headquarters as it should have done, but instead from us following a desperate phone call from the field. Overnight the Trust was able to make available half a million K. shillings for the purchase of fuel and lubricants for the one and only Grader functional in the Park at the time. But for this, even that one Grader would have remained at a standstill. Eventually, after a visit by the then Director, Dr. Western, the K.W.S. Public Relations machine did swing into action, although what they had to say would have been better left unsaid! Press Releases asserted that the fire had been "a boon for Tsavo!"; "good for the Park, because now the tourists could see the animals better" and that "no people or animals had been injured". This latter utterance left everyone speechless, because it was so obviously incorrect, and visitors had already reported charred cheetahs near Buchuma Gate, a singed lion cub near Satao, not to speak of the baboon mentioned above, and untold smaller casualties. Most fortunately, however, the ground forces were able to save the range of the 30 plus free released translocated rhinos, otherwise they, too, would have been in serious jeopardy, for being so territorial, rhinos tend to try and fight a fire rather than flee from it.

The fires raged on into the Northern Area, having jumped even the 150 metre span of the Galana river when a grove of doum palms exploded like an incendiary bomb. By the time the inferno had been brought under control, with the help of additional Graders from Nairobi and Tsavo West, and the voluntary input of the local populace of Voi town, no less than half the Park, a staggering 10,000 sq. Kms. had been lost, representing dry season reserves essential for the elephants and other large herbivores should the predicted drought become a reality. Hence, the repercussions of these catastrophic fires could be far reaching and tragic. Nor did Tsavo West escape unscathed, for large stretches of country were similarly destroyed there. It has been disaster of immense proportions.

The hidden strength of Tsavo is its size. Another strength is that it has been spared intrusive management that injects a high level of stress on wild populations and disrupts Natural Selection, the very Powerhouse of adaptation and evolution and Nature's most powerful tool essential to a strong and healthy wild population. Perhaps examples of the effects of intrusive management are to be found further South in the Kruger National Park, which, whilst equal in size to Tsavo, is apparently beset by almost insurmountable problems of disease with 90% of its lions at risk from tuberculosis as well as much of its buffalo population. No one can deny that humans succumb to disease when under stress, and the informed know that animals do as well. Could it be that the problems of South Africa are the spin-off from culling, chasing, capturing, marking, immobilising, moving, marketing and researching inside and out, and interfering at every level through hi-tech intrusive management practices? It is food for thought. Not that Tsavo's inmates have altogether been spared unnecessary stress over the past four years, for abuses such as off-road driving (which is very damaging in arid regions), blinding animals with spotlights at night and provoking elephant herds to charge for the sake of a film has been either overlooked or condoned. Even more sinister has been the baiting of lions to tempt them to drag a dummy from a tent, also for the purposes of a film, not forgetting that the Tsavo lions have innate man-eating tendencies anyway!

Kenya has always adopted a more holistic and compassionate approach to the wild inmates of its National Parks, understanding and accepting that there is no better manager than Nature itself, and that the examples provided by Mother Nature hold the clue to the best management approach. We, further North, should heed the lessons of Southern Africa and discard once and for all any inclination to emulate the raw commercialism of that system. This conviction was profoundly reinforced by Daphne's experience in the cruelty case involving the 30 Tuli baby elephants forcibly abducted from their families in Botswana. She returned from that ordeal shaken by the lack of welfare ethics in South Africa, convinced that if the Tuli case was anything to go by, we have nothing to learn from them, and in fact, they have a great deal they could learn from us!

The Tuli Block in Botswana is jointly owned by a consortium of wealthy South African businessmen who arbitrarily decided that the area suffered from an overpopulation of elephants, and that a good way of solving the problem in a manner financially advantageous to themselves would be to separate calves between the age of 5 and 10 from their families and sell them to an Animal Trader in South Africa named Riccardo Ghiazza, there to be "trained" by Indonesian "mahouts" in preparation for resale to European Zoos, and worse still, a Safari Park in China incorporating a Circus. Obviously, however, their capture team were not very proficient at aging young elephants, because the 30 calves that were violently snatched from their families during the last few days of July were, in fact, aged between 2 and 6, most of whom would still be suckling,

The calves were immobilised from Helicopters, which swooped and hovered low to drive off the screaming, bellowing, terrified herd so that the recumbent calf could be removed. One mother who resolutely refused to be separated from her baby, despite all the mayhem, ended up immobilised herself, and when she woke up, her calf was gone. They marked her with paint, and then, when the story broke, tried to convince everyone in a phone-in (Daphne included) that they only took the calves the cows "voluntarily gave up" and that the marked cow didn't miss her calf at all!

The commotion of the capture was heard by a Photographer named James Balog who happened to be staying at the same Lodge as the Capture Team and who had been filming the elephants in that very area just the day before. He was, of course, prevented from actually witnessing the seizure, but he heard it from the top of a nearby hill and the distressed screaming and bellowing of the enraged and terrified elephants was easily audible above the din of the Helicopters. This was enough to leave him in no doubt at all about how the elephants had reacted to this brutal violation. The next day he saw them again, and their distress was clearly evident in their steaming temporal glands as they milled about, traumatised and confused .

Having first been held at another staging place, the captured calves were then transferred by road to Mr. Ghiazza's compound near Hartebeesport Dam in South Africa. This is a huge fenced and heavily guarded complex containing unfortunate captives of most of the indigenous hoofed and clawed South African fauna, as well as exotics such as brown bears, tigers and, apparently, even an orangutan that sits in a tiny cage by his bed, rumoured to be a gift from a powerful politician. Obviously he is an Animal Trader of repute and well connected, too, in a country where it appears that anything goes insofar as the live animal trade is concerned, the overriding concern being simply financial.

In his Warehouse, the terrified elephant babies were at the mercy of so-called "mahouts", Indonesians whose training techniques are known to be amongst the most brutal and cruel. Tightly hobbled and chained, the calves were unable to lie down easily and were kept short of food and water, as well as beaten repeatedly and mercilessly with rubber whips, poked and jabbed with ankuses and a pole from which protruded the sharp end of a screw. During training sessions, they were dragged around in circles anchored to a hapless adult Indian Elephant that bore evidence of a lifetime of abuse on its head, and ridden by a mahout. During such sessions, buckets of water were repeatedly hurled at the calf's face, and to enforce further compliance a nylon rope with a hook attached was looped around one ear, so that when tugged, the hook dug into the soft flesh behind the ear.

Soon the calves became even more severely stressed and took on the skeletal look of emaciation, their cheeks sunken, their eyes wide and staring from hollowed sockets, their bodies covered in festering abscesses resulting from all the prods and pokes, their hind legs encircled by raw chain wounds and their heads sporting lumps and bumps caused by heavy blows from a blunt instrument.

At this point, on the 2nd September, 6 weeks after they were first captured, the National Council of the Societies for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals obtained a search warrant and the right to film the elephants, having been alerted to their predicament by Gareth Patterson of lion fame, who himself has been embroiled in a long and bitter struggle against the disgusting "canned lion" form of hunting, another common practice in Southern Africa. What the NSPCA Inspectors saw prompted them to lay cruelty charges against the Trader, who managed, within hours, to get a High Court injunction to prevent the incriminating tape being shown to anyone other than the Expert Witnesses" the NSPCA planned to call for the submission of affidavits. One such witness was Daphne, another Joyce Poole and a third John Wambua, the K.W.S. Chief Veterinarian, since most South African Veterinarians were reluctant to become embroiled. However, it took another 3 weeks for the NSPCA to succeed in getting the tape safely to Kenya, because, mysteriously, it kept on disappearing en route. Finally, it did arrive, and what we viewed left us aghast and disturbed. The abuse to which these baby elephants were being subjected was appalling.

Astonishingly, the Tuli landowners, and their "Experts", many of whom were respected Scientists and Veterinarians, could see nothing wrong in what was happening to the Tuli calves, nor, indeed, could the South African Worldwide Fund for Nature, The Endangered Species Trust and most militant of all, the Rhino Elephant Foundation whose Chairman apparently has close Tuli and Chipperfield Circus connections. Even the South African "guru" on orphaned elephants abstained from speaking up, the best she could manage being that "it was not nice" to see baby elephants chained, but went on to assure everyone that it was unavoidable, later reinforcing the stance of the others with outbursts on the Internet that took on the ring of hysteria as events unfolded. There was, and is, obviously a great divide between the North and South views of the ethics of Animal Welfare and what actually constitutes cruelty.

The rhetoric to justify the capture of the baby elephants was even more astonishing. It was a "mercy mission" they said, intended " save the lives of young elephants that would otherwise succumb to starvation; (photographs taken of them the day before their abduction by James Balog give lie to this statement, for both calves and adults are plump and healthy); only those calves with "reduced bonds with their mothers" and who would not be missed by the family were taken; the area was overpopulated and the owners had therefore tackled this problem "by the only means available to them"; the elephants were "weaned sub-adults,", not calves, revenue from the sale of the elephants would fund the fence to protect the poor peasant farmers etc., etc. More rhetoric poured forth to justify the treatment of the calves - the elephants were "dangerous" and therefore had to be chained; elephants have thick hides and cannot feel as we do; they "loved" their mahouts and had "bonded" with them, therefore it would be cruel to separate them. (As for this, once Joyce and Daphne got down there and were able to see the reaction of the elephants to their mahouts, it didn't take more than just a moment to know that they hated and feared them with every fibre of their being!) Indeed, it would have been surprising had this not been the case for evidence of brutality and trauma were glaringly obvious - in the eyes of the elephants, in the abscesses and wounds, in their vocalisations and their behaviour. Yet, each and every South African expert witness seemed blind to all this, and were adamant that the elephants were not being cruelly treated! The East African contingent was stunned, as were the many international Animal Welfare observers, who, in the eyes of the Rhino Elephant Foundation were all radical Animal Rightists with a sinister "ulterior motive." Even the South African NSPCA was accused of being in the same camp, manipulated by the dreaded Animal Rightists!

The Tali elephant Debacle, as it has become known, unravelled thereafter with the twists and turns of a mystery thriller. On 14th October the NCSPCA won the right in Court to take custody of the elephants; turned up to do so, only to find that the Trader, was already one jump ahead and had managed to appeal the Magistrate's decision, so the elephants had to remain where they were and their "training" continued, albeit with a NSPCA Monitor present. The Appeal Case then ensued and went on for three long weeks in the small town of Brits, North of Johannesburg, during which Expert Witnesses from both sides presented their arguments, Daphne, Joyce, John Wambua and others from England and America for the NSPCA, including Randall Moore from Botswana, once an Elephant Trainer himself. This was a real eye opener for anyone who knows more than just the physiology of elephants because it illustrated graphically how little is known about the nature of these beings further South.

The verdict was eventually given in favour of the NSPCA. They could move the elephants said the Magistrate, but once again were thwarted from doing so when the necessary Movement permit was withheld. Added to this, the Rhino Elephant Foundation had done the rounds of the proposed destinations and persuaded the owners to revoke their earlier commitment to accept them, threatening that the International "Animal Rightists" would descend upon them, something of which they were obviously very fearful! All this gave the Trader the time he needed to be able to persuade the Magistrate to review his earlier decision so that the six calves earmarked for German and Swiss Zoos could be allowed to go. After all, they were already as good as sold since Keepers from these establishments had already selected "their" elephants and were busy "training" them, along with the mahouts. Thereafter, German Animal Welfare Organisations approached the German Government who suspended the Import Permits for the elephants, but this was later reversed by a Court Case brought by the two Zoos concerned, namely Erfurt and Dresden who claimed that the only alternative for the elephants would now be a bullet! Meanwhile, the Swiss were silent, but this came as no surprise for the pro Southern African bias of their CITES delegate is legendary.

Now, the Supreme Court stepped in, deciding that the case must again be reviewed, something that apparently could take another 4 - 6 months! Meanwhile, the NSPCA does have custody of the elephants, but has not been allowed to remove them, because, said the authorities, it would not be in the interests of the elephants' welfare to do so. This is contrary to the advice of all the NSPCA's expert witnesses who were unanimous in urging that in order for the elephants to heal psychologically, it was imperative for them to be moved from the place and people that would always hold sinister connotations for them, but for the South African experts elephant psychology is obviously an alien concept! Meanwhile, the Rhino Elephant Foundation kept on reiterating over the Internet how deeply concerned they were about the welfare of the young elephants -something of a contradiction in view of what they were prepared to overlook earlier. An example of the "welfare" is illustrated in the words of an NSPCA Monitor, a full two months after cruelty charges were leveled against the Trader:

"One elephant was tied up in the Warehouse ... when the elephant simply moved its trunk, or shifted its weight, the mahouts would all hit it. Especially the mahout in front of the elephant who would whip its face with a sjambok I counted that during this total training process of 20 minutes, the elephant was hit or stabbed with an ankus a total of 136 times". And since then, apparently two of the babies have had their trunks mysteriously slashed during the night, one almost severed, whilst another has been blinded in one eye by a whip. Further cruelty charges have been laid by the NSPCA against a mahout who set about a calf with a pitchfork!

Nevertheless, with the NSPCA in charge, at least the brutal training of the elephants has been halted; nor are they now chained at night. Meanwhile, all reputable Airlines have refused to carry the six calves destined for the European Zoos, but the Trader will no doubt find other Carriers. In between tirades focused on the NSPCA Monitors, he vows that the remaining elephants will be going to the Chinese Circus and by sea! What, we wonder, will those South African organisations allegedly so concerned about the welfare of the elephants have to say about this, or will we hear, as we did in court, that the Chinese destination is "a lovely place"! The NSPCA, of course, will oppose this, as will all concerned welfare organisations throughout the world, because it is no secret that the fate in store for the elephants in a Chinese Circus is one far worse than death.

To us, it is unfathomable that anyone in 1998, and particularly professionals involved in conservation, could treat elephants in this way when so much is known about their intelligence, their complex social life, their strong individual and family ties, and above all, their memory and the sophistication of their emotion. Yet this seems an aspect of elephants the South African experts seem unable to even consider, let alone accept. Or is it that they simply do not wish to, finding it more comfortable to close their mind to issues that might be disturbing to

their conscience and interfere with commercial objectives. How long will animals there be viewed merely as a commodity in the "if it Pays, it Stays" philosophy. As Dr. Leakey quite rightly said, Biodiversity must Stay and we must Pay to ensure that it does.

Although the fires, the fuel necessities of Tsavo and the Tuli Elephant Debacle has occupied a great deal of the Trust's time and energy this year, we have managed to be active in other spheres as well. With the Aruba dam now silted up and set to become a grassy flood plain, it was urgent to provide alternative sources of permanent water to cater for Tsavo's long dry seasons, otherwise water dependent creatures would be concentrated again on the only two permanent rivers, leaving large areas of the Park unproductive. Last year, we funded four boreholes at strategic places, and this year we have been busy trying to get them serviceable by installing sunken Control Panels for the submersible pumps so that they can be activated by just one mobile Generator mounted onto the back of a trailer. In the past, generators installed as fixtures at borehole sites have either been vandalized or stolen.

Way back in David's time, a large earth-moving Caterpillar Scraper was a private donation specifically for Tsavo East National Park to deepen natural waterholes and enhance their holding capacity. With David's absence, this machine was spirited away elsewhere until it eventually broke down in Nairobi National Park and lay abandoned for years, there being insufficient funds for its repair. Eventually, with aid from the World Bank it was resuscitated, but despite assurances that it would be returned to Tsavo, it ended up in Amboseli, where it again gave up the ghost. Finally, however, the Trust has been able to bring about the return of this valuable machine to its rightful place, there to be used for the purpose for which it was intended and has also found and funded an experienced Operator who can be trusted to look after it, and who will hopefully be absorbed into the K.W.S. establishment as soon as possible.

With funds painstakingly raised by the children of Bury High School in England, motivated by the energy, enthusiasm and encouragement of their teacher, Jackie Vet, we have been able to sink yet another borehole near the Headquarters to serve the needs of our orphans as well as providing the Headquarters with an alternative supply to the main Mombasa pipeline, thereby saving K.W.S. a considerable monthly outlay. The children of Bury High School also raised the money for the orphans' new Eicher lorry - another extremely stout effort, so their input has been very substantial. We are deeply grateful to them and to Jackie Vet. The Trust is also happy to have been able to offer some unfortunate captive buffalo, long held at the Kabete Research Centre, as well as others from the Nairobi Park Orphanage, a better quality of life on a Ranch abutting Tsavo. We have likewise freed other captives as well, including two duikers, warthogs and even a crocodile, as well as putting a promising Security Officer through his Flying Course, and purchasing tyres and batteries for Field Force vehicles over and above the fuel. And shortly, assisted by members of the Youth for Conservation Wildlife Club, started by Josphat Ngonyo, an employee of the Trust, we will be assisting K.W.S. in the task of clearing snares from the Nairobi National Park and along the two boundaries of Tsavo within reach of the Trust Land on the Athi and Mtito rivers.

And lastly, we are rebuilding the permanent Rhino "Stockades that we funded for the relocation of rhinos to Tsavo and elsewhere from the Nairobi Park breeding population. These were built for us six years ago by a Contractor, but unhappily have not proved as permanent as we had hoped, having been destroyed by termites. This time, we will undertake the work ourselves using steel girders rather than timber. Adequate holding facilities for rhino are essential, since they are fragile animals that succumb easily to disease when stressed. We have learnt through long experience that once a rhino has been subjected to trauma, not only must it be given a long acting antibiotic, but also adequate space in which to be able to move about. When confined in too small an enclosure, they become claustrophobic which simply adds yet another stress level that is counter-productive.

Closer to home, we have rebuilt our own Orphaned Rhino Stockades demolished by Scud during her long convalescence. Renovated and enlarged, they are now spacious five star establishments, occupied by Scud's son, "Magnum" and his companion, "Magnette". Both these orphans will be two years old at the end of January, and as such have outgrown their Nursery quarters. Nevertheless, they certainly did not appreciate being upgraded to the Stockades, irrespective of luxury, and although we were diligent in taking care of all the rhino necessities, such as establishing their dungpiles within the new Stockade so that they would feel at home, providing a soft bed of hay on which to sleep and overhead shelter from the rain. Still, for the first few nights they wailed loud and long until, for the sake of peace, we were forced to pay their Keepers overtime in order to keep them company! Eventually, the night wails subsided, but it does go to illustrate just how traumatic it is for a territorial animal such as a rhino to be moved, even a short distance, being essentially such creatures of habit.

Meanwhile our two rhinos continue their rounds of the wild residents' dungpiles and urinals, an essential prerequisite to the successful introduction and eventual reintegration back into the wild community. They are still accompanied during the day by their Keepers, something that will not change for another year at least. We have also been providing the milk requirements of another young rhino at Lewa Downs, who is about 4 months younger than our own, and who likewise thrives and is growing apace.

As we close, special thanks go to Chris Jordan, Director of Care for the Wild International and Asgar Pathan, his Kenyan counterpart, who have been such staunch friends and allies both to the Trust and personally to Daphne, and who can always be counted on in times of need. We are grateful also to the German, Danish, Canadian and American branches of Care for the Wild and to the Eden Wildlife Trust for their ongoing support. Esther and Philipp Wolf and their loyal volunteers have again single-handedly raised sizeable sums of money for us. We owe thanks to Hans and Barbara Rohring of Rettet die Elefanten Afrikas, Germany, and Gunther Peter of AGA Germany, for their substantial financial assistance; to Elefriends Australia and the Australian Fund for Animals as well as the Swedish Foreningen Forsvar Elefanterna who likewise are longstanding donors. We thank Monty Ruben and Will Travers of the Born Free Foundation for responding promptly to a plea for help when the fires hit Tsavo West, and lastly, but by no means least, we thank all our Staff and the trusty Volunteers who have come so willingly to help take care of the public visiting hour when the rhinos take their midday mudbath. It is 12 years now since we first opened our doors to the public on a daily basis, and it makes a welcome break for us to have someone else to answer all the questions and deliver the daily rhino or elephant spiel! But, special mention must again be made of the Bury Church of England High School children for their incredible donation of 10,000 sterling pounds towards the Tsavo East Headquarter Borehole, funds raised entirely through their own initiative.

Finally, to end on a happy theme, one of Eleanor's proteges, orphan Lissa, who is now 13, recently returned to pay a visit to the Stockades, accompanied by a young female of about Malaika's age. Lissa is heavily pregnant, and so we anticipate a happy event early in the New Year. There is still no sign, or news, of Eleanor herself, although her friend, the wild Matriarch known as "Catherine" (and the one who downed Daphne) is a regular visitor to the Stockades, and often joins the or orphans out in the bush. She has within her group little Mpenzi, whom Eleanor "hijacked" from Malaika's custody some years back, and who subsequently turned up, along with the others, in Catherine's family, so as caretaker of Eleanor's commitments in her absence, this wild cow, "Catherine", is another example of the caring and understanding nature of elephants.

Finally, we are happy to report that the Trust is, at last, not without some trepidation, being assisted to get in step with the times by having its own website on the Internet, courtesy of a very kind Canadian donor, Paul MacKenzie -http://www.sheldrickwildlifetrust.org. We are deeply indebted to Mr. Mackenzie for this very modern donation which will enable us to impart to others knowledge gained over a lifetime.

HAPPY 1999 TO EVERYONE And PLEASE SPARE A THOUGHT FOR THE TRAGIC TULI BABIES

Everyone must work towards closing the loophole in the International Convention on Trade in Endangered Species that permits this sort of abuse. Surely the time has come when people everywhere should understand that elephants share with us similar emotional sensitivities and are sophisticated beings worthy of humane treatment, compassion and respect. We trust that our South African counterparts will soften their hearts and spare the Tuli babies the unspeakable suffering of a lifetime of abuse, cruelty and bondage in a Chinese Circus and that no more babies will be wrenched from their living families and relegated to a life of imprisonment in a foreign land. After all, in this day and age it is possible to make lifelike replicas of the living animal, and depict it on film doing what it should be doing in its natural habitat. There can be nothing educational in viewing a captive elephant turned psychotic through misery, far from its family and friends.

Everyone can help prevent other baby elephants being subjected to what those of Tuli and their elephant families have had to endure. Make your abhorrence of this cruelty known where it counts most - in Southern Africa and at the relevant Zoos, and at the South African Embassy of your country. Everyone and anyone can make a difference simply by doing this.

Write to Mr. Michael Farr, Executive Director of the South African Tourist Board, Private Bag X164, Pretoria 000 1 1 South Africa; Fax No. +27 (012) 347 8536 (because a boycott of tourism will hurt)

Mr. E. Steyn, and Mr. M. Rattray, Mashatu Game Reserve, PO. Box 2575, Randburg 2125, South Africa (Tuli Landowners). Fax No. +27 (011) 886 4382.

The Rhino Elephant Foundation, PO. Box 381, Bedfordview 2008, South Africa, marked for the Attention of Mr. Andrew McKenzie or Mr. Chris Styles. Fax+27 (011) 453 7649.

President Mandela, Office of the President, Private Bag X 1000, Pretoria 000 1, South Africa.

Fax No. +27 (012) 319 1582 or +27 21 461 9340 or +27 12 323246

Dr. Pallo Jordan, Minister for Environmental Affairs & Tourism, Private Bag X447, Pretoria 000 1, South Africa, Fax No. +27 (012) 323 518 1.

Derek Hanekom, Minister of Agriculture, Private Bag X250, Pretoria, 000 1, South Africa.

Fax +27 (012) 321 1244.

President Festus Mogae, Office of the President, Private Bag 00 1, Gaberone, Botswana.

Fax No. +267 312 525.

Mr. Sedia Modise, Director, Department of Wildlife & National Parks, Gaberone, Botswana.

Fax No. +267 312 354.

European Elephant Group, Alexander Hautellner Am Koglerberg 7,82031 Grunwald, Germany.

Fax No. +49 89 649 19378.

Dr. Hubert Luecker, Director, Dresden Zoo, Tiergartenstr. 1, 0 1219 Dresden, Germany.

Fax No. +49 351 4718625.

Dr. Norbert Neuschulz, Director, Erfurt Zoo, Zum Zoopark 8,99087, Erfurt, Germany.

Fax No. +49 361 7913604.

Dr. Peter Studer, Director, Basle Zoo, Basle, Switzerland. Fax No. +41 61 2810005.

President Ruth Dreifuss, Swiss Federal Department of the Interior, Inselgasse 3003, Berne, Switzerland. Fax No. +41 31 32 27 901

Bundesurnweltminister Juergen Trittin, Germany. Fax No. +49 228 3052046.

Bundeskanzler Schroeder. Fax No. +49 228 562357 (German Head of State).

For more information on How To Help please click here.

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