Kenya's elephants are being thrown a much-needed lifeline in response to mounting threats and the resurgence of the world's illegal ivory trade. Creating elephant-friendly and elephant-free zones, along with wildlife corridors and heightened law enforcement, are some of the bold initiatives to be rolled out as part of Kenya's first 10-year national strategy for the conservation and management of elephants.
Developed by conservationists from the Zoological Society of London (ZSL), the Kenya Wildlife Service and other partner organisations, the strategy's launch comes after a recent surge in poaching. This worrying development is sparking fears of a re-run of the catastrophic slaughter of elephants in Kenya during the 1970s and 1980s, which resulted in numbers crashing from 167,000 to just 20,000 individuals.
Rajan Amin, a senior conservation biologist at ZSL who has been one of the lead authors in compiling the strategy, says: "Kenya is surrounded by countries in conflict and the continual and inevitable flow of arms is rendering the nation and its elephants at constant risk; all the more worrying in the face of a growing demand for ivory.
"The launch of this ground-breaking national strategy comes at a critical time for Kenya's remaining 35,000 elephants. As well as tackling the pressing issue of poaching, overcoming the challenges associated with Kenya's growing human population will be essential if we are to secure a safe and lasting future for this national treasure."
Kenyan elephant coordinator Dr Shadrack Ngene, says: "The elephant is a keystone species and maintaining a healthy population is vital to the long term ecological integrity of its entire habitat. Feeding from the strategy's seven key objectives, specific actions and measurable targets will now begin to be implemented at both local and national level to help maintain and grow elephant populations in Kenya."
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