Thursday, September 10, 2009

The Kenyan drought is also taking a toll on elephants

As another example of how bad the drought is in Kenya, now even the elephants are dying. 40 elephants have died in the last two months, and there are no traces of disease found in them.

For more on the droughts effects on Kenya's nature, we go to this Associated Press article hosted at Google News, written by Katharine Houreld.

The bones of the elephants bleaching under a relentless African sun underscore how bad the drought is. It has killed hundreds of cattle and many acres (hectares) of crops, threatening the lives of people who depended on them for food. There are no tallies of deaths among people attributed to the drought but the U.N.'s World Food program said recently that 3.8 million Kenyans are at risk and need emergency food aid.

Zoologist Iain Douglas-Hamilton, who founded Save the Elephants, said the drought is the worst he has seen in 12 years and poses a serious threat to the large and majestic animals, whose striking silhouettes roaming Kenya's broad savannah help draw 1 million tourists each year.

"It may be related to climate change, and the effect is elephants, particularly the young and the old, have began to die," he told AP Television News on Monday. "When they do not have enough food they also seem to be vulnerable to disease, their immune system weakens and they catch all sorts of diseases."

Instead of majestic, many elephants are pitiable.

Elephants, which have no predators, must roam widely to get their daily ration of as much as 200 liters (52 gallons) of water and about 300 kilograms (660 pounds) of grass, leaves and twigs. But the water is disappearing and the grass is all but gone.

In the Samburu National Reserve, APTN video showed a baby elephant appearing to struggle to extract moisture from a dry riverbed. It repeatedly drew its empty trunk up to its mouth. Along the banks of a river in the shadow of Mount Kenya, whose glaciers have been shrinking, an elephant's carcass lay in the baking sun. A dirt field was littered with elephant bones.

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