Five elephants killed in 8 months in Enduimet by trophy hunters

Jun 10, 2024 | News

By Gilbert Koech,The Star

Five elephants have been killed within the Enduimet Wildlife Management Area of Tanzania by trophy hunters in the last eight months.

This is according to the conservation organisation Big Life Foundation.

The foundation said the killing follows a 29-year period during which elephants were protected from trophy hunters within Enduimet as a result of an unofficial moratorium agreed on in the mid-90s.

“We don’t know the reasons for Tanzania’s change of heart but can only guess that it boils down to money,” Big Life founder Richard Bonham said.

The Amboseli elephants are a unique cross-border population shared between Kenya and Tanzania.

The ecosystem includes Amboseli National Park and the surrounding conservancies and lands in Kenya and the Enduimet Wildlife Management Area and beyond in Tanzania.

There are currently about 2,000 elephants in this ecosystem.

To protect them, a moratorium on trophy hunting of this cross-border elephant population was agreed upon in 1995.

Late last year, conservation organisations said two adult males with tusks reportedly weighing over 45 kilos were shot south of the border in Tanzania.

A third elephant is reported to have been shot in the same area last month. As of March 10, a further three licenses are said to have been granted, raising alarm and putting the lives of the Amboseli elephant population in jeopardy.

For 51 years, these elephants have been closely studied by the Amboseli Elephant Research Project.

It is the longest continuously running study of elephants in the world and one of the longest studies of any animal.

Each elephant is known individually, has a code number or name, and is documented photographically.

Birth dates for all but a few of the older individuals are known, as are those of the mother, the family and, in some cases, the father.

A detailed database contains every elephant identified over five decades, including births and deaths, and numbers over 4,000 individuals.

A linked database captures every recorded sighting.

The Amboseli data is an extraordinarily rich and important body of knowledge.

Each individual and each record is a building block that underpins this immense scientific achievement gained over the past half century.

Much of what is known about elephant behaviour, communication, social structure, demography, reproduction, and genetics has resulted from this study.

There are 63 elephant families in the Amboseli population, of which 17 families, consisting of 365 members, regularly spend time in Tanzania.

Bonham said Amboseli’s elephants are habituated to humans, making them easy targets for hunters, and they frequently cross the border between Kenya and Tanzania because the ecosystem spans both countries.

“The identities of the dead elephants are not known, aside from 35-year-old Gilgil, identified by the Amboseli Trust for Elephants. The hunting companies burned their bodies and refused to provide photos; however, we know that Gilgil and at least one other elephant were tuskers in their reproductive prime,” Bonham said.

 Tuskers are bull elephants with at least one ivory tusk weighing more than 45 kilos.

There are estimated to be fewer than 50 in all of Africa, and at least 10 of them live in the Amboseli ecosystem that Big Life helps to protect.

“Tuskers are rare and physically magnificent, but Big Life strives to protect all elephants, regardless of their tusk size.  One of the ways we do this is by supporting 20 rangers in two mobile units in Tanzania’s Enduimet Wildlife Management Area, just across the border from Amboseli. It is especially painful for those rangers to know that the very animals they have dedicated their lives to protecting are now at risk of being legally shot by trophy hunters,” Bonham said.

 He added: “We are outraged. But because hunting is legal in Tanzania, there’s not much we can do inside Tanzania besides working with partners to petition the authorities to stop issuing permits to hunt elephants in this cross-border population. In the meantime, our rangers in Enduimet will continue to protect those elephants from the illegal threats they still face.”

Over 50 conservation organisations have petitioned Tanzanian President Samia Suluhu to order an immediate ban on elephant trophy hunting.

The organisations warn that ongoing trophy hunting in the Enduimet area of Tanzania risks wiping out the shared resource.

WildlifeDirect, Wildlife Conservation and Management Professionals Society of Kenya, ElephantVoices, Ulinzi Africa Foundation, Amboseli Trust for Elephants, and Save the Elephants have signed the petition.

Other signatories are the Conservancies Association of Kenya, Luigi Footprints Foundation, Maniago Safaris, Wildlife Clubs of Kenya, Teens For Wildlife, Stand Up Shout Out, Nature Kenya, Amboseli Ecosystem Trust, Action For Cheetah Kenya, Big Life Foundation, and Conservation Alliance of Kenya.

“We implore you to recognise the scientific, ecological, and economic value of the Amboseli elephants and to grant permanent protection to these icons of Africa in the cross-border area that is part of their regular range,” the petitioners say.

The organisations want Suluhu to formalise regulations to ban hunting of elephants in Enduimet Wildlife Management Area, Narco Ranch, Longido GCA, Lake Natron East GCA, and Lake Natron North GCA, and collaborate with Kenya to find alternative conservation strategies that ensure the Amboseli elephants’ protection.

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