Meet Arruba

The Real Africa Trust continues to donate money directly to the David Sheldrick Wildlife Trust, a pioneering conservation organisation working to protect wildlife and habitats across East Africa.  

The DSWT runs the most successful orphan-elephant rescue and rehabilitation programme in the world. The nursery unit, pictured above, is based in Nairobi National Park, Kenya and it was here that I first met Kithaka, the elephant Real Africa adopted back in November 2013. Kithaka continues to thrive and will soon be moving from the Nairobi National Park nursery unit to Ithumba, ready to be rehabilitated back to the wild. When we first met Kithaka he was so small and vulnerable that it is hard to believe he is about to move to the Ithumba unit, as a strong young bull elephant, and this is all testament to the work of the Sheldrick Trust. We eagerly await his progress. In the knowledge that Kithaka is about to move on to the next stage, we felt the time was right to adopt another elephant – a calf just starting their journey in the nursery unit. So, in the New Year we adopted Arruba.You can read Arruba’s story below.

In recent months, with poaching escalating once again in East Africa, the Sheldrick Trust has been called on to rescue many tiny distressed elephants. Without their help, these calves would have perished. We recently heard of a tiny newborn calf, Ndotto, who was rescued at just 2 days old from the Ndoto Mountains in Kenya’s far north. Ndotto was found very confused in a throng of sheep and goats.  Ndotto is now being looked after in the nursery. You can see three pictures of the rescue mission to the left. Even on New Year’s day the team were in action attempting to help an emaciated calf found trapped in a gulley in Laikipia – sadly help came too late and on this occasion, the calf did not survive for more than a few days. However the Sheldrick Trust successfully rescued three babies in January.  A tiny calf was rescued from the Sera Conservancy, Northern Kenya on January 3rd. Hamsini struggled with a terrible septic wound on his back caused from a torrid time while being trapped in a well. He also suffered terrible bruising from the fall, and a lung infection. It has been a tricky month for Hamsini but we are hopeful with the right care that he will start to put on weight and his condition improve ; another calf of around 15 months, name Boromoko (pictured bottom right) was rescued from the plains of the Masai Mara on January 5th and has settled in the nursery well, being exceedingly loving; and then, on the 26th, yet another orphan was rescued close to Narok, a heavily populated area.  Her name is Siangiki which means young girl in Masai.  She came in a collapsed state but thankfully the Trust has managed to retrieve her from the brink and she is now safely out with the others and beautifully settled. Often it is not clear how the calves came to be separated from their mothers.

 Arruba’s story

On Tuesday 28th May 2013 a young female elephant calf was sighted by the Kenyan Wildlife Service maintenance team who were erecting a new electric fence in the Aruba Dam area of Tsavo East National Park. The elephant calf was reported to be desperate, and quite evidently alone. Due to the new fence, the baby was trapped and confused.

The period the calf had been trapped within the fenced area was unknown, as is the fate of the calf’s mother and the rest of its herd. It is suspected that the calf and it’s mother might have strayed into the new fenced area and the mother somehow lost the calf on exiting the enclosure and was unable to find her way back in to retrieve her baby. Another possibility is that the calf is an ivory-orphan, as eight elephants were brutally poached in nearby Ndara.

The David Sheldrick Wildlife Trust’s Voi Stockades in Tsavo East were alerted. The head Keeper of the Voi Stockades contacted the DSWT Nairobi HQ that afternoon to make the arrangements for a rescue plane from Nairobi to come the following morning, as darkness was already setting in.

So the new calf, who was estimated to be approximately 8 months old, put up a huge fight when the Voi Keepers arrived at the scene, with Arruba escaping their attempts at rescuing her and reacting extremely aggressively to their presence. Yet the Keepers eventually succeeded in capturing her and loaded her into the waiting vehicle to be transported back to the Voi Stockades.
On arrival at the Voi Stockades, the calf began to settle down and thankfully drank, having arrived in a very dehydrated state. There had been no access to water within the fenced area where she was found. Apart from a few bruises and minor abrasions the calf was in good condition.

The presence of the other orphans at the Voi Stockades was a huge comfort to the new arrival who desperately needed love and reassurance. Shimba, who is recovering remarkably from lion attack injuries, was a great help in getting the calf settled down, stretching his trunk through the stockade fence to offer affection and encouragement and reassurance.

In Nairobi on the morning of the 29th, the Nairobi team and plane were ready to depart on their mission having been briefed the previous evening. Three of the Nairobi Keepers set off to Nairobi’s domestic airport at 9am to catch the rescue plane to Voi in Tsavo East where the Voi Keepers were preparing the calf for her plane journey to Kenya’s capital city.

After a smooth flight with clear views of Mount Kilimanjaro, the Chyulu Hills and the great expanse of Tsavo, the plane landed on Voi’s airstrip, which is located only a few kilometres from the Voi Stockades. On arrival at the stockades it was obvious that the orphan was going to be a handful to re-capture as she was still wild and fearful. Those who were still present to keep a careful eye on the new baby included some of Voi’s big ex-orphans including Emily, Lolokwe and Icholta.

The entire stockade’s workforce and the Nairobi Keepers were all needed to help to get the new arrival restrained and on the ground in order to brace her legs and keep her safe and secure during the flight. With all hands on deck the calf showed huge amounts of strength in managing to evade being taken down, yet after a few minutes she succumbed to the keepers, whilst ex-orphan Emily bellowed and stomped around the stockades concerned about what was happening to her.
The calf was quite a weight and again all hands were needed to lift her into the waiting vehicle and to get her to the airstrip. The transfer went smoothly and within half an hour the calf was being lifted into the plane, strapped securely inside with an IV drip administered to ensure she stayed hydrated during the flight, and a mild sedation to keep her calm.

Saying farewell to all of the Voi staff the Nairobi Keepers climbed into the plane alongside the calf, keeping her reassured and making sure she was as comfortable as possible during the journey. The orphan gave into exhaustion during the flight and fell into a peaceful sleep, awoken when the plane arrived back in Nairobi.

A DSWT vehicle was waiting at the airstrip and the calf was soon on her way to the DSWT Nairobi Nursery in Nairobi National Park. At 2.30pm she had finally reached her final destination and was carried into her stockade. After untying her, the Nairobi Keepers carefully lifted off the blanket covering her face, which was keeping her quiet and calm, and helped her up. Unsteady on her feet she stood, rather dazed, in the shade of her stockade eyeing the humans surrounding her warily yet being too tired to fight them off, she seemed to know she was in a safe place with caring people to look after her.
This calf was lucky to have been found alive and well as the area in which she was sighted is a favourite place for the infamous Tsavo lions.

It took Arruba a good few days to calm down and feed on milk, and once she trusted the Keepers enough to follow them she was let out of the confines of her stockade to join the Nursery orphans. By this time she knew them as they had been brought to her stockade for every feed time in an effort to coax her into drinking the milk formula that she seemed so reluctant to take.

Once out with the others elephant communication worked its magic yet again, and it was as if she knew the ropes from the outset – even venturing to the public viewing between 11 -12 with the others, seemingly unperturbed, a far cry from the frightened calf that only a week before was brought to the safety of the Voi stockades.

You can find out more about the DSWT here.

Many clients travelling with Real Africa to Kenya elect to stopover in Karen, a leafy suburb of Nairobi, for a night to enable them to visit the DSWT nursery unit in person. If this is of interest then please do let us know. There are two viewings, a public 1 hour viewing at lunchtime daily, and a private visit daily at 5pm, for those wishing to adopt an elephant.

 

By Sara White

 

Elephants on Wimbledon Common!

 

On Saturday 7th June you will get the chance to see elephants on Wimbledon Common because it’s the Enormous Elephant Run. OK, OK…….maybe it will actually be people dressed up as elephants but it’s all for an excellent cause!

Elephants Under Threat:  Dressing up like an elephant might sound fun, which it will be, but there’s a serious reason behind it too. Every day, (yes, that’s every single day!) nearly 100 elephants are killed for their tusks which threaten the future of all the elephant herds roaming Africa. Many elephants targeted by poachers have milk dependent calves, and without family or a mother, an infant elephant has little chance of survival alone. This is where the Sheldrick Trust step in.

The David Sheldrick Wildlife Trust:  The Enormous Elephant Run is organised by the David Sheldrick Wildlife Trust, which works to protect all wildlife and habitats in Kenya. As you know here at Real Africa we support the Sheldrick Trust financially and we sponsor young elephant and rhinos who have been orphaned by poaching in Kenya. A couple of months ago our Marketing Manager Sara went to visit Kithaka our cheeky little elephant to see how he was getting on. You can read all about it on her blog post here.  You can also help the Sheldrick Trust directly or by supporting one of their many active campaigns.

Trust Campaigns: Through the iworry campaign, the Trust successfully organised the single largest public demonstration for elephants on Friday October 4th 2013. The International March for Elephants resulted in more than 18,000 people from around the world taking to the streets in support of elephants and to urge world leaders to take measure to stop the poaching, stop the trade and stop the demand for ivory. The Trust is calling for a complete ban on all international and domestic trade in ivory and urging governments around the world to invest more resources into wildlife protection at a field level, to strengthen penalties for those involved in the illicit ivory trade and to heighten security at ports and borders, as well as to invest in educational efforts to stop the demand for ivory.

The Enormous Elephant Run:  You can help the Sheldrick Trust in their vital work by either joining the enormous Elephant Run or by sponsoring someone else. By joining the Enormous Elephant Run, you’ll help raise vital funds to protect the iconic African Elephant – as well as having a great time with like-minded people. You will be provided with the elephant suit and a medal – and you even get to keep the elephant suit! In return the Trust are asking everyone to try and raise £200 or more in sponsorship money. This would fund one of their Mobile Vet Units and Anti-Poaching Teams for one day, saving countless animals including elephants. The trust will give you lots of help beforehand, and will be sending runners a Fundraising Guide full of ideas. Wearing your Elephant Suit will probably help you secure donations too if you are brave enough!  There are various options you can take part in and you do not have to be an athlete – you can walk or jog the 5K or the 10K!

Time and Location: The race starts at 11.05 on Saturday 7th June 2014 and it starts and finishes outside the Wimbledon Windmill Museum, Windmill Road, Wimbledon Common, London SW19 5NR. Remember though you must register first so please go to the website if you wish to take part in the run. If you don’t want to run you can still go along to watch and support this great event.

 http://www.runforelephants.com/

Good Luck everyone!

Posted by Ruth

Conservation News from South Africa

Great news in the conservation battle to save the rhino in South Africa. A well-known philanthropist (the Howard G. Buffett Foundation) has donated R255 million (USD $23.7 million) to fund a three-year programme to combat rhino poaching in South Africa. The programme will focus on saving the rhino in the Kruger National Park which has been subject to some of the worst poaching in the whole of Africa. It will also try out new and untested anti-poaching tactics which can then hopefully be rolled out across other African nations suffering from poaching.

The Kruger National Park in South Africa is home to over 40% of the world’s remaining 22,000 rhinos and is home to the largest single population of rhinos in the world. Sadly it has also been home to the worst poaching crisis in living memory. Since January 2010, 1,383 rhinos have been poached from the park. More than a thousand rhinos were poached in 2013 and 172 have been poached since the beginning of 2014.

Globally rhino poaching increased 5000% between 2007 and 2012, with one killed by a poacher every ten hours. Since 2004 the Central Africa region has lost two-thirds of its elephant population, and last year saw the Western Black Rhino declared extinct.

It is interesting that the South Africa government have been given this money at this time. The UK government hosted an international conference on illegal wildlife trade only a month ago (13 Feb. 2014). The conference brought together global leaders to help eradicate illegal wildlife trade and better protect the world’s most iconic species from the threat of extinction. The London Declaration contains commitments for practical steps to end the illegal trade in rhino horn, tiger parts and elephant tusks that fuels criminal activity worth over $19 billion each year. Botswana will be hosting a further conference next year to assess how plans are being put into effect. Key states, including Botswana,  China,  Ethiopia, Indonesia, Tanzania, and Vietnam, alongside the United States and Russia, all signed up to actions that will help eradicate the demand for wildlife products, strengthen law enforcement, and support the development of sustainable livelihoods for communities affected by wildlife crime.

The South African government have been heavily criticised by conservation groups and other nations for their refusal to attend. This caused uproar at the time but the government defended its actions by claiming that they have a different opinion on how to halt the poaching crisis. This injection of funds from the Buffet Foundation may allow the South African government to prove that their ideas do in fact work.

The donation was announced by the foundation, together with the Nature Conservation Trust, and SANParks. The bank who will be handling the funds have agreed to provide favourable banking fees and interest on the funds. Some argue that the funds should be handled free of charge so that no one will be making a profit from this important scheme and many others in the conservation world are concerned that with such huge sums of money involved much may be lost through so called “consultants” fees or corruption. However in general the huge sum of money is very welcomed by all and it should make a massive difference to the conservation battle.

The plan is that the funds will create an Intensive Protection Zone (IPZ) within the Kruger National Park by using sophisticated detection and tracking equipment, strengthened infrastructure on the ground and in the air, to be combined with elite canine units and highly trained ranger teams. Kruger’s IPZ will also serve as a testing ground to inform targeted efforts to combat poaching in these other African regions.

“The scale, complexity, and strategic value of this initiative is truly unprecedented for SANParks, and we believe will be transformative in our ongoing efforts to address poaching and the decimation of the rhino population in Kruger National Park,” said SANParks CEO, David Mabunda. He added that the lessons SANParks hoped to learn could be shared across the continent.

“We would like to assure you, Mr Howard Buffet, that we are determined not to lose this fight. We as South Africa certainly do not intend to capitulate and lose the battle for the survival of key members of the iconic Big Five,” said Minister of Environmental Affairs, Edna Molewa. “We hope that your donation will spur more philanthropists to get involved in such a worthy cause. The rhino of South Africa are important to the whole world,” she added.

Posted by Ruth

How many elephants are left in Africa?

“Our window of opportunity to tackle the growing illegal ivory trade is closing. If we do not stem the tide, future generations will condemn our unwillingness to act.”

If we want to save the elephant (and that’s where we are, we’re not helping or protecting, we’re trying to save) we need to know how many there are left. We need to study where the main populations are and whether they can reach each other or are isolated. We need to know whether they live within the safer environment of a National Park or reserve, or live in places where they are more vulnerable to poaching and encroachment on their environment. Current population estimates are between 400,000 and 650,000, but are based generally on guestimates. 35,000 were killed in 2012. 75% of all forest elephants have been killed in the last 10 years. This is our last chance.

Of course, after many years of conservation and study, we do have a fairly good grasp of some of these issues, especially in those countries where animals conservation has been a key issue.  Its estimated ( or at least hoped in a couple of cases) that elephants now live in 35 African countries. Originally they were recorded in 46. One problem is that in 20 of the 35, total elephant populations are down to less than 1,000 individuals, in some countries spread out over vast areas. Some for the countries just don’t have a viable population to survive. Its doubtful whether elephants can survive in Western Africa and the population of Congo has been all but wiped out during the civil war.

Its equally depressing if you look at the areas they live in. They now exist in approximately 15% of the area they used to cover. Population growth has led to the exploitation of land they used to feed on, either to create farms or to graze with domestic animals. Buildings, fences and roads have been put across traditional migration routes, in some places making them impassable. Forests have been cleared for their timber. Elephants are seen as a nuisance, pushing down trees, trampling fields and eating crops, yet they, like the indigenous human populations, they are simply trying to survive.

A vital step in trying to help the elephant is to do a comprehensive survey of the elephant population.  This will allow protection resources to be concentrated on areas with viable populations, and conservation to help areas where the elephant is on the brink. And help has come from Paul Allen, one of the Microsoft founders. He’s agreed to fund just such a survey to be undertaken during the dry season of 2014. Three small planes and 2 helicopters will fly a grid pattern over thirteen of the remaining countries with elephant populations, allowing a real insight into how the populations are fairing.

Indeed the Americans are currently leading the way in the fight to help the elephant. The Clinton Foundation is funding a partnership to Save the elephant, targeting “stop the killing, stop the trafficking, stop the demand.” On 14th November President Clinton announced that the stockpile of illegal ivory confiscated in the United States was to be destroyed. On live TV, broadcast to the nation, it will all be crushed. Its hoped that such a public display against the ivory trade will spur other nations into taking action.

A conference on Ivory poaching has just finished in Botswana. It was agreed to  bring in harsh new measures against the trade, including making poaching and ivory trafficking a more serious crime that qualified for Interational Crime prevention agency assistance. Among the African countries who signed, there was also China, Vietnam, Malaysia, the Philippines and Thailand. This is where the demand comes from and this is where thr problem must be tackled. Its a start but nothing more. Last week an ivory haul was seized in Xiamen in China. 6 tonnes. 3,188 tusks. The African elephant cannot take much more.

As Botswana President Ian Khama stated, “Our window of opportunity to tackle the growing illegal ivory trade is closing. If we do not stem the tide, future generations will condemn our unwillingness to act. Now is the time for Africa and Asia to join forces.” Add the US and Europe to that, and there may be a glimmer of hope.

Does he have a future?

Real Africa Charities: The David Sheldrick Wildlife Trust

The Sheldrick Trust’s elephant orphanage is located in the south of Nairobi, on the edge of Nairobi National Park. It’s here that baby elephants, usually discovered when their mothers have been killed by poachers, are brought and looked after.

Its a race against the clock. They may have been by themselves for several days, dehydrated and injured. Some have the machete wounds of where the poachers tried to kill them, despite the fact they have no tusks at such a young age. The keepers will travel to where the elephant is and try to get them drinking milk. Often they are flown back to the orphanage where they can be put in a dark stall with a keeper and reassured that they are not going to be harmed.

When they are considered ready, they are introduced to the other orphans, who crowd up to them, both curious about the new arrival and wanting to reassure them. All the orphans are fed milk every few hours, indeed the keepers sleep in their stalls with them so they can be fed throughout the night.

Several days a week, between 11 and 12, the orphanage opens so that visitors can visit and watch the orphans being bottle fed. They come charging out, going straight to their own handlers and drinking the bottles down in seconds. They then play with footballs or in the mud pools, while you are told about the orphanage and the Trust. The rest of the day they are off foraging in the scrub on the edge of the National Park under the watchful eye of their handlers.

On average, the orphans will stay at the centre until they are two, at which point they are moved down to the Rehabilitation Centre in Tsavo National Park. Here the elephants live as a herd, learning to live on the local plants and learning to fend for themselves. As they get older and more confident they tend to leave the herd and join up with herds of wild elephants. The males will join a bull herd and the females a family group.

This completes their journey, as from these elephants they learn the final skills of how to live and survive in the wild. There biggest challenge then is to escape the attention of the poachers – in the first 3 months of 2013 Kenya lost 70 elephants to poaching.

The Real Africa Trust supports the Sheldrick anti-poaching efforts and were in Nairobi in early April to make its annual donation. We were allowed to go behind the scenes at the orphanage, seeing the stalls where the orphans live as well as spending 30 minutes with them as they fed and played in the National Park.

We also saw a tiny elephant – only two or three days old who’d just arrived by plane in the centre. He’d been found lost in Tsavo, most probably after the slaughter of his mother for her tusks. He was being kept in a dark stable, with just his keeper, to whom he was already attached and kept his tiny trunk in the man’s overall pocket for reassurance.

If he survives the first couple of weeks he’ll be fine and will grow fit and strong under the excellent and expert supervision of the Trust. But how many other baby elephants have to go through this trauma just so some idiot can have ivory door  knobs or trinkets? That is where the problem needs to be solved, by the Governments of the countries where the ivory is in demand doing something about it.