African elephants (Loxodonta africana) are not new in the hirola’s geographical range. As a matter of fact elephant populations are historically known to occupy these areas until their extermination through poaching in the 1970’s and 1980’s. Their loss from the hirola native range largely contributed to tree encroachment in the available grasslands resulting in less grass for the hirola herds (this is because elephants are known to control tree encroachment by breaking and uprooting trees as they feed).
But more recently we have been receiving sighting reports of elephant within the conservancy and one notorious matriarch family that forced their way into the electric fenced sanctuary (late last year). With organized efforts of our rangers and research team based in Ishaqbini conservancy, the rangers confirmed their presence in the sanctuary and jumbos seem to have no plans to leave the sanctuary. Since the first time the jumbos were reported to have forced their way into the fenced sanctuary, our research team and the rangers at the sanctuary have been interested to know the whereabouts of these magnificent jumbo family.
Efforts to see them have been thwarted by their peculiar wariness of our teams in patrol (probably due to the historical persecution of their family members by marauding poachers killing them for their tusks). With efforts to know more about the herd, we recently deployed camera traps at waterholes in the sanctuary and guess what! we have been able to document their sightings as they visit the water holes (especially at night!) and we plan to use this info to monitor their movements and eventually learn how they use the landscape.
The sanctuary matriarch comprises of eight individuals including a young calf probably one and half year’s old . They are a very shy lot and would always try to avoid contact with our patrol teams and spend most of their time in thick bushes within the fenced sanctuary. Their current comeback and presence and feeding in the sanctuary and conservancy is an advantage to the wildlife populations in the area and would probably help in the reduction of tree cover that has been documented to increase in the hirola’s range. this is both a win-win situation for the wildlife as it means that there will be more grass cover for all!
Along the banks of river Tana, rangers have also repeatedly reported seeing elephants as they comfortably crossed and fed on the riverine vegetation. This is very interesting news and indicates that elephants are slowly maikng a comeback to these historically volatile areas that now willingly accomodates them. Thanks to conservation awareness efforts in the area.