Elephants ‘Maternity Ward’ under siege

Burning of indigenous trees for charcoal to pave way for cultivation

By Charles Lepantas Leshore

Located in Ngurumani, Magadi ward, Kajiado County is The Mukinyo Elephants Maternity Ward.

 It has for many years been identified and preserved by the local community as a safe haven for elephants to give birth.

It is now a site under siege, brought about by distructive human activity that is a time bomb for human-wildlife conflict.

Elephants usually camp there for months after having travelled for long distances from as far as from the Maasai Mara to give birth there.

It is a well vegetated environment endowed with very green bushes and indigenous trees whose that provide food and nice shelter for the elephants.

The availability of water from the Ewaso Nyiro river adds to the list of advantages that the animals consider before making the long journey to the small Mukinyo Forest to deliver calves. 

Elephants look for areas with no disturbances so that they can concentrate and witness as the females elephant deliver calves.

The practice will seize if nothing is not done is done to stop the influx of farmers who are encroaching their safe haven and clearing bushes, trees and burning charcoal.

The practice is motivated by Mukinyo being a wetland area that is ideal place for Agriculture.

Besides being a maternity ward, it is also home to other wildlife that include the Columbus   monkeys, gazelles and baboons among others.

Ironically the area neighbors the Kenya Wildlife Service, Ngurumani Station, the Olkiramatian /Shompole community conservancies, ICIPE and the KETRI research field stations.

Also nearby is Lalenok Conservation and Research Centre run by Soralo/ACC but despite their presence, the destruction has not raised their eyebrows.

Wildlife ,natural and cultural heritage activist Charles Leshore showcasting the extent of damage on the heritage site.

 There is need to engage some of the land owners to offer them compensation and safeguard the sanctuary similar to what happened at Reteti Elephant Sanctuary that is supported by the North Rangeland Trust in Samburu East. 

Partners Big Wildlife, Northern Rangeland Trust and Conservation Development Center among others have offered to help Olkiramatian Conservancy safeguard the site for the community to use it as learning centre and embrace conservation.

About elephant’s delivery and birth

According to research, elephants are known to have strong family bonds.

For instance, mother elephant literary takes a maternity leave of up to three months to nurse their newborns.

During this period, the elephants camp in an ideal location with enough cover and food for their mammoth size and appetite.

But this practice is bad news for farmers who see the site as rich and fertile area for farming and charcoal burning from old indigenous trees that is also home and sanctuary to gazelles, baboons and Columbus monkeys.

 As described by By Zipporah Musau, (Kenya: The Maternity ‘Ward’ for Kinale Elephants), Elephants are not just born on the roadside.

Birthing is a special occasion witnessed by the husband and friends at special maternity ‘wards’.

This is very similar to traditional birth attendants assisting women to deliver, though their role has changed to escorting them deliver in health facilities where they receive the baby, escort them back home, reward them and undertake special rituals to welcome the new guest. 

Elephants generally do not like noise. If you want to court death, just make noise or bring a dog near them! You will die,” says sheldrick researcher

While the elephants are constantly under the threat of poaching and drought, destroying the Mukinyo maternity ward poses another great disaster to them at the great tourist attraction.

All those who care for our wildlife and heritage should stand up and stop the death sentence being accorded to the elephants. 

 Similar to counties getting Sh1.4billion for free maternity, it’s also important for the national and county government to allocate funds for preservation of the site.

 Alternatively they should purchase the piece of land from landowners and allocate to the conservancy money for a fence to separate the humans from the majestic elephants.

They can also establish a sanctuary for the elephanst and Columbus monkeys that are near extinction.

Stakeholders can also call upon conservationists groups like KWS and Conservation Development Center to support the project.

Such mitigation will protect, restore and promote use of terrestrial ecosystems, sustainably manage forests, combat desertification, halt land degradation and halt biodiversity.

About Magadi ecosystem

Its ecosystem has a significant biodiversity comprising wildlife (animal and bird) species ranging from zebra, giraffe, elands, leopards, serval cats, hyenas (esp. spotted hyenas), a few lions, baboon, wildebeest (resident and non-residents).

Others are Hartebeest, Gazelles (Both Grants and Thomson’s), jackals, e.g. Golden Jackal, Klipspringer (Oreotragus oreotragus), Lesser Kudu and Rock Hyrax.

Several species of common and rare birds, including those associated with Lake Natron e.g. lesser and greater flamingos, pelicans, several species of storks and ibis and the African fish eagle are also present.

The magadi ecosystems host key heritage sites of natural and national significance like lake Magadi and Natron, lake Kapongo (seasonal lake), the fossils landscapes and Emugurr natural dam in Oldonyonyokie and Lake Magadi Tilapia or Graham’s cichlid, known to live in hot, alkaline alkaline waters in springs and hyper-saline lakes in East Africa. .

Magadi is also known for the routes used by early explorers and early Swahili and Arab trade walking from Zanzibar to Lake Victoria.

The first explorers who crossed Masailand through the region include Den hardt’s (1881),  G.A.Fischer .

Additionally, there are the sister volcanoes to Oldonyolenkai and central volcanoes of Olergesaile volcanic series (c.2700ft) , Lendurut volacanics (1000ft),  Shompole (3,200ft) and Kirikiti Basalts (500ft) . 

The central volcanoes of Olergesaile, Shompole and Lenderut, were the first events of central eruptions in Magadi area. 

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