The steep increase in the number of protected animals that are hunted down and killed for their parts has drawn focus to the wild and prompted official measures to combat poaching — efforts that have been intensified of late.
In Kenya, the causes of species loss have varied through time and include hunting, pollution, invasive species, habitat loss and climate change.
These generally mirror the threats to animal species around the world. Kenya has, however, made significant progress in reducing some of these threats and helping some species to recover.
Locally, one of the most endangered animals is the elephant. Reports indicate that an elephant can live up to 70 years without human interference. Yet they face extinction due to poaching.
Animals are so important to human life and the eco-system that extinction of seemingly small animals such as ants could spell total collapse of human life.
With the few remaining species of giant mammals — including elephants — largely confined to Africa, it’s up to us to know better and do better.
Man and elephant co-existence makes for some interesting facts. For example, during the dry season, elephants use their tusks to dig for water.
That not only allows them to survive in dry environments but also provides water for other animals that share these harsh habitats.
Did you also know that seeds, such as those of the Acacia plant, have a 90 per cent chance of germinating if deposited in elephant dung?
On the savannahs, elephants feeding on tree sprouts and shrubs help to keep the plains open and able to support the game that inhabit them.
If all their services were gone tomorrow, many plants would go extinct. Many birds would die from lack of food and soil formation would largely halt. The knock-on effects would be huge as food webs collapse and the world falls apart.
The most precious thing about an elephant isn’t its ivory; rather, it’s its ability to influence its natural environment and, in turn, man’s, for the better. After human beings, elephants have more influence over their environment than any other species.
Future generations depend on animals such as elephants. Yet, strangely, while we care for our children, we don’t care much about the creatures on which they depend now and in the future.
Our focus must be on increasing awareness on the critical role elephants play in our eco-systems. From a corporate point of view, organisations are no longer focused on only making profit but also being mindful of the society and the environment they operate in.
Global brand Amarula has been involved in elephant conservation through The Amarula Trust Foundation. It’s one of the ways through which businesses are stepping in to help humanity, aware of the role corporates need to play in maintaining the ecological balance.
In a heartfelt attempt to raise awareness for the World Elephant Day, which is celebrated every August 12, Amarula cream liquor launched the “Don’t Let Them Disappear” campaign — a joint initiative with African wildlife conservation organisation WildlifeDirect. Kenya and other countries — including the United States, Canada, South Africa, Brazil and Germany — are participating in the global campaign.
On Sunday, for the first time, an ice sculpture of a life-size elephant will slowly melt in Nairobi, dramatically symbolising the disappearance of the elephant population.
This, hopefully, will create awareness about the need to conserve the elephant population worldwide.
Mr Mutugi is head of corporate affairs at Kenya Wine Agencies Ltd. [email protected]