We both popped open a soda. Everyone loves a soda in Africa, else, a Serengeti or Tusker beer, extra baridi, will always do the trick.
I'm standing at the gate of Tsavo East with Ibrahim, an officer of Kenya Wildlife Service, shooting the breeze. Life working at the gates of a remote premium reserve park can be slow- especially if you're stationed at a much lesser used gate, at a less frequented park.
The air is stifling hot and flies buzz around our heads as we drink from our recycled soda glass bottles. He talks about his day: watch a bit of TV- if the solar powered battery has enough charge- walk around, check visitor tickets, patrol the area. "I'm quite bored here," he said with quite an endearing sense of honesty.
Tsavo is Kenya's largest park, its vast expanses and semi-arid plains creating an atmosphere that you really are in the middle of nowhere. The endless, semi-arid savannah is dotted with acacia scrub, and the flowing Galana River gives life to the lush riverine forest along its banks. It’s also home to the country's largest herds of elephants, that are usually beautifully dusted in earthly-red murram soil.
When I asked Ibrahim about the state of the elephants in the area, he looked down. Emotionally, as well as the fact his head dropped. Only the other week, he said, a whole herd of elephants were found slaughtered, just over there, he said, pointing behind me. All of them, the whole family, were poached only a few kilometres away from where I was standing.
With the furore that encircled last month’s CoP17 and its discussions having now dissipated, there’s little on the newswire on the African elephant. Yet ‘little’ is no way to describe the reality of what continues to happen out there. Asia still wants a piece, and so Africa will still deliver. And in elephant territories, including beautiful Tsavo, it’s only a matter of time before more elephants are killed for what the world has deemed a commodity.
While positive momentum is being generated to eliminate the ivory trade, here’s hoping governments and systems will move fast enough before anymore elephants are senselessly and needlessly killed.