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09 Feb, 2023
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Babies & Ivory! – Article by Gareth Jones


Recently whilst stopping at the Ivory burn site with a visitor, I noticed some lesser striped swallows on top of one of the piles of burnt ivory. As I stood and watched them for a few minutes it was amazing to observe that the swallows were actually eating the ivory. Wow, then a thought came to me, that, out of the tragic and terrible deaths of thousands of elephants these swallows represent a glimmer of new life from the burnt ivory that was seemingly dead! My understanding is that they eat the small pieces of burnt ivory for the calcium and mineral content to strengthen the shells of their eggs. Personally, I am not sure how many birds have started eating the pieces of burnt ivory. It would obviously take many, many years for such tiny birds to eat the huge piles of burnt ivory in the Nairobi National Park.

For those who might be wondering, Kenya has made an ongoing decision to rather destroy all elephant ivory in the custody of the Kenya Wildlife Service, at a place now known as the Ivory burn site near the main entrance of the
Nairobi national park. It is now 30 years since Dr. Richard Leakey pioneered the initial ivory burn in 1989, however the most recent ivory burn action was the largest with 105 tons reduced to ashes. By destroying large amounts of ivory Kenya sends a clear message to the world that there should not be a demand market for ivory products such
as carvings and jewelry. Instead ivory must only be worn and shown in a wonderfully magnificently way by elephants.

When visiting David Sheldrick Wildlife Trust in the Nairobi National Park, it is touching to see the orphan elephants. As the staff tell the story of each elephant, many are tragically sad, as their mothers were killed due to poaching. The battle to save the Elephants continues. As many are aware, in recent days a huge mega pile of Ivory representing about 8000 elephants was burned to send a message to the World that Ivory must not be valued after death, but instead be priceless on living elephants. Kenya has a “HANDS OFF OUR ELEPHANTS” action movement to stop the bloody ivory trade. The idea for this bold initiative has come from dedicated people like Dr. Paula Kahumbu of Wildlife Direct, however in order to gain success in this ongoing battle, many, many good people need to get “hands on” involved, for it has been said before “for evil to succeed then good people just need to do nothing!

I visited the David Sheldrick Wildlife Trust in the Nairobi National Park and was touched to see the orphan elephants as they ran into the feeding area. The staff then proceeded to tell the story of each elephant, many were tragically sad, as their mothers were killed due to poaching. The David Sheldrick Wildlife Trust serves a very worthwhile purpose in hand rearing the orphaned elephants and then ensuring they are translocated to Tsavo East where they are allowed to mature further before being released into the wild. Should anyone want to visit the elephant orphanage, feeding time for the baby elephants is daily at 10am, however it’s best to arrive early to get a good view. Fees are nominal in the form of a donation. Some people also “adopt” a baby elephant by funding them individually. The Elephant orphanage is easy to find , just drive towards Ongata Rongai from Galleria Mall, go past Banda school and turn left about 1km after that at the KWS workshop entrance, then follow the signs.

Just over 100 years ago elephants did roam over the Nairobi area. It is estimated that the land now known as Kenya had more than 250,000 elephants in the not too distant past. By 1973 the numbers reduced to 170,000 then by 1989 they reduced to only 16,000…today there are over 30,000 and with poaching on the rise again, the battle continues.

It is significant that the Ivory burning in the Nairobi National Park now symbolizes the tragic past remembering of the deaths of thousands of elephants and also represents hope for a new life for the many baby orphan elephants, and surprisingly also aiding life for the lesser striped swallows. It is interesting and also sad that the Nairobi National Park now only includes elephants at the beginning and the end of their life cycle. Sadly mostly due to poaching and also massive human construction developments, we now only have babies & ivory remaining in Nairobi.

The battle to save the Elephants continues, as many people are involved in the “HANDS OFF OUR ELEPHANTS” campaign to stop the bloody ivory trade. When visiting the ivory burn site and the elephant orphanage, it is a serious time to reflect and pray for the future of Kenya’s elephants.

The park is open daily from 06h00 to 19h00.



servalsGareth Jones – Nairobi Park Dairy – A passionate writer & photographer
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