columnBy Gareth Jones
With a symphony of little trumpets, the baby elephants gleefully ran from the shady forest towards the roped area where their bottled milk awaited them. Crowds of excited tourists had been patiently waiting for the 11am daily feed-time. Now the star performers had seemingly arrived, even though the young elephants seemed unaware of the massive interest in them.
One of the staff then proceeded to tell the story of each elephant and many are tragically sad, mostly due to the fact that their mothers were killed due to poaching. However, the David Sheldrick Wildlife Trust serves a very worthwhile purpose in 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.
Less than 100 years ago, elephants did roam over the Embakasi/ Athi/ Kapiti plains and also in the Lang'ata forests and Ngong Hills. It should be noted that vast herds of more than 500-1,000 elephants used to occur at times with an estimate of more than 300,000 in Kenya at one time. By 1973, the numbers reduced to 170,000. By 1989 they reduced to 16,000.
Today there are about 30,000. With poaching on the rise again, the battle continues. It is significant that the Ivory burning in 1987 happened in the Nairobi National Park. So it is ironic that the Nairobi National Park now symbolises the past tragic memories of the death of thousands of elephants and yet represents hope for a new life for the many baby orphan elephants as well. So even though adult elephants no longer roam the plains of what is now the Nairobi National Park, elephants will always be part of it.
The park is open daily from 06h00 to 19h00.