In the late 80’s there would be a buzz of excitement at Ol Donyo Wuas, the lodge that gave birth to Maasailand Preservation Trust, if we even just saw Elephant tracks, let alone an Elephant in flesh and blood! These infrequent occasions would invariably lead to a follow up, as we tried to find out who was passing through and to build an inventory of who was who.
At the top of our Elephant world ”who’s who” list was a fellow we called BOSS, easy to recognize by a deformed right ear and his assertive character. He was one of the first bulls to realize the area was safe and became a regular visitor. Then sometime in the mid 90’s, he appeared with a radio collar which caused even greater excitement and as there was only one person running around Kenya collaring Elephant, Ian Douglas Hamilton. I contacted Ian, who confirmed he was responsible and that he had named him Discovery, and said please keep an eye on him. So his new name stuck and the story continued.
We did keep an eye on him and he became very much my favorite, then in 2004 I saw him looking rather worn, wizened and old. His skin hanging off him like worn, creased pajamas and I thought he was on his way out. That was the last sighting of him and I wrote him off as dead, then a few days ago when he sauntered nonchalantly into the lodge water hole for a drink, scattering the 4 other bulls already there in all directions it was a happy surprise to see him and to know that he is still very much the boss.
Over the years Discovery bought more bulls into the area, and today the sight of over 20 bulls, 3 of them with ivory over 100 pounds a side, is so common that its no longer a talking point. Its great to have this icon back and I cant help wondering where he has been all this time, probably not Amboseli, as I am sure our friends at the Amboseli Trust for Elephants would have picked him up on their highly efficient radar, so most likely Tsavo?
With the drought its been a tough time for Elephant everywhere and here in the Chyulus there is no exception. The drought has made the unfenced tomato and maize farms, in what used to be swamps, even more tantalizing and irresistible. As a knock-on effect we are seeing more an more elephants appearing with spear wounds caused by irate farmers, but more sinister we are regularly picking up carcasses of Elephant, with tusks removed. These are being directly targeted for their ivory and are not victims of human wildlife conflict. However having said that our Game Scouts, all 67 of them, are doing a great job and not many poachers get away with such attrocities. Their best recovery was 700 kgs of ivory, mostly from Tanzania, that was recovered in a road block in Mbirikani town. The challenge however is to not let the Elephant be killed in the first place, but with the rising price of ivory, changing hands here at up to 600/- a kilo, its almost an impossible task.
Also on this depressing note the bush meat trade seems to be escalating, previously if our scouts made 100 prosecutions a year they were considered to be doing well, but this year as I write we have hit over 700 prosecutions. ……so the war is on, and in the meantime we are doing our best to keep the likes of Discovery roaming free and to see his reappearance is a reward in itself.