Hundreds of elephants, wildebeests and zebras dead in Kenya amid prolonged drought
Tens of thousands of African elephants and wildebeests are feared dead across parts of Kenya after a prolonged dry spell which has left much of the world’s grassland parched. In what is being seen as Kenya’s worst drought in over a decade, elephants are reported to be among the dead.
Officials have opened a state of emergency in parts of Kenya, as the government struggles to cope with what will be the world’s second worst drought in the last 50 years.
In some areas, entire ecosystems have been wiped out, leaving what is left vulnerable to drought and disease.
Officials said that drought conditions were so bad that even drinking water supplies had to be rationed, something experts have warned is too late.
The World Wildlife Fund, which has been documenting the deaths for months, said in a report on Tuesday that: “While there is reason to be concerned about the fate of many elephants in the East African ecosystem, there is no evidence that elephants are dying across the country in this extended drought.”
In late May, as much as 1.4 million acres (500 square miles) of savanna and grassland had not been harvested since 2014 because of a drought that has hit Kenya and other East African countries particularly hard.
The extent of the damage is becoming clearer as the drought extends into the early part of this year.
A senior official said the government had been using “non-sustainable” methods of irrigating land because it had only a small window in which to harvest while dry, while also trying to protect the animals using fences and other means of preventing the loss of the herds.
In some areas, officials have been encouraging communities to protect their livestock by buying cattle and goats and also by selling water to villagers.
“Our priority is to avoid any loss of life to people,” said Peter Muthoni, senior government engineer in the Ministry of Water Resources and Irrigation, adding that the government had been “very much aware” that the problem had reached some of the countries’ poorest people