Can Mkomazi National Park become Savior of Tsavo Elephants?

From Tsavo with Love for Mkomazi. Jumbos stomp their way from Kenya to Tanzania (Tanzania Times)

Recently, there have been reports of mass deaths of elephants and other wildlife species in Tsavo National Parks of Kenya.

The catastrophe was attributed to ongoing hot weather and prolonged drought spells. The disaster could have gotten worse were it not for the rains that eventually fell by the end of 2022 and in the early days of 2023.

But a few years ago, more than 1000 elephants trekked South from Tsavo (West and East) National Parks of Kenya, probably seeking greener pastures in Tanzania’s Mkomazi National Park.

Experts say they were probably marching south in search of water and greener pastures.

Or maybe the Jumbos are migrating from Kenya to Tanzania in quest of peace and ‘fresh air,’ escaping invasion of human activities, currently on the rise, in the Tsavo Parks.

Mkomazi is thus experiencing a surge of elephant population in the park, from the just 70 such giant mammals recorded in 2013, to nearly 1400 jumbos dotting the windswept landscape as of now.

This may seem like good news for the Park, as far as tourism is concerned. Afterall, the Tanzania National Parks Management is working to open three more entrance gates leading to Mkomazi.

‘Mkomazi’ means Spoonful of water, reflecting the semi-arid environment surrounding the park

Zoological and Ecological experts express concern of this new development.

Professor Noah Sitati is a Wildlife Species Expert, working with the World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF), he points out that, while it may be seen as ‘good news’ for Mkomazi, tourism, Influx of elephants in the park could spell disaster.

“An elephant drinks about 150 litres of water per day,” Dr Sitati points out.

Imagine the amount of water that 1400 Jumbos would consume from sunrise to sunset, that may add up to more than 210,000 liters in a day.

“This sudden increase of elephants at Mkomazi, exerts more pressure on the limited resource; so as good as this sounds for the National Park, it actually reinforces the struggle for resources and Human Wildlife Conflicts.

Dr Noah Sitati (WWF)

As it happens, the semi-arid landscape onto which the National Park is mapped, suffers from historical water scarcity. In fact, even the term ‘Mkomazi’ means ‘spoonful of water,’ in the local language from the surrounding Pare Community.

Mkomazi National Park shares its eco-system with the two Tsavos located on the other side of the border, in Kenya just as Serengeti links to Maasai Mara and Arusha National Park to Amboseli.

Tsavo reportedly has 13,000 elephants, which means if 1000 of them migrate South, the Park may even never notice.

Tsavo is large, at 22,812 square kilometers (Both East and West), while Mkomazi is tiny by comparison, measuring less than 3,500 square kilometers, yet elephants would rather squeeze in the later than roam in the former.

Recent movements of Jumbos from Tsavo to Mkomazi, according to observers may also illustrate successful efforts by conservationists and local authorities in both Kenya and Tanzania, in unblocking wildlife corridors between the two countries.

Tsavo may be famous for the ‘Man Eating Lions,’ but the Kenyan Park has more than its fare share of Elephants

The efforts are among the Flora and Fauna Protection Projects executed through the ‘Conserving Natural Capital and Enhancing Collaborative Management of Transboundary Resources in East Africa’ (CONNECT) initiative.

Known in local Kiswahili term as ‘Unganisha,’ it is a USAID funded project, in which technical assistance is provided to the East African Community, on the formulation and implementation of regional transboundary natural resources management policies, strategies and legal frameworks.

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