We had a rather awe-inspiring visitor yesterday … an enormous 17-year-old bull elephant called Malaso who for some unknown reason, took exception to the special collar testing units that we’d set up in the morning on a patch of land at the entrance to the Save The Elephants camp.
He strode into the camp, sniffed the heavy collars and their wooden stands which we’d positioned as part of an alert testing, and then promptly lifted them into the air and threw them to the ground as though they were mere twigs. He then happily munched on salt bushes while we all watched in awe from a safe distance.
It’s not the first time Malaso has visited camp. A few weeks ago, he tried to carry one of the collars laid out on a log beside the camp across the river but gave up after dropping it on the ground. He’s obviously fond of the camp and equally fond of the collars and we all like to think his regular arrival in camp is a thumbs up, er a trunk up, from Malaso to Save The Elephants for all the great work they’re doing. Or perhaps he merely wants a collar of his own?
Spare a thought for Benjamin Loloju Ltibikishe – Save The Elephant’s research assistant – though who will have to reposition the collars again for the crucial testing in the morning. The collars are tested for their immobility alerts which are sounded when an elephant stays still for too long in one place which can often be a sign of danger – ie: poaching, or on a lesser scale, that the collar has fallen off, or the elephant has found a lovely piece of vegetation to feed on for a while. Either way, Benjamin’s work is extremely vital to helping the monitoring teams track elephants and map their corridors.
Benjamin, who is from the Lpisikishu clan in Samburu, has been involved with Save The Elephants for nine years after winning a special scholarship programme with the organisation at the age of 16. He has worked as an intern since then and this year was offered a full-time job of monitoring all 90 collared elephants in Kenya as well as elephants in other parts of Africa, using GPS tracking and a special ‘elephant tracking’ app.
“I love to work with the elephants,” says Benjamin. “They are like human beings, they have an amazing family structure and incredible intelligence and it would be a sad world without them.”