Kenya's Elephants facing famine

Elephants in Kenyan national parks and reserves are leaving their drought-stricken sanctuaries to search for water and food near human settlements, where they have attacked starving people trying to protect their crops. U.N. agencies have warned of hunger across the region because of drought and say the situation in eastern Kenya is particularly serious. People reportedly have died of hunger during what officials say is the country's worst drought in 22 years.

"Kenya Wildlife Services personnel have been deployed to several areas to drive the elephants back to the park" said Connie Maina, spokesperson for the Kenya Wildlife Services. She added, "This involves the use of a lot of vehicles and a helicopter that flies low and pushes them in the direction where we want them to go. It is a very expensive operation."

African elephants are the largest living land mammals, weighing up to 6.5 tons. An elephant eats approximately 5 percent of its body weight and drinks about 30-50 gallons of water a day, according to the Africa Wildlife Foundation.

The foundation says there are between 300,000 and 600,000 elephants on the continent - about half the estimated total of 40 years ago.

On Jan. 1, President Mwai Kibaki said food shortages would affect some 2.5 million Kenyans in northern districts, and he declared the crisis a national disaster.

The head of the U.N. environment agency linked the drought to environmental damage to forests, grasslands, wetlands and other critical ecosystems as well as global climate change.

Klaus Toepfer, who is based in Nairobi, urged countries in east Africa to invest in and rehabilitate their "natural or nature capital" to protect vulnerable communities against future droughts, which threaten misery for millions alongside livelihoods and livestock. He urged donor countries to help.

"Drought is no stranger to the peoples of East Africa. It is a natural climatic phenomenon. What has dramatically changed in recent decades is the ability of nature to supply essential services like water and moisture during hard times," Toepfer said, according to a statement from the U.N. Environment Program.

"This is because so much of nature's water and rain-supplying services have been damaged, destroyed or cleared."

He added: "These facts are especially poignant when you factor in the impact of climate change, which is triggering more extreme weather events like droughts."

Via : AP.