NAIROBI PARK DIARY

Eating ivory

Surprisingly, it aids life for the lesser-striped swallows

In Summary

• Burnt ivory pieces may be calcium and mineral fodder for strengthening egg shells.

• Today there are over 30,000, and with poaching on the rise again, the battle continues.

A swallow eating ivory
A swallow eating ivory
Image: GARETH JONES

Recently we stopped at the ivory burn site with a visitor. I noticed some lesser-striped swallows on top of one of the piles of burnt ivory. Asi stood for a few minutes. It was amazing to observe that the swallows were actually eating the ivory.

Wow! The thought came to me that, out of the tragic and terrible deaths of thousands of elephants, these swallows represent a glimmer of new life from something that was seemingly dead. My understanding is that they must be eating the small pieces of burnt ivory for the calcium and mineral content to strengthen the shells of their eggs.

When visiting David Sheldrick Wildlife Trust in the Nairobi National Park, it is touching to see the orphan elephants. As the staff tell the story of each elephant, many are tragically sad, as their mothers were killed due to poaching.

 

Just over 100 years ago, elephants did roam over the Nairobi area. It is estimated that Kenya had more than 250,000 elephants in the past. By 1973, the numbers reduced to 170,000. Then by 1989, they reduced to only 16,000. Today there are over 30,000, and with poaching on the rise again, the battle continues.

It is significant that the Ivory burning in the Nairobi National Park now symbolises the tragic past, remembering of the deaths of thousands of elephants. It also represents hope for a new life for the many baby orphan elephants, and surprisingly, also aiding life for the lesser-striped swallows.

The battle to save the elephants continues, as many people are involved in the ‘Hand off our elephants’ campaign to stop the bloody ivory trade. When visiting the ivory burn site, it is a serious time to reflect and pray for the elephants.