Moving Elephants

Yesterday I got to go and photograph an elephant translocation for the Kenya Wildlife Service.  So cool.  I wasn’t the only photographer there.  In fact there were a lot.  This was the beginning of a huge project to move two hundred (yes, 200) elephants.  The elephants are being moved from a heavily populated area near Narok to the Masai Mara National Park, and they are being relocated because they are causing severe conflicts with the local communities.  This relatively small population of elephants is also completely separated from the much larger population to the south in Masai Mara, which has a population of over three thousand elephants.  Here is the KWS description of the project with more detail.

I wanted to photograph the elephant relocation, because it is related to another story that I will go to photograph when I return from Sudan in a little over a week.  It is a story about the conflicts between elephants and the Masai communities near the park.  Here are just a few pics from the elephant relocation.  Unfortunately I wasn’t able to see the elephants being released in the Mara, because of a miscommunication.  Bummer.  I was really hoping to see them set free in a new place.

Still, it was an amazing experience. The local Masai village also poured out for the event.  Of course they had seen elephants, but never so close (unless they were in a life-threatening situation.

Sedated elephant being loaded onto a flatbed trailer (click to see larger)

Largish male in the transport carrier

This guy was pretty big and when he woke up he was groggy and mad.  He banged around the container for a minute or so before he calmed down.  I happened to be on top of the container at the moment, and it almost threw me over the side.  That was exciting.  🙂

elephants in transport container (click to view larger)

These are the three smaller elephants after they moved them into one container.  Eventually they got all four elephants into one container.  KWS can move eight elephants in a day.  Here is a short montage of video I shot of some of the translocation.

After the elephant move I went with KWS to a Masai school where they were inaugurating the project, which also includes several water projects for the Masai community.  This area has been affected by drought and relies entirely on groundwater.  At the school i was totally mobbed by the students, which was fun.  A group of the older students led by one named James insisted on showing me their new school, which was just built this year.  The were *so* happy and proud of it.  They were also a bunch of complete goofballs.  Totally fun.  I want to go back.

The younger kids also totally swarmed me.  This time I asked if they wanted to touch my hair and I was almost completely bowled over – kinda like being in the middle of a rubgy scrum I’m guessing.  🙂

awesomely crazy masai students

awesomely crazy masai students and me (self portrait 🙂


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3 Responses to “Moving Elephants”

  1. » Your Elephants, Our Children: Nelson Guda's blog Says:

    […] Moving Elephants […]

  2. Mike Elkins Says:

    Wow! Really interesting!

  3. » A look back on 2011, Part II – Transformation: Nelson Guda's blog Says:

    […] pretty intense story to see.  I wrote a lot about it in my blog, which you can see here, here and here.  There are a lot of cool photographs from there, including the one above. Drugged […]