NAIROBI - A drought in Kenya has become so bad that it is felling even the giants of the animal kingdom: the country’s famed elephants, which are dying as rivers dry up and grasslands shrivel in parched game reserves.
The bones of the elephants bleaching under a relentless African sun underscore how bad the drought is. It has killed hundreds of cattle and many acres of crops, threatening the lives of people who depended on them for food.
There are no tallies of deaths among people attributed to the drought, but the UN’s World Food program said recently that 3.8 million Kenyans are at risk and need emergency food aid.
Zoologist Iain Douglas-Hamilton, who founded Save the Elephants, said the drought is the worst he has seen in 12 years and poses a serious threat to the animals, whose striking silhouettes roaming Kenya’s broad savannah help draw 1 million tourists each year.
“It may be related to climate change, and the effect is elephants, particularly the young and the old, have began to die,’’ he told AP Television News on Monday. “When they do not have enough food they also seem to be vulnerable to disease, their immune system weakens and they catch all sorts of diseases.’’
Elephants, which have no predators, must roam widely to get their daily ration of as much as 52 gallons of water and about 660 pounds of grass, leaves, and twigs.
But the water is disappearing and the grass is all but gone.