Poachers invade the safe haven of Buffalo Springs Reserve


Frank Pope, Chief Operations Officer

Date Published

Ever since Save the Elephants began tracking elephants we’ve known that they’re very aware where they are safe. Although Kenya’s National Parks and Reserves are not fenced, you can see by their movements that they don’t want to move outside unless they have to. When the urge to reach a new area becomes too strong, they’ll often wait for nightfall before making a rapid streak across the landscape until they reach another safe zone.

Until recently, very few elephants were being poached within reserves. Now it seems that their confidence is going to be eroded. A series of incidents within the Buffalo Springs National Reserve that adjoins the Samburu Reserve where our research camp is based is a disturbing new trend. In January a young bull named Philo was shot close to a road, likely with a silenced weapon.

On 13th March we lost Ngampit (“Big Foot”), a mature male who was popular with researchers and who spent a lot of time consorting with our resident families. One of the females he used to spend time with was Cirrocumulus, one of the last remaining elephants from our second Clouds family. STE researcher Shifra Goldenberg has written about their interactions, which have been filmed. Then, exactly a week later, Cirrocumulus was also gunned down.

There are lots of possible reasons why Buffalo Springs is being so badly hit. One is its relative proximity to Isiolo, the area’s biggest urban area. Another is that the bridge linking it to the Samburu Reserve side got washed away in floods and has yet to be rebuilt, dividing ranger forces. But we hope the poachers’ reign is about to end. A new anti-poaching helicopter, equipped for night operations and able to carry a Rapid Reaction Force and tracker dogs, is arriving in the area this week, thanks to powerful defenders of Kenya’s wildlife such as Sue Anschutz-Rodgers, Suzie Fehsenfeld, Susannah Rouse and others.

This week on the other side of Kenya in the Maasai Mara, we lost Heritage, one of the big bulls we were tracking and studying.