We received a phone call of the death from Sasaab Lodge Manager, Tony that there was a big bull lying opposite their lodge on the south bank with a collar and only one tusk. Everyone reacted with the assumption that he had been shot because we have been looking at his movement every other day and he had never stopped at all until his reported death. Even on that morning our researchers had tracked his movements. He died at about 10.00am.
Who was Esidai?
Esidai is a young middle age resident bull that was first collared in 1999 andso far has been one of the most successfully tracked elephant within our study area. Ten years of data. Esidai is a Samburu name that means beautiful – and he was one of the most beautiful bulls. He lost his tusk while fighting with Apollo another resident bull that also was collared so our researchers were able to find the two fighting bulls.
Researchers reported to research centre where Iain Douglas-Hamilton was. He also immediately assumedEsidai had been shot. He dispatched a team (Shivani, Chris, Gilbert, and community scouts) immediately to where Esidai was found and they looked around for any fresh sign of any shooting or spear wounds but there was nothing. From fresh pictures, the most likelihood is that Esidai died from illness as the tongue and inside the mouth had a pink coloration (which impliessome sort of infection or abnormality).
The team radioed the research campagain to report their findings and requested for my expertise. I tracked his prints back up to a kilometre and found all the places that Esidai had rested the previous night andthat morning. There were indications showing that he had been struggling (so much disturbed signs on the ground like he had had a restless night) but there was no sign of walking fast indicating a gunshot or spear wound. There was no blood anywhere that we could see.
On our way, we came across another community ranger who gave a different account saying that they had found the bull two days ago and he was not moving very much. He (Esidai) would rest for a long time under the same shade and was not going to drink water with the rest of the bulls. He looked quite thin and they have been monitoring him trying to check his position once in a while but this proved difficult because they are on foot and thus lost his tracks.
Community rangers are rangers being employed by the community group ranches/conservancies who are actually always there monitoring everything that goes on or happens within their relevant conservancies. The county councils/local government employs county council rangers. We at STE work hand in hand with these rangers at all times.
I called Kenya WildlifeService (KWS) and they sent an investigative team and also retrieved the tuskfor safeguarding. The STE team recovered their collar which was still working perfectly.
Esidai was one of the elephants starring in the just recently aired three part series “The Secret Life of Elephants” on BBC 1. We are all very sad at Save the Elephants Esidai was really one of our favourites.
P/S You may wish to buy a DVD of the series ‘The Secret Life of Elephants’ here