Lane Nichols looks at Kenya's fight to protect the jewel in Africa's crown.
Wildlife is the jewel in Kenya's crown and the African nation is working tirelessly to protect its natural resources and threatened species from man.
One of Kenya's most beloved animals is a 48-year-old bull elephant known as Tim. Tim is identifiable by his dramatic tusks, so long the giant herbivore is forced to tilt his head as he walks.
Kenya Wildlife Service customer service officer Joseph Kaberere says the highly intelligent but troublesome beast is well known among Amboseli National Park rangers. The elephant often turns up injured at the park's gate after run-ins with humans or other bulls so he can be tranquilised, fixed up then sent back on his way. So far this has occurred about six times, though vets fear Tim is now too old and frail to survive being tranquilised again.
Rangers once fixed a monitoring collar around Tim's neck. However, he appeared at the gate soon after, having somehow removed the still-intact collar. Nobody knows how. Tim lifted it with his trunk before placing it ceremoniously on the ground for the rangers to retrieve, then headed back into the park.
"He is a very, very intelligent animal," Kaberere says. "There has been a lot of conflict with the community [involving Tim]. Whenever he is treated, he goes back to causing chaos."
Like Tim, elephants and other wildlife in Kenya's game parks are threatened by conflict with humans and the destruction of their national habitat and migration paths.
The Kenya Wildlife Service is working to protect the animals in gazetted reserves and park areas, and currently manages 8 per cent of Kenya's total landmass.
Poachers, who value elephants' ivory tusks, rhino and buffalo horns as well as animal hides, face life in prison and significant fines or property confiscations if caught and found guilty. But another threat comes from local farmers who have been known to kill protected wildlife in retaliation for losing precious livestock or due to the threat to human life from hungry predators.
To combat this, the government now compensates farmers for any livestock killed by game animals. The going rate is 5000 Kenyan shillings for a goat (about NZ$76) or 20,000 Kenyan shillings per cow.
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Kaberere says the message is clear: "Do not kill these animals. Come to us and we will compensate you."
Rangers also electronically monitor the movement of some animals so they can warn communities about approaching predators and work closely with the local people on conservation efforts and fencing programmes.
However, as human population numbers grow and more natural habitat is threatened, efforts to conserve Kenya's rare and unique game resources, which underpin the nation's tourism sector, will come under increasing pressure.
In Amboseli, the unique wildlife faces another threat. Much of the wetlands and natural water sources that give life to the park's abundant animal populations are fed by ice melt from the 6000m summit of Kilimanjaro. But the ice is disappearing fast due to global warming, with scientists predicting it could dry up completely within just 20 years.
That could endanger the very existence of the park's 1500 elephants, each of which can drink up to 100 litres of water a day and consume up to 200kg of food.