Nairobi, Sept 29 (Swara) – A wild African female elephant who survived being shot by poachers five times and delighted scientists by giving birth again nine years later, has died in northern Kenya, a region ravaged by a prolonged drought.

Monsoon, the fearless matriarch of the Storms family and mother of seven calves, was sadly euthanised on September 26 after she collapsed several times in northern Kenya. She was estimated to be in her sixties.

A team from Save the Elephants, who have been studying Monsoon for nearly 25 years, first found her on August 31 and called the Kenyan Wildlife Service North Kenya Veterinary Unit (supported by Grevy’s Zebra Trust, Ewaso Lions and Save the Elephants). The team gave her vitamins and helped her to her feet. Days later, a similar intervention happened in Buffalo Springs Reserve.

On September 26, Save the Elephants was again alerted to Monsoon lying down. After consultations with the vet, Monsoon was euthanised to end her suffering. It’s estimated her ill health was brought on by old age and exacerbated by the drought which has ravaged parts of Kenya.

Monsoon was an extraordinary and resilient elephant that survived the poaching crisis of 2009 – 2014 despite being shot five times by poachers and losing two calves to poachers’ bullets. In 2018, she surprised everyone at Save the Elephants by giving birth again for the first time in nine years in the safe haven of Samburu National Reserve.

Elephants don’t usually give birth when they’re stressed so Monsoon’s new calf was hailed as a sign of recovery and resilience indicating that elephants are starting to feel safe again. Since then, elephants have also been seen expanding their range in northern Kenya into places they had not been for years, further proof that elephants are starting to rebuild their shattered lives after the poaching crisis.

Not only was Monsoon a fighter, but she’s also infamous for proving scientists wrong when she led her Storms family up Koitogor, one of the biggest hills in Samburu National Reserve in 2006.  Save the Elephants had ironically just published a scientific paper ‘Elephants Avoid Costly Mountaineering’, showing that elephants tended to avoid significantly sloped terrain when Monsoon and her herd traversed the hill.

Elephants normally live to roughly 60 years of age in the wild. Sadly it’s often young calves and older elephants like Monsoon who succumb first during droughts like the one being experienced in Kenya at present.  In the north, the drought is so severe that wild elephants scramble for food in a landscape resembling a desert wasteland. Most of the grass has been eaten by hungry livestock that have invaded protected areas like Samburu National Reserve. Elephants are tearing down acacia trees to eat the thorny branches or walking brazenly into tourist camps in search of sustenance.

Save the Elephants’ founder, Iain Douglas-Hamilton says: “This is such sad news. Monsoon, our mountaineering elephant, has been a symbol of elephant ingenuity, individuality and unpredictability. I will mourn her passing.  Sadly the outlook for rain later this year is grim and there are fears the drought may stretch well into 2023 which is a major worry. We are working with our partners, local communities and government in Kenya to address the long-term problems the drought will bring to wildlife and communities alike and doing our best to prevent more elephants like Monsoon from dying.”

Source: Save the Elephants