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Hundreds of elephants and zebras die as Kenya weathers drought

An elephant keeper plays with two calves at Reteti Elephant Sanctuary in Kenya
Elephant keeper Kiapi Lakupanai plays with two calves at Reteti Elephant Sanctuary in Namunyak Wildlife Conservancy, Samburu, Kenya on October 12, 2022. The sanctuary has been overwhelmed with rescue operations and the influx of orphaned and abandoned calves due to the current drought. LUIS TATO/AFP via Getty Images

Hundreds of animals, including elephants and endangered Grevy's zebras, have died in Kenyan wildlife preserves during East Africa's worst drought in decades, according to a report released Friday.

The Kenya Wildlife Service and other groups counted the deaths of 205 elephants, 512 wildebeests, 381 common zebras, 51 buffalos, 49 Grevy's zebras and 12 giraffes in the past nine months, the report states.

Parts of Kenya have experienced four consecutive seasons with inadequate rain in the past two years, with dire effects for people and animals, including livestock.

"The drought ... has resulted to massive loss of wildlife population through death and probably migration into other areas," the report states.

Zebras in a Kenyan national park
A group of zebras at Tsavo National Park in the Taita-Taveta County of Kenya on September 30, 2022. As drought continues to take a toll on livestock and people in East Africa, wildlife in Kenya is dying in large numbers in many protected parks across the country.  Andrew Wasike/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images

"The drought has negatively impacted on the herbivore populations and particularly wildebeest and zebra," it says. "Most of the affected wild animal species are grazers."

The worst-affected ecosystems are home to some of Kenya's most-visited national parks, reserves and conservancies, including the Amboseli, Tsavo and Laikipia-Samburu areas, according to the report's authors.

They called for an urgent aerial census of wildlife in Amboseli to get a broader view of the drought's impact on wild animals there.

Other experts have recommended the immediate provision of water and salt licks in impacted regions. Elephants, for example, drink 240 liters (63.40 gallons) of water per day, according to Jim Justus Nyamu, executive director of the Elephant Neighbors Center.  For Grevy's zebras, experts urge enhancing provisions of hay.

Peninah Malonza, the Kenya's Minister of Tourism, Wildlife and Heritage, tweeted photos of a visit to Tsavo East National Park this week and spoke about steps the government was taking to address the problem, including animal feeding programs, trucking water for wildlife in protected areas, and increasing the monitoring of wildlife outside protected areas to reduce conflicts with humans.

The U.N.'s World Meteorological Organization says the drought is the region's longest in 40 years, and it has warned that over 50 million people in the region are suffering from acute food insecurity.

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