Poaching in one of Kenya’s premier national parks, Amboseli, is at 20-year highs, says the African Wildlife Foundation, which reported in April that 703kg of whole or partially chopped elephant tusks were confiscated from poachers in the park. That’s about 50 elephants worth of tusks. Apparently they’re reaching US$38/kg on the Chinese market. Wholesale price, of course. You can only guess at the tusks’ street value.
So when we travelled from the excellent park into its neighbour, Tsavo West, we had an armed guard of cheerful young Kenyan boys wielding Russian-made rifles to guard from unscrupulous poachers who, on a quiet day, have been known to lift a few fat Western wallets, though my guide Mwasy stresses that the last time this happened was a very long time ago. Years, in fact.
The night at Satoa Elerai camp was one of the highlights of my trip. The entire camp is just nine tents and four suites. The words ‘tents’ and ‘suites’ are so boring.
The suites are luxury cottages with thatched roofs, deep baths and enormous, romantic beds swathed in snow-white mosquito nets, and look out onto Amboseli National Park, renowned for its elephants. The tents are canvas affairs, but the massive beds look straight out onto Mt Kilimanjaro in neighbouring Tanzania, about 20km away, and the highest mountain in Africa.