Grisly photos of dead giraffes highlight devastation of drought in Kenya

A startling aerial photograph of six dead giraffes, their emaciated bodies gruesomely entangled, is showcasing the dire effects of a drought in Kenya and surrounding countries.

Photojournalist Ed Ram was covering the drought for Getty Images and the Guardian newspaper when the head of the Sabuli Wildlife Conservancy project told him about a group of giraffes that had died just steps away from a water reservoir in the village of Eyrib.

The creatures, weakened from hunger and thirst, became trapped in the mud some 10 metres away from the water, and died. Their bodies were moved outside the village to protect the remaining water from contamination. That’s where Ram photographed them.

He told As It Happens host Carol Off that while the photos show the deadly toll of the drought on animals, it really illustrates the plight of people.

“Livestock for people in pastoral communities is incredibly important because people use their animals for food and sustenance, but they also use them for trade,” he said.

“People sell their livestock and use the money to pay for children’s education … so children are dropping out of school. People have sent their kids to university and they’re no longer able to go to university and pay for that. The local businesses are closing down. One town I went to, all of the small businesses were shut.”

Millions of Kenyans face starvation because of the severe drought that’s been plaguing half the country for months, according to Kenya’s drought management authority.

Kenya has been hit with three consecutive poor rainy seasons, the United Nations said in a statement Tuesday, leaving 2.9 million people in need of humanitarian aid.

About 368,000 people in the country have reached emergency levels of hunger, and more than 523,000 children under age five are in urgent need of treatment for acute malnutrition, the UN’s Office for the Co-ordination of Humanitarian Affairs estimates.

The UN says the situation has prompted failed crops and the massive deaths of animals and livestock.

Those deaths are visible everywhere you go in Kenya, Ram said.

“When you approach many of the villages in the region, there’s dead cows that line kind of sand tracks as you get to the villages, in various states of decomposition,” he said. “And the cows that were remaining were very emaciated.”

The rainy season has come to an end in Kenya, which means things will likely remain dry until at least March.

Ram says he’s not hopeful about the near future. He says one local governor told him, if there was more rain any time soon, “it would be a miracle.”

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