Six reasons why Kenyans should save the Nairobi National Park

Today is the deadline for commenting on the environmental impact assessment of the proposal to route the Standard Gauge Railway (SGR) Phase II A through Nairobi National Park. I urge all citizens and people around the world who care about Nairobi Park to communicate their concerns to NEMA’s Director General Geoffrey Wahungu. Here’s why you should write now to demand that NEMA rejects Kenya Railways’ application to run a railway through Park:

  1. Nairobi National Park is a priceless national asset: The new rail line will be boon for the economy. Opponents of the route through the Park all agree that it should be built. Nairobi Park is also a boon for the economy, but it is much more than that. It is a symbol of our national identity and Kenya’s leadership of wildlife conservation in Africa, a wildlife sanctuary of global significance, and a unique and irreplaceable resource for the health, well-being and education of our citizens.
  2. We can’t take the risk: There are those who argue persuasively that the raised construction of railway will mitigate damage to the Park and safeguard its wildlife. But we simply can’t afford to take the risk—and we don’t have to, as there other viable routes available.
  3. Kenya’s reputation is at stake: Just a few months ago, the eyes of the world were on Kenya as President Kenyatta set fire to our ivory stockpiles and declared that elephants are “worth more alive”. This courageous stand was inspired by the understanding that our national heritage is more important than short-term economic expediency. Taking the wrong decision now will significantly damage Kenya’s international reputation as a world leader in conservation, and the image and name of our President as Africa’s number one champion for wildlife.
  4. It will set a dangerous precedent: This decision is about more than Nairobi Park, it is about our vision for the future of our continent. Allowing the railway to go through the Park will make it more difficult to defend all the other parks and reserves, forests and other areas of national heritage threatened by similar development projects. It will also set a precedent for the rest of Africa.
  5. It’s our democratic right and duty: This is about process as well as outcomes. Kenya has procedures and laws in place to regulate decisions about development projects. But governments will only respect these procedures if we, as citizens, show that we care and exercise our democratic right to take part in the process to demand that they do so.
  6. It’s for our grandchildren: As a signatory to the Sustainable Development Goals and the Paris Agreement on climate change, Kenya is legally obliged to pursue forms of development that are compatible with environmental conservation. African nations have a duty to honour these commitments, in order to bequeath a healthy planet to future generations.

With the election of a climate change denier to the White House, it is clear that, in an increasingly uncertain world, Africans can no longer rely on others to fight our battles for us. It is our responsibility safeguard the future of the continent for our children and grandchildren. A courageous decision to adopt an alternative route will establish Kenya’s leadership of efforts to achieve sustainable development for Africa and its people, while protecting wildlife and the environment.

In the 70 years since the Park was gazetted, Nairobi residents have come to take it for granted, and it has been underused. But now and in the future it will be needed more than ever as a refuge from the frenetic pace and stress of city life. Now is not the time to cut the Park in two. We need a new plan for the Park that will transform it into a living resource for the benefit of all our citizens, as those who founded it intended it to be.

Today is the deadline for submitting comments to National Environment Management Authority – Kenya. Please write your note to [email protected] and cc [email protected] so that we can hand deliver a physical copy of your letter today (pls send before 2pm)

Down load template for writing letter here

This article by Dr. Paula Kahumbu was first published on the Daily Nation on 25th November 2016

 

Kenyans hold a dialogue on how best to achieve a balance between conservation and infrastructure development in SGR Phase 2A

group-shot

On 7th October, the Kenya Railways, Kenya Wildlife Service, and several conservation and research institutions agreed to hold a dialogue meeting on 27th October to address the question, “HOW CAN WE BEST ACHIEVE A BALANCE BETWEEN CONSERVATION AND INFRASTRUCTURE DEVELOPMENT IN SGR PHASE 2A?”.

176 participants engaged in the one day discussion using the Open Space method which was facilitated by London based firm Public Service Works. Participants of the dialogue represented a cross section of stakeholders including industrialists, land owners, community, scientists, park managers, lawyers, conservationists, park users, tourism sector, railway engineers and others. Participants engaged in 17 different meetings and conversations for which the outcomes will be shared in a final report to be circulated this week. Eight major recommendations emerged all of which were urgent and important, and which can be broadly categorized into three groups.

  1. The participants all agreed that Kenya needs the Standard Gauge Railway as it will spur economic growth, poverty alleviation and bring great rewards to Kenya. However, there was overwhelming support that the SGR should not go through the Nairobi National Park which would destroy the park, damage the Presidents reputation as Africa’s greatest conservation champion, and set a dangerous precedent. They agreed that the conservation reputation of the President and the nation could not be compromised and that technical and financial solutions must be found to enable it to be re-routed so that Kenya could enjoy the benefits of both the Park and the SGR. This require engineers to work with the Kenya Railways to conduct technical assessments of alternative routes. Financial considerations to address the additional cost must be addressed.
  2.  Participants expressed great concern at the apparent non-compliance with Kenya’s laws and insisted that rule of law must prevail. They agreed that the construction of the SGR must be compliant with the laws of Kenya as well as regional legislation and other environmental commitments. This includes compliance with the Environmental Management and Coordination Act, 1999, Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) process, the Wildlife Act, the Constitution and Kenya’s commitments to bodies within United Nations such as the SDG’s. This includes ensuring that the construction of the SGR adheres to court orders.
  3. The participants agreed that a major communications campaign through the media houses was needed to promote better understanding and love of the Nairobi National Park and conservation in general. As a first step, they proposed that on 16 December 2016, a major celebration be held for the Park’s 70th birthday through school activities and involving Kenya’s First Lady.

As the convenor of the event, WildlifeDirect CEO said, “I was touched and moved by the level of engagement, the seriousness with which participants addressed the issues, the honesty and the willingness to challenge one another over such a contentious issue”. After the meeting began, it was revealed that the Kenya Railways had published their EIA report in the daily newspaper that morning. The failure of the Kenya Railways to inform the organizers so that this document could have informed the discussion was regrettable and caused huge disappointment amongst participants.

The Dialogue meeting on the SGR and the Nairobi Park illustrated the power of bringing together different stakeholders to share in finding a solution and committing to participating in the actions identified. This method can become a powerful tool towards promoting public participation, building consensus and mobilizing public support and ownership of any future government project. This will accelerate progress and significantly reduce the costs litigation.

Call on Japan to Ban Ivory Trade

WildlifeDirect recently became aware of the scale of laundering of illegal ivory in the ivory markets of Japan through its contact with the Japanese NGO Tears of the African Elephant. Please see more about the interview we did on NTV Wild via this link:https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=Cvsj21F_FI4 . We have joined forces with other conservation organizations in Africa and Japan to take the opportunity provided by the Tokyo International Conference on African Development (TICAD) conference happening here in Nairobi, Kenya to publish a joint appeal to Japan to ban all trade in ivory trade, following the lead of China and the USA.

Japan is one of Africa’s most important development partners. They have made major contributions and commitments to support conservation. Now the conservation community call for 5 actions to be agreed at TICAD:

  1. Japan to permanently close legal domestic markets of ivory, and aggressively close down online trading sites that deal in ivory, all to crush demand.
  2. Japan to suspend ivory registration immediately, to prevent loopholes that allow fraudulent registration and laundering of illegal ivory.
  3. Japan to support the Elephant Protection Initiative.
  4. Japan to strengthen cooperation on elephant conservation initiatives and combating the trafficking of ivory to Japan through joint investigations and mutual legal assistance.
  5. Japan’s Prime Minister and First Lady to jointly issue statements to discourage the selling and buying of ivory in Japan and to initiate an education and outreach campaign to Japanese citizens on the importance of saving elephants by stopping poaching and ending ivory trade.

We urge Kenya’s President Uhuru Kenyatta, who is the head of the Giants Club of African presidents supporting elephant conservation, and Japan’s Prime Minister Shinz? Abe, to seize this unique opportunity at TICAD6 to discuss the issue as part of their duty towards the development agendas of Africa and Japan.

We also urge the H.E. the First Lady of Japan, Akie Abe, an ardent conservationist, to join H.E. the First Lady of Kenya, Margaret Kenyatta in raising awareness about elephants and their conservation needs.

You can access the English and Japanese versions of the joint statement here: Joint Statement-TICAD6

 

 

 

 

Notorious Kenyan Ivory Trafficker Jailed for 20 Years and Fined USD 200,000

On Friday, a Mombasa law court sentenced Feisal Mohamed Ali to 20 years in jail after finding him guilty of illegal possession of ivory worth 44 million shillings (US $440,000). The court also imposed a fine of 20 million shillings.

This landmark ruling by the Kenyan court is the end of a long story that began with the seizure of 2 tonnes of ivory at Fuji Motors car yard in Mombasa in June 2014.

Read more about this story on The Guardian

Calling the World to help save African Elephants

 

African Elephants

 

WildlifeDirect supports the African Elephant Coalition (AEC) in the call to the world to help save African elephants.

As an organization that has been in the forefront calling for a total ban on all ivory trade, WildlifeDirect urges other African countries not represented at the meeting held in Montreux, Switzerland from 24 to 26 June 2016 to join AEC in this call to save the our iconic species that are in danger of extinction if nothing is done.

In a press release by AEC, 29 member states call on all governments, inter-governmental and non-governmental organizations for their support, and calls on citizens around the world to ask their respective governments and the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES) representatives to support the five proposals and to help the Coalition in its mission to list all elephants in Appendix I.

The Coalition of 29 African member states submitted to CITES five proposals designed to reverse the poaching crisis facing elephants and to put an end to the ivory trade to afford elephants the highest protection under international law.

The five proposals are:

  1. Listing all elephants in CITES Appendix I
  1. Closure of domestic ivory markets
  1. Ivory stockpile destruction and management
  1. The Decision-Making Mechanism for a process of trade in ivory (DMM)
  1. Restricting trade in live elephants

AEC agreed to launch a social media campaign in a bid to gain support for the five proposals to the 17th Conference of the Parties (CoP17) of CITES in September-October in Johannesburg, South Africa. We invite you to use the hashtags #WorthMoreAlive, #EndIvoryTrade and #Vote4Elephants to support the campaign.

Speaking at the meeting in Montreux, Bourama Niagaté from Mali, a member of the Council of the Elders for the Coalition noted that there was need for all relevant stakeholders to pull together for the sake of Africa’s elephants.

Kenya, a member state of AEC has taken a zero tolerance approach to poaching and ivory trafficking.

In April this year, Kenya took a bold step in burning 105 tons of ivory and 1.5 tons of rhino horn. This is reportedly the world’s largest stockpile of elephant ivory and rhino horns ever to be burnt. The historic burn demonstrated Kenya’s commitment to seeking a total global ban of ivory and rhino horns.

Speaking at the burn, President Uhuru Kenyatta said, “by destroying ivory we declare once and for all that our national heritage is not for sale”. The only value that ivory has is tusks on a live elephant.

It is this commitment from the highest level of government and collaboration with conservationists and law enforcement that has seen Kenya achieve 80 percent reduction in deaths of elephants in the last three years.

 

You can download the Press Release Here

Mayes and Mactavish score sensational Safari Rally podium

Geoff and JamieSafari guide and wildlife photographer Geoff Mayes and Scottish born Jamie Mactavish successfully guided their SPV class V8 rally raid car to a top twenty overall position and third in class on the just finished KCB Safari Rally.
This years event saw crews face two and a half challenging days in the Great Rift Valley over terrain more suited to a Dakar event than a flat out motor rally. Attrition was high as cars succumbed to rocks, ruts, dust and even encounters with wild animals but through it all the Landrover continued. Mayes and Mactavish did have their own dramas, an unmarked ditch in the organisers notes saw the raid car flung into the trees at high speed, emerging with body damage but only minimal time loss.
Mayes, “this is our second safari finish and probably more fun. We had the perfect car for the weekend but not being able to recce meant we had to be more cautious. The car was faultless and full credit must go to my team. To my sponsors, Purdy Arms, Punda Milias and Que Pasa, an enormous thank you! We bashed the suspension a lot and it never broke, which is testimony to Team Magic. We hit a lot of rocks, some whilst very sideways, and didn’t get a single puncture so thank you Maxxis Tyres. And finally a huge thank you to my title sponsors SilversprNo Ivory On Boardead Team Meru, without whose support I would never have even made the start of this prestigious event!
This years KCB Safari Rally was won by reigning champions Jassi Chatthe and Gugu Panesar in a Mitsubishi Evo X. Only 21 cars finished from a start list of 42, with Mayes and Mactavish finishing 19th overall and 3rd in class.
Photos courtesy Suzanne Zwager

WildlifeDirect’s 2nd Courtroom Monitoring Report 2014 & 2015

A study by WildlifeDirect of wildlife trials in 18 courts between 2008 and 2013 concluded that Kenya was a safe haven for wildlife criminals because of major weaknesses in the legal chain. This second study examines progress made in the wildlife trials in Kenya in 2014 and 2015, after the enactment of the Wildlife Conservation and Management Act, 2013 (WCMA 2013)

CMR

Here is the link to the full report

WildlifeDirect Courtroom Monitoring Report(1)

NTV Wild Talk: Season 1 & 2 Episodes

WildlifeDirect has partnered with Kenya Wildlife Service and NTV to bring you NTV Wild, a program that brings award winning documentaries on wildlife and also provides the platform for debate and discussion with experts on Kenya’s wildlife, its conservation and why it matters so much.

NTV Wild Talk S1 E1

“The mystery of Mzima”
Smriti Vidyarthi visits Mzima springs to bring a story about the spring that would be lifeless without hippos. A world class site that is amazing.

NTV Wild Talk S1 E2
“Kenya-US relations in protecting wildlife”
Smriti Vidyarthi engages US ambassador to Kenya Ambassador Robert F. Godec and the US Secretary – Interior Sally Jewell as #NTVWild talk focuses on US-Kenya relations in protecting our wildlife

NTV Wild Talk S1 E3
“Stopping wildlife trafficking through Kenya”
Smriti Vidyarthi takes a look at wildlife trafficking and wildlife crime.
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QCWvvfCad2U

TV Wild Talk S1 E4
“Saving Kenya’s big cats”
From the seventh wonder of the world, Maasai Mara is home to the largest population of lions. Smriti Vidyarthi share the incredible life stories of two cat families.

NTV Wild Talk S1 E5
“Safeguarding Karura Forest”
Smriti Vidyarthi takes a look at whether Karura forest is under threat or not. The show looks at the struggles to save Karura forest from land grabbers.

NTV Wild Talk S1 E6
“Wildlife Newbies & Champions”
Smriti Vidyarthi speaks to some of the new faces linked with protection of wildlife.


Read More »

Kenyan Government Issues a 21 Day Amnesty on Ivory and Wildlife Trophies

The Kenyan government has issued a 21 day amnesty for the surrender of any wildlife trophy without Kenya Wildlife Service permit. Those who take advantage of the amnesty, which took effect from March 30, 2016 will not be punished. Speaking during the launch of site preparations for the historic burning of elephant ivory and rhino horns, Cabinet Secretary for Environment and Regional Development, Prof.  Judi Wakhungu said, “Anybody holding any ivory, rhino horns or any other wildlife trophies, jewellery or trinkets to surrender to the KWS Director General at the KWS headquarters. The items can also be surrendered to the Assistant Directors at KWS regional offices in Mombasa, Voi, Nyeri, Marsabit, Nakuru, Kitale and Meru National Park.”

 

Prof. Wakhungu stated that the government of Kenya, led by President Uhuru Kenyatta will on April 30, 2016 set ablaze the world’s largest stockpile of elephant ivory and rhino horns ever to be burnt. The government has attached great significance to this State event and to this end, the president has invited dignitaries from all over the world who will come to express solidarity with Kenyans in conservation efforts. Although the destruction of ivory and rhino horns will not in itself put an end to the illegal trade in these items, it demonstrates Kenya’s commitment to seeking a total global ban of ivory and rhino horns.

 

Speaking to the media at the same event, our Chief Executive Officer Dr. Paula Kahumbu also emphasized the importance of not attaching economic use to ivory and rhino horns. WildlifeDirect continues to work towards change of hearts, minds and laws to protect elephants. Our current campaign dubbed HandsOffOurElephants focuses on raising awareness and political support to stop poaching, trafficking and buying of ivory.

 

As a build up to the upcoming Ivory and Rhino Horn Burn, WildlifeDirect is working in collaboration with other partners including KWS and USAID to hold a Conservation Media event that will rally people around the globe to make commitments to act to save the elephants and rhinos.

 

Prof. Wakhungu further stated that the poaching of elephants and rhinos and illegal wildlife trade continues to be a major problem in Africa and threatens the very survival of these iconic species. Poaching is facilitated by international criminal syndicates and fuels corruption. It is important for the public to know that the poaching undermines the rule of law and funds other criminal activities that not only harm local communities but also national economies.

 

In the past three years, Kenya has redoubled its efforts and put measures in combating elephant poaching and illegal trade in elephant ivory within and across its boarders. In 2014, 164 elephants were poached in the country which significantly reduced to 96 elephants in 2015. Also in 2014, 35 rhinos were illegally killed compared to 11 in 2015. Another key milestone that was highlighted was the national audit of the stockpile of ivory and rhinoceroses horn for enhance monitoring and management purpose. The audit recorded 135.8 tonnes of elephant ivory and 1.5 tonnes of rhino horns.

Leakey interview in SWARA and on NTV Wild Talk at 10 pm

NTV Wild Talk, broadcast an interview with Richard Leakey about the past and the present for wildlife and heritage in Kenya. It aired on Tuesday March 15 on NTV at 10 pm.
I also want to draw attention to the new article in SWARA here  in which he states

“Parks will only be sustainable if Kenyans want them to be sustainable. Middle class Kenyans who own TV sets watch international soccer, international vanity shows and news but none of them watch wildlife programmes because they’ve never been put on air in this country.”

Richard Leakey

This sentiment is the reason that we created NTV Wild. For those who have not been able to catch previous episodes, NTV Wild is a partnership between NTV, WildlifeDirect and KWS to broadcast wildlife documentaries made in Kenya and Africa on national Television for the first time in our history to inspire Kenyans to visit our parks and appreciate our spectacular wildlife heritage. The program airs on Saturdays and a discussion program on Tuesdays.
This is the list of all the NTV Wild documentaries so far on Saturday’s at 8 pm
1. Mzima Haunt of the River Horse – Mark Deeble and Vicky Stone
2. The Last Lions – Derek and Beverly Joubert
3. African Cats – DisneyNature
4. Here be Dragons – Alan Root
5. Battle For the Elephants – Nat Geo
6. The Queen of Trees – Mark Deeble and Vicky Stone
NTV Wild Talk on Tuesdays at 10 pm

 

Launching the series with Jonathan Scott

 

NTV Wild Talk S1 E1 “The mystery of Mzima”

 NTV Wild Talk S1 E2 “Kenya-US relations in protecting wildlife”

NTV Wild Talk S1 E3 “Stopping wildlife trafficking through Kenya”

NTV Wild Talk S1 E4 “Saving Kenya’s big cats”

NTV Wild Talk S1 E5 “Safeguarding Karura Forest”

 

TV Wild Talk S1 E6 “Wildlife Newbies & Champions”

In this episode: Kitili Mbathi shares the challenges & successes at KWS, Lena Munge tells of how she hopes to transform the Masai Mara, Najib Balala explains why he jumped off a plane for conservation & 12 yr old Luca Berardi stresses the importance of wildlife for future generations.

Both the documentaries and the talk shows have been trending on twitter since we began 7 weeks ago and people are telling us that they are setting their alarm clocks to catch the programs. We are already on week 7 and we have 45 more  to go! Enjoy