The Amboseli Count Diary

Amboseli Count Diary

The 2015 field study course for the Princeton and Columbia Universities has just concluded at the Amboseli national park. Dr Paula Kahumbu hosts and lectures the students for about one week. For this year, the students, who were also joined by WildlifeDirect staff, elephant expert Soila Saiyalel and comic book writer Chief Nyamweya, the course revolved around testing the new software IBEIS – Image Based Ecological Information System- through taking thousands of pictures at the of zebra, giraffe and elephants at the Amboseli National park and feeding the [pictures into a database which, using the IBEIS software, distinguish various animals using their identifiable stripes, spots or wrinkles. This system has a multitude of applications, majorly in the creation of an image database of endangered wildlife such as elephants, leopards and cheetah in Kenya’s protected areas.

The course also included visits to conservancies around the Amboseli park as well as visits to the community, especially schools and women’s group around the Amboseli ecosystem.

Throughout their stay, the group was joined by Soila Saiyalel, who has been studying the Amboseli elephants for 30 years.

 

Students meet Elerai Conservancy chairman

Elerai-Conservancy-chariam-Peter-Peernut-talking-to-the-students

Elerai Conservancy chairman Peter Peernut talking to the students and WildlifeDirect staff

The team of students and WildlifeDirect staff had a lot to do; They first had a meeting with the Chairman of Elerai Conservancy in Amboseli, Mr. Peter Pernut

They wanted to know what the conservancy does for wildlife conservation. The chairman took time to talk about the conservancy from its administrative structure to some of the economic activities it is engaging in.

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Soila Saiyalel( 2nd from left) and the visiting Students listen to Elerai Conservancy chairman Peter Peernut

Later in the day, they listened to a presentation from the International Fund for Animal Welfare (IFAW) researcher. The researcher made a presentation on the efforts IFAW in conjunction with Kenya Wildlife Service and other organisations are doing in to protect the wildlife in the entire Amboseli ecosystem.

 

Students visit Big Life Foundation and Meet CEO Richard Bonham

One of the Students explaining to Big Life foundation CEO Richard Bonham how the IBEIS program works

Students explain to Big Life foundation CEO Richard Bonham how the IBEIS program works

The students from Princeton and Columbia University and the Wildlifedirect team led by Paula Kahumbu met Big Life CEO Richard Bonham at the organization’s office. Also present was Soila Saiyalel who has been studying Amboseli elephants for about 30 years.

Big Life is a non-governmental organization that is helping in wildlife conservation, particularly the elephants in Amboseli, and other parts the country. The organization uses GPS to monitor the movement of elephants in the park and employs game scouts who patrol the entire Amboseli National Park to help identify any poaching activities.

Big Life has a control room stationed in one of the organizations’ offices with an officer in charge where they monitors the movement of game scouts in the park using GPS.

The students were here to explain the IBEIS program to the Richard Bonham and his team and how it can help them in their conservation work.

The students also met the officer in charge of compensation at Big Life who took them through some data and information on how compensation is done in case of human wildlife conflict. This information was important to the students to help them work on their projects.

Maasai women welcoming students when they paid them a visit

Maasai women welcoming students during a community visit

After the Big Life visit, the students spent the rest of the day visiting women’s groups in Imbirikani area of Amboseli. The women groups included Siana, Osiram and Makutano. They welcomed the students with song and dance, and later, the women engaged the visitors, talking about the different economic activities they’re involved in, including bee keeping, livestock farming, water projects and beading.

Despite a heavy downpour the students managed to meet the women from the different groups. They introduced the IBEIS software to the women, explaining how they can participate in building its database and how its applications can benefit them.

Kimana Girls School Join in the Great Zebra Count at Amboseli

Kimana girls high school students interact with the students1

Kimana girls high school students interact with students and WildlifeDirect staff

Students from Kimana Girls high School joined the US university students and the Wildlifedirect team for the zebra count in Amboseli National Park.

The 55 students from the school’s wildlife end environment clubs had been invited to take part in the IBEIS citizen science project where they would help in taking photos of different animals at the Park.

Widlifedirect CEO Paula Kahumbu welcomed the students and also introduced them to the university students.

Kimana girls high school students taking photos at the Amboseli National Park1

Kimana girls high school students taking photos at the Amboseli National Park

The Kenya Wildlife Service gave the students a waiver with each student paying Kshs.100 instead of the usual Ksh.200.

The students spent hours in the park taking pictures of zebras, giraffes and elephants.

At the end of the game drive, the Kimana school students had taken thousands of pictures s which will go into the growing database and will eventually be used to determine the population of the different species in Amboseli National Park using the IBEIS program.

Before returning to school, the students were lucky to receive copies of a comic book on poaching, from its creator , Chief Nywamweya.

Chief Nywamwea giving out a copy of his comic book to Kimana girls students1

Chief Nyamweya gives out a copy of his comic book to Kimana girls students

For more information and pictures, please see this link here:

https://tinyurl.com/ktgl978

WildlifeDirect wishes to thank the following for making the Amboseli count of Zebras, giraffes and elephants – as well as the entire field study course with the US students – a huge success. They are;

The Kenya Wildlife Service

BigLife Foundation

Dr Paula Kahumbu

Richard Bonham

Soila Saiyalel

Chief Nyamweya

Kimana Girls High School

Princeton Unuversity

Columbia University

 

Thank you!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Fantastic Fifth for Mayes and Mactavish on Grueling Safari Rally

(Courtesy of Mayes Media)

Mayes and co driver Mactavish finished fifth in just concluded Safari Rally

Mayes and co driver Mactavish finished fifth in just concluded Safari Rally. (Courtesy Mayes Media)

 

Zimbabwean born safari guide Geoff Mayes and his Scottish co driver Jamie Mactavish have realized a life-long dream when they guided their rear wheel drive Toyota Levin to fifth in class on the just ended KCB Safari Rally. The three day marathon saw over half the field drop out through a variety of problems, but Mayes and Mactavish successfully guided their Silverspread Meru and Maxxis Tyres supported Toyota to the finish line on Sunday evening.

The rally, which was formerly a round of the World Rally Championship, saw a capacity entry of 61 cars take to the start in downtown Nairobi on Friday morning. 18 special stages and over 800 kilometres later the surviving crews switched their high performance engines off in Meru Town, Northern Kenya. Along the way they had had to contend with dust storms, glutinous mud and wild animals in the roads, making this arguably the toughest Safari Rally in quite a few years.

 

Geoff and Jamie, using their rear wheel drive Toyota to raise awareness for the “Hands off our Elephants campaign”, experienced more than their fair share of drama, with suspension failure, a lost exhaust, a persistent misfire and a catalogue of other small problems but thanks to the incredible work of their mechanics the pair scored their first ever Safari Rally finish!

“As a child I used to spectate on this event and I never dreamt that one day I would compete in AND finish the Safari Rally,” said an elated Geoff Mayes. “Our team has been incredible this weekend, no challenge was too great for them and I cannot thank them enough! I also need to mention Silverspread Rally Team Meru for being our title sponsor and for showing us incredible hospitality all weekend long. And to Maxxis Tyres, who supported us with rally tyres, thank you as it was thanks to your tyres that we survived the thick mud on Saturday afternoon! ”

It was a dream come true for Mayes to race in and to Finish the Safari rally

It was a dream come true for Mayes to race in and to Finish the Safari rally. (Courtesy Mayes Media)

 

 

Africa’s wildlife is currently facing a terrible crisis at the hands of poachers. Although governments have increased the punishment for anyone caught with poached animal trophies an incredible number of elephants and rhinos are still being killed across the continent. Over 30 000 elephants killed were killed in the last 12 months! www.wildlifedirect.org  is running the “Hands off our Elephants campaign” to help raise awareness on a global level and apply pressure to the legal systems and governments of Africa to introduce harsher penalties and step up efforts to protect these magnificent creatures.

Update From the Zebra Count At Amboseli Park

Update from The Count and the Team at the Amboseli National Park

WildlifeDirect staff and University students drive through the Amboseli Park looking for Zebras and elephants to photograph

WildlifeDirect staff and University students drive through the Amboseli Park looking for Zebras and elephants to photograph

The second edition of the Great Zebra Count, a photographic census of Zebras, Giraffes and Elephants, is on at the Amboseli National Park!

A team of WildlifeDirect staff and university students from the Princeton and Columbia State universities in the US have been camping at the Amboseli park the last five days – and counting zebras, giraffes and elephants.

They are on a programme to test the Image Based Ecological System, IBEIS, a pattern identification software, which can distinguish various animals with identifiable stripes, spots or wrinkles, like with zebras and giraffes. This system has a multitude of applications, majorly in the creation of an image database of endangered wildlife such as elephants, leopards and cheetah in Kenya’s protected areas.

The team vists ther KWS offices at the Amboseli National Park

The team visits the KWS offices at the Amboseli National Park

On day three of the field trip, the team met with the Kenya Wildlife Service officials at the Amboseli national park. They wanted to make a demonstration of how IBEIS works and its potential if used to count wildlife at the Amboseli park.

At the KWS offices, the team was met by Mr. Philip Rono, the educational warden in charge of the Amboseli National Park and Mr. Ndambuki Mwiu, a researcher with KWS..

Mr. Ndambuki made parallels of how KWS makes the wildlife count at the park. “By using aerial and ground surveys, KWS has been able to estimate the number or elephants, zebras, giraffes and other animals in the Amboseli National Park,” he said. “The surveys are conducted after every three years with the last census having been conducted in 2013. Ground surveys are conducted bi-annually during the wet and dry season. Eight vehicles with observers aboard with GPRS and data sheets go out into the park to do the ground census which is always based on estimates”.

During the last survey, the Amboseli National Park was found to have an estimated number of 1,700 elephants. He however explained that the number could be even more considering the means being used to conduct the census.

At the end of the session the students presented their proposals to KWS regarding the IBEIS programme and why they thought it could be an alternative to the aerial and ground census KWS uses. IBEIS would not only make the count much easier but the data would be much more reliable.

The first count, dubbed the Great Zebra Count, held in the Nairobi National Park at the beginning of March, was a phenomenal success. In just two days, a total of 75 photographers had taken over 10,000 images, breaking the record for the most ‘images collected in a citizen science project in the shortest time’.

This citizen science initiative that allows the public to participate in the estimation of population sizes of wildlife within Kenya’s Ecosystems. This involves the collection of photographs taken by participating teams, to be analysed by scientists.

 

The Count at Amboseli Continues…

 

 

Feisal Ali’s Bond Grant Overruled by the High Court

Suspected Ivory Kingpin Feisal Mohamed Ali’s Bond Grant Cancelled by the High Court in Mombasa

The suspected Ivory kingpin Feisal Mohamed Ali. The Magistrate court had released him on bond but the High Court has overruled that decision

The suspected Ivory kingpin Feisal Mohamed Ali. The Magistrate’s court had released him on bond but the High Court has overruled that decision

Feisal Mohamed Ali’s bond review came up for ruling on 30th March 2015, before Hon Muya at the Mombasa Law Courts. This was on application by the State to review the ruling by Hon. Kituku who had granted the accused bond on health grounds, about a week ago.
In denying Feisal Mohamed Ali bond, Hon. Muya pointed out that even though the accused has been suffering from anal fistula, at no point did he raise this during his first application for bond before Hon. Kituku. Therefore, Feisal did not suddenly fall ill.

Hon Muya further stated that the State had undertaken procedures to take Feisal to a proper health facility for treatment.

Secondly, the Hon. Judge pointed out that by denying Feisal bond, the court had not discriminated against him (in comparison to his co accused whom the court granted bail) because circumstances of Feisal’s arrest were not similar to that of his co accused; Feisal fled the country and was arrested by Interpol while his co-accused responded to court summons in person.

The Judge concluded that the Feisal is a flight risk because he fled to Tanzania to avoid the jurisdiction of Kenyan Courts and that is the compelling reason to deny him bond.

 

Banda School Kids Raise Money to Support WildlifeDirect

Banda School Pupils Raise Money to Support WildlifeDirect

Banda School students pose with the Hands Off Our Elephants poster that they made. They raised Ksh 618,000to support the campaign

Banda School students pose with the Hands Off Our Elephants poster that they made. They raised Ksh 618,000to support the campaign

Pupils from Banda School in Nairobi have raised Ksh 618,000 to support the Hands Off Our Elephants campaign! The students were sponsored by families and friends, who contributed from as little as Ksh50 and as much as Ksh 28,000.(A Grade two pupil raised the Ksh 28,000).

This money was raised during the school’s themed wildlife bike-a-thon contest which was held to marked the school’s environment week. The students each got to decorate bicycles with their favourite animal, and the best decoration won a prize.Winners from the event were awarded goodies including t-shirts and arm bands from Wildlife Direct.

“We are truly humbled and excited that the Banda School children could raise so much money for the campaign in just one week!” says Njambi Maingi, WildlifeDirect’s Outreach coordinator.”These funds raised will help us to go out and do outreach activities in rural schools, especially in school and communities that live in wildlife areas.”

The Banda School environment week, is celebrated during the last week of term in the school calendar. In the week, pupils at the school are taught the importance of environment conservation. Every year, student chose their charity of choice, and this year, Hands Off Our Elephants campaign was the charity the pupils decided to support.

Some of the wildlife-themed bikes decorated and used by the Banda School kids during a bikeathon race.

Some of the wildlife-themed bikes decorated and used by the Banda School kids during a bikeathon race.

WildlifeDirect staff were invited to the school to give talks in the school during the environment week. The pupils got a chance to interact, learn and ask questions to WildlifeDirect’s Njambi Maingi and Nixon Kanali. The pupils got the opportunity to come up with creative ideas to help stop the poaching of elephants and the trafficking and demand for ivory.

The hand painted banner for the Hands Off Our Elephants campaign by the Banda School kids

The hand painted banner for the Hands Off Our Elephants campaign by the Banda School kids

“It was exciting to talk about our conservation efforts with the pupils,” says Njambi Maingi. “They were excited to learn about wildlife and they exhibited a deep knowledge and interest for elephants and conservation. They were keen to find various solutions to help curb poaching, and raising funds, was just one of the many ideas that they came up with”.

 

 

Counting Zebras and Giraffes for Science- And for Fun!

Counting Zebras and Giraffes, for Science and for Fun!

By Njambi Maingi

 

WildlifeDirect's Outreach programmes coordinator Njambi Maingi (in black) with volunteers during the Great Zebra Count at the Nairobi National Park

WildlifeDirect’s Outreach programmes coordinator Njambi Maingi (in black) with volunteers during the Great Zebra Count at the Nairobi National Park

Driving through the Nairobi national park – or any other park for that matter- has always fascinated me. The sights and sounds of any drive are worth looking forward to every single time.

My delight could not have been overstated when my organisation, WildlifeDirect, partnered with IBEIS to run a citizen science project at the Nairobi park. The project, dubbed the Great Zebra Count, was a pilot project to test the IBEIS software designed by students and lecturers in the United States, to count wildlife population by recognising and documenting their individual stripes, spots or wrinkles.

For now we were going be counting zebras and giraffes, easy because of their stripes and spots. But the software’s use in studying and conserving other endangered animals like elephants, leopards, lions and cheetahs is anticipated. This revolutionary software will mark the change from analogue system of wildlife management to a digital system that is much more reliable.

This event was easy for anyone to participate in – all they needed was a camera and a vehicle to drive around the park.

We invited the public to join us in the count, giving them the opportunity to be part of recording the numbers of zebras at the Nairobi National park- and the information gathered would be used by scientists to plan, map movements, know population sizes, study and make recommendations for policy and decision making in the management of the park. There is no better way for Kenyan citizens to exhibit public participation in wildlife conservation.

I am a budding environmental scientist and this was immensely fascinating to me and to the other volunteers, mostly students, who helped out!

As part of the team that carried out the preliminary baseline study, two colleagues and I started driving through the park a week to the actual day of the count. We would take hundreds of pictures of mostly zebras. This enabled us to create a database onto which we could compare any new pictures that would be brought to us during the count.

It was hard enough trying to count the different zebra groups by hands, after a couple of hours, it felt a little dizzying! The zebras all looked alike! It felt like I was seeing the same animal over and over again, roaming all over the park!

image 9

Children admire zebras after taking pictures at the Nairobi National Park

 

But my anti-dizzying moment came at the end of each day. We would download pictures of the zebras into a hard drive and the pictures were fed into a database of zebras. The IBEIS software, would then come into use: It would tell the zebras apart! Each zebra has a unique stripe design, and the software recognised every time a new zebra was introduced into the system. Not only did it recognise a new zebra but it also added the new zebra to the database, adding up the numbers. I love science – and technology!

Tanya Berger-Wolf of the IBEIS team and volunteers look at a newly identified zebra during the Great Zebra count

Tanya Berger-Wolf of the IBEIS team and volunteers look at a newly identified zebra during the Great Zebra count

As early as 7am, families started streaming in on the day of the count. Though they were encouraged to register with us in advance, we did not expect the great turn out that came to be. Before we flagged off the teams, we quickly briefed them on the only rule of the game “Focus mostly on one animal at a time, and take only the left side of the zebra and giraffe you have zoomed on” Easy enough? We then fitted each vehicle with a GPS tag, which we used to track their drive through the park. The scientists were able to use this to create maps, of where each photo was taken.

1000 zebras and 100 giraffe were identified over the first few days, this number would increase with every new group with new pictures. We were even able to identify the new animals found by each group, and congratulate them on adding to our database. By the end of the count, 75 photographers had taken over 10,000 images, breaking the record of the highest number of images collected during the shortest time of any citizen science project. This, by our standards at least, make this first count, a hit success.

After a successful event, The IBEIS and WildlifeDirect teams pose for a picture with  Ambassador Bob Godec,(middle in dark green shirt) the American ambassador to Kenya

After a successful event, The IBEIS and WildlifeDirect teams pose for a picture with Ambassador Bob Godec,(middle in dark green shirt) the American ambassador to Kenya

Next week (From 28th March to 7th April), we’ll set up camp at the Amboseli National park and have fun counting more zebras and giraffes- and this time, even elephants! If you are in the Amboseli ecosystem area for on these days or for Easter, do take as many pictures of zebras, giraffes and elephants as you possibly can, share them with us and become a citizen scientist!

 

(You can send your pictures to me at njambi.maingi@wildlifedirect.org)

 

What We Do: Chris Kiarie, Chinese Liaison Officer

The Elephant and the Panda: The Story of My Life

Chris Kiarie (Middle) with some Chinese friends in Nairobi. The poster reads 'Hands Off Our Elephants' in Mandarin.

Chris Kiarie (Middle) with some Chinese friends in Nairobi. The poster reads ‘Hands Off Our Elephants’ in Mandarin.

It is an interesting job for me. It is also an eye opening opportunity for me to work as a Chinese liaison officer for WildlifeDirect. I do translations from Mandarin to English or from English to Mandarin. I also get a kick out of people asking me how to say different things in Mandarin – like how to say Hands Off Our Elephants. People are generally amused that I speak Mandarin.

And this amusement comes from both ends of the spectrum: the Kenyans as well as the Chinese.

Often, it gets interesting and soon enough conversations venture into conservation issues, poaching eventually comes up and the question of who is to blame the most for the crisis.

“Hi, do you speak Mandarin,” asks a Chinese man outside an ivory shop in China.

“Yes I do,” I answer.

“Perfect!!! You know we can do good business together. I buy elephant tusks in Africa,” he says as he shows me the picture of an elephant tusk from his phone. “Since you speak Mandarin, we can do good business.” By this time, some of his colleagues have moved closer and look excited as their colleague gives me his phone number.

Just 24 hours earlier, as I was walking out of the Guangzhou airport, I saw a young Chinese lady holding a placard written in English “AFRICAN FRIEND AND ELEPHANT CONSERVATIONIST…”. There was an excited look on her face as she scrolls through the faces of the Africans streaming out of the airport’s arrivals’ building, hoping that one of them is the one she has come to pick up. Even though she has less than 20 hours in China, as she is meant to join her parents for a holiday trip to Taiwan, she still feels that she should volunteer to pick up the visitor from the airport. She felt that in that simple way, it would be her contribution from the heart, a contribution towards elephant conservation.

Welcome to my world. On the one hand, some people are willing to do anything to fatten their bank accounts by whatever means necessary. On the other hand; some are going out of their way to make me feel comfortable, and in a way, to help in my conservation efforts.

Both Chinese. Both seeing the conservation debate from extreme opposite sides.

Chris is a classroom in Xiamen town, South East China

Chris interacts with children in a classroom in Xiamen town, South East China

As the elephant conservation debate rages on, I am aware that elephants continue to face danger. I am also aware that Africans are also involved in the facilitation of the ivory trade. It is a fact that, over 70% of illegal ivory, according to figures released by CITES ends up in China. I am curious which way will be effective to reduce ivory demand.

As both Africans and Chinese are involved in the trade, it’s half the problem to put the blame on the Chinese only. I know it takes two to tango. I am aware that for any positive progress to happen both African governments and the Chinese government have to come up with effective ways to ensure law enforcement and reduction of ivory demand is firmly handled. At WildlifeDirect, these are some of our lobbying agendas, for both the Kenyan, especially, and the Chinese government to effectively play their part.

Kenya is leading the way. Earlier this month, Kenya’s president Uhuru Kenyatta burned 15 tonnes of ivory at the Nairobi National Park, ion a symbolic gesture to show the country’s opposition to the ivory trade. He promised to burn the rest of Kenya’s ivory stock pile within the year.

This is encouraging. More efforts are being made leading to Africans and the Chinese working together- Already, Chinese conservation groups are looking at ways in which they can work with their African counterparts to reduce demand of ivory. It is by finding ways through which both groups can work together that elephants can be protected.

Chris Kiarie (Middle) with two Chinese interns at WildlifeDirect

Chris Kiarie (Middle) with two Chinese interns at WildlifeDirect

At WildlifeDirect we’ve just hosted Chinese interns for two weeks; we believe in bridging divides between the two cultures to come to an understanding without being hostile. We have to find a way for the elephant and the panda to live out their lives; it’s their right.

 

A Boost From Amarula and Nakumatt For The Hands Off Campaign

Hands Off Our Elephants Gets A Boost From Amarula and Nakumatt

Dr Paula Kahumbu (R) receives a cheque from the Richard Lord, the Distell Group GM for North and East Africa.

Dr Paula Kahumbu (R) receives a cheque from Richard Lord, the Distell Group GM for North and East Africa.

Amarula Trust has donated Ksh 1 million to the Hands Off Our Elephants campaign. Nakumatt Holdings has topped this amount up by donating Kshs 400,000 to the campaign. This donation came from the proceeds of a two-month Amarula Cream sales initiative aimed at stimulating action towards elephant conservation. The initiative, dubbed ‘Save Our Icon’ ran in all Nakumatt stores countrywide from December to January 2015, with a 10% of all Amarula cream sales going to support the Hands Off Our Elephants campaign.

“This is a very generous gift. We are very humbled and thrilled to have been chosen by Amarula and Nakumatt, who both use the elephant as their icon,” said Dr Paula Kahumbu, the CEO of WildlifeDirect when she received the cheques. “This money will go a long way in boosting our outreach and awareness project budgets for this year”.

The Hands Off Our Elephants campaign carries out public outreach and awareness projects, to change the hearts and minds of Kenyans- and eventually Africans – towards elephants conservation; to persuade the public to care and to appreciate that elephants are human too.

“In Kenya we have several challenges; the cost of protecting elephants as the price of ivory rises, is getting more and more expensive and technical,” said Dr Kahumbu. “It is also threatening security of local communities. When the market for ivory is banned in China, the price of ivory will collapse, and anti-poaching efforts will be much more effective.”

The more people know and are aware, the more they will care. “And this is why we are extremely proud to be associated with Amarula and Nakumatt,” said Dr Kahumbu.

Speaking during the cheque hand-over ceremony, Richard Lord underscored Amarula’s commitment to elephant conservation, saying: “The close relationship between elephants and the Marula fruit inspired, in part, the establishment of the Amarula Trust under the Distell Group. By taking off 10 per cent from Amarula sales towards this initiative, the Trust gave our customers the opportunity to contribute to elephants conservation efforts,” said Lord.

Dr Paula Kahumbu receives a cheque Atul Shah, the MD of Nakumatt Holdings

Dr Paula Kahumbu(R) receives a cheque from Atul Shah, the MD of Nakumatt Holdings

For his part, Nakumatt Holdings, Managing Director, Mr. Atul Shah, stated his firm’s commitment towards supporting ongoing community awareness programmes geared towards sustaining wildlife conservation.

“At Nakumatt, we remain committed to providing our store network as a platform for public awareness programmes,” Shah said, adding: “We are particularly inclined to support the “Hands Off Our Elephants” campaign with partners such as Amarula, given that elephants are also our corporate brand icon. Our country Kenya relies heavily on tourism and any attempt to destroy this resource is an attempt at compromising our national survival,” he said.

On March 3, President Kenyatta set ablaze 15 tonnes of elephant tusks at the Nairobi National Park to demonstrate government’s commitment towards conserving elephants. This also sent a strong message to poachers that ivory only belongs to elephants.

Dr Paula Kahumbu poses with Richard Lord and Atul Shah after the cheque Hand-Over ceremony

Dr Paula Kahumbu poses with Richard Lord and Atul Shah after the cheque Hand-Over ceremony

Ivory trade is conducted by international criminal cartels, crushing them means dealing with corruption. The escalation in poaching and ivory trafficking has forced Kenya to enact new laws, and reform the law enforcement efforts including the creation of a dedicated team of wildlife prosecutors, and improvements in forensics, training of judges and magistrates, plus enormous community outreach programs.

As the president said at the ivory burning ceremony, “Poachers and their enablers will not have the last word in Kenya.”

President Uhuru Kenyatta Burns Ivory on World Wildlife Day

President Uhuru Kenyatta Burns Ivory on World Wildlife Day

The 15 tonnes of ivory that were set on fire by H E President Uhuru Kenyatta to symbolise Kenya's commitment to her Wildlife protection

The 15 tonnes of ivory that were set on fire by H E President Uhuru Kenyatta to symbolise Kenya’s commitment to her Wildlife protection

President Uhuru Kenyatta set to fire fifteen tonnes of ivory on 3 March 2015, at the Nairobi National Park, during the celebrations to mark the World Wildlife Day.

This was the third and the largest consignment of ivory to be burnt in the country’s history.

Kenya, yet again, stepped forward to show great leadership and commitment in the fight against poaching and against trade and the trafficking of ivory.

It was a great day for conservation organisations and individuals who dedicate their lives to saving Kenya’s wildlife, and especially the elephant.

An estimated 33,000 elephants are killed every year across Africa.  That is equivalent to 100 elephants every day. This is mainly fuelled by demand half way across the world in Asia.

In his speech, the president promised that this was the beginning of what would see the country destroy all of its ivory stockpiles within the year, estimated to be about 115 tonnes more.

“Ivory and wildlife trophies must be put beyond economic use everywhere in the world,” the president said.

There has been arguments put forth that confiscated ivory should be sold and the proceeds put into funding conservation efforts.

But this has not worked in the past.

Kenya’s wildlife has more value to the environment and to the economy when in its natural ecosystem and habitats. The proceeds from elephants in the wild, for instance, far outweigh the proceeds that would be gained from the sale of ivory.

“The key message from today is that Kenya is not a safe haven for poachers nor is it a safe country for ivory traffickers,” said Dr Paula Kahumbu, the CEO of WildlifeDirect. “This is a turning point moment for all of us in conservation. At WildlifeDirect, we are committed to creating awareness and fighting for justice for wildlife. We are really glad that the government is taking action and showing commitment to tackling the poaching crisis”.

Dr Paula Kahumbu, CEO WildlifeDirect, with the burning 15 tonne ivory that was set ablaze by President Kenyatta during World Wildlife Day celebrations

Dr Paula Kahumbu, CEO WildlifeDirect, with the burning 15 tonne ivory that was set ablaze by President Kenyatta during World Wildlife Day celebrations

President Uhuru recollected about the first instance when ivory was burnt in Kenya; in 1989 by the then president Daniel Moi – with the guidance of WildlifeDirect founder and renowned conservationist , Dr Richard Leakey. The president said that 25 years after that first historic burning of the ivory, which had led to the collapse of international ivory markets, a new threat had emerged.

Dr Leakey was present for this ivory burning session as well.

“The new demand for ivory from emerging markets once again threatens Africa’s elephants and rhinos,” said President Uhuru. “And African countries are concerned about the scale and rate of the new threat to our endangered wildlife species”.

And the demand for ivory in recent years has been skyrocketing, especially in the far East where a kilo of ivory fetches USD 2000 on the black market.

“The demand for ivory is there,” says Iain Douglas-Hamilton, the founder and CEO of Save The Elephants. ” And unless the demand is reduced, it is capable of finishing the African elephants from the wild,” said Hamilton at the ivory burning ceremony.

This move to yet again burn ivory by the Kenyan government is a bold and very symbolic statement that will resonate across the world.

Dr Kahumbu pointed out that the burning of ivory will send the message that Kenya is not a safe for poachers and will not be a safe haven for any trafficker.

The 15 tonne ivory goes up in flames at the Nairobi National Park

The 15 tonne ivory goes up in flames at the Nairobi National Park

“What Save The Elephants and WildlifeDirect are doing is sharing the awareness of what buying ivory means,” said Dr Hamilton. “We’re sharing the awareness of what buying ivory means in terms of lost elephants lives , wounded elephants, death and destruction …and by sharing awareness, it means that anyone buying ivory after they know the facts, cannot be innocent anymore”.

The leaders in conservation hope that the burning of ivory will send the message to those who are buying ivory and banking on extinction- that they will know that their investments are not safe.

“Great countries are making strides toward banning the trade in ivory in which case, their investment will amount to zero,” said Dr Iain Douglas Hamilton.

Last month, China imposed a one-year ban on the import of ivory, amid criticism that demand from its consumers was fuelling poaching in Africa. “While this is a step in the right direction, a lot more would be helpful in saving Africa’s elephants,” said Dr Hamilton.

As the president said, “Poachers and their enablers will not have the last word in Kenya.”

The Great Zebra Count at Nairobi National Park

ZEBRAS & GIRAFFES COUNT(1)

 

The Kenya Wildlife Service, The Kenya Wildlife Festival and WildlifeDirect invite you to participate in the ‘GREAT ZEBRA COUNT’- the first of its kind citizen science project at the Nairobi National Park, on 1st and 2nd March 2015.

This year, Kenya will participate in the global World Wildlife Day celebrations by hosting a national celebration of her unique wildlife heritage through a week long national Wildlife Festival from 28th February to 7th March.

The GREAT ZEBRA COUNT is one of the festival’s activities. 

This citizen science initiative will allow the public to estimate the population sizes of zebras and giraffes within the Nairobi National park.  It involves the collection of photographs of Zebras and Giraffes taken by participating teams, which will be analysed using a new software, IBEIS, which identifies individual animals by their unique stripes and patterns.

 

The software will determine the number of zebra’s and giraffe in the Nairobi National Park, identify specific animals and where they are found. The IBEIS software was developed by 4 American universities. For more information, visit IBEIS.ORG

 

You are invited to form a team, identify a vehicle to use for the team, get your cameras ready and register your team here: http://www.standupshoutoutworld.org/#zebra-count

 

After registration, you will be provided with an information pack detailing how the census shall be conducted. The Great Zebra count is done in collaboration with Friends of Nairobi National Park (FONNaP) with the support of Nairobi Tented Camp.

 

The Wildlife Festival is an opportunity to share the country’s vision and encourage citizens’ participation in a future where people and wildlife coexist in harmony. The festival also presents an opportunity for the public to participate in contributing to important conservation science for the Kenya Wildlife Service.

 

The KWS Park Entry Fees will apply.  For further information contact kenyawildfest@gmail.com

 

Your participation in this activity will be highly appreciated.

 

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