Justice for Cecil

Hunting for pleasure is a barbaric, uncivilized practice that is well past its sell-by date

29 Jul 2015, Bloomington, Minnesota, USA -Protesters call for the prosecution of local dentist and big game hunter, Walter Palmer, as he remains hidden from the media and the public. Palmer has admitted to the killing of the popular and majestic lion, Cecil, in Zimbabwe. Photograph: Kate Purdy/Kate Purdy/Demotix/Corbis

29 Jul 2015, Bloomington, Minnesota, USA -Protesters call for the prosecution of local dentist and big game hunter, Walter Palmer, as he remains hidden from the media and the public. Palmer has admitted to the killing of the popular and majestic lion, Cecil, in Zimbabwe. Photograph: Kate Purdy/Kate Purdy/Demotix/Corbis

Like people across the world, I am extremely angry and deeply saddened about the killing of the great lion named Cecil in Zimbabwe.

Cecil was a spectacularly beautiful lion. He was lured out of the protection of Zimbabwe’s Hwange National Park so that he could be shot by the American trophy hunter Walter J. Palmer.

That’s an immoral practice: I cannot imagine what was going on in this man’s mind the moment he pulled the trigger of his cross bow, injuring Cecil, then tracking him for 40 long hours before shooting him dead, skinning him and cutting off his head.

Let’s be clear: this was also a crime. The hunter had no permit, he is therefore a poacher. In Zimbabwe poachers are often shot dead in their tracks. Some people on social media are suggesting that Mr. Palmer be given a death sentence. In my view he deserves a proper public prosecution, and conviction, together with the guide and landowner involved, who are already under arrest.

He should be given the most severe form of penalty: jail in Africa, and a massive fine to compensate for the loss of this incredibly valuable animal.

I have written to the US Fish & Wildlife Service to ask if Mr. Palmer is currently being sought in the USA under the Lacey Act, that prohibits trade in wildlife products that have been acquired illegally, including in contravention of foreign laws.

Cecil the lion rests in Hwange National Park, in Hwange, Zimbabwe. Photograph: Andy Loveridge/AP

Cecil the lion rests in Hwange National Park, in Hwange, Zimbabwe. Photograph: Andy Loveridge/AP

While the media has focused on the reaction of celebrities and Mr. Palmer’s neighbours in Minnesota, comment on social media has revealed the deep grieving and heartbreak across Africa, as news of the murder by poachers of the great tusker Satao did last year. There is also revulsion at the whole idea of killing animals for pleasure, something that is completely alien to the African tradition of respect for wildlife.

Of course many wild animals are killed by Africans, very often unjustly or for criminal purposes. But trophy hunting is, and always has been, a rich white man’s sport. For Africans, it is a symbol of colonial oppression. Formerly, most hunters were Europeans. Now the balance of power has shifted and it is no coincidence that, today, 60 percent of all lions killed for sport in Africa are shipped to the USA as trophies.

There is no ecological justification for trophy hunting. Arguments can be made (but also disputed) in favour of hunting as means of controlling populations of common animals such as deer. But trophy hunters are not interested in common animals; for them, the rarer the better. The ultimate, orgasmic experience for a trophy hunter would be to kill the last individual of a species.

Mr. Palmer ‘only’ paid $50,000 to get his kicks by killing Cecil. Earlier this year a hunter paid $350,000 to shoot a black rhino in Namibia: as a critically endangered species, black rhinos are more valuable as trophies. Photos posted on Internet show that Mr. Palmer has already shot dead at least one rhino. Maybe its severed head is now a conversation piece above his fireplace in Minnesota?

Lions are not yet listed as endangered, although populations are declining across Africa. But by targeting the biggest and best animals, trophy hunters do damage to populations and gene pools that is far greater than the loss of a single individual. The adult male lions targeted by trophy hunters are key individuals that otherwise would live long, full lives, protecting their mates and cubs and contributing their genes to future generations.

The idea that trophy hunting benefits African economies is also a myth – or more accurately a lie. Tourism is hugely important to African economies. For example it generated direct incomes of $33.5 bn in sub-Saharan Africa in 2011, a figure expected to rise to almost $60 bn over the coming decade.

Data from a recent briefing paper by the UN’s World Tourism Organization (UNWTO) suggest that more than 80% of tourists to Africa come to view wildlife. Incomes from trophy hunting are a minuscule fraction of total income from tourism – and far outweighed by the potential damage caused to wildlife populations that sustain legitimate tourism.

The UNWTO estimates that the average wildlife watching tour in Africa (6 people for 10 days) generates $30,000 of expenditure, excluding flights. Many schemes exist, such as the successful community conservancy model in Kenya, to ensure that benefits are distributed equitably, with a proportion going to local people.

For example Along the Serengeti-Ngorongoro safari circuit in Tanzania there are about 3,500 crafts and souvenir stalls that employ 7,000 sellers and 21,000 crafters. 19% of the total earnings are considered ‘pro-poor’, meaning that they reach local people via wages and tips.

By contrast, trophy hunting generates lots of money for a few people, most of whom are already rich. Even pro-hunting organizations have reported that only 3 percent of revenue from trophy hunting ever makes it to the communities affected by hunting.

Even worse, local people in Africa are being expelled from their lands to make room for private game reserves. In Zimbabwe, it was reported that, in January,armed police evicted more than 200 families from a farm in eastern Zimbabwe to create space for a game park proposed by first lady Grace Mugabe. A further 200 families were threatened with the same fate in February.

Estimates suggest that 17% of land in Zimbabwe is given over to trophy hunting, which generates just 0.3% of GDP . Trophy hunting is an activity carried out by the rich and for the rich.

Earlier this week, I was lucky enough to be one a group of civil society representatives invited to meet President Obama on his visit to Kenya. He spoke eloquently about American’s sense of civic duty: “when [American] people see an injustice they want to do something about it.” Now is the time to call for justice, not only to avenge the death of one iconic animal, but to put an end to whole barbaric practice of trophy hunting.

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Video: Creating a Generation of Wildlife Warriors Event

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On 4th July, WildlifeDirect hosted one of the biggest ever events about conservation in Nairobi. The event which was held at Brookhouse School brought together young people and youth of all ages to discuss the role of young people in conservation through Open Space Technology.  Dubbed ‘’Creating a generation of Wildlife Warriors’’ the event brought together more than 300 people who included diplomats, rangers, university students and kids from different counties to discuss different conservation topics.

Open Space Technology is defined approach to organizing meetings including symposiums and community summit events, focused on a specific and important purpose or task and for this day it was all about conservation. On this day, participants came together to discuss different conservation topics, in the end they were allowed to make recommendation on what should be done best to solve some of the issues affecting Wildlife conservation.

‘’We decided to hold an open space event so that we can involve the voices of young people and ordinary members of the public as well as people from different organization who have interest in wildlife conservation’’ Joy Kahumbu, the Open space Technology facilitator said.

Hundreds of recommendations were made and participants were allowed to vote on the recommendations they strongly felt should be worked on.  The recommendations will be then be presented to the government and other organizations.

‘’This event is basically giving children, young people of all ages and people from all sectors an opportunity to work together and give out solutions and recommendations to wildlife challenges ’’  Dr.Paula Kahumnu, CEO WildlifeDirect said.

5 Elephants poached in Tsavo West, 2 people arrested

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A photo shared by Big Life Foundation showing carcasses of the 5 dead elephants killed in Tsavo West last night

Five elephants were yesterday night killed in Tsavo West and their tusks removed. This killing brings the number of elephants killed in the area this month to seven.  The elephants were killed near Ziwani and Lake Jipe area leaving only a surviving calf.

Kenya Wildlife Service officials have launched a manhunt for the poachers behind the killings arresting two people. Others are said to be on the run and according to the officials; they are believed to have crossed the border to Tanzania.

The killings come at a time when the country is working hard to save the remaining African elephants.  Commenting on the killing, WildilifeDirect CEO Dr.Paula Kahumbu said  ‘’Despite recent advances in Kenya, we will never be out of the woods so long as poaching is escalating in neighboring countries, and demand and price of ivory is still exploding in China and Hong Kong’’.

WildlifeDirect strongly condemns this and is urging anyone with information to report to the Kenya Wildlife Service (KWS) through 020 2507435 to ensure the culprits are brought to book.

Dr.Kahumbu discusses elephant conservation with U.S President Barrack Obama

WildlifeDirect CEO Dr.Paula Kahumbu was among the members of the Kenya Civil Society who met the U.S President Barrack Obama on on Sunday.  The meeting, which was held at the Kenyatta University, brought together members of the civil society from across the country to address critical issues affecting the country.  Dr.Paula was here to address the issue of Wildlife crime and ivory trade and the efforts being made by WildlifeDirect to combat the trade.

Dr.Paula reiterated the need to protect the African elephants which are on the verge of extinction. More than 30,000 elephants are killed every year across Africa and Dr.Paula explained to President Obama about the need to protect these iconic animals; she also talked about the Hands Off Our Elephants Campaign started by WildlifeDirect. Through bold, creative measures and in partnership with governments, businesses and non-governmental organizations, the campaign has dedicated itself to changing minds, modifying behavior, strengthening laws, and engaging the public to help in the protection of the African elephant.

‘’I started the Hands Off Our Elephants under my organization WildlifeDirect together with the Kenyan First Lady Margaret  Kenyatta to empower and mobilize Kenyans and Africans to conserve African Elephants’’ Dr. Paula explained.

‘’Our work has really changed the hearts and minds of Kenyans and also the laws. We have been at the centre of judicial reforms in this country’’

She went further to ask President Obama to urge American people to stop buying ivory and ivory products as this is the best way they can help to fight the trade. Paula also requested the American government to take the lead in pursuing wildlife traffickers by strengthening their mutual legal role not just in the demand countries but also source and transit countries.

WildlifeDirect was instrumental in the arrest of one of Kenya’s ivory king pin Feisaal Mohammed and Dr.Paula took the chance to thank the United States Embassy and many other organizations like Interpol who made the arrest possible.

The meeting came just a day after President Obama announced that that the U.S will be taking ‘’urgently needed steps’’ to tighten restrictions on the sale of ivory and ivory products from to protect the remaining Africa’s elephants, which are targeted by poachers for sale on the black market.  The restrictions, Obama said would eliminate the market for illegal ivory in the United States. The proposed rule follows U.S. Secretary of the Interior Sally Jewell’s trip to China and Vietnam earlier this month to meet with senior government officials in both countries to build international cooperation to combat wildlife trafficking.

“Our countries are also close partners in the fight against poachers and traffickers that threaten Kenya’s world-famous wildlife. The United States has a ban already on the commercial import of elephant ivory’’ President Obama said during a press conference in Nairobi.

‘’I can announce that we’re proposing a new rule that bans the sale of virtually all ivory across our state lines, which will eliminate the market for illegal ivory in the United States.”

Dr. Kahumbu praised the move saying the United States being the second largest consumer of ivory should also be in the forefront in combating the trade. If implemented, the rule would result in a near total ban on the ivory trade in the U.S something which Dr.Kahumbu says will be a very huge milestone in the fight against the illegal ivory trade.

YouTube Video courtesy of NTV 

 

 

Platinum Dancers perform an anti-poaching play

They are known for having featured in one of the biggest regional dance shows in East Africa, Sakata. They have also won several awards, thanks to their unique talent; they are Platinum Dancers from Kibera.

The group, which was formed in 2009 performed during the #Tweet4Elephants debate hosted by WildlifeDirect at Brookhouse School in April this year. They danced to Tusimame, an elephant anthem composed by four African artists including Emanuel Jal, Syssi Mananga, Juliani and Venessa Mdee.

They just took part in the SPA competition, a Christian dancing competition where they emerged top. During the completion, they got involved in two challenges; the first one being a play on poaching and its consequences. The play revolved around a villager who witnessed poachers hunting for elephant ivory and how they finally get ivory buyers before they are finally arrested by Kenya Wildlife Service officials. The second challenge was dancing to a mix of songs while wearing Hands Off Our Elephants branded T-Shirts.

Watch them perform the play in the video below:

WildlifeDirect and UNDP hold project inception meeting in Amboseli

On Wednesday, WildlifeDirect initiated a new community enterprise project funded by the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) and in collaboration with the Her Excellency, The First Lady Margaret Kenyatta in Imbirikani, Amboseli.

The project inception meeting was held at the Big Life foundation bringing together over 100 women from three different groups in the area and representatives from UNDP and the community.

The greater Amboseli landscape plays a major role in Kenya’s tourism industry, however its biodiversity particularly its magnificent its elephants is threatened by habitat degradation and issues of human-wildlife conflict and poaching. The communities in this area practice livestock farming and this is their major source of income. Both livelihoods, as currently practiced, are unsustainable, in terms of both natural resource degradation and the extent to which they conflict with the natural movements of wildlife, in particular, elephants are heavily persecuted due to the damages they inflict on crops.

Under this tremendous project, the women groups will be empowered and trained to come up with new ideas which will be funded by UNDP for a period of one year, in a community where men are considered leaders of household with women playing very little roles. This project proposes to empower the Maasai women to take control of their future and have the capacity to plan and implement their own income generating activities.  It will result in the development and marketing of three women’s enterprise utilizing existing groups in the Mbirikani conservancy that are linked to the sustainable use of natural resources.

There is an urgent need to diversify livelihoods in the communities away from both pastoralism and agriculture towards sustainable management of natural resources and other conservation- related activities, so that both wildlife and the communities may continue to co-exist in greater harmony and the ecosystem can be restored to health, providing critical ecosystem services, robust against climate change. This project will help identify potential markets for the women groups and also connect them with buyers for their products.

‘’We need to look at this project at a larger scale and give it the urgency it deserves, we want to make sure at the end of this one year we should have achieved our set goals’’, Paula Kahumbu, CEO WildlifeDirect, said.

‘’it is very important that we quickly agree on the project projects that we need to implement within the stipulated project time that will turn out to be profitable businesses and so I want to thank all the men and women who have come to support this women in this project’’

WildifeDirect will help the women groups in the implementation of the project under the leadership of Community Project Officer, Robert Kaai and Dr.Kahumbu promised to give the women groups enough to ensure the project is a success.

David Githaiga, Team Leader, Energy, environment and Climate Change, UNDP Kenya promised the women groups that UNDP is very much committed to the project, promising the funds for the project  are already available. He said the project is a very good initiative to empower women in this region and said the funds will be released in four quarters immediately after identifying the enterprise to invest in.

 

Women groups, WLD and UNDP staff after the meeting

Women groups, WLD and UNDP staff after the meeting

Dr. Jane Goodall Celebrates 55 Years of Pioneering Research with Wild Chimpanzees

Dr. Jane Goodall Institute's Roots & Shoots-Kenya scale-up a nationwide youth-focused Conservation Leadership Champions initiative personally launched by Dr. Jane Goodall herself on 14 July, the same date she arrived on Africa on Kenyan soil 58 years ago on 14 July 1957. Her visit to Nairobi is to celebrate her two big milestones: her 55th Anniversary of setting up the Gombe Stream Chimpanzee Research Station in Tanzania, and achieving her own 81st Birthday. The RootsAndShoots Conservation Leadership Champions initiative and Dr Jane Goodall's 81st birthday were held in a Gala Event on Monday 13th July at the Serena Nairobi Hotel.

Dr. Jane Goodall Institute’s Roots & Shoots-Kenya scale-up a nationwide youth-focused Conservation Leadership Champions initiative personally launched by Dr. Jane Goodall herself on 14 July, the same date she arrived on Africa on Kenyan soil 58 years ago on 14 July 1957.

On July 14, 2015 WildlifeDirect CEO Paula Kahumbu joined Dr.Jane Goodall as she celebrated 55 years of pioneering research with chimpanzees at Gombe National park in Tanzania. Her research study has become the longest running wild chimpanzee study that now generations of new researchers are continuing, taking it even further, into the world of wild chimpanzee conservation. In these last 55 years of the study, more than 165 thousand hours of data have been collected through observations of more than 320 named chimpanzees in the park. These data have yielded more than 430 academic papers and theses and supported 39 graduate students in either doctoral- or masters-level studies, thanks to Jane Goodall’s first adventure into the world of Gombe’s chimpanzees. After 55 years of research with these chimpanzees, researchers in the park have witnessed and recorded entire lifespans of individuals in Gombe. These chimpanzees have been observed from infancy to adulthood and in some cases even old age and death. ‘’These observations have shown us so much about chimpanzees’ complex social lives, personalities and intelligence’’, Jane Goodall said. ‘’From the first discovery of chimpanzees using tools to “fish” for termites, to maternal care behavior, to territoriality, hunting and meat eating, the behaviors that the Gombe chimpanzees have shown researchers are diverse and have shown us how similar they are to humans. Perhaps the most important thing that these observations have taught us though is how much chimpanzees are worth protecting’’ she added. The research, is as vibrant as ever, and now plays an important role in helping people understand chimpanzees and also informing the Jane Goodall Institute’s conservation efforts in Western Tanzania, and even in some ways across the entire chimpanzee range. Jane’s work revolves around inspiring action on behalf of endangered species, particularly chimpanzees, and encouraging people to do their part to make the world a better place for people, animals, and the environment we all share. Her great hope is that the work at Gombe will continue to contribute both to society understanding of these amazing beings and to the survival of wild chimpanzee populations in Africa. WildlifeDirect would like to congratulate her for this great achievement.

Platinum Dancers emerge top in their campaign against poaching

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They are known for having featured in one of the biggest regional dance shows in East Africa, Sakata. They have also won several awards, thanks to their unique talent, they are Platinum Dancers from Kibera.

The group, which was formed in 2009 performed during the #Tweet4Elephant debate hosted by WildlifeDirect at Brookhouse School in April this year. They danced to Tusimame, an elephant anthem composed by four African artists including Emanuel Jal, Syssi Mananga, Juliani and Venessa Mdee.

The last time they visited WildlifeDirect offices they were preparing for another competition, the second round of SPA Fest Competition. SPA Fest is a Christian dancing competition that would see the dance crew battle it out with 11 other dance crews in the country. For this appearance, it was a mandatory requirement for them to address thematic issues affecting the society at the moment, and for them they chose to address poaching.
‘’The poaching menace is something that most people have ignored, we chose this topic because we thought we could use this competition to pass this message to the young people attending the event’’ Victor Oloo, the founder of the group said.

‘’We have worked with Dr. Paula Kahumbu before and from our experiences, we found that we could use our talent to contribute to the conservation efforts being made by WildlifeDirect’’.

During the competition, the group got involved in two challenges; the first one being a play on poaching and its consequences. The play revolved around a villager who comes into contact with poachers hunting for elephants and how they finally get ivory buyers before being arrested by the Kenya Wildlife Service officials. The second challenge was dancing to a mix of songs while wearing Hands Off Our Elephants branded T-shirts.

‘’WildlifeDirect is very proud to be associated with Platinum Dancers’’ WildlifeDirect CEO, Paula Kahumbu says. ‘’It is time for young people to use their talents to take the campaign and the message of conservation to their peers.
Platinum Dancers emerged top in this second round and are waiting for the finals scheduled to take place in August where they hope to spread the message of conservation further.

Platinum Dancers Campaign Against Poaching

 

Victor Oloo (L) with his deputy Hosea Ojwang when they visited the WildlifeDirect offices

Victor Oloo (R) with his deputy Hosea Ojwang when they visited the WildlifeDirect offices

They have been billed as the best Dance crew from Kibera. They have won several dance competition awards, even made it to the semi finals of the hugely popular regional TV dance show, Sakata. They are the Platinum dancers and their leader is the passionate 20 year old Victor Oloo.

Their latest venture is a competition in which they have taken up the fight against poaching as their rallying dance.

“We have just qualified to stage two of the SpaFest competition,” says Oloo. “For our next appearance, there is the mandatory requirement to address a thematic issue affecting the country at the moment. We have chosen poaching as our theme. We thought that a lot of the other groups will most likely go with insecurity, which is a valid and urgent issue affecting our country today. But we chose to highlight the fact that the poaching of elephants actually also contributes to the insecurity in our country, and has devastating effects on our economy. A lot of tourists come to Kenya to see our elephants. If we kill them, we are killing our economy which greatly depends on the tourism sector”

Platinum dancers performed during the #Tweet4Elephants debate at the Brookhouse school in April, which was hosted by WildlifeDirect. They danced to the Tusimame song, an elephant anthem composed by four artists (from four African countries) including Emmanuel Jal, Syssi Mananga, Juliani and Vanessa Mdee.

“WildlifeDirect is very proud to be associated and to work with this young group of dancers,” says the WildlifeDirect CEO, Paula Kahumbu. “It is the time for young Kenyans to take up the campaign and the message of conservation to their peers. This is when transformation and behaviour change on a large scale will occur, and we are very happy that the Platinum dancers are leading the way”.

Victor formed his first dance group in 2009 right after high school. His fascination with dancing grew out of watching a senior dance crew in his high school. Meet Victor Oloo. They were only two when they started and after many ‘starting overs’ the group is steady with 10 member and many trainees.

Platinum dancers are self taught. “We do the choreography ourselves. We are now using the platform that dancing has given us to teach and train other young people who live in Kibera. Incorporating important messaging in our dancing – like about conservation – is also an important way to reach our followers and fans with information that can transform them,” says Oloo.

Oloo adds that it is a pity that a lot of the youth in the slums are very talented by lack the opportunity to explore their talents.

A recent graduate in fashion and design, Oloo says the group hopes to use dance as a platform to open more opportunities and to lay the foundation for something greater. Our ultimate dream is to start a dance academy in Kibera.

Oloo hopes that their anti poaching dance will not only win them the competition but that it will reach many people with a message to encourage them to conserve nature and the wildlife.

“Everything starts with attitude,” he says. “And attitude goes hand in hand with change. If you have a positive attitude, you will have positive change in the areas of your life. And the opposite is true. We hope that our message will bring about a positive attitude towards the conservation of elephants in the minds of those who watch us. And in the end, to encourage everyone to just do what is good, what is right”.

 

 

Kenya Government allocates Ksh1.4 billion to anti-poaching efforts


The Treasury Cabinet Secretary for Henry Rotich with the cabinet secretary for the ministry of Devolution and Planning Anne Waiguru before presenting the 2015/2016 budget estimates to Parliament yesterday

The Treasury Cabinet Secretary Henry Rotich (R) with the cabinet secretary for Devolution and Planning Anne Waiguru, before presenting the 2015/2016 budget estimates to Parliament yesterday/ Star newspaper

The war against poaching has received a major boost from the government after the National Treasury allocated Ksh 1.4 billion (USD 14.5 million) to anti-poaching efforts. This announcement was made yesterday by the Treasury Cabinet Secretary Henry Rotich when he presented the 2015/2016 Financial Year budget estimates in Parliament.

Rotich said that the government had allocated the amount to help in the war against poaching in the country. Last week, President Uhuru Kenyatta issued a directive to have all customs officers suspected of perpetrating wildlife crimes prosecuted and charged immediately. A tough talking Mr Kenyatta said that port officers and any other person involved in trafficking of wildlife products from the port of Mombasa will be arrested and charged.

This is welcome news in conservation circles, coming a few months after Kenya Wildlife Service unveiled a new forensic and genetics laboratory to strengthen prosecution of wildlife crimes by aiding in the provision of accurate identification of wildlife and wildlife products.

Commenting on the funds allocation, WildlifeDirect CEO Dr. Paula Kahumbu said that this was a very encouraging gesture from the Kenya government but a lot more money will be needed to win the war against poaching and trafficking of wildlife products.

“Poaching and trafficking are organized international crimes and need billions to fight the cartels involved in it,’’ she said. ” But this is one huge step in the right direction”.

She called on donors to chip in and give support to augment government’s efforts in the war against poaching.

On Wednesday, one of the most wanted poachers was arrested in his Tana River hideout. Mohamed Bulle who has been linked to poaching activities in Tsavo, Taita Ranch and the Maasai Mara game reserve was arrested by a combined team of Kenya Defence Forces, Kenya Wildlife Service and intelligence officers.

Late last month, Interior Cabinet Secretary Joseph Nkaissery also linked the outlawed Mombasa Republican Council to poaching activities in the country. The CS said intelligence by the police shows that proceeds from ivory trafficking are being used to finance criminal activities and linked a latest consignment seized in Singapore and Thailand to the Mombasa Republican Council (MRC), an outlawed separatist group. Several people have so far been arrested in connection to the seizures.