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


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



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:


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


Your participation in this activity will be highly appreciated.


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Ndovu Zetu Music Concert

Ndovu Zetu Music Concert : In Praise of Elephants

Mandela of the Sarabi Band performs during the Ndovu Zetu concert

Mandela of the Sarabi Band performs during the Ndovu Zetu concert


On the last day of February this year, some of the top most bands in Kenya put up a grand show…wait for it…for elephants!

Sauti Sol, Sarabi band, Juliani, Muthoni Drummer Queen, Emmanuel Jal were among the top artists that performed at the Ndovu Zetu concert on 28th February, at the United Nations Recreational Grounds. This was the first time that a concert was held in Kenya just for elephants.

It was also the first time that ‘Tusimame’- an elephant anthem song was performed live for the very first time. Tusimame was written and performed by various artists including former South Sudan child soldier Emmanuel Jal, Juliani, Syssi Mananga from Congo-Brazzaville and Vanessa Mdee from Tanzania.

Over 1,000 people attended the concert.

“We are excited to be hosting a show just for elephants,” said Dr Paula Kahumbu, the CEO of WildlifeDirect. WildlifeDirect, whose patron is the First Lady Her Excellency  Margaret Kenyatta, is the main sponsor of the concert, working in conjunction with the Kenya Wildlife Service, the Ministry of Environment, Water and Natural Resources.

Baraza of the Sauti Sol charges the crowds during the Ndovu Zetu Concert

Baraza of the Sauti Sol charges the crowds during the Ndovu Zetu Concert

This concert was the kick-off event of the Kenya Wildlife Festival. The Kenya Wildlife festival is an initiative of the Kenya Wildlife Service and the ministry of Environment Water and Natural Resources and several conservation organisations to create awareness among the public and celebrate Kenya’s wealth and natural heritage in wildlife.

“People do great things for people and causes they love and believe in. Were doing this for elephants because we love them. Like humans, elephants feel, worry, play, hurt, mourn, remember. Elephants are human too”

And the reasons to celebrate our elephants are many!

Kenya hosts the world’s most famous elephant research project ; the Save The Elephants and the Amboseli Trust for Elephants. The Amboseli Trust for elephants has been running for 40years. All the elephants at the Amboseli eco system are known by names and their families. Save the Elephants operates on Northern Kenyan where they have been on the frontline to take poaching down and create awareness about elephants conservation.

Paula Kahumbu addresses the crowd during the Ndovu Zetu Concert

Paula Kahumbu addresses the crowd during the Ndovu Zetu Concert

Kenya is also home to the David Sheldrick Elephant Wildlife Trust which hosts the world’s most successful orphan-elephant rescue and rehabilitation centre.

But the truth remains that African elephants face imminent extinction if nothing is done to save them. Approximately 33,000 elephants are killed every year across Africa to supply the ivory market especially in Asia. Dr Kahumbu explains that in Kenya, we have made huge strides in the last couple of years in efforts to protect our elephants. But a lot still needs to be done.

“The public is better informed and engaged now, a suspected ivory kingpin, Feisal Mohamed Ali, is behind bars and the poaching level is down. But we still need to win the hearts and minds of Kenyans of all walks of life; we hope that every Kenyan will know of the benefits of elephants not only to our ecosystems but to our economy as well. At WildlifeDirect, our goal is to get all Kenyans and Africans to love our elephants so much that extinction is no longer a threat”

Part of the crowd at the Ndovu Zetu concert

Part of the crowd at the Ndovu Zetu concert

The Ndovu Zetu concert and the Kenya Wildlife Festival was aimed at winning the hearts and minds of everyone, big and small, young and old. To have every Kenyan loathing poaching and trafficking and become our brothers keepers to watch that no one is poaching our elephants or trafficking ivory to satisfy their greed.



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Frontline teams ‘unaware’ of wildlife smuggler tactics

By Navin Singh Khadka Environment reporter,

BBC World Service

Ivory smuggled in a suitcase

Front-line transport workers largely lack awareness on how criminal networks disguise illegal wildlife products, it emerged at a summit in Bangkok.

Customs officials and wildlife trade experts say that educating freight forwarders and handlers of air, ship and land cargoes could help the fight against trafficking.

Their recent meeting with transport operators was the first of its kind.

“There was a genuine shock (among participants from the transport industry in the meeting) as to the magnitude of wildlife trade and the methods of disguise used by traffickers to transport these commodities,” said Martin Palmer, an expert in global trade compliance requirements and international transport.

“For example, when a rhino horn is ground down to powder, it’s almost impossible to identify the difference between a box of grey chalk and a box of rhino horn powder, from a visual check.

“Facts like these came as a big surprise to participants from the transport industry.”

Wildlife organisations say around 35,000 elephants are killed for their tusks every year, mainly in Africa.

The South African government has said poaching of its rhinos reached a record of 1,215 last year.

Only around 3,000 tigers are now left across the globe, which is only 5% of what the population was a century ago.

Experts say despite international efforts against wildlife trafficking, criminal networks have been adopting new tactics in transporting the illegal goods – which are estimated to be worth up to $23bn annually, according to the United Nations Environment Programme.

“And a lot of these people (from the transport industry) said over and over again that a lot of freight handlers lacked awareness,” said Tom Milliken, an elephant and rhino trafficking expert with Traffic, an international wildlife trade monitoring network.

seized ivory shipment

seized ivory shipment

This box full of ivory, seized in Malaysia in 2012, was hidden inside a stack of timber

In the meeting, Mr Milliken had presented a case study in which a major international courier company in 2011 suddenly found in its Europe depot that one of the parcels it was transporting had ivory bangles that were going from Nigeria to China.

“Within the next two weeks, three more similar seizures were made which was a red flag for larger international courier companies and so they immediately started screening at source,” Mr Milliken said.

“Now, there is evidence of ivory processing taking place by Asian carvers in Africa. There is increasing evidence of Chinese processing in particular shifting all the way to Africa.”

Wildlife trade experts say that this shift is a new challenge for transport operators.

“You could at least identify raw elephant tusks – but if they are processed into bangles, they could resemble resin bangles,” said Mr Palmer.

Wildlife trafficking experts say such information needs to be tailored for transport industry so that they can better assess the risks.

“These freight handlers could become valuable eyes and ears in the trade, because they are the ones who actually handle these consignments in different ways,” Mr Palmer added.

ivory bangles

A courier company discovered a shipment of ivory bangles in Germany, on its way from Nigeria to China

Trafficking experts say they are seeking the transport industry’s help particularly because most of the customs and security authorities at ports and airports across the globe are “overwhelmed” by security, drugs and human trafficking issues.

“Certainly one cannot expect that customs could inspect every shipment crossing international borders, given the volume of the cargoes. And you don’t necessarily want to inspect all the shipments because of trade facilitation,” said an official with World Customs Organisations (WCO), which counts 197 countries among its members.

“Also, very few customs authorities around the world have specialised teams that know which species of wildlife are prohibited from international trade,” the official added.

“The port of Hong Kong has 19 million containers going through it and if they are going to scan and open even one or two percent of that, it’s just a huge number of containers,” said Mr Milliken.

About 90% of the items traded around the world are shipped internationally, according to the UN’s International Maritime Organisation.

smuggled turtles

The illegal wildlife trade is estimated to be worth up to $23 billion annually

In most cases, sea containers are not X-rayed – unlike air cargoes.

Therefore, experts say, customs officials work on the basis of a very reasoned risk assessment to choose containers that have a higher probability of containing illegal wildlife products.

“The transport industry people know the customer, they know all the trade routes and then they handle the goods,” said another senior WCO official, who did not want to be named.

“If they are interested and if they are aware of that kind of threat, then they can tip off the customs authority, which can then improve its performance.”

The International Air Transport Association said that a number of airlines had instigated training programmes for staff to identify suspect bags or behaviours.

The IATA recently accepted an invitation to join the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge’s United for Wildlife Taskforce, which will look at a whole range of issues and actions to help stamp out this illegal trade, said Michael Gill, its aviation environment director.

There was no comment from the International Chamber of Shipping.

A representative with a shipping company, speaking on condition of anonymity, said the industry was unaware of the tactics used by wildlife traffickers but there was a general awareness that such crimes could take place.

“We mainly rely on declarations from our customers about their goods and if that is false, we cannot do anything about it. It then becomes a customs issue,” the representative said.

Short-term Consultancy at WildlifeDirect

WildlifeDirect in partnership with the office of the Director of Public Prosecutions, has developed a Rapid reference guide for use by prosecutors from the different arms of government. This consultancy is expected to augment this work by refining the guide into a proper information and educational content document with detailed layout and in language that is easily understood by the common man

If you’re interested, download the TORs here and apply by 16th February 2015, to:  

TORs for RRG consultancy

Happy New Year From WildlifeDirect

By Njambi Maingi

We celebrated the start of 2015 on a welcomed high note. No other motivation was more fitting than the conferment of the Order of the Grand Warrior – OGW – on our CEO Dr Paula Kahumbu and fellow conservation partner, Katito Saiyalel of the Amboseli Trust for Elephants.

An award ceremony was held at the Amboseli Serena lodge, and presided over by the cabinet secretary of the Environment, Water and Natural Resources.

OGW is a State commendation, awarded by the President of Kenya “in recognition of outstanding or distinguished service rendered to the nation in various capacities and responsibilities”

The Kenya Wildlife Service Assistant Director for the Southern Conservation Area, Mr. Julius Cheptei was present as the master of ceremony.

Dr Paula receives the OGW medal from CS Wakhungu

Dr Paula receives the OGW medal from CS Wakhungu


“I am humbled and moved in accepting this award. To me, this is the most important award I have received. I do so on behalf of all my staff, board, interns volunteers, supporters and of course the elephants who have all inspired me.  This award is a substantial recognition of the significance of our work in elephant conservation to by beloved country, Kenya. Knowing that the Hands Off Our Elephants Campaign is not just making a difference, but has the support of the Republic of Kenya, gives us a renewed conviction to the seriousness in our efforts to end poaching, ivory trafficking and the buying of ivory” – Dr Paula Kahumbu, OGW.




Katito Saiyalel of ATE receives her OGW medal from CS Wakhungu

Katito Saiyalel of ATE receives her OGW medal from CS Wakhungu


“I feel lucky, that this award was conferred to me, here in Amboseli my home. I will continue to protect these elephants and other elephants too. I am so happy and proud of myself. What next for me? Keep protecting our elephants.” – Katito Saiyalel, OGW

Congratulations Dr Paula, OGW & Katito Saiyalel, OGW.

For more pictures click here


On the 5th of January, the first day at the office in 2015, WildlifeDirect staff were pleasantly surprised by a visit from our ‘founding father’ Dr Richard Leakey. He is a rare appearance at the WildlifeDirect office. But he had to get a firsthand look at the latest addition to the WildlifeDirect awards, the OGW Medal. The team, not missing out on the photo opportunity, posed with Dr Leakey before he left shortly.








Leakey @ office




Dr Leakey admires Dr Paula’s OGW medal at the WildlifeDirect office.




leakey office team


L-R: Chris Kiarie, John Mutie, Liz Gitari, Dr Paula Kahumbu, Dr Richard Leakey, Bertha Kang’ong’oi, Njambi Maingi, Victor de la Torre Sans.)







This week, the spirited volunteer and supporter of Hands Off Our Elephants, Peter Muthee, paid us a courtesy call. Peter is a talented young painter, who donated his ‘Hidden Elephant’ painting to help raise public awareness and mobilization about elephants conservation.

“In 2013 when the poaching of elephants became very rampant and was frequently in the news, I painted this abstract elephant, to help raise awareness to the crisis. I hope to participate in more Hands Off Our Elephants projects this year,” he said.

Thank you Peter for your kindness, we look forward to more interactions in 2015!



Peter Muthee presents the painting to Njambi Maingi at the WildlifeDirect offices