Kenyan conservationist, Dino Martins, wins 2015 Whitley Gold Award

 

Dino Martins receives the Whitley Gold Award from HRH Princess Royal

Dino Martins receives the Whitley Gold Award from HRH Princess Royal

Dr. Dino Martins, an insect conservationist from Kenya, has been awarded the prestigious Whitley Gold Award in London. The £50,000 award was given to him in recognition of his work with local communities to raise awareness of the importance of pollinators, and to encourage the adoption of more sustainable farming practices that conserve pollinators, boost crop yields, and benefit people and livelihoods in East Africa.

Dr. Martins works at both the local and government level and his efforts have led to the development of Kenya’s first legislation to specifically protect bees from harmful pesticides.

Pollinators plays a key role in the ecosystem; one of every three bites of food we eat is dependent on pollinators. Tiny insects like bees, wasps, butterflies, moths, flies and beetles – play a critical role in crop pollination. The provision of this free ‘ecosystem service’ is worth an estimated $250 billion annually to the global economy. Without pollinators, the planet’s food security would be at risk, with significant livelihood ramifications; and billions would need to be spent to pollinate crops artificially.

“The calibre of this year’s Whitley Awards winners is simply outstanding and Dino Martins is a truly worthy winner of the 2015 Whitley Gold Award,” said Edward Whitley, the founder of the Whitley Fund for Nature. “Against enormous challenges, Dino has transformed the lives of farmers in Kenya, through his work, promoting the importance of bees and other pollinators which put food on our tables and money in farmers’ pockets”.

The Whitley Gold Award will enable Dino to expand his conservation efforts to a new level: working with 4,000 additional farmers; tackling the importation, use and spread of unregistered pesticides entering Africa and educating up to 200,000 people about the importance of pollinators and sustainable agriculture.

Dino Martins gives his acceptance speech after receiving the Whitley Gold Award, at a ceremony in  London on 29 April

Dino Martins gives his acceptance speech after receiving the Whitley Gold Award, at a ceremony in London on 29 April

Dino joins an elite group of conservationists who have won the coveted Whitley Gold Award for grassroots conservation, working against tremendous odds in developing countries.

Dino won a Whitley Award in 2009, before going on to receive additional WFN ContinuationFunding in 2011. These follow-on ‘Continuation Funding’ grants are awarded competitively to winners seeking to scale up their effective conservation results on the ground. Each grant is worth up to £70,000 over two years. The final accolade – the Gold Award – singles out outstanding people achieving significant conservation impact and recognizes them with WFN’s top profile and PR prize.

“Whitley Award winners are simply exceptional people – passionate individuals who are committed to achieving positive environmental impact and long-term conservation and community benefits,” Sir David Attenborough, a Trustee of the Whitley Fund for Nature said.

The Whitley Awards are prestigious annual international prizes presented to individuals in recognition of their achievements in nature conservation. Each Award Winner receives a prize worth £35,000 in project funding over one year. The charity’s patron, HRH The Princess Royal, presents the Awards each year at a special ceremony in London. The awards have been presented annually since 1994. Since then, the Whitley Fund for Nature has given over £11 million to conservation and recognised more than 170 conservation leaders in over 70 countries.

Congratulations Dr Dino Martins!

Secretary of State John Kerry Meets Baby Elephants

Secretary of State John Kerry Falls in Love with Orphaned Baby Elephants at the David Sheldrick Wildlife Trust

Secretary of State John Kerry feeds a baby elephant during his recent visit at the David Sheldrick Wildlife Trust

Secretary of State John Kerry feeds a baby elephant during his recent visit at the David Sheldrick Wildlife Trust

During his diplomatic visit to Kenya, the US Secretary of State, John Kerry took time off to visit the Sheldrick Elephant Orphanage at the Nairobi National Park. Kerry visited the orphanage to learn about wildlife conservation efforts in Kenya ahead of a series of meetings with government  officials.

David Sheldrick is the most successful orphan-elephant rescue and rehabilitation program in the world and is also one of the pioneering conservation organizations for wildlife and habitat protection in East Africa.

The secretary of State was accompanied by cabinet secretary Judi Wakhungu and the US Ambassador to Kenya Bob Godec

The secretary of State was accompanied by cabinet secretary Judi Wakhungu, the US Ambassador to Kenya Bob Godec and the KWS Acting Director General William Kiprono

During the visit to DSWT, the Secretary of State was accompanied by the US ambassador to Kenya His Excellecy Robert F Godec, the Cabinet Secretary for the ministry of Environment, Water and Natural Resources, Professor Judi Wakhungu and Kenya Wildlife Service (KWS) acting Director General William Kiprono.

Kerry met 28 orphaned elephants currently being kept at the David Sheldrick Trust’s Nursery and learnt the tragic stories behind their sate. He fell in love with them, and even took time to take a selfie with one of the baby elephants and posted it on twitter, saying : ‘Made a new friend at @DSWT Elephant Orphanage in #Nairobi National Park’.

In a post he once wrote for the Huffington Post, Kerry said ‘’ Slaughters of wildlife have grown exponentially. The scale, pace, and sophistication of elephant and rhino poaching are accelerating at a devastating pace. Not only are these majestic animals disappearing before us, as poachers grow in sophistication and firepower, this explosion in trafficking undermines the stability and security of range states, and imperils those whose livelihoods depend on these great creatures and ecosystems’. We do not have the luxury of time. We must act urgently and raise public awareness.’’

Secretary John Kerry chats with Dame Dr Daphne Sheldrick during his recent visit to the DSWT elephant orphanage

Secretary John Kerry chats with Dame Dr Daphne Sheldrick during his recent visit to the DSWT elephant orphanage

In April the US State department hosted the screening of ‘Gardeners of Eden’ in Washington DC, a film which presents the reality of ivory trade and shows first-person experience inside the operations of David Sheldrick Wildlife Trust.

Secretary Kerry also met with Cynthia Moss of ATE (shaking hand) and with Pat Awori (in red) during his recent visit to the DSWT elephant orphanage

Secretary Kerry also met with Cynthia Moss of ATE (shaking hand) and with Pat Awori (in red) during his recent visit to the DSWT elephant orphanage

Secretary Kerry was hosted at the DSWT by Dame Dr Daphne Sheldrick and DSWT CEO Angela Sheldrick. Daphne Sheldrick’s involvement with wildlife has spanned a lifetime, and she is now a recognised International authority on the rearing of wild creatures and is the first person to have perfected the milk formula and necessary husbandry for infant milk-dependent Elephants and Rhinos.

Secretary Kerry also met with Cynthia Moss of the Amboseli Trust for Elephants as well as with Pat Awori of the Pan African Wildlife Conservation Network. Cynthia Moss has been studying elephants of the Amboseli ecosystem for over 40 years. She is also an award winning conservationist and writer.

Kenya Named by CITES Among Countries That Need To Urgently Tackle Illegal Wildlife Trade

Kenya Named by CITES Among Countries That Need To Strengthen Laws To Tackle Illegal Wildlife Trade

 

The 15 tonnes of ivory that President Uhuru Kenyatta burnt on 3 March, at the Nairobi National Park

The 15 tonnes of ivory that President Uhuru Kenyatta burnt on 3 March, at the Nairobi National Park

Kenya has been named by the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wildlife and Flora (CITES) among 17 countries that need to pay priority attention to strengthen their laws to tackle illegal wildlife trade. According to the new figures released on 5 May, the 17 countries are among 88 countries and 13 dependent territories that CITES says need to strengthen their legal frameworks to help combat illegal wildlife trade.

The other countries include Algeria, Belize, Plurinational State of Bolivia, Comoros, Djibouti, Guinea-Bissau, Kazakhstan, Liberia, Mauritania, Mozambique, Pakistan, Paraguay, Rwanda, Somalia, United Republic of Tanzania and Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela.

CITES, in collaboration with United Nations Environmental Program, UNEP, also announced a collaborative initiative to provide assistance to priority countries and territories, upon their request, to enhance their wildlife legislation. This includes the provision of targeted legal advice on the four basic domestic measures required by CITES, compilation of examples of best legislation, drafting support and close cooperation with UNODC and UNDP on the implementation of the relevant provisions of the United Nations Convention against Transnational Organized Crime, the strengthening of the rule of law and the fight against corruption.

“Our problem in Kenya is not that we do not have good laws,” says Liz Gitari, the legal affairs manager at WildlifeDirect. “We have very good laws, in fact, we have some of the most progressive laws on wildlife conservation in the world. Our issue is the enforcement of this law especially in inter agency cooperation. We lack a clear demonstration of political will to deal with wildlife trafficking in Kenya, there’s too much talk by government and too little action that produced tangible and verifiable results,’’ she said.

On their part, CITES said that ensuring the 35,000 species of plants and animals listed under CITES are not illegally traded or exploited unsustainably required effective national legal frameworks in each of the 181 Parties to the Convention. “This joint initiative between CITES and UNEP will offer targeted technical support to countries to meet CITES legislative requirements, which is critical to fight the illegal trade in wildlife,” said John Scanlon, the CITES Secretary-General.

While China is on the longer list of the 88 countries, it is interestingly not listed among the 17 countries that require priority attention to tackle illegal wildlife trade.

China, which has historically been a significant destination for illicit ivory, has elsewhere and severally been identified as the single most important influence on the increasing trend in illegal trade in ivory in Africa. There have been several calls for the country to ban its domestic trade in ivory and as Liz Gitari says, these calls should not be ignored.

‘’We need to address issues head-on and ignoring the China problem does not help,” says Gitari. “In the global community we live in, we must acknowledge that what China does will have grave implications on whether we win this war or not,’’ she said.

Liz Gitari adds that WildlifeDirect is about to launch a report on wildlife crime prosecution in Kenya, which looks at the handling of wildlife crimes since the enactment of a new Wildlife law in 2014.  And as Liz says, the results of the study show that Kenya still has a long way to go.

 

 

 

Things R Elephant Debate

Heated Debate in Kenya Gets At the Heart of What it Will Take to Save The Species

(As published in the National Georgraphic at http://voices.nationalgeographic.com/2015/04/27/things-r-elephant-heated-debate-in-kenya-gets-to-the-heart-of-what-it-will-take-to-save-the-species/)

By Paula Kahumbu

Debate Session between Paula Kahumbu and Charles Onyango-Obbo, moderated by John Sibi Okumu (Middle) 1

In Kenya, when you hear that “Things are Elephant,” it means there’s a major problem. That’s why we chose this as the title for the first ever debate of its kind, organized by WildlifeDirect, on the future of elephants.

On the afternoon of April 25, in a school hall in Nairobi, two highly charged teams—who had traded emotional Tweets the days before—went head to head. The only thing they agreed on was the need to save elephants.

The need to save our elephants has never been greater: Only today, in Thailand, three tons of illegal ivory from Kenya was seized at a port in eastern Thailand. The ivory was shipped from Mombasa, but it’s not clear if it originated in Kenya or elsewhere in Africa.

Elephants are a big deal for my country, Kenya, which is renowned for it’s spectacular wildlife. Despite it’s conservation history, Kenya is listed among the world’s eight most complicit countries as a source of ivory, and it’s a major contributor to the illegal transiting of ivory out of Africa.

Something is very wrong.

As the CEO of WildlifeDirect, I lead a national campaign—Hands Off Our Elephants—to transform results in Kenya, and we’re best known for our advocacy for better law enforcement, especially in the court rooms.

Our campaign, whose patron is First Lady Margaret Kenyatta, has had major impact. For example, on March 3, President Uhuru Kenyatta set 15 tons of ivory alight and promised to destroy the rest before the end of 2015.

We patted ourselves on the back for lobbying for what was the boldest move by any African president to date.

But less than 24 hours later, a full-page article appeared in a major local newspaper by respected columnist Charles Onyango-Obbo titled, “Don’t Burn Ivory, Sell it to Pay for Conservation.”

Furious, I hounded Charles on Twitter and met with him to “re-educate” him about why burning ivory was the right thing to do. He would have none of it and argued that the president was a fool.

So I challenged him to a duel—a public debate. We promoted the event with a poster depicting two super heroes fighting. The title of the debate: “Things R Elephant: The Great Debate on the Future of Elephants.”

Though Kenya is surely home to more elephant experts than any other country in the world, my colleagues were not at all happy and begged me not to go ahead with the debate.

They asked: What if the conservationists lose in the public eye in spite of fielding the stronger team? Remember: Even the best teams lose to weaker teams!

And: An all-out debate inviting all sorts of pro traders and free thinkers might not have the desired outcome. We risk opening up the proverbial can of worms and having the public go in a completely different direction.

These comments only egged me on. Trained by Richard Leakey, I’m known for my determination and stubbornness. (Just today, for the third time, Leakey has been appointed chairman of the Kenya Wildlife Service.)

My team, arguing for the ivory trade ban and the burning of stockpiled ivory, included ecologist Winnie Kiiru and activist Irungu Houghton.

The opposition, arguing for openly selling elephants and their ivory, was made up of Onyango-Obbo, economist Kwame Owino, and writer Carla Wanjiku.

Let the Sparring Begin!

For two hours, we sparred on three topics: Are Elephants special? How can we save them? How can we stop the demand?

US Ambassador to Kenya Bob Godec addresses the Audience during the #Tweet4Elephants Debate

US Ambassador to Kenya Bob Godec addresses the Audience during the #Tweet4Elephants Debate

United States Ambassador Robert F. Godec framed the last theme by describing the global crisis and the role the U.S. is playing. He asked us to give three concrete examples of actions we’d take if we were in power.

So I’m chewing over my thoughts, listening to Charles, who comes up with the most ludicrous suggestions. He says: Ban the parks, ban the Kenya Wildlife Service, and stop burning ivory.”

I smile. He’s made it easy. I call for a national strategy to end trafficking of wildlife products, reform in the wildlife authority, and a global ban of ivory into perpetuity.

Charles insists that it’s my fault that elephants are in trouble because everything we’re doing as conservationists isn’t working, and therefore we should try radical solutions.

He says, “Just sell the ivory and use the funds to support better conservation.”

The audience is cheering!

I say, “Charles, your argument is completely illegitimate. We can’t sell the ivory even if we want to, unless you’re asking the Kenya government to sell it illegally into the black market.

“But,” I continue, “even if we could sell it, it would be like selling cocaine seizures to pay for rehabilitation of drug addicts.” With this argument, I win the audience back to my side. Charles falls silent.

Charles’s team’s viewpoint won the debate in CITES 2002 when southern African nations and China persuaded the world that the sale of ivory would help elephants. An auction took place in 2008 and triggered the worst slaughter elephants have ever been victim to.

The Genius of a Debate

Debating may be a risky approach, but it’s a genius way of creating public awareness, buy-in, and participation. The event drew 350 people. Another 2.2 million were reached on Twitter, and 366 people followed us on the youtube livestream .

We generated hundreds of questions and comments, and through the process, I learned three important lessons.

First, the public in general is simply not well enough informed about why elephants are special or why they are in trouble.

Few Africans have ever been to their national parks and experienced the magic of wild elephants. This includes our lawmakers.

Scientists publish important findings in inaccessible journals and use unintelligible jargon; as a result, science isn’t informing important decisions in Africa.

Journalists however, with their limited knowledge and their devil’s advocate approach, can provoke dangerous thinking because of their power to influence leaders through their massive audiences.

If we really care about saving elephants, then we need to get smart about educating and supporting journalists to be more effective in addressing complex issues like wildlife trafficking.

Second, as scientists we shy away from confrontations. Yes, it was scary to debate these important issues live with smart opponents, and yes, we could have lost the debate. But we gained enormous knowledge about what citizens think and care about.

Conservationists must find the courage to face their fears and do what needs to be done regardless.

Finally, I discovered to my horror that ignorance is killing elephants. There’s huge need to reach, educate, and enlist the support of millions of people across Africa who vote for their leaders and drive political decisions.

One member of the audience, a man from Masai Mara, told us that Nat Geo Kids magazine is a staple for his children, who are being raised in the U.S. He concluded that children in Kenya who see wildlife only as a threat are willing to kill animals because they simply have no alternative education.

“There is no Paula in Maasai Mara,” he lamented. He said that putting a magazine in the hands of every one of the million school kids who live near parks would transform their understanding and give them new appreciation.

I immediately began to think about how we can reach a million Kenyan school kids.

When Will We Draw a Red Line for Elephants?

Chief Nyamweya making his presentation during the debate

Chief Nyamweya making his presentation during the debate

For me, the juiciest part of the entire debate was an outburst by a 28-year-old, Chief Nyamweya, who exploded on stage with an unexpected emotional tirade.

I watched in horror as my normally calm friend, fighting back tears, shouted: “When are we going to draw a red line for elephants?”

He threw the microphone on the table and stormed off the stage.

We sat in shocked silence for a few moments. Then I realized that what he was suggesting—a new heightened urgency status for elephants—was supremely powerful.

In recent years, several southern African countries have bowed under pressure from the demand for ivory in China and Japan to sell their ivory. It’s asserted that “sustainable use” of elephants is the right approach for poor African countries struggling to finance the growing costs of fighting elephant poaching. South Africa, Zimbabwe, Botswana, and Namibia have all sold ivory to China.

Imagine if the tables were turned? China would never accept the argument of sustainable use for pandas. Indeed nobody would.

Nyamweya was asking a simple and obvious question: Why don’t elephants have the global status of pandas?

The idea has stuck. We now plan to follow up with another #Tweet4Elephants event—perhaps a 12-hour opportunity for anyone around the world to participate in creating a #Redline4Elephants.

 

Dr Richard Leakey is Appointed Chairman of Kenya Wildlife Service

L-R: Dr Paula Kahumbu, board member Ali Daud Mohamed, Dr Richard Leakey, Board Chairman Philip Murgor, WildlifeDirect Legal Affairs manager Liz Gitari and WildlifeDirect Finance and Admin manager, John Mutie, at a WildlifeDirect's board  meeting with Dr Leakey earlier this year.

L-R: Dr Paula Kahumbu, board member Ali Daud Mohamed, Dr Richard Leakey, Board Chairman Philip Murgor, WildlifeDirect Legal Affairs manager Liz Gitari and WildlifeDirect Finance and Admin manager, John Mutie, at a WildlifeDirect’s board meeting with earlier this year.

The Chairman of the board, Philip Murgor, and the CEO of WildliDirect Dr Paula Kahumbu, are very pleased to announce the appointment of Dr Richard Leakey as the new Chairman of the Kenya Wildlife Service. Dr Richard Leakey is the founder of WildlifeDirect.

This will be the third time that Dr Leakey joins the Kenya Wildlife Service. He was first appointed to head KWS in 1989 by the then President Daniel Arap Moi, in response to an international outcry over the poaching of elephants and the impact it was having on the wildlife in Kenya.

Dr Leakey is credited with putting an end to the slaughter of elephants in Kenya in the 1980s and early 90s; and in persuading the world to put an international ban on ivory trade.

Just over a year ago, Dr Leakey announced that the poaching of elephants had reached catastrophic proportions and called on President Uhuru Kenyatta to declare the poaching of elephants in Kenya a national disaster.

Dr Leakey is an internationally recognised palaeontologist and conservationist. Hollywood’s Angelina Jolie is directing a film about Dr Leakey’s KWS years, with her husband Brad Pitt playing Dr Leakey.

We wish Dr Leakey all the best in his new designation, and are hopeful that, just as he did in the 90s, he shall turn the fortunes of Kenya’s elephants around.

.

 

 

Things Are Elephant!

Things Are Elephant: The Great Debate About the Future of Elephants
tweet4elephants poster-small
All roads lead to Brookhouse school, Nairobi, on 25th April at 4 pm to witness the Great Debate about the Future of Elephants. Heavy weights will throw their punches in the first live public debate of this kind in Kenya.
Despite huge efforts, elephants are being poached at a rate of 33,000 per year  across Africa. On March 3rd, during the World Wildlife Day celebrations,  Kenya destroyed 15 tons of ivory to tell the world that ivory has no value. Conservationists celebrated, the public response was less supportive and some analysts, like Charles Onyango-Obbo, wondered if it wasn’t a better idea to simply sell the ivory and use the funds to protect elephants. The concerns were repeated in Malawi recently when he public halted a planned ivory burn.
To address these divergent views, WildlifeDirect is hosting a debate about the future of elephants to create dialogue, better awareness, involvement, and action on poaching, trafficking and threats to elephants.
This is a live event that will be streamed globally. It is the second  #Tweet4Elephants event following the very successful live discussion on 13th January at the residence of US Ambassador to Kenya, Robert. F. Godec, which  reached 36 million Twitter accounts and making over 136 million impressions on social media.
The  debate involves two fearsome teams that will be moderated by experienced quizz master John Sibi-Okumu. Team Elephant is led by conservationist Paula Kahumbu who believes in burning ivory. Her team comprises scientist storyteller Chief Nyamweya, Dr. Winnie Kiiru, activist Raabai Hawa, CEO of TNC Africa, Charles Oluchina, and Economist Alykhan Satchu.  The “other team” is led by a respected journalist, Charles Onyango-Obbo and includes Samantha Spooner, Kwame Owino (MD of the Institute for Economic Affairs), and Clara Wanjiku, a social entrepreneur and writer.
Included in the 2 hour program are innovative entertainment segments involving Kenyatta Univesity’s student animators, professional dancers and the voices of school children. The debate is a public and  free event and will take place at Brookhouse School (Langata) on Saturday 25th April from  4-6 pm. The audience will include members of the public including Kenyan celebrities, media, diplomats and students (high school and university).
To share the event use #Tweet4Elephants,  and cc @cobbo3 and @HandsOffEles
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Some of the cards shared on social media platform to promote the Debate
It is said that when two elephants fight only the grass suffers. While this debate may get feisty, the overall goal is to save elephants.

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 from the two universities for about one week.

The students were joined by WildlifeDirect staff, elephant expert Soila Saiyalel and comic book writer Chief Nyamweya. This year’s course revolved around testing a new software IBEIS – Image Based Ecological Information System- through taking thousands of pictures of zebra, giraffe and elephants at the Amboseli National park and feeding the pictures into a database which, using the IBEIS software, distinguishes various animals using their identifiable stripes, spots or wrinkles.

This system has a multitude of applications, mostly 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 more than 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.

 Students-listening-to-a-talk-by-Elerai-Conseervancy-chairman.jpg


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.