Category Archives: Amazing facts

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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New Chairman for WildlifeDirect Kenya

Press Statement
14 November 2014, Nairobi
Philip Murgor is Appointed as the new Chairman of WildlifeDirect Kenya
The Board of Directors of WildlifeDirect is happy to announce the appointment of Philip Murgor as the new Chairman of the board of WildlifeDirect Kenya.
Murgor’s appointment was made at a board meeting held at the Amboseli National Park in early November 2014. The international board was in Kenya to mark the first anniversary of WildlifeDirect’s flagship campaign, Hands Off Our Elephants.
This appointment will greatly strengthen the organisation, given his wealth of experience gained over two decades, working in both local and international litigation, serving as formerly as a State Counsel, as Kenya’s Director of Public Prosecutions and currently as the managing partner of Murgor and Murgor Advocates.
WildlifeDirect is committed and dedicated to changing laws and people’s behaviour and attitudes related to wildlife crime in Kenya and throughout Africa. In the last year, WildlifeDirect, through its Hands Off Our Elephants campaign, was in the forefront in championing the passing into law of the Wildlife Conservation and Management Act 2013. Currently, the organisation is conducting a study into the enforceability of the new law in relation to wildlife trafficking crimes in Kenya.
Philip Murgor’s contribution towards this end will not only be felt in Kenya but across the entire African continent where the Hands Off our Elephants campaign will go to.
Other members of the Kenyan board include development expert Irungu Houghton and Ali Daud Mohamed, the Climate Change Advisor in the office of the Deputy President.
The First Lady Margaret Kenyatta is the patron of the Hands Off Our Elephants campaign, launched to advocate for the protection of remaining elephant populations.

For More Information, Please contact CEO of WildlifeDirect Dr Paula Kahumbu on 0722 685 106 or the Communications Manager Bertha Kang’ong’oi on 0720 712 730

Support Richard Turere and his lion lights to enable him to make it to TED

When we first met Richard Turere in FEbruary this year we had no idea that this young genius would get a scholarship to one of Kenya’s top schools, or that he would have a stab at the world stage through TED.

Watch his audition at the TED Talent search here. To support Richard make a donation here and vote for him on the TED website here



Thank you


Paula Kahumbu and Dino Martins named National Geographic Emerging Explorers

It is with great pleasure that we announce that our Executive Director, Paula Kahumbu and one of our bloggers Dino Martins have just been named Emerging Explorers by National Geographic.

Paula Kahumbu National Geographic Emerging Explorer

Paula Kahumbu National Geographic Emerging Explorer

“Some of the world’s most critical conservation problems, and valuable solutions, go unnoticed. I want to shine a light on people whose efforts make a truly remarkable difference.”

Paula Kahumbu brims with energy and passion for preserving threatened wildlife and habitats. She’s also discovered another frequently endangered species: conservationists themselves. She explains that “conservationists do crucial work on a shoestring, cut off from the rest of the world. They’re in remote, isolated places, some even risking their lives, with no chance of getting on the international radar screen. Meanwhile, millions of people who care about the catastrophic loss of wildlife and habitats aren’t sure how to help.”

Legendary conservationist Richard Leakey saw the Internet as a way to connect individuals concerned about the planets threatened flora and fauna with those working on the frontlines to save it. Today his brainchild, WildlifeDirect, gives about 120 conservation projects an online platform to share day-by-day challenges and victories via blogs, diaries, videos, photos, and podcasts. As executive director of the effort ( Kahumbu has the vehicle she was looking for to bring conservation stories out of the shadows and into the minds of people who want to help. Read more

Dino Martins Emerging Exlporer

Dino Martins Emerging Exlporer

“Every single person on our planet has a diet that includes food made possible by pollinating insects. When this connection is threatened, all of humanity is threatened.”

Do you like chocolate? Coffee? Pollinating insects make these and hundreds of other foods possible. The threatened habitats that support those insects may often be out of sight and out of mind, but Dino Martins brings their importance home. “Pollinators are one of the strongest connections between conservation and something everyone needs—food.” With his infectious enthusiasm and practical solutions, Martins acts as a pollinator himself, carrying crucial information to Kenya’s isolated farmers, schoolchildren, and a larger world of travelers and scientists. “Insects are the invisible, behind-the-scenes workers that keep the planet going,” Martins observes. “They do incredibly complicated things but are never recognized for it. I’m privileged to be their messenger.” . Read more

For more information and press release please contact Paula Kahumbu through

Maasai eating of meat ceremony

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Saving Amboseli – Photos of Zebra translocation

Amboseli is famed for the spectacular views of Mt Kilimanjaro and the elephant population made famous by Cynthia Moss, Joyce Poole and the Amboseli Elephant Project.

Amboseli was severely affected by the Kenyan drought, and even though it is now officially over, this is no paradise for wildlife.

It is extremely hot and dusty and there is hardly any grazing. According to local scientists, over 95% of the wildebeest and nearly all the zebras and other wildlife perished from starvation in the drought. In addition the drought took 50 – 80% of the Maasai cattle herds. Predators lost their prey base, and lions, already critically endangered in Kenya also faced starvation so they turned to killing the few remaining cattle and other Maasai livestock.

According to the Maasai on the ground, in a normal year five cattle are killed by lions, currently lions attack five times per week!

To avert the situation the Kenya Wildlife Service mounted the largest wildlife operation in Africa, to translocate 7000 zebras and wildebeest to the park to provide food for the lions and no doubt, to restore the touristic attraction to Amboseli.

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We witnessed day 20 of the operation – the goal was to capture 50 zebras in a dawn operation. Everything started at 5.30am.

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The Kenya Wildlife Service helicopter rounds up zebras and drives them into a cleverly hidden funnel

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Once inside, the funnel is closed with curtains behind the zebras


The zebras are completely confused but not panicked. They settle down until the chute and trucks are in place.


Rangers make noise banging the floor and sides of funnel with sticks to move zebras into the chute.

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Zebras run from funnel into the chute and directly into the waiting truck

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KWS rangers and veterinarians count the individuals and make sure all is going according to plan

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49 zebras are captured. Zebras are compartmentalized in the truck in groups of 10

Six hours adn 300 km later the first zebra truck arrives in Amboseli

The container is opened and zebra makes first tentative steps out

then race for FREEDOM!

The last foal looked a little lost at first

But quickly followed the others running to the elephants in the swamp – causing a minor panic by the pachyderms!

The next day the zebras had figured out where the grass and water was. Of 49 captured 48 survived the first day. One individual ran directly into the swamp and the jaws of waiting hyenas. Its carcass was rescued and taken to a hungry lion pride wtih 6 cubs. : , , , , , , , , , , , , ,
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WildlifeDirect wins Mongabay award

WildilfeDirect wins Mongabay Conservation Award

We at WildilfeDirect are hugely honored to have won mongabays “Innovation in Conservation Award” for 2009. The prize is granted by Mongabay each year to an organization using an unconventional and highly effective approach to conservation.

“WildlifeDirect, a group that promotes conservation through blogging by rangers and scientists, has won’s “Innovation in Conservation Award” for 2009. The prize, which includes a cash donation and and prominent placement on the web site and newsletter for the month of December, is granted each year to an organization using an unconventional and highly effective approach to conserving forests and biodiversity.” aims to raise interest in wildlife and wildlands while promoting awareness of environmental issues. was founded in 1999 by Rhett A. Butler and today he and his colleague Jeremy Hance are the primary writers for the site.

WildlifeDiret wins conservation award

The Chairman of WildlifeDirect, and renowned conservationist, Richard Leakey is especially thrilled that WildlifeDirect has received this award, despite the harsh fund raising conditions WildlifeDirect has continued to operate and support conservationists working in harsh, dangerous and isolated conditions – even rescuing some from certain collapse.

“Recognition from Mongabay through the Innovation in Conservation award is very much appreciated during these difficult times. WildlifeDirect is doing exactly what it promised – helping field based conservationists to be able to stay at work and keep our endangered species safe even during difficult economic times.” he said.

This award is so significant to us because Mongabay is viewed as a global authority on environmental issues. The website receives over one million unique visitors per month and is one of the world’s most popular environmental science and conservation news sites. The news and rainforests sections of the site are widely cited for information on tropical forests, conservation, and wildlife.

WildlifeDirect have featured on Mongabay several times and it is one of the key sites that we go to for information. Read more about the award to WildlifeDirect and Rhett has to say about WildlifeDirect here

Here are some recent articles about WildlifeDirect on Mongabaay

Economic crisis threatens conservation programs and endangered species, an interview with Paula Kahumbu of WildlifeDirect
Jeremy Hance
August 17, 2009

Prime Minister of Kenya urged to ban lion-killing pesticide after child dies from ingestion
Jeremy Hance
November 10, 2009


Kenya moves forward to ban the pesticide Furadan after it is used to kill 76 lions
Jeremy Hance
June 08, 2009

Knut faces eviction

I can’t believe it, only two years old, and the cute polar bear that captured everyones heart is suddenly being made a persona non grata. According to Berlin Zoo Knut is no longer cute and therefore no longer welcome. That’s the sad reality of Zoos in some places!


The Britney Spears of zoos? Is she really THAT huggable?

I’m especially upset because  I met Knut in Berlin just after the book Knut by Craig Hatkoff and his daugters Juliana and Isabella was published. They were my co authors on Owen and Mzee the extraordinary story  about the baby hippo tsunami orphan who adopted a giant tortoise as his ‘mom’ as well as the story of an orphaned baby gorilla Looking for Miza.

Apparently Knut’s second birthday is not to be celebrated tomorrow, the 5th of December by the zoo, causing thousands of fans to protest. Knut’s fame was unprecedented and although every zoo probably wishes for a Knut, an Owen and Mzee, or a dog that adopts white tiger cubs, the Berlin Zoo claims to be tired of the massive public adoration of Knut…..and unbelievable to most, they plan to send him to another zoo. So much for zoos caring about their animals and being responsible towards these extraordinary animals etc.

Poor Knut, it was bad enough to be born in a Zoo, then his mother abandoned him, and then he lost his keeper Thomas Dorflien who died in September. Now he’s to be shipped of to another Zoo – perhaps it’s time for another book Knut II: the cruel abandonment!

For more photos check out this website here and this video on You tube

150 whales beached in Tasmania – possibly due to a quake

It has happened again and nobody knows why. Conservationists are mourning the deaths of over 150 pilot whales that  beached themselves in Tasmania, many of them were injured after being battered against rocks. Thirty were shepherded back to the sea by rescuers. It is thought that they became stranded on their annual migration to and from arctic waters. I was especially touched to hear that stranded whales were calling to those whales still out at sea.Scientists and rescuers think that this was a warning to their friends and family.

For amazing but sad photos of this incident check out the gallery here here and news stories on VOA here and CBS News here. Bloggers are also reporting the incident but only one blogger, on Live Science has proposed an explanation

He says “The Deafwhale Society is doubtful that these 11 animals are safe and sound. The whales are moving with the current that normally flows from west to east in the Bass Strait. We predict two outcomes: (1) The earthquake-injured whales will end up in the bellies of hungry sharks, and (2) if the sharks don’t culled them, there is a good chance they will strand again somewhere near Flinder’s or Cape Barren Islands. If they get passed the shallow water between Flinder’s and Cape Barren, they will likely be washed out into the Tasman Sea.

The SEAQUAKE SOLUTION ( developed by the Deafwhale Society indicates that most whale mass strandings are caused by undersea earthquakes. More specifically, the stranding on 20 November 2008 on Anthony’s Beach near Stanley was caused by the event listed below:

Source: US Geological Service
FILE CREATED: Sun Nov 23 05:21:55 2008
Circle Search Earthquakes= 1
Circle Center Point Latitude: 45.000S Longitude: 100.000E
Radius: 1000.000 km
Catalog Used: PDE
Data Selection: Preliminary Data Only

PDE-Q 2008 10 25   223507.93 45.22S  97.05E 10 km 5.1 mbGS

Local time at the epicenter was 6:35 am on 26 October 2008. The depth of focus of the 5.1 magnitude earthquake was restrained by the computer at less than 10 km.

In general, the seafloor danced rapidly during the earthquake, pushing and pulling at the water in a fashion to generate excessive changes in the hydrostatic pressure surrounding the area where the pod of pilot whales were feeding. The quick fluctuations in pressure caused the volume of air inside the head sinuses of the whales to increase and decrease rapidly in response to the changing pressure resulting in a barotraumatic injury in the membranes that surround these sinuses.

The whales use these sinuses to generate echonavigation signals and to read the returning echo, thus an injury of this nature would not only disrupt diving and feeding but also disable echonavigation. A pod of earthquake-injured pilot whales would surface but not be able to dive again, nor be able to generate or determine direction of their navigating signals.

The vibration from the earthquake would be like a dinner bell to any nearby sharks.

The pod would huddle together to fight off shark attack. The sharks would take the most seriously injured. The rest would stay huddled swimming off in an unknown direction in an attempt to move away from the sharks.

Any swimming action by the pod would turn their streamline bodies downstream in the path of least resistance. Surface currents from the epicenter, known as the Antarctic Circumpolar Current, flow from the west to the east and would direct the wounded pod A

An interesting theory but I’m not 100% convinced. Nobody can prove that there were sharks in the area.  I don’t doubt that a quake could simply confuse the sharks…. but this does not explain why these whales seem to beach themselves frequently on the Tasmania shores.

According to the CBS News  article only one week ago rescuers saved another 11 pilot whales among more than 60 stranded on a beach in northwestern Tasmania, which is an island.

I wonder if anyone has investigated whether these previous strandings were also linked to sea quakes.

It’s Worlds AIDS day, stay safe.

Check out the encyclopedia of life

When E.O. Wilson said it was  the little things that made the world go round I didn’t really take any notice. But I’ve just discovered that on in every 3 bites of food was pollinated by an insect. That is a fantastic statistic, it means that our very survival depends on them.

As an ecologist I’ve always found insects interesting but it’s so hard to study them, first there are just too many of the darned things, some are anti social and sting and bite, many are too small to see, and some give us nasty diseases. But most of all it’s damn hard to get any books or educational materials on them – compared say to elephants, birds or plants.

Then I met Dino Martins and I suddenly got answers to everything I’d always been curious about, and instantly fell in love with insects.

If you don’t know him already, Dino writes the amazing

Dudu diaries blog about insects, and if his effect on me was profound, it was nothing compared to how he’s changing peoples perceptions all around Kenya. He’s back from Harvard University (where he’s doing his PhD) for a couple of weeks. We had lunch yesterday and he  told me about how he stopped a group of farmers from killing carpenter bees that were visiting a passion fruit farm in western Kenya. Thinking that these large bees were damaging the flowers the farmers went about crushing them and their nests, believing that they were saving their precious crop. After demonstrating that these bees were essential for pollination and production of the passion fruit crop, Dino was able to convince the farmers that they were actually damaging their crop by killing the bees and persuaded them not only to stop killing the bees, but to implement practices that would enhance the bee population and therefore secure a good fruit set of this important cash crop.

At another location he responded to farmers whose eggplant crop had failed for several years. Looking at the fields he noticed that no pollinators were present during the flowering season, and was able to advise the farmers to stop using pesticides which was killing the pollinators. The next year no pesticides were used, pollinators returned and a bumper crop was harvested. In both examples the solutions might sound obvious to anyone who knows about pollination services, but for rural communities education and information are rare. Misinformation and decisions based on ignorance abound which can at best fail to take advantage of natures free service, and at worse destroy these services.

Dino is now working on a new project to use insects as a way of protecting forests. By working with, and involving farming communities and school children, Dino and Nature Kenya (one of Kenya’s most active conservation organizations) aim to save a myriad of endemic and endangered species of plants and animals in rare and vulnerable tropical forest patches located in a sea of humanity. The survival of these forests will depend on their value in the eyes of communities that surround them. He plans to demonstrate the link between agricultural production and healthy pollinator populations that are forest dependent.

For example, he’ has found a native stingless bee that pollinates vanilla, an extremely valuable cash crop that, believe it or not, is pollinated by hand everywhere in the world because of lack of pollinators! Imagine the cost savings just because of the presence of one little stingless bee…

What I really love about his proposed project is that it is simple, is community owned and will be led and monitored by a leading conservation organization that is a key training ground for young conservationists in Kenya. The project will do visual activities and involve local communities and children, they will plant pollinator gardens on school grounds and monitor the pollinators that visit. In this way  communities will gather data about the presence, diversity and abundance of pollinators as well as crop production – they be able to demonstrate the link between the species and abundance and fruit production. For example did you know that strawberries will not form properly if there are too few pollinators? Neither will papayas. I didn’t know any of this before yesterday!

Having this information should enable communities to make management decisions locally and to gather information, document the local knowledge and share it. And Guess what? They will be able to share that information on the internet through the WildlifeDirect blogs as well as a new site that is a wiki resource on all the species of the world. Anyone anywhere can now contribute to and learn about all the creatures on earth through an amazing project that E. O. Wilson is involved with called the Encyclopaedia of Life at this website here

“The Encyclopedia of Life (EOL) is an ambitious project to organize and make available via the Internet virtually all information about life present on Earth.” The plan is to have a page for every single species!