Category Archives: big cats

Lion killed and warriors critically injured in lion hunt on Kuku Ranch

On 28th of June in the afternoon a group of newly initiated Masai moran, or warriors, went on a hunt to kill a lion that had apparently killed a sheep on a ranch. In the attack three warriors were critically injured and the lion killed. This incident comes hot on the heels of the killing of 6 lions in Kitengela next to Nairobi National Park on June 20th. This incident is tragic on several fronts. First, it happened on the privately run community ranch called Kuku, where researchers and conservationists have been working hard to protect lions for many years. The lion, was wearing a radio collar as he was the subject of research. This male was the head of a pride of 12 others. His loss is a devastating blow to the country’s dwindling lion population because when pride males are killed, other males will take over, killing all the cubs and chasing off or killing other all the other males in the process.

I was at the neighbouring ranch, Mbirikani for a traditional Masai wedding last weekend. Anthony Kasanga, a former lion guardian was tying the knot. Young warriors attended his ceremony and danced for 3 days in a row. The new initiates, aged between 14 – 20 were dressed in traditional red robes, had beautifully braided hair, and had adorned themselves in beaded jewelry. Their faces were painted with red ochre to make them appear fierce. This was no ordinary disco. The dancing of moran, or warriors involves putting the initiates into a trance, they chanting and leaping high into the air in a competition for glory. Girls surround the warriors to assess their prowess. It’s no secret that the highest jumper is considered the most attractive. But nothing is more appealing to the girls than a demonstration of courage – and killing a lion is the ultimate proof.

Lions are the number 1 attraction of visitors to Kenya


We interviewed 5 elders in the community to learn about how things were in the past and to explore what has changed as part of a folklife project called Africa’s Wildest Stories (which you can listen to here). Every single man spoke of his hunting accomplishments. One bragged that he had killed 50 black rhino in his youth. Another described how the warriors used to return from lion hunts with the skins and heads which would be raised in the village on poles like flags. This was a message to all visitors about the courage of that group of warriors. The sight was not just a boast but a challenge to any other warriors to try and do better.

Though much has changed since those days, the courage of the Maasai is still legendary. To attain the courage needed to take on killing a lion with only a spear is no small feat. The warriors chant and dance, and invoke the spirits to protect them. This puts them in a dream like trance in which they become fearless.  For new initiates like those inovlved in the hunt two days ago, it does not always work, and now three teenagers lie in critical condition in a hospital.

I live in the city of Nairobi and on the edge of Nairobi National Park whose greatest attraction is the 40 plus lions. Nowhere else in the world does a capital city have a park with wild lions on within the city boundary. This is what makes Nairobi Park special. But the tiny 117 square kilometer park depends on a large ecosystem through which wildlife disperses each rainy season. On December 28th last year 3 of the park lions left the park following the zebra and wildebeest. They killed livestock and were themselves killed in retaliation. After a series of meetings with the authorities, the community agreed not to kill any more if compensation was paid for the dead livestock. Then barely 6 months later 6 more lions were killed in a savage attack. They were trapped in a stockade and the community killed two adult females and surprisingly 4 cubs. If they hadn’t escaped, two males would have been killed too. There is no honor in killing a weakened  enemy and to many Maasai , the killing of the cubs was cowardly and unnecessary.  But then this was no ordinary hunt, a tipping point had been reached. The Maasai community say that they are fed up with being expected to incur the costs of the losses of livestock to lions. To these urban Maasai, lions are simply vermin.

WildlifeDirect working with the Friends of Nairobi Park and the local community have been monitoring and mapping all of the  lion predation incidents around Nairobi since October 2011 under a grant from the National  Geographics Big Cats Initiative. The killings of the 6 lions was no surprise to us. In fact in our observation the community had shown enormous restraint considering that over 140 head of livestock worth thousands of dollars had been killed in the previous 9 months. But most Kenyans are outraged because Kenya’s remaining population of only 1,970 lions is sliding quickly towards oblivion. The implications for the tourism based economy are enormous, lions are the number 1 attraction for tourists to the country. Expanding the tourism industry under Kenya’s ambitious Vision 2030 requires  them.

Why is it so hard to manage only 1,970 lions? Most of Kenya’s wildlife occurs outside of the protected areas in landscapes increasingly dominated by people. The situation is extreme around Nairobi Park where lion predation incidents have been rising rapidly.  Lions are constrained in a tiny park area because of an increasing human populations in the dispersal area south of the park. The lions have been getting away with killing livestock which is easier and safer than chasing down a zebra or buffalo. Of course this has emboldened them and increasingly they are attacking livestock in daylight and are even taking their cubs into homesteads.

Efforts to resolve the human-lion problem have  involved local NGO and KWS drive efforts to build lion proof stockades, compensation for livestock losses, financial rewards for protecting lions, sharing of revenues from tourism and education of warriors and the curious invention of lion lights by a 13 year old Maasai boy Richard Turere which we reported here. But there are two reasons why the killings of lions continue. First there is the culture of lion killing by the Maasai. Lion hunting is still appealing for warriors as those who kill lions will be championed as brave warriors.  It is completely against the law of course, but so far, no one has been arrested for any of these incidents. In fact the Minister for Forestry and Wildlife has publically exonerated the lion killers and a local member of parliament has urged the Masai to kill all “stray” lions. Kenyans are demanding that the new wildlife legislation which has been languishing in draft form since 2008 be urgently passed. In it are provisions for carrots and sticks. The Wildlife Bill will guarantee compensation against loss or damage of property at cost. It also includes severe penalties for poaching, and dealing in wildlife.  But any law is only as good as how it is implemented. So long as the Kenyan leadership continues to lack political will – lion killers will continue to escape and more lions will die. The government authority responsible for wildlife conservation, the Kenya Wildlife Service, is increasingly finding its self between a rock and a hard place as the situation continues to worsen.  Not only are the current laws out dated, but the central government has not invested adequately in conservation outside of the protected areas where 75 percent of Kenya’s wildlife resides.  Given the importance of lions to the economy, what Kenya must do is develop a national plan for managing lions in the wild at an ecosystem level. Thankfully, being the hub of conservation and research in eastern Africa, there is no shortage of experts and interest in helping the government to solve these problems. If Kenya can’t get it right, then there is little hope for Africa’s threatened cats.   In any case, Kenya does not have a choice, lions are the national symbol of the country, and a Kenya without lions is unimaginable.

As I sit here typing I can hear two lions roaring. It’s a mating ritual. It is a wonderful  earthy sound that reminds me of how lucky we are in the city of Nairobi. But I can’t help feeling that unless we solve the lion conflict situation, the lions of Nairobi will not survive for much longer.

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Outrage over lion killings in Nairobi

Lion killed in Kitengela


Yesterday mornings killing of  six lions just 15 kilometers south of the Nairobi Park has sparked outrage in the Kenyan news and the news has gone global sparking huge debate. These weren’t any old lions, they are all individually known lions The two females (AF3 and AF4) and their cubs, two juveniles and two young cubs.

6 Lions were killed in Kitengela including 2 cubs

The local communities argue that their losses of livestock are not taken seriously by the Government authorities. The Government has threatened to arrest those responsible for killing the lions which has only hardened the community stand. This morning a local elder told me angrily that he was ready to go to jail – for saving his community’s livelihood.

WildlifeDirect, working with the National Geographic Big Cats Initiative has been discussing the challenges with the local communities and seeking a lasting solution that will enable people to benefit from living lions to secure their future in this landscape. We are exploring how to secure adequate land for lions .


Six Nairobi Park Lions killed in Kitengela

It is with great sadness that we announce the killing of six lions in Kitengela this morning. The two females, two juveniles and two cubs were attacked by angry residents in a homestead 15 km south of the Nairobi National Park. The lions of Nairobi Park have been wreaking havoc amongst the residents and communities of villages and towns and residential areas around Nairobi National Park for several months now. WildlifeDirect and the Friends of Nairobi National Park have been monitoring the situation since last year and so far 149 livestock have been killed since October last year. In January 2012 three lions were killed by the community. In response the government promised to take actions and the community promised to stop killing lions. However, the situation has worsened with 115 head of livestock killed by lions since the 1st  of January.  Te problem has overwhelmed the authorities as well as the community.

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The cost to the community has proven to be too great to bear and this morning the six lions were killed right inside a homestead. This video taken by Nation TV illustrates the situation

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Manufacturers of Furadan to pay $170 million

Dear Friends,

We just received this news from The Defenders of Wildlife

The mind boggles that a company can afford to do so much damage and make such payments

This article is in honor of Nosioki and her cub who were poisoned this week with pesticides, possibly Furadan which is manufactured byFMC and yet not permitte dfor use in USA where it is considered too dangerous for users, consumers and the environment. The product is NOT banned in Kenya although FMC claim to have removed the product from the shelves in the country.  It is alleged that the Furadan that was mopped up in Kenya was moved to Tanzania and Uganda from where it returns to Kenya in the boots of cars and on the backs of bicycles.


Even Lion Guardians couldnt prevent Nosioki from being killed with pesticide

Even the best conservation efforts by Lion Guardians couldn't prevent Nosioki from being killed with pesticide

WASHINGTON, D.C.–The Department of Justice and the Environmental Protection Agency today announced that FMC Corporation, Inc. has agreed to spend a total of approximately $170 million — including the largest civil penalty ever obtained under the Resource Conservation and Recovery Act (RCRA) of $11,864,800 — to settle charges that it repeatedly violated the hazardous waste law at its phosphorus production facility in Pocatello, Idaho.

The government’s claims against FMC include numerous RCRA violations, the most serious of which involve mismanagement of ignitable and reactive phosphorus wastes in ponds. Storage of such hazardous wastes in ponds is prohibited by RCRA because of the potential threat to human health and the environment. The sediments in these ponds burn vigorously and persistently when exposed to the air, and a number of fires have been documented at these ponds in the past. The wastes in these ponds also generate phosphine and hydrogen cyanide, highly toxic gases that can cause serious health and environmental problems. FMC at times has reported elevated levels of phosphine around the ponds, and it is believed that migratory bird deaths in the area also may be attributable to phosphine poisoning.

“Everyone managing hazardous waste should be on notice that the federal government will strongly enforce the nation’s laws to ensure the safe operation of all facilities to protect public health and our environment,” EPA Administrator Carol M. Browner. “The people of Pocatello deserve the clean, healthy air and water this settlement will ensure.”

“FMC for many years operated its hazardous waste ponds in disregard of the law and the people who live in and around Pocatello, Idaho, including members of the Shoshone-Bannock Tribe. The people of this community deserve better than that,” said Lois J. Schiffer, Assistant Attorney General for Environment and Natural Resources. “That’s why today’s announcement is so important. It means cleaner air, cleaner water and healthier communities in the Pocatello region. It also puts industry on notice that the federal government will not tolerate illegal handling of hazardous waste.”

FMC will close surface ponds previously used to store and manage hazardous ignitable and reactive phosphorus wastes. In addition, FMC will construct a $40 million waste treatment plant to deactivate the phosphorus bearing wastes in order to avoid the inherent threats posed by the handling of such hazardous materials. This treatment plant will be subject to interim status and permitting requirements under RCRA, which will include public notice and comment prior to EPA approval. FMC also will implement upgrades to its facility to meet RCRA secondary containment requirements for all pipes, tanks, and other units handling these types of wastes. FMC also will undertake a comprehensive environmental management system to ensure future compliance with the law. Costs associated with all the injunctive relief required under the settlement are expected to exceed $90 million.

FMC is one of the world’s leading producers of chemicals and machinery for industry, government and agriculture. With sales of $4.5 billion to over 100 countries, the company operates 115 manufacturing facilities and mines in 24 countries. FMC’s Idaho facility is the world’s largest producer of elemental phosphorus, which is used in detergents, beverages, foods, synthetic lubricants, and pesticides, and is located on privately owned land within the Shoshone-Bannock Tribe’s Fort Hall Indian reservation. Operating at the present site since 1949, FMC processes about 1.4 million tons of shale ore per year, which produces about 250 million pounds of elemental phosphorus a year. The bulk of the wastes generated from these processes are hazardous wastes regulated under RCRA.

FMC also has committed to over a dozen Supplemental Environmental Projects (“SEPs”) with a capital cost of $63 million, which will significantly improve air quality in the Pocatello region through a reduction of approximately 436 tons of particulate matter per year in emissions of dust and soot at the facility. As a final SEP, FMC will conduct a $1.65 million public health assessment and education program to investigate the effects of contaminants generated by FMC on human health and the environment, particularly within nearby tribal lands.

Total injunctive relief costs of approximately $93 million, SEP costs of approximately $65 million, and a penalty of nearly $12 million will result in a total cost to FMC of approximately $170 million.

EPA Regional Administrator for Region 10, Chuck Clark, said, “The injunctive relief required under the settlement is sorely needed, both to bring the facility into RCRA compliance, and to protect the tribal members and surrounding community.”

“I applaud this settlement as one of the most significant environmental results in our state,” said Betty Richardson, U.S. Attorney for the District of Idaho. “We have major industries which rely upon extraction and use of natural resources in Idaho. The message to timber, mining, ranching the manufacturing companies is that they must comply with environmental laws. I commend FMC’s decision to face up to their violations and commit to a more environmentally responsible future.

” The settlement has been codified in a Consent Decree that will be made available for public notice and comment for a period of thirty days. EPA will conduct two public availability sessions in Pocatello, Idaho within this time frame.

You can get the original article here

Paula Kahumbu wins 2011 National Geographic Society/Buffett Award for Leadership in African Conservation

WildlifeDirect Executive Director Dr. Paula Kahumbu has for the second time this year won a National Geographic award after being declared the winner of the prestigious National Geographic Society/Buffet Award for Leadership in African Conservation. Moi Enomenga, a community leader of the Huaorani people from the Ecuadorian Amazon, who is working to preserve his cultural heritage and the forests where his people live, is the winner of the award for South America. Previously, in May 2011, Dr. Kahumbu was named – together with 13 other trailblazers – as a National Geographic Emerging Explorer for 2011.

Kahumbu and Enomenga have been recognized for their “outstanding leadership and the vital role they play in managing and protecting the natural resources in their regions. They are inspirational conservation advocates who serve as role models and mentors in their communities,” said Peter Raven, chairman of the Conservation Trust, the body that screens the submitted nominations.

Kahumbu’s award is in recognition of her work at WildlifeDirect. As the Executive Director of WildlifeDirect, she uses the power of the Internet to spotlight key conservation issues and raise awareness and donations for projects saving wildlife and wild places. Thanks to her efforts, about 120 conservation projects have an online platform to share challenges and victories via blogs, videos, photos and podcasts, saving species from ants to lions. By celebrating the work of conservation heroes, Kahumbu has turned WildlifeDirect into a tool to advocate for and share home-grown conservation solutions to such challenges as ivory and rhino horn poaching, roads through parks, climate change and wildlife conflict in areas that neighbor parks.

The National Geographic/Buffet Award for conservation leadership in Africa is given to one African conservation leader every year by Howard Buffet the president of the Howard G. Buffett Foundation, which focuses on humanitarian and conservation issues. The award is the greatest accolade that Kahumbu has ever received for her work. She will be presented with the award and a cash prize of USD 25,000 on the 21st of June at a ceremony at the National Geographic Society.

Read the press release announcing the two winners at the National Geographic website

paula with telescope

Who is Paula Kahumbu?

Coached and mentored by legendary Kenyan conservationist Dr. Richard Leakey, who remains one of her closest allies and supporters, Nairobi, Kenya-born Kahumbu has had an illustrious career more than spanning two decades. Her entry into conservation work was marked by one of the most memorable event in the history of elephant conservation when she was assigned the task of weighing Kenya’s ivory stockpile prior to the 1989 ivory burning ceremony – a powerful international statement that Kenya would not tolerate the effect of the trade in ivory on her elephants. She would later deliver passionate and forceful speeches at two consecutive conferences of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES) as head of the Kenya delegation – while working for the Kenya Wildlife Service (KWS) – to the convention.

Kahumbu’s achievements are numerous. While conducting her PhD research on elephants in Shimba Hills at the Kenya coast, Shestarted the Colobus Trust – a volunteer organization that conserves the black and white colobus and other primates in the resort beachfront of Diani – and introduced the colbus bridges or “colobridges” to help the monkeys cross the busy Diani highway. All the while, she was singlehandedly raising her 2 year old son Joshua – now a grown man serving in the US Navy.

After attaining her doctorate from the prestigious Princeton University, Kahumbu would briefly return to KWS before joining Bamburi Cement where she launched the environmental subsidiary, Lafarge Eco Systems. She published the best selling childrens book, Owen and Mzee (Scholastic Press), the story of the giant tortoise that adopted a baby hippo orphaned by the 2004 Indian Ocean Tsunami. The book sold more than 1 million copies and is translated into 27 languages.

Kahumbu joined WildlifeDirect in 2007 and spearheaded its growth into Africa’s largest wildlife conservation blogging platform. With a keen eye, she noticed reports of poisoning of wildlife in several blogs. The poison used in all cases was Furadan, an American made pesticide formulation of the lethal chemical carbofuran. She documented the massive nationwide misuse of Furadan for killing lions, other predators, scavengers and wetland birds and the catastrophic decline of Kenya’s lion and vulture populations that this caused. KWS estimate a population of fewer than 2000 lions and the vulture population is said to have declined by between 50% and 80% due to poisoning. Kahumbu led a campaign against Furadan resulting in the manufacturer, FMC Corporation of Philadelphia, withdrawing the product from East African market but it still is in use and birds and fish are still being poisoned. Kahumbu still campaigns for a total ban and revocation of licenses for the deadly poison.

Kahumbu is known for her passion and recently, she has taken up the task of ensuring that development in the outskirts of Nairobi City do not compromise the wellbeing of the wildlife of Nairobi National Park, the city’s ‘green’ jewel. Convinced that the park is integral to the value of the city for instance, she has persuaded many organizations including KWS, ILRI, the community, AWF, the Wildlife Foundation, ACC, the Friends of Nairobi National Park, the Kenya Land Conservation Trust, WildlifeDirect, private land owners and many others to conduct an ecosystem wide wildlife census that will help guide the decisions taken by the ministry of transport regarding the controversial Greater Southern Bypass. She chairs the board of the volunteer organization, Friends of Nairobi National Park, whose sole mission is to preserve the beautiful and unique park.

Kahumbu’s education and passion for championing the environment cause has greatly influenced others to take up the mantle. William Kimosop, who recently opened a hiking trail across Kenya’s Great Rift Valley to conserve the Greater Kudu and connect communities through ecotourism, and Anthony Kasanga who saves lions in the Mbirikani area near Tsavo National Park – and who recently returned from Oxford University with a diploma in wildlife management after being spotted by the prestigious school on the WildlifeDirect blogs – are just a couple of the many she has inspired.

Kahumbu recently launched a partnership with Screaming Reels Production where she presents the documentary series, Wildlife Sentinels, reporting on news from the conservation frontline and bringing to light the ivory trade, poaching, human wildlife conflict and other real life wildlife stories.

“All Kenyans should be thrilled that Paula has been recognized for her achievements through the National Geographic/Howard Buffet Award. She is the country’s most passionate advocate for wildlife conservation and has made enormous personal sacrifices to protect it. Her efforts to have the pesticide carbofuran (sold locally as Furadan) banned have so far not been received well by the relevant ministries in Kenya, but this award will boost interest locally and internationally and I urge the government of Kenya to fully support Kahumbu’s initiatives to save Kenya’s unique wildlife heritage” said Richard Leakey, proud of the talent he has helped nurture.

Nairobi National Park, the cities greatest asset is at risk

One of the things that keeps me awake at night is the fact that wildlife declines are being documented right across Africa. Two recent scientific articles have made the headlines across the world – both were written by Joseph Ogutu a Kenyan scientist now based in Germany. Ogutu has shown through analysis of long term game counts, that the migratory wildlife of the Masai Mara ecosystem is in decline. That fact should wake a few decision making Kenyans up for several reasons.

Nairobi is no ordinary city, the Park is its greatest asset

Nairobi is no ordinary city, the Park is it's greatest asset

Tourism brings in 12% of Kenya’s GDP and multiple sectors benefit from visitors pouring into the country from small scale farmers, who produces the food, to hotels, tour companies, transport companies, and curio shops. Hundreds of thousands of Kenyans depend on the tourism industry, and it’s collapse would be deadly for Kenyans as we witnessed in the aftermath of the post election violence. Yet Kenyans are silent about wildlife declines at home even though it threatens to strip the capital city of one of our most loved icons, the Nairobi National Park.

Nairobi as a major African city that is characterized by it’s spectacular wildlife show case right in a major urban center. Although there are thousands of resident wildlife in Nairobi Park, the wildebeest, zebra, gazelles and hartebeest have for millennia used the park as a dry season refuge and move out of the park during the rains into surrounding grasslands that are occupied by Maasai pastoralists. They move to avoid diseases and predators, mainly lions, that hide in the long grass to ambush their prey. There is no other capital city in the world that can boast such wildlife spectacles, and indeed the Nairobi Park is the city’s Eiffel Tower.

This park which is entirely contained within in the city boundaries, is unique in that it is still home to all the big 5 (although elephants are contained at the David Sheldrick Trust on the park boundary, and is home to a wildebeest and zebra migration that is dependent on seasonal access to grazing and calving zones south of the park. This dispersal area is not contained within the city boundaries – at least not yet.

It is only a matter of time before the city boundaries stretch and swallow the environs south of the park. That’s because the city is going through major urban expansion, it is in growth mode as it consolidates its position as the regional hub for Eastern Africa. As most Nairobians would witness, development over the last 40 years has been largely as unplanned leading to disastrous outcomes like slums, pollution, uncollected garbage, water lines contaminated with sewage, power rationing, insecurity, traffic jams.. the list goes on and on. Continued unplanned development will threaten to swallow up the park and further fragment and change the land on which the wildlife depend. In addition, in trying to ease traffic across the city, the Kenya government has proposed to construct the Greater Southern Bypass, a mega highway that is proposed to cut right across the wildlife dispersal area. If it comes into being as proposed, it will disconnect the wildlife from it’s dispersal area effectively strangling the ecosystems lifeline. If that happens, Nairobi will lose one of it’s most valuable assets.

Is this really development

Is this really development?

So the challenge is to have a city and to safeguard this globally important wildlife asset through planned development that takes the needs of the wildlife and the people into consideration. We need to develop an economic environmental analysis to establish the value of the proposition from a conservation point of view and a business proposition to land owners. It will include a cost-benefit analysis particularly with a view to the Greater Southern Bypass.

But how do we know that the dispersal area is still critical for the survival of wildlife in the Nairobi Park? How many animals still use the vast dispersal area in Kitengela south of the park? Where is the data? This is the first step that we must undertake. We are finding out how important the dispersal area is for the parks wildlife by conducting game counts in the park and it’s ecosystem. The counts started on 4th of June have been organized by the Friends of Nairobi Park and ILRI, with help from the Kenya Land Conservation Trust, KWS, Africa Conservation Center, the local communities, the Wildlife Foundation and some individuals.
These counts will reveal the wet season extent of wildlife movements from the park. The major donors are WildlifeDirect, the African Wildlife Foundation, FoNNaP and friends. The counts include aerial counts conducted by the Directorate of Resource Survey and Remote Sensing over the entire ecosystem. These WildlifeDirect and partners are mounting a campaign to save the wildlife of Nairobi National Park. counts which started in 1977 used to be conducted annually but were halted in 2007 due to financial constraints. We have conducted the 18th count of the ecosystem which will reveal long term ecosystem wide changes in key ungulate species. They are fully funded by WildlifeDirect and the African Wildlife Foundation.
The Nairobi National Park game counts are organized by KWS every 2 weeks since 1960, and are conducted by volunteers of Friends of Nairobi National Park. Until now, the data have never been analysed and published but we are rectifying that in a joint scientific publication with Joseph Ogutu. These data spanning 42 years will reveal changes only in the parks total wildlife numbers.

The Nairobi Park wildlife dispersal area comprises 2,200 km2 just south of the park – an area we call Kitengela. The community have previously conducted two counts here in 2005 and 2007 to document the distribution and numbers of wildlife in the landscape. This will be the third count and will give us wet season data that we can compare to a dry season count later in the year. This 20 day count will involve 40 members of the local community walking in 5 km transects over a distance of nearly 800 km in total. They will count all wildlife species, livestock, cars and dogs. The data collected will be mapped to illustrate the distribution of wildlife. The Maasai want to participate in the data interpretation and to have all the reports prepared in their own language and disseminated through out the Kajioado district.

Finally, the vast private ranches of Machakos comprising 400km2 is a different district but part of the same ecosystem will be counted by car as it has been done fore more than 10 years. Results from this count will reveal what is happening to wildlife numbers in a part of the ecosystem that is largely cut off from the rest of the dispersal area by the presence of .

All of these data will be analysed and the results compiled into scientific publications as well as reports for public consumption.

The outcome of these historic counts will provide some of the scientific basis for keeping the dispersal area open and promoting developments that take into consideration the needs of wildlife and people. Perhaps then Nairobi can thoughtfully plan the expansion of the great city and become an exemplar to every other capital city in Africa.

Paula Kahumbu interviewed by Yale Environment 360

WildlifeDirect Executive Director, Dr. Paula Kahumbu, was recently interviewed by Christina Russo of Yale Environment 360. In the Interview posted on 8 June 2011, Paula spoke at length about her work at WildlifeDirect and our triumphs and struggles as we battle to preserve Africa’s magnificent animals.

portrait small

When asked who are the WildlifeDirect bloggers, Paula said “These are hands-on conservationists. Some of them are community-based people working in the field… All of those people who are doing conservation work on species, even if they aren’t as majestic or charismatic as the lions or the mountain gorillas, there is a really good chance that somebody will see their work [on our site]. Many of our bloggers were completely unknown until they started blogging on WildlifeDirect.” Paula emphasises that bloggers are the backbone of the organisation.

I would not want to interpret the interview for you… but rather, I invite you to read the entire interview over at Yale Environment 360.

Pastoralists lose sheep while Britain debates ban on lion trophies

In an attempt to save Africas fast declining lions, conservationists have proposed banning the trophy hunting of this charismatic species. A heated debate is raging in Europe and the USA, but it’s hardly being noticed back here in the Lion heartlands.

In Africa, lion populations are declining rapidly due to loss of prey and land, and as a direct result conflict with people. People are killing thousands of lions using spears and poisons like Furadan. Loss of habitat and the use of poison could easily drive Africa’s lions to extinction. With fewer than 2,000 lions left in Kenya, ours may be the first to go.

Thanks to Ross and Nathalie Samuels of Screaming Reels, we recorded this video last week when a lioness killed a ram in a homestead close to Nairobi National Park. We thank Nickson for informing us of the incident soon after it happened.

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We hope that lion conservation groups like Born Free and Lionaid and others will support the work of local conservationists who are saving lions on the ground in Africa.

Our lion conservation work at WildilfeDirect is supported by the National Geographics Big Cat Initiative

In the Mara Wildebeest Migration podcast

Dear Friends,

Last week I visited the Masai Mara with conservationists and a news reporter as part of preparations in producing a news piece about the situation.

Listen to my 5 minute podcast with sounds of the wildebeest crossing the river, and lions roaring here

The sight and sounds of the plains swarming with wildebeest is something that all citizens of planet earth should one day enjoy. It will not be possible if the Tanzanians build a highway across the migrating path of the wildebeest. I took tons of photos and recorded the sounds of these extraordinary animals.

wildebeest2small1.3 million wildebeest and Zebra arrive in Kenya after months of trekking across the Tanzanian savannas in search of short sweet grass of the Mara plains in Kenya. It’s the dry season and they are hungry.


They form fantastic concentrations not seen anywhere else in the world


But to get to the sweet grass they have to cross the mighty Mara River – it can take hours before the first animal takes the plunge.

vulture flyingsmallPredators are aware that there will be a feeding frenzy – vultures glide overhead in anticipation.

taking plungesmall2The first wildebeest take the plunge and begin the frantic panic across the raging river.

tourists migration2smallSeveral tourist vans arrive to watch the spectacle which goes on for hours.

wildebeest calfsmallOnce they’ve crossed mothers try to find their calves


The massive crocodiles didn’t take a single animal in the crossing we watched – too full from gorging themselves the day before.

The Tanzanian Government plans to construct a highway across the Serengeti which will stop the migrating wildebeest and bring and end to the great migration. If you would like to know more about this impending crisis, please check out my previous posts on it.

Please join us in protesting the Tanzanian authorities who plan to build the Serengeti Highway by joining the Facebook group and signing this petition on Care2.

Using radio for conservation – highlights

This blog post celebrates features that we’d like to draw your attention to this month. Did you know that WildlifeDirect is on the Radio? We’ve been using PRX an online Public Radio Exchange –a community radio based in USA to share our interviews and some of our stories on WildlifeDirects own PRX channel . If you haven’t heard about them here is a list of some of our favourite Radio pieces on

Saving the Mathews Range a 22 minute  debate recorded around a campfire in a wilderness campsite in a little known remote isolated tropical forest capped mountain in Kenyas northern deserts (8.5 mins).

Paula Kahumbu who is married to the BBC reporter on the story to the Mathews Range assisted in the video and online piece that is currently on the BBC website

Serengeti disaster on the horizonThe Serengeti Highway Richard Leakey discusses the looming end to the wildebeest migration as a result of the planned Serengeti Highway (8.5 minutes).

Can global targets for carbon emissions be met in fast growing developing nations? Paula Kahumbu talks to a low income earner in Kenya to illustrate the challenges that African countries will face in confronting targets for reducing green house gas emissions to meet climate change targets (4 mins).

Poisoning lions. An authoritative 5 minute piece about the continuing decline of lions due to killing of lions in Kenya poisoned using a deadly pesticide called carbofuran

Secrets of the sexy stalk eyed fliesa funny 1 minute interview with insect lover Dino Martins about a bizarre fly

Please listen to  our stories and share widely

Stop the Serengeti Highway

The big story that we are seeking action this month is the Serengeti Highway. It is beyond imagination that the great migration could disappear forever.  It seems unthinkable that anyone would do anything to cause the migration to cease. Yet, it’s actually happening! We told the story of a  controversial decision made by Tanzanian authorities to build a highway right across the migration path of millions of wildebeest and other animals in the Serengeti National Park. The global consequence of destroying the wildebeest migration is unthinkable, it is something that no individuals, politicians, presidents or anyone, should be allowed to take. I also interviewed Richard Leakey about the story and he reminded us that Tanzania needs to develop the region for the people of Tanzania, and he made some sober recommendations which we hope the Tanzanians will be considering. The Serengeti Highway story also aired on one of the worlds largest  conservation blogs after the webmaster invited me to submit the story to them too

Nature radio in Seychelles

Meanwhile in Seychelles, Nirmal Shah of Nature Seychelles has been producing wonderful radio pieces about nature that are aired on local radio but can also be listened to online. It’s wonderful to hear him describing lying in mud to observe water skimmers, tiny insects that most of us ignore.

Nairobi National park zebra migration

One of the most important dry season grazing for wildlife in the Athi Kapiti plaisn is the Nairobi National Park. It often hosts thousands of animals on a seasonal basis. The park, which lies within the city boundaries, is in trouble precicely because of it’s location. Developments, encroachment, poaching and pollution are all exacting a toll on this wonderful wildlife refuge. Through his regular posts adorned with spectacular photographs, Will Knocker reminds about what makes Nairobi Park special. This week the Zebra migration is in full swing – a wonderful spectacle, especially for those who cannot make it to the Masai Mara to witness the great migration which has just started there.

Poisoning wildlife – the Ongoing debacle

More than two years after WildlifeDirect began reporting the escalation of pesticide poisoning of wildlife in Kenya, the authorities have finally taken it up and created a multi sector Task Force to address the problem. Representing conservation organizations in Kenya, Paula Kahumbu is has been attending the meetings. She reports on the frustrations and the modest progress on that front on the Baraza blog. Meanwhile Martin Odino continues to report the poisoning of birds in Kenya’s irrigation schemes  on, and Munir Virani and others raise the alarm about vulture poisoning in Africa.

Other wonderful posts

Video footage from a mobile phone of a sunbear climbing is my favourite post this week.

Lion guardians find a new pair of magnificent males – in an area where lions have been severely persecuted. Predator Aware team also capture two hunting cheetah brothers in spectacular photographs.

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Volunteer opportunities

Art for conservation are looking for volunteers to help in Rwanda.  Read more in their Art for Gorilla blog.