Category Archives: Masai Mara

Poachers jailed in Masai Mara

A Narok court has just sent two men who were in possession of ivory to jail for a year each plus a fine. Narok is the administrative headquarters for the world famous Masai Mara area where the wildebeest migration is in full swing. Poaching of elephants and rhino in the Mara threatens a hugely successful tourism industry.

This is the third case in Narok county where jail sentences have been given for wildlife crimes WITH NO OPTION OF A FINE.

Why is this significant? Narok has been the most notorious court where poachers have been getting off on small fines, cases withdrawn and evidence lost, and where corruption is considered “normal”.

The recent high profile case of the arrest of a gang of three including a former KWS officer arrested on suspicion of poaching in the Mara will attract much local attention. The trio had guns, night vision goggles, saws and a GPS presumably with rhino locations logged into it.

 

WHY IS WILDLIFE CRIME BEING TAKEN SO SERIOUSLY IN KENYA?

First, the campaign HANDS OFF OUR ELEPHANTS is having an enormous impact on public views and reactions. With full page and half page informational advertisements running for a full month has created new discussions. According to one person on the ground “The media attention is making a hell of a difference. Conversations about the attention to this issue are being heard all over, and these conversations include discussions around the fact that magistrates have not been handling cases properly”

KTN News Anchor in Kenya

 

HANDS OFF OUR ELEPHANTS in the newspaper

Secondly, magistrates are on notice. When justice is not served, the public is appealing sentences which opens up cases in the high court. This scrutiny of rulings and overturning of sentences is an embarrassment to any magistrate and it undermines their authority.

NEW PRECEDENT

In the Narok case a new precedent has been set.

On 4th May 2013 three men, Daniel Kararon Tasur, Letasuna Sadera and Simpai ole Seki, were arrested in the Mara region with 40kg of ivory estimated to be worth  KES 4 million.

They were arraigned in Narok Court and pleaded not guilty on 6th May and then changed plea to guilty on 20th May. They were fined KES 40,000 on both counts or KES 80,000 each. They paid the same afternoon.

This ruling by the Magistrate flies in the face of the recent decisions by NESC, His Excellency President Kenyatta’s speech at his inauguration, and the discussion in Parliament on 23rd May this year.

The case was reviewed in light of the fact that the magistrate could have applied much more punitive penalties under the existing laws

The Director of Public Prosecutions, Keriako Tobiko, through his officers took the case up at the Nakuru High Court and the sentences were declared illegal. This means the three will be re-sentenced.

According to a witness “For the first time, someone is monitoring these wildlife crime cases and following up – when before, people used to just go back to business, now the cases are being referred to the top most courts. This has had a huge effect.”

LIGHT AT THE END OF THE TUNNEL FOR ELEPHANTS AND RHINOS

In the Maasai Mara where elephants, rhino and leopards are being targeted by poachers, the police and the magistrates can no longer sweep cases under the carpet. The high level of government oversight means that the can no longer issue Ksh 30,000 fines.  Junior magistrates have to give custodial sentences with no option of a fine because they are obliged to follow the precedent of the principle magistrate.

Hands Off Our Elephants in the papers

What people are saying is that the WildlieDirect HANDS OFF OUR ELEPHANTS campaign is reaping real and significant impacts on the seriousness with which the police and magistrates are handling cases, the depth of media reporting and the attitudes of the public at large. We are witnessing moral indignation whenever magistrates fail to deliver justice.

It’s not just the Mara that is benefiting. A court in Kwale also sent two men to jail for poaching elephants.

Young Kenyans support the campaign

SOME SECRETS OF THE SUCCESS OF HANDS OFF OUR ELEPHANTS CAMPAIGN

This successful strategy has benefited from the expertise of strategic consultant Helen Gibbons who has worked with WildlifeDirect since October 2012 in critically thinking through the strategys and actions that we could target to make a major difference. Helen is an expert on campaign strategy and her love for elephants makes her contribution many times more significant.

We also thank Shamini Jayanathan from the British High Commission who has provided the legal expertise around maters concerning the law and enforcement. Shamini might as well be an honorary Kenyan and she has provided expertise that has until now been largely absent when it comes to legal matters around wildlife law enforcement in Kenya.

We are also indebted to the team at TBWA have developed the most successful communications campaign on wildlife that Kenya has ever seen through bold and effective messaging that not only informs, but calls Kenyans to action.

We thank them all for the successful beginning of a wonderful campaign.

To support our work please make a donation now. 

Hands Off says Transworld Safaris

We are extremely grateful to Sushil Chauhan and Transworld Safaris (Kenya) Ltd for their support and branding their fleet with the Hands Off Our Elephants stickers.

On vehicle up close

On vehicle up close

 

Transworld

We look forward to seeing these stickers on more and more vehicles.

 

 

KTN continues coverage on Elephants

Kenya Television Network (KTN) a local television station in Nairobi, Kenya continues to cover the poaching crisis in East Africa.

Follow their segment, PERSPECTIVE here…

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KTN PRIME News – Save Our Elephants

Last night Kenya Television Network – KTN featured the Hands Off Our Elephants Campaign in a story dubbed Save The Elephants during their PRIME Time News at 9m.  We are pleased that the News Anchors wore the Hands Off Our Elephants armbands in solidarity with the drive to Save Our Majestic Elephants @HandsOffOurEles

Watch the full story here…

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13 year old inventor of Lion lights, Richard Turere saving lions with WildlifeDirect

Lions, once ubiquitous in Africa and Asia are now in big trouble of going extinct in the wild  Their numbers have declined from an estimated 400,000 in the 1940′s to as few as 20,000 today. In Kenya lions are the main tourist attraction to the country, but fewer than 2,000 remain. WidlifeDirect has been working with the National Geographics Big Cats Initiative to halt lion population declines by the year 2015 and to restore populations to sustainable levels.

In October 2011 WildlifeDirect with funding from the National Geographic Big Cats Initiative, we began looking for ways to reduce the mortality of lions due to human wildlife conflict. We started monitoring the human wildlife conflict in the pastoralist areas around the Nairobi National Park.

In partnership with the Friends of Nairobi National Park we started a community lion project  to understand the problem and to find a practical solution to the problem that was leading to the killings of lions. One of the greatest threats to lions is humans – people are retaliating against lions when livestock are killed.

The lion attacks on livestock in and around Nairobi are seasonal and predictable – lions move out of the Nairobi National  Park whenever the wildlife migrates.

Wildebeest and zebra leave the park as soon as rains start in search of sweet short grass. Lions follow these prey animals into the  vast dispersal area where they encounter pastoralists with livestock which are easier prey for them. The Nairobi National Park has 24 adult lions ( 8 adult males and 16 lionesses), 8 sub-adults (between 2.5- 3 years; 7 males and 1 female) and at least 8 cubs of varying ages below 1 year of age. They are all known individually.

 

The Nairobi park lions are especially vulnerable because they are surrounded by a rapidly growing urban environment. In December 2011 and January 2012, three lions were killed by the local community in retaliation for stock killed – 18 cows, 85 sheep and goats, and 14 donkeys were killed by a number of different park lions in the Kitengela triangle south of the park, since the onset of the short wet season (November – December).

Lion human conflict in this area is an age old problem that has been growing worse every year. We cannot afford to lose the lions, they are the number one tourist attraction to Kenya, a developing country that depends heavily on tourism revenue. We have been monitoring the problem and what we were looking for a local home grown solution, that is practical and affordable for the communities.

We had no idea that we would find that bright spark in a 13 year old boy, Richard Turere.

In February this year we were attended to homesteads that were most severely impacted by the lions – you can read our reports on human- lion conflict here and the lion predation in the Empakasi area here . Indeed the lion predation is so severe that the community tolerance reached breaking point in December 2011 and they killed three lions in one week.

 

The killing of lions right on the city’s doorstep quickly became a national concern You can watch the disturbing footage of the lion killing here. in the area due to the high number of lions in the park. During our visits to the homesteads we discovered something totally unexpected.

Our research showed a surprising result, one family was somehow immune from night time lion attacks. This was the home of Richard and his family but it wasn’t always like this, they used to have lion attacks every week.

The Turere Family live in Empakasi, right on the edge of the Nairobi National Park, just south of the City of Nairobi. Richard is responsible for herding his family the livestock and keeping them safe from predators, especially lions, but being so close the park puts this family’s cattle right in the path of lions and every month they lost cows, sheep and goats.

At the age of 11 Richard decided to do something about his family’s losses. He observed that the lions never struck the homesteads when someone was awake and walking around with a flashlight. Lions are naturally afraid of people. He concluded that lions equate torches with people so he took the led bulbs from broken flashlights and rigged up an automated lighting system of four or five torch bulbs around the cattle stockade. The bulbs are wired to a box with switches, and to an old car battery charged with a solar panel that operates the family Television set.

The lion lights don’t point towards the cattle, or on any property, but outwards into the darkness. They flash in sequence giving the impression that someone is walking around the stockade. In the two years that his lion light system has been operating, the Turere family has had no predation at night by lions. To Richard he was just doing his job – protecting the herds. His father is beaming, stock thieves will also think twice about visiting a homestead where it appears as if someone is awake. Six of the neighbours noticed that they were getting hit by lions but not the Turere homestead. Richard has already installed the lion lights system in their bomas too. For conservation and human wildlife Conflict management, this simple innovation is a fantastic breakthrough.

The Kenya Wildlife Service report that human wildlife Conflict has cost the government Ksh71 million in compensation in 2011 alone. In Kitengela consolation of several million has been paid to the community for the loss of livestock to lions alone. This figure will rise dramatically as new legislation comes into play. Richards little device of four or five lamps, some wires and a few batteries costs less than ten dollars and has saved his father tens of cattle and therefore it has saved donors several thousand dollars in consolation. The alternative being applied elsewhere is the construction of lion proof fences but at the cost of 1,000 dollars just for materials, then there’s the cost of transport and labour it is way out of the price range fore the average pastoralist. Richards invention is cheap, local, cost effective and easy and quick to install and to maintain. In the two years that his lion light system has been operating, the Turere family has had no predation at night by lions.

To Richard he was just doing his job – protecting the herds. His father is beaming, stock thieves will also think twice about visiting a homestead where it appears as if someone is awake. The Kenya Wildlife Service report that human wildlife Conflict has cost the government Ksh71 million in compensation in 2011 alone. In Kitengela consolation of several million has been paid to the community for the loss of livestock to lions alone. This figure will rise dramatically as new legislation comes into play. Richards little device of four or five lamps, some wires and a few batteries costs less than ten dollars and has saved his father tens of cattle and therefore it has saved donors several thousand dollars in consolation.

The of lion predation problem is not unique to Kitengela and Empakasi, it is a threat to lions wherever they occur. In the Masai Mara and Amboseli the problem is being solved by building lion proof fences around the bomas, or stockades. This is at a cost of up to 1,000 dollars which is way out of the price range of the average pastoralist. At 10 dollars for the lion lights, Richards invention is cheap, practical, cost effective and easy and quick to install and to maintain. In the two years that his lion lights system has been operating, the Turere family has had no predation at night by lions. To Richard he was just doing his job – protecting the herds. His father is beaming, stock thieves will also think twice about visiting a homestead where it appears as if someone is awake. The neighbours of the Turere family noticed that they were getting hit by lions but not the Turere homestead. Richard has already installed the lion lights system in six other bomas too. For conservation and human wildlife Conflict management, this simple innovation is a breakthrough.

Richards invention is cheap, local, cost effective and easy and quick to install and to maintain. It is getting global and local attention on inventors websites like Afrigadget and Make Magazine. The National Geographic Big Cats Initiative, WildlifeDirect and Friends of Nairobi Park are now looking at how to scale up the use of lion lights which can be used in combination with fences and other deterrents. We thank Mr. Oconnor who on learning about Richards amazing invention, offered him a full scholarship to one of Kenya’s top schools Brookhouse International School.Richards story has reached over 33,000 websites and he has been invited to audition for TED. Keep your fingers crossed for Richard and lions and watch this space.

Richard with one of his new friends at Brookhouse School

Please support the lion lights project,  and keep livestock and lion safe. You can make your donation now.

Rhino poaching epidemic in Kenya


Dear Friends,

The poaching of rhino for it’s horns has reached a new high and Africa is losing an average of one rhino per day to poachers. These critically endangered species could disappear forever if we don’t halt the poaching. In the last two weeks we have lost two white rhino near the Masai Mara Reserve where they were under 24 hour surveillance.

The Kenya Wildlife Services are taking no chances. To prevent any further losses, one of the remaining whites was brought to Nairobi Park earlier this week. I was there to witness the event. Enjoy

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Rhino Release in Nairobi Park

To support Wildlife Sentinels on WildlifeDirect, please make a donation. Thank you.

Strange antelope in the Masai Mara

As Paolo Torchio says, capturing an image of something never seen before is every photographers dream.

hairy beast

half hairy goat?

Is this animal half hairy goat?

Look at this hairy fellow. Anyone got any ideas?

A very strange bushbaby in Masai Mara

Dear all, I am back in the Mara and this time the primates have caught my attention. I took these photos tonight of what seems to be a melanistic bushbaby but I wondered if anyone had seen anything like it before?

bushbaby42

It is bigger than galagos (bushbabies) that I have seen elsewhere in Kenya in Nairobi, Mombasa, Tana, Shimba .. but it could just be it’s weird coloration that makes it look bigger. It is jet black apart from a white mark on the chest which apparently all the galago’s here are the same though I’ve only seen this one individual which was coming down for bananas. It makes usual galago calls but a chirpy noise as well – at least I think it was this guy chirping.

bushbaby32

He looks and acts kind of like a bear!

Youtube on the wildebeest migration

Here are some videos you just have to watch about the Wildebeest migration

Paula Kahumbu on location in the Masai Mara on how the the Serengeti Highway will stop the migration

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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.

wildebeest3small

They form fantastic concentrations not seen anywhere else in the world

wildebeest1small

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

crocodile2small

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.