Category Archives: Podcasts

Ivory bonfire in Kenya sends 5 tons up in smoke

Dear friends

Yesterday, together with most of Africa’s top elephant conservationists, I witnessed the burning of 5 tons of ivory at the Kenya Wildlife Service training center in Manyani, which is located in one of Kenya’s greatest National Parks, Tsavo West Kenya.

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(I recorded video, photographs and podcasts of the event which WildlifeDirect is willing to sell to raise funds  for conservation. Please leave a comment on this post if you are interested in supporting us by buying your own copy of the event to support WildlifeDirect and elephant conservation)

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This is the strongest conservation statement that has come out of Africa in a very long time – the destruction of ivory worth about 15 million dollars.

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This is the second time that Kenya has burned ivory to send a powerful message about how the ivory trade is killing Africa’s elephants. Although the Kenyan President, Mwai Kibaki lit this funeral pyre of over 200 elephants, this time it wasn’t Kenya’s ivory. The elephants that had been slaughted for this ivory came from Malawi and Zambia, thousands of kilometers south of Kenya.

The ivory burned was part of a shipment seized in Singapore in 2002 following an investigation spearheaded by the Lusaka Agreement Task Force and the Environmental Investigation Agency. Susan Rice of the EIA told me that it was the 19th shipment of ivory from Zambia that was seized in an operation that revealed a complex web of players including poachers, government agents, and traders.

This massive illegal trade in ivory, was linked to China and Japan that had been authorized by the Convention on International Trade in Endangered species, CITES.

Ambassadors of both countries were visibly absent at the ceremonial ivory burn.

Conservationists have been warning that the massive demand for ivory in China cannot be satisfied by Africa’s  elephants and as a result, ivory prices have been increasing, triggering a surge in poaching across Africa.

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Wildlife enforcement authorities in Africa are struggling to defend elephants against this renewed threat. And the unwillingness of African Governments to prosecute Chinese nationals involved in illegal ivory trade makes it near impossible to stop them.

The effect is devastating for elephant and it is particularly evident than in Samburu in northern Kenya where so many elephants have been killed in recent months that adult males are noticeably abswent, and some elephant families no longer have matriarchs – the oldest female leaders who maintain order in elephant society.

Saving Africa’s elephants requires not only bold statements and commitments by African leaders.  We need action and we need it now. Everyone can agree that African elephants will continue to be at risk of extinction unless the trade in ivory is stopped. This can be achieved if the demand for ivory is destroyed.

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Only 5 tons of ivory were burned today – it represents a tiny fraction of Africa’s stockpiled ivory. Kenya alone has 60 tons of ivory held in vaults in Nairobi and in the field. Valued at between 500 and 2000 dollars per kilogram, the cost of protecting this ivory is immense. But it’s mere presence creates a threat that it will be raided by outsiders or even insiders. The maintenance of the Kenyan stockpile sends a confusing message to the world that while Kenya is ready to burn Malawian and Zambian ivory, she is holding onto her own stockpile – could this be for future sales perhaps?

While congratulating the countries of the Lusaka Agreement Task Force for burning this ivory, conservationists identified  three additional actions that would secure the future of elephants in Africa

  1. To appeal to the CITES convention to remove China and Japan’s status as a approved ivory trading partners
  2. To destroy all of Africa’s ivory stockpiles
  3. To strengthen enforcement by enacting and enforce laws with significant penalties  against poachers, traders and buyers of ivory  regardless of their nationality

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.

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They form fantastic concentrations not seen anywhere else in the world

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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

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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.

Lion vs warthog mashup

I am amazed! Someone took our blog post and podcast about lion vs warthog in the Masai Mara and mashed it up to produce this great Youtube video!

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Thank you Tigersandme!

And all of you out there please feel free to do the same – send us links to your mashups!

Gorilla trek podcast and photos

Hello everyone, Paula here and this is the moment of truth !!! Here’s my promised podcast. Listen with headphones gorillas are very quiet creatures so listen carefully, I hope you feel immersed in the jungle. Look a the photos as you listen – I’ve put them in chronological order.

The day started at 4.30am after a very long night of very loud Oliver N’goma concert!

The experience begins with a talk from our guide Francis, who was absolutely brilliant. ….he takes us on an extraordinary hike through the jungle introducing us to much more than gorillas,….

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Here’s the volcano, Mt Bisoke, we had to climb it!

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We first walked through farms to this wall, the “buffalo wall” demarcates the edge of the park protecting it from incursions as well as protecting the people from buffaloes.

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The houses in this area are made of sticks and the walls of leaves, the soil here is not sticky enough to plaster the walls!

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The trek we were told would take anything from 10 minutes to 3 hours. Every time someone asked “are we nearly there?” we were told the same thing, “just ten more minutes”. It took us nearly like 3 hours! From Left to Right these are Joe Summerhays (animator), John (assisting guide), Bill Gorth (master story teller), Craig Hatkoff (co founder of Tribeca Film Festival), and Brian Newman (Tribeca Film Foundation).

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Our first sighting, he just sat there and stared right back.

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The emotion you feel when you spot Gorillas for the first time are never forgotten. From Left to Right, these are Dino (dudu diaries), Craig and Rabai Irwin.

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It’s hard to keep the 10 meter rule, gorillas walk right up to you and will even grab and push you aside you if you are in the way as happened to Craig!

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The experience gets better and better as the group begins to ignore you – two individuals played right in front of us then climbed a tree.

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I could have watched these guys playing for hours! So entertaining.

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I know why Dian Fossey fell in love with the place, the staff like Francis are super dedicated, amusing, and just a pleasure to spend time with.
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The trackers wake up at about 6 am to find the group and stay with them and guide the tourists to them.

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Can you see the 3 week old baby? Did you hear it coughing on the podcast?

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Life as a gorilla can’t be that bad?

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Apart from the mind blowing gorillas, other odd things creatures also caught our attention like this giant earthworm. They grow to about 1 foot and are about 1 inch thick!

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After that full day in gorilla country and one hour with the Amohoro family  I looked at my certificate and I can’t help feeling like it was a life time experience well wort the $500 price tag. I want to stay in touch with them, monitor the progress of the new baby, hear their daily shenanigans.

What do you think? Would you pay $500 to experience this?

How was the podcast?

3 more elephants killed in Virunga today

Ephrem just received a report that three more elephants were killed in Virunga, bringing the total to 17 in the last two weeks. This is unprecedented. Every single one had its ivory hacked out. The price of ivory is believed to be at around US$150 per kg on the local market. At this rate, Virunga could lose all of its elephants before the end of the year. We are working on deploying the Advance Force of rangers in the area, although they are quite badly overstretched in Southern Sector of the park, on the efforts to stop the charcoal trade.

This was an interview given on Voice of America on Thursday night, following the killings.

Conversation with a chief

While in the Mara I enjoyed how quiet it was, the absence of noisy irritating tourists, there were virtually no other cars around, the wildlife was having a great time. But the people and the Mara are suffering. This post was recorded while I was visting Kimojino a few weeks ago. I posted stories, podcasts and photos earlier about the tourism collapse here and the killing of a lion by a warthog here. This post is about a conversation I had with Kipas, the village chief.

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This is Kipas, the chief of Enkereri Masai village. I think that what he has to say about the effect of the tourism collapse on his community is one of the most touching conversations I’ve had in a long time. Another person has written about his wisdom, charm and wit here.

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The photos help to illustrate the scenes

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The village is perched on the escarpment. The community and their goats have a view to kill for!

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I don’t think these are all his wives, but he is chief of all these women, 18 families in all.

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The women are among the most beautiful creatures on earth!

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In the village, work is segregated, men carve weapons and talking sticks using only a machete

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Women adorn the talking sticks – listen to the podcast to learn more about the Masai talking stick

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All the women are involved in the beautiful art of beading, including Kipas’s mother here.

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And apart from beauty, and crafts, the women are sensational singers.

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The men are responsible for bringing the cows home at the end of the day.

I’d really appreciate feedback. Did you like this podcast? Shall I keep them coming?

Lion killer escapes

Last week I spent three days in the Masai Mara and went on patrol with the rangers of the Mara Conservancy to catch 7 alleged hippo poachers that were believed to be in the area. While on patrol we had a few ‘adventures’ and dramatic though amusing incidents. Though I wasn’t there, the five poachers were finally caught two days later with a dead hippo which Kimojino reported here.

This podcast and these photos document an extraordinary and rare incident that I’ve never heard of before and nobody that I know has ever observed a warthog killing a full grown lion! Listen to this new post here

The incident took place during a break in the middle of the patrol – we broke off to investigate a report of an injured lioness and what we found was almost too amazing to be true.

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A ten year old lioness, killed by a warthog. She looked pregnant. That’s the broken off warthog tooth. Can you see the tiny wound in her neck? Surgical! Only after we turned her over did we notice the pool of blood beneath her.

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The brave Masai rangers couldn’t resist getting a few photos with the slain lioness

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Here’s the proud lion slayer in a hole just a meter from the dead lioness. Impressive teeth no?

Being the coward I am I wouldn’t put my head in it’s hole (thank God!) but stuck my camera in and took into one but 2 photos with the flash. She or he didn’t budge a millimeter despite all the noise and flash… we were convinced she/he was dead. Can you see the missing tusk?

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Here is the deadly tusk – source of much exclamation and awe.

Though I’m very sorry for the lioness I cant help wondering what the heck she was doing? Putting her head into a warthogs hole??? Everyone knows that the first law of African savanna bush, don’t ever EVER stand in front of a warthogs hole. Now you know why.

I hope you enjoy the podcast

Mara Poachers and hippo attack

Friends,

Today I’m going to try a much awaited experiment and upload a podcast –

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I recorded this in the Mara Conservancy last week where I spent three days finding out more about the effects of the collapse of tourism on this world renowned conservation area.

I hope you enjoy sound trip which hopefully will give the visually impaired a feel for the Mara which is among my most favourite places in the world.

I’m attaching photographs to help you visualise the patrol. These 5 minutes reflect what happened during the 4 hours anti-poaching patrol in which we were searching for 7 hippo killing poachers. Kimujino has more on the arrest of these poachers on his

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This is the sign between the Mara Reserve and Transmara Reserve which together make up the Masai Mara
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A hippo slide

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On patrol looking for footprints on the soft earth

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Hippo in the Mara river
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Can you see the new born hippo by his mothers legs?