Category Archives: Policy

Calling the World to help save African Elephants

 

African Elephants

 

WildlifeDirect supports the African Elephant Coalition (AEC) in the call to the world to help save African elephants.

As an organization that has been in the forefront calling for a total ban on all ivory trade, WildlifeDirect urges other African countries not represented at the meeting held in Montreux, Switzerland from 24 to 26 June 2016 to join AEC in this call to save the our iconic species that are in danger of extinction if nothing is done.

In a press release by AEC, 29 member states call on all governments, inter-governmental and non-governmental organizations for their support, and calls on citizens around the world to ask their respective governments and the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES) representatives to support the five proposals and to help the Coalition in its mission to list all elephants in Appendix I.

The Coalition of 29 African member states submitted to CITES five proposals designed to reverse the poaching crisis facing elephants and to put an end to the ivory trade to afford elephants the highest protection under international law.

The five proposals are:

  1. Listing all elephants in CITES Appendix I
  1. Closure of domestic ivory markets
  1. Ivory stockpile destruction and management
  1. The Decision-Making Mechanism for a process of trade in ivory (DMM)
  1. Restricting trade in live elephants

AEC agreed to launch a social media campaign in a bid to gain support for the five proposals to the 17th Conference of the Parties (CoP17) of CITES in September-October in Johannesburg, South Africa. We invite you to use the hashtags #WorthMoreAlive, #EndIvoryTrade and #Vote4Elephants to support the campaign.

Speaking at the meeting in Montreux, Bourama Niagaté from Mali, a member of the Council of the Elders for the Coalition noted that there was need for all relevant stakeholders to pull together for the sake of Africa’s elephants.

Kenya, a member state of AEC has taken a zero tolerance approach to poaching and ivory trafficking.

In April this year, Kenya took a bold step in burning 105 tons of ivory and 1.5 tons of rhino horn. This is reportedly the world’s largest stockpile of elephant ivory and rhino horns ever to be burnt. The historic burn demonstrated Kenya’s commitment to seeking a total global ban of ivory and rhino horns.

Speaking at the burn, President Uhuru Kenyatta said, “by destroying ivory we declare once and for all that our national heritage is not for sale”. The only value that ivory has is tusks on a live elephant.

It is this commitment from the highest level of government and collaboration with conservationists and law enforcement that has seen Kenya achieve 80 percent reduction in deaths of elephants in the last three years.

 

You can download the Press Release Here

Leakey interview in SWARA and on NTV Wild Talk at 10 pm

NTV Wild Talk, broadcast an interview with Richard Leakey about the past and the present for wildlife and heritage in Kenya. It aired on Tuesday March 15 on NTV at 10 pm.
I also want to draw attention to the new article in SWARA here  in which he states

“Parks will only be sustainable if Kenyans want them to be sustainable. Middle class Kenyans who own TV sets watch international soccer, international vanity shows and news but none of them watch wildlife programmes because they’ve never been put on air in this country.”

Richard Leakey

This sentiment is the reason that we created NTV Wild. For those who have not been able to catch previous episodes, NTV Wild is a partnership between NTV, WildlifeDirect and KWS to broadcast wildlife documentaries made in Kenya and Africa on national Television for the first time in our history to inspire Kenyans to visit our parks and appreciate our spectacular wildlife heritage. The program airs on Saturdays and a discussion program on Tuesdays.
This is the list of all the NTV Wild documentaries so far on Saturday’s at 8 pm
1. Mzima Haunt of the River Horse – Mark Deeble and Vicky Stone
2. The Last Lions – Derek and Beverly Joubert
3. African Cats – DisneyNature
4. Here be Dragons – Alan Root
5. Battle For the Elephants – Nat Geo
6. The Queen of Trees – Mark Deeble and Vicky Stone
NTV Wild Talk on Tuesdays at 10 pm

 

Launching the series with Jonathan Scott

 

NTV Wild Talk S1 E1 “The mystery of Mzima”

 NTV Wild Talk S1 E2 “Kenya-US relations in protecting wildlife”

NTV Wild Talk S1 E3 “Stopping wildlife trafficking through Kenya”

NTV Wild Talk S1 E4 “Saving Kenya’s big cats”

NTV Wild Talk S1 E5 “Safeguarding Karura Forest”

 

TV Wild Talk S1 E6 “Wildlife Newbies & Champions”

In this episode: Kitili Mbathi shares the challenges & successes at KWS, Lena Munge tells of how she hopes to transform the Masai Mara, Najib Balala explains why he jumped off a plane for conservation & 12 yr old Luca Berardi stresses the importance of wildlife for future generations.

Both the documentaries and the talk shows have been trending on twitter since we began 7 weeks ago and people are telling us that they are setting their alarm clocks to catch the programs. We are already on week 7 and we have 45 more  to go! Enjoy

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Wildlife Warriors OST Report

The Wildlife Warriors event at Brookhouse School attracted nearly twice as many people as we expected. Though we
targeted young people from Nairobi, grandparents, teachers, and many grown ups from all corners of the country
including expatriates came. This revealed a surprising level of interest in citizen participation. It also confirmed that young people feel that their
views about wildlife conservation are as important as those of adults. Hundreds of recommendations about creating a
generation of Wildlife Warriors were generated which revealed some general findings.

We are pleased to finally release the report of the first ever Open Space Technology event to be held in Nairobi. We apologize for the delay in getting this report out to the public and welcome comments on it. Please find the soft copy version of the report here

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GLOBAL MARCH FOR ELEPHANTS AND RHINOS, NAIROBI 2015

Cabinet Minister flags off the March

Cabinet Minister flags off the March

It was an outstanding event that really showed the world that Kenya is a country of wildlife lovers. The atmosphere was celebratory, there  were rangers, students, corporates, bikers, cyclists, roller bladers, vuvuzelas, Kenyan flags, placards reading “Fight Back” and “I am Justice for Wildlife, Are You?”.  Marchers of all ages and backgrounds participated including 4 year old Seya who celebrated her birthday by bringing her friends to the march and made a donation of 75 thousand towards 175 children going into Nairobi Park today (curtis of KWS). Representatives of several embassies were present including the Ambassador of Belgium Roxane de Bilderling and Bob Godec of USA.
Bikers leading the March

Bikers leading the March

child on bike
The Cabinet Secretary Prof Judi Wakhungu walked the entire 14 km which was the longest Global March  (it took place in over 150 cities around the world). The Kenyan marchwas also the biggest in terms of participation.  This year our theme was Justice for Wildlife and Judge Nzioki wa Makau made a speech on behalf of the Chief Justice in which he committed to strengthening the judicial response to wildlife crime.
Justice for Wildlife

Justice for Wildlife

 

shouting

crowds1
Prof. Wakhungu also spoke about redoubling efforts to work in cooperation with all stakeholders, and neighbouring countries. She was applauded for the results already achieved in Kenya, and reminded Kenyans that we could not be complacent. Just across the border 30 elephants are dying each day in Tanzania. We stand to lose too much if we do not stop the poachers.  She promised that Kenya will be taking some very strong positions at the upcoming CITES conference in South Africa next year to return all elephants to Appendix 1.
She applauded the US and Chinese governments for recent announcements to end domestic trade in ivory.
Roxane murgor godec paula roxane
US Ambassador Bob Godec spoke on behalf of the donor group and applauded Kenya’s efforts and committed to further support.
Peter Moll of Stand Up Shout Out spoke about the powerful role of the youth. Speaking for all NGO’s.  In my speech I congratulated the government for the successes achieved in the last 12 months which has seen poaching drop to very low levels, and suspected traffickers being prosecuted for the first time. I welcomed the cooperation between state and NGO’s and invited all participants to volunteer with the NGO’s and government to get more involved in conservation. She thanked the Nation Media Group for screening wildlife documentaries as an important contribution towards creating awareness and love for our heritage.
The speech that stole the crowd was 12 year old Luca Berardi, youth Ambassador of WildlifeDirect, who sent a powerful message to Asians “You don’t need ivory or rhino horn to prove your wealth, there are millions of other things that you can put on your mantle piece”.
Entertainments included a number of super performances and one dance that got us all off our seats feeling very happy.
The Global March in Nairobi was organized by WildlifeDirect, Stand Up Shout Out and KWS.
Photos courtesy of Megapixels

 

WildlifeDirect Welcomes Statement by Cabinet Secretary Judi Wakhungu on Destruction of Ivory Stockpiles in Kenya

25 November 2014, Nairobi

 

Press Statement

 

WildlifeDirect Welcomes Statement by Cabinet Secretary Judi Wakhungu on Destruction of Ivory Stockpiles in Kenya

The Chairman of WildlifeDirect Kenya, Philip Murgor, and the CEO of WildlifeDirect, Dr Paula Kahumbu, would like to strongly support the Cabinet Secretary for Environment , Water and Natural Resources, Judi Wakhungu, for her statement and stand in regard to ivory stockpiles in Kenya.

“At WildlifeDirect, we are very pleased that the minister has openly advocated for the destruction of ivory stockpiles in Kenya,” said Dr Kahumbu. “We agree with the minister, that the only way of stopping the ivory from getting into the market is by destroying it. Our elephants are facing extinction, and we must do what it takes to conserve them, not just for us but as a world heritage”.

The cabinet secretary was quoted in a media report this week, saying that ivory stockpiles should be destroyed to keep them from getting back into the market, adding that the move will deter the supply and demand for ivory.

On his part, the chairman Philip Murgor said that Kenya had demonstrated leadership and courage to go against the grain in the late 80s, when the then president Daniel Moi destroyed 12 tonnes of ivory in order to persuade the world to end trade in ivory.

“This bold move worked in the 90s. Elephant numbers began to rise across the continent.  It can work again, and the current trend of 35,000 elephants killed every year in Africa can be reversed. We are very pleased that the current leadership appreciates the significance of destroying ivory stockpiles”.

 

-END-

 

For more information, please contact Dr Paula Kahumbu on 0722 685 106 or Bertha Kang’ong’oi on 0720 712 730.

KEEP TIM ALIVE

Keep Tim Alive
An encounter with a wounded tusker reminds me that saving elephants is the only true measure of success of our campaigns

Tim, one of the world's largest Tuskers

Tim, one of the world’s largest Tuskers

Photograph: John Heminway/WildlifeDirect
Amboseli, Kenya, 7 November 2014.

We are sitting in the beautiful Tortillis camp overlooking the wide savannah. Just as we are about to move on to another item on the agenda, Scott Asen, one of our newest board members, consults his phone and announces: “Tim just sent me a text. He’s waiting. I think we should go now.” Words said in jest that had a profound meaning for all of us present.

Tim is one of the world’s biggest tuskers and his home is Amboseli. Like other bull elephants he leads a nomadic life, roaming far and wide across the vast national park and beyond. We felt blessed that he had shown up on this particular day. After two days of hard work and important progress for elephant conservation we felt Tim was here to say “thank you”. But what we saw shocked us to the core. Tim had not come to say thank you, he was pleading with us: “Help me.”

The WildlifeDirect Board of 14 extraordinary men and women from USA, UK and Kenya had met less than 24 hours earlier with Her Excellency Margaret Kenyatta, the First Lady of Kenya, and with Judi Wakhungu, the Cabinet Secretary for Environment, Water and Natural Resources.

We presented the successes of the Hands Off Our Elephants Campaign, launched by WildlifeDirect a year ago, in bringing together Kenyans from all walks of life to stand up for elephants and wildlife, and lobbying governments worldwide to take action against the international crime cartels behind the poaching crisis that is threatening Africa’s elephants.

Then we heard about the ministry’s successes in passing new laws and strengthening the protection agencies, and about the many challenges remaining. And then at the most unexpected moment, the usually shy and withdrawn First Lady stepped up to agree to a raft of requests: for her to spearhead the replication of the campaign across Africa, and for Kenya’s elephants and rhinos to be declared national treasures.

She also supported our call for a Kenyan national Wildlife Festival to enlist all sectors of society in wildlife conservation efforts. Everything was going swimmingly, and then the First Lady turned to ask: “But why aren’t you guys working together?” I felt busted and immediately agreed to work with Judi to assemble an independent team of experts to conduct a national assessment of Kenya’s elephants and rhinos.

As we left the meeting The First Lady hugged me and said: “Don’t ever give up, you must fight on”. I left State House on a cloud, and things got better as the day progressed.

That evening we celebrated the achievements of the first year of the campaign with supporters and partners in government and beyond. Our Facebook page described the “colour and pomp, smiles and hugs” of the Hands Off Our Elephants first birthday party.

The US Ambassador Bob Godec brought some members of the audience to tears with a powerful speech from the heart. He said it was not just his job to help us save elephants, but also a deeply held personal conviction.

Our keynote speaker, the Chief Justice Dr. Willy Mutunga, remembered the first day he ‘met’ me through what he described as the first of a series of “angry emails”. I had been going to court, and was appalled to see how ivory poachers and traffickers were being let off. The emails were to tell him just how diabolical it all was. He gave WildlifeDirect permission to continue our hard-hitting approach: “Don’t stop being angry.”

Fast forward, and the next evening we are all sitting atop of Land Rovers, off-road somewhere in Amboseli National Park. It is dense palm thicket and we can hear branches cracking. Tim is near. Then we see a monumental trunk above the palms, reaching high into the branches. It is only when we drive around to get a full view that we see the magnificence of his full body and his gigantic tusks.

It is 4.50 pm and the sun is gleaming on his ivory. An audible “aaaaaahhh” emanates from all of us. Tim is truly spectacular. Then Tim notices us and turns. It is as if he is hiding that which we find so beautiful, which too many Chinese are addicted to, and which translates to dollar signs for greedy poachers.

We sit quietly contemplating the giant Tim. I am acutely aware that it is very strange for this elephant I know so well to be so shy. He is usually proud and confident, and loves attention and cameras. And then the bombshell, as we see the sore his left flank, where blood and white clumps of puss are oozing out. This is why Tim is acting so strangely. He is in great pain.

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Hands Off Our Elephants Campaign material was already calling to “Keep Tim Alive” before he was found injured in November 2014. Photograph: John Heminway/WildlifeDirect

Majestic Tim is injured. We can only speculate about recent events, that Tim has possibly been speared by someone from the local community. He may have threatened farmers, or perhaps a poacher was after him.

All of us sit in our own silence as we watch Tim for over an hour. Then Tim steps out in front of us and walks amongst us, but his walk is strained. I cannot describe the sick feeling in the pit of my stomach. I feel so helpless, but also chastened. We have been celebrating the successes of our campaign, but what right do we have to celebrate when poaching and human-wildlife conflict still threaten elephants every day?

Within seconds the purpose of WildlifeDirect is suddenly vivid. Kenya has already lost two iconic tuskers, Satao and Mountain Bull, this year. Hands Off Our Elephants was already campaigning to Keep Tim Alive. Now he needs our help.

In minutes we have a plan to give the Kenyan Wildlife Service (KWS) 25 thousand US dollars to to monitor and protect Tim 24/7. We call Julius Cheptei, the KWS Assistant Director, and he agrees to assign a vet to the case immediately.

As we leave Tim, the six other bulls that make up his escort are walking off towards the edge of the park. We follow them for a short while, and see they are heading towards some local settlements. I am not worried. It’s their normal routine and the communities here are usually very tolerant of elephants.

But Tim does not follow. He stays 200 meters behind and then peels off towards the centre of the swamp. He is not going to put himself at risk again.

http://www.theguardian.com/environment/africa-wild/2014/nov/09/keep-tim-alive

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

HANDS OFF OUR ELEPHANTS CAMPAIGN

OVERVIEW OF THE CHALLENGE
During the past 10 years there has been an unprecedented growth in the illegal ivory markets and in 2011, the poaching of elephants in Africa reached a ten year record[i] with more than 25,000 elephants illegally killed[ii], corresponding with an all-time record of 38.8 tons of ivory seized[1]. Simultaneously, the price of ivory exploded from US$150/kg to over US$1,000/kg between 2008 and 2012. Importantly, the illegal ivory trade is believed to be financing local conflicts and international terrorism[2] through Al Qaeda’s Somali wing, Al Shabaab[3], the Lord’s Resistance Army[4] and Sudan’s Janjaweed. Further, the escalation of elephant poaching has rendered large parts of Eastern and Central Africa insecure for all, including poor and vulnerable rural communities and key income and job sectors, like tourism[5].

This massive growth in the illegal ivory markets grew in response to rising affluence in China’s middle class who demand and use ivory for artifacts as status symbols. This demand is fuelled through poor controls of domestic markets in China and other Asian countries, allowing illegal ivory to be laundered through legal domestic markets and exacerbated by the simultaneous presence of China in Africa as a development and trade partner – with hundreds of thousands of Chinese immigrants now operating in Kenya and millions across the continent.
This ivory trade is driven by criminal cartels threatening not only elephants and other species, but also people, their livelihoods, management of natural resources, the tourism sector (second biggest contributor at 12% of GDP) and local and national security. In recent speeches US Secretary of State, Hilary Clinton, stated that wildlife trafficking has serious implications for the security and prosperity of people around the world and it needs to be addressed through partnerships as robust as the criminal networks themselves[6]. She noted that governments, civil society, businesses, scientists and activists must work together in educating people about the whole-scale devastation caused by wildlife trafficking.

KENYA’S POSITION
Kenya traditionally has been on the front lines in combating elephant poaching in Africa and has been a leading voice on elephant conservation through various international conventions including CITES, the Convention on Biodiversity, the Convention on Migratory species and others. Despite these commitments, the current response of the Kenyan government to the crisis continues to falter and is wholly inadequate for the size of the problem. The combination of corruption and weak domestic wildlife laws means that Kenya has now become the second largest transiting country for illegal ivory in Africa, second only to Tanzania. Moreover, Kenya, Tanzania and Uganda alone now account for nearly 70% of the illegal ivory flowing out of Africa. At the recently concluded CITES conference, the member nations put eight (8) countries (Uganda, Kenya, Tanzania, Vietnam, Malaysia, Philippines, Thailand and China), on notice to put an action plan in place to deal with the elephant poaching and ivory trading crisis, otherwise they will suffer sanctions stopping all wildlife trade, legal or illegal. Kenya’s leading role and voice in conservation has been undermined by this recent incident.

WILDLIFE DIRECT’S RESPONSE
In response to this double-edged crisis, Wildlife Direct (see annex) has launched a Kenyan (with the option of replicating it to other African countries), multi-strand strategy to combat the key issues and challenges:

WildlifeDirect is a Kenyan NGO and US registered 501(c) (3) organization founded in 2006 by Kenyan conservationist Dr Richard Leakey, who is credited with putting an end to the elephant slaughter in Kenya in the 1980s and delivering an international ban on ivory trade. WildlifeDirect is headquartered in Nairobi, Kenya. WildlifeDirect was conceived as an online platform that promotes conservation of Africa’s spectacular wildlife by building an online community of supporters for conservationists at the frontline in Africa. Realizing, that our work, while effective, was inadequate to halt the emerging crises facing Africa’s elephants and other wildlife, WildlifeDirect has now re-positioned itself as Africa’s foremost campaigning organization for wildlife conservation. Hands Off Our Elephants, our flagship campaign comprises a winning combination of expertise including, wildlife ecologists, communications, law, politics, media, strategists, and linguists, making us bold, influential, and successful. This African led initiative is supported Kenya’s First Lady, Her Excellency Margaret Kenyatta as patron. The campaign has already won international recognition for creating public awareness and driving legal reforms in Kenya and East Africa. WLD partners with civil society, government agencies and is a member of the Clinton Global Initiative on elephants.

Our goal is to demonstrate excellence in Kenya, a country formerly renowned for it’s conservation successes and now reputed to be amongst the worlds most complicit in the illegal trafficking of ivory. We deliver political support for a strategy that achieves excellence in law enforcement through deterrent penalties combined with high probability of being arrested, excellent prosecutions, and fair trials.

We have secured success by mobilizing the public and drawing attention to key concerns.

To secure lasting results we seek ultimately to change the culture and therefore behavior of all Kenyans, and thereby also alter the global view of Kenya and thus attract support to enforce the national strategy for combatting international wildlife crime. Kenya’s success will only be secured if similar changes occur in the region – thus ultimately the outcome of this campaign must be replicated.

How We Work:
WildlifeDirect has an Africa focus with Kenya as the launch pad for its activities.

WildlifeDirect’s main strengths are:-

1. WildlifeDirect has relationships with multi-levels of Kenyan and international society across a diverse range of interests and entities, e.g., international NGOs, government authorities, management bodies, civil society groups, grass-root communities and their constituencies.
2. High-level international profile and combined expertise of the founder Dr. Richard Leakey, board members John Heminway, Philip Murgor, Irungu Houghton, Ali Mohamed, and Executive Director Dr. Paula Kahumbu.
3. High level of expertise through a diverse professional board, advisers, and consultants and a talented, committed staff.
5. WildlifeDirect plays a prominent leadership role in the non-governmental arena – including wildlife, environment, development, legal, tourism, conservation, and education.
6. WildlifeDirect has a proven track record of provoking action in conservation at governmental, intergovernmental and international levels.
7. WildlifeDirect’s visibility in traditional media (television, radio and newspapers), and innovative use of new media e.g. the internet to tell stories from the conservation ‘frontline’, raise awareness of crises and causing urgent actions to be instigated.

WildlifeDirect’s ability to mobilize African and international action in support of wildlife conservation.

[1] T. Milliken, R. B. (2012). The elephant Trade Information System and illicit trade in Ivory: Report to CITES Cop 16. TRAFFIC.

[2] Puhl, H. K. (2012, September 13). Brutal Elephant Slaughter Funds African Conflicts. Retrieved from Spiegel: http://www.spiegel.de/international/world/blood-ivory-brutal-elephant-slaughter-funds-african-conflicts-a-855237.html

[3] Gathura, G. (2012, December). Poachers funding Al-Shabaab, reveals KWS. Retrieved from Horn portal: http://horn.so/poachers-funding-al-shabaab-reveals-kws

[4] Witcher, T. (2012, December 19). LRA poaching ivory as Kony hunt intensifies. Retrieved from Reuters: http://www.google.com/hostednews/afp/article/ALeqM5hcUql6ZHKSL2vxBmQ4QKuRo1ITaQ?docId=CNG.c60aa170c84f09544220fe3d340f8b33.31

[5] Goldenberg, S. (2012). http://www.guardian.co.uk/environment/2012/nov/08/us-intelligence-wildlife-poachers. London: The Guardian.

[6] Clinton, Hilary. Remarks at the Partnership Meeting on Wildlife Trafficking. 8th November 2012

Kenya’s biggest elephant killed by poachers

By Paula Kahumbu

Satao, the world's biggest elephant, with his family in the Tsavo East National Park in Kenya. Photograph: © Mark Deeble & Victoria Stone 2014

Satao, the world’s biggest elephant, with his family in the Tsavo East National Park in Kenya. Photograph: © Mark Deeble & Victoria Stone 2014

It is 4 am and I have been sitting at my computer for hours. I just can’t sleep after hearing the terrible news that Satao, the world’s biggest elephant, is dead

Satao lived in Tsavo East National park in southeast Kenya and was celebrated as one of the last surviving great tuskers, bearers of genes that produce bull elephants with huge tusks reaching down to the ground. This news follows hard on the heels of the slaughter of another legendary tusker, Mountain Bull, deep inside the forests of Mt. Kenya .

Of all the elephants that have died in Kenya, these deaths are the hardest to bear. The grief in Kenya at the slaughter of our iconic elephants is translating into floods of tears, emotional poems, and outrage on Twitter and Facebook.

I had suspected for days that Satao was dead. The rumours were too many and they came from too many different people for them not to be true. Bad news travels fast in Kenya. Moreover, like everyone who had ever heard of Satao, I was already concerned for his safety.

I first learned about Satao through an emotional and beautifully written blog post by Mark Deeble, who described him as being so intelligent that he knew he needed to protect his enormous tusks by intentionally hiding in bushes so they couldn’t be seen. At the end of the post Mark wrote:

I am appalled at what that means – that the survival skills that the bull has painstakingly learnt over half a century have been rendered useless by the poachers’ use of mass-produced Chinese goods; GPS smart-phones, cheap motorcycles and night vision goggles.

I think the old bull knows that poachers want his tusks, and I hate that he knows.

More than anything, I hate the thought that poachers are now closing in on one of the world’s most iconic elephants.

Then in early March, during the great elephant census, we heard that the poachers had got to him. Mike Chase from Elephants without Borders reported seeing two seeping wounds on Satao’s flank. Veterinarians rushed to the scene and confirmed that these were arrow wounds.

It’s hard to imagine what was going through the minds of the poachers on the day that they approached this mountain of an elephant and shot at him with crude bows and poisoned arrows. It must have been terrifying and yet the sight of his massive gleaming tusks probably left them salivating with greed.

 

For days Satao must have endured excruciating pain from the festering wounds. But he recovered and we all heaved a sigh of relief when it was reported that his wounds were healing on their own. The Facebook post by Save the Elephants about his recovery attracted more 200 “get well soon” comments.

Then in the first week of June Richard Moller, Executive Director of The Tsavo Trust, found a massive elephant carcass in a swamp. “I knew instinctively in my gut that this was Satao, but there was a tiny chance that I was wrong. I had to verify it before we go public,” Richard told me.

The Tsavo Trust runs an inspirational campaign to bring attention to Kenya’s last great tuskers . Their work brings huge joy and celebration every time an elephant with tusks sweeping to the ground is found.

When I heard that Satao may have been killed, I posted a message on Facebook. I said I hoped that the rumours were wrong and that Satao was safe. I had to hastily remove the post after Richard explained: “We don’t want to alarm people if there’s even a 1% chance that Satao is still alive”.

For days Richard and (Kenyan Wildlife Service) KWS rangers visited the carcass. It was certainly a giant tusker, but it was hard to tell if this was Satao, as the face was mutilated face and the tusks gone. They flew over the park and searched for Satao, hoping against all odds that he was still alive.

Then finally, yesterday on 12 June, Richard admitted to me that his first gut feeling had been right:

Today I had to write my official report to KWS and confirm to them that Satao is dead. It was the hardest report that I have ever written, I couldn’t see past a wall of tears.

In voice choked with grief he begged me not to post anything on this blog until KWS had officially broken the news.

 

From a biodiversity perspective, tuskers are rare specimens, the pinnacle of their species. Photograph: © Mark Deeble & Victoria Stone 2014

From a biodiversity perspective, tuskers are rare specimens, the pinnacle of their species. Photograph: © Mark Deeble & Victoria Stone 2014

 

It is not only the rangers in Tsavo or those who knew Satao who are sorrowful, all of Kenya is in a state of deep grief. Satao was not just a Kenyan icon, he was a global treasure. He was of such a phenomenal size that we knew poachers would want him, and no effort was spared to protect him. He had 24/7 protection from KWS and conservation organizations. Even as we mourn Satao’s passing, Kenyan’s are asking: what went wrong?

It may take days for the KWS to provide more details about this terrible news. The country’s authorities are loath to admit the scale of the current crisis.

According to the latest figures published by KWS, 97 elephants have been poached in Kenya so far this year . Nobody in Kenya believes this figure, which suggests that less than one percent of the national elephant population have fallen to poachers’ guns.

The official figures do not tally with the many reports of elephant killings in and around the Masai Mara, Samburu, Loita Hills, Marsabit, Tsavo, Mount Kenya, Aberdares, Shimba Hills and the north eastern coastal forests.

I estimate, from the reports I have seen, that the elephant poaching in Kenya is at least 10 times the official figures, but it is impossible to verify this as the KWS jealously guards the elephant mortality database.

A few brave people within the system describe a systematic cover up of the real figures. To many of us Kenyans, this problem is even more serious than the poaching. Our wildlife services are like the drug addicts who are the most difficult to help, those in denial that there is a problem to be fixed.

Those at the helm who craft the KWS’s communications seem blissfully unaware of the damage caused to Kenya’s reputation by the lack of transparency and accountability around poaching figures.

Kenyans are angry and confused. Elephants do not belong to KWS but to the people of Kenya. Elephants are an important national asset that make a significant contribution to Kenya’s GDP through tourism. It is therefore in the national interest that the correct figures are shared with the public.

It is also confusing for donors. KWS is fighting furiously for funds to strengthen anti-poaching efforts, and massive ivory seizures also continue to snatch headlines, but according to official figures and statements, there is no elephant poaching crisis.

The appalling news of Satao’s death comes at a time when Kenya is preparing to showcase our conservation successes at the UNEP Governing Assembly which starts on 24 June. Instead Kenyan delegates will bear the heavy burden of conveying the news of the passing of this gentle, intelligent and compassionate giant.

I call on Achim Steiner, UNEP Executive Director, to set the tone for the Governing Assembly by starting with a minute’s silence: so that delegates can reflect on their duty of care towards our fellow beings, and in memory of Satao, Mountain Bull, and all the others who have died before them.

http://www.theguardian.com/environment/africa-wild/2014/jun/13/kenyas-biggest-elephant-killed-by-poachers

Ndovu + Music = Ndovu Music Contest

Juliani with Basilinga

Juliani with Basilinga

Article by Njambi Maingi

The month of June, heavily marked and highlighted on the Safaricom Calendar in the WildlifeDirect office in Nairobi, was a definite illustration of the numerous midyear activities planned out for the Hands off Our Elephants Campaign. None of them bigger than the biggest collaboration in Elephant Conservation this year!! What am I talking about,you ask?? The day Kenyan Music Celebrity Juliani and Dr Paula Kahumbu met over lunch at Art Café to discuss everything-Hands off Our Elephants. On this day the ground beneath the elephant poachers feet must have shook.
There is no denying that the best way to reach out to the masses when conveying a message is through the arts, especially through music. It is a powerful tool that easily seeps into our souls, tugging on our heartstrings for our minds and ears to listen. Music and Elephant Conservation were now united, brought together for a common cause, to sing to the world that the fight against poaching will not only be fought on the ground by armed rangers, but alternatively through the power of words and musical instruments in our studios.

With this new concept in mind ,PCI MEDIA Impact , an international leader in Behavior Change Communications, WildlifeDirect and local celebrity Juliani have joined forces to bring to a Kenyan and International Audience, the first ever Anti-Poaching Themed Music Contest, known as THE NDOVU MUSIC CONTEST(Ndovu being the Swahili word for Elephant). This contest will be for the young and old alike from all over the Country, to contribute to conservation through their creativity in song writing, where original elephant conservation songs are to be submitted online to www.ndovumusic.com. This contest intends to inspire the Kenyans to take action in the protection of Elephants and all wildlife, our heritage, through use of musical talents and more.

To commemorate the conception of this great initiative, the Hands off Our Elephants team, treated Juliani to an amazing one-on-one visit with the orphaned elephant calves at The David Sheldrick Wildlife Trust. He got to experience firsthand, the lives of these victims of slaughter, that were rescued from the wild, abandoned for various reasons that include but not limited to human-elephant conflict and poaching which decimates herds of elephants around Kenya, leaving behind traumatized young elephants, uncared for.

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At first, cautious of his movements around the calm elephants, Juliani quickly became acquainted, moving between individuals, playing with them, listening to their stories from the care givers(surrogate mothers), he was even comfortable enough to bump heads with a few of the older ones, taking in all their force and energy!

It was love at first sight, as some would put it. But this encounter made it ever more obvious to Juliani and the team, that the poaching scourge is a looming dark reality not only for the African Elephants but also for Kenya’s Economic Future.

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