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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
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. 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 through Al Qaeda’s Somali wing, Al Shabaab, the Lord’s Resistance Army 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.
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. 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 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.
 T. Milliken, R. B. (2012). The elephant Trade Information System and illicit trade in Ivory: Report to CITES Cop 16. TRAFFIC.
 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
 Gathura, G. (2012, December). Poachers funding Al-Shabaab, reveals KWS. Retrieved from Horn portal: http://horn.so/poachers-funding-al-shabaab-reveals-kws
 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
 Goldenberg, S. (2012). http://www.guardian.co.uk/environment/2012/nov/08/us-intelligence-wildlife-poachers. London: The Guardian.
 Clinton, Hilary. Remarks at the Partnership Meeting on Wildlife Trafficking. 8th November 2012
By Paula Kahumbu
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.
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.
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.
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.
No matter what is agreed and how much money is raised, little will change without China’s endorsement of a domestic ban of trade in ivory and rhino horn
A summit at Lancaster House in London , attended by high-level delegations from more than 50 countries, will discuss “urgent measures” to stop the illegal trade in products of three endangered wildlife species: elephants, rhinos and tigers. Following recent intergovernmental meetings hosted by Cites and the IUCN, all agree that we are facing a crisis and something must be done. But this meeting is the big one: it’s make or break time. The UK government hosting the event, and its royal backers, will be fervently hoping for a successful outcome that makes for positive headlines on Friday morning. But all eyes will be on one delegation: China.
With regard to the two African species, elephants and rhinos, progress is being made. The government of my country, Kenya, has passed – and is enacting – tough new anti-trafficking laws. The US, no doubt with an eye to stealing the headlines, has just announced a complete ban on trade in ivory. Prince William will be launching United for Wildlife, a collaboration between seven international NGOs, and a new African organization, Stop Ivory, has been formed to work with governments, NGOs, and the private sector to remove ivory from stockpiles and support governments’ efforts to implement their elephant action plans. But populations of elephants and rhinos are falling, mainly as a result of slaughter and trafficking controlled by criminal gangs based in China. No matter what is agreed at the conference and how much money is raised, if it fails to get China’s endorsement of a domestic ban of trade in ivory and rhino horn, little will change.
It has been suggested that western nations are wary of upsetting the Chinese government by engaging on this issue. They shouldn’t be. Calling for a crackdown on illegal trade in ivory doesn’t pose any existential threat to China, politically or economically. Chinese leaders are pragmatists. They will know they have nothing lose by combating domestic organised crime. Their presence at the conference shows that they appreciate the extent of global concern for the future of these emblematic species, as do their recent actions, including the public destruction of some ivory stockpiles and the arrest of an ivory smuggling gang leader extradited from Kenya. This conference is an opportunity for the Chinese, not a threat. Western delegates should stress the huge global prestige that China could gain by being seen to take a lead on this issue.
Africa is waking up to the reality of the loss of elephants. Countries that were hard-nosed about their right to sell ivory, including Tanzania and Botswana, have agreed to stop, as they recognise that selling ivory just feeds the illegal demand. But African countries don’t have the resources to fight organised wildlife crime on their own. They need support from global agencies and western governments. In fact, it can be argued that Africa needs support from the west to counter organised crime more than it needs economic aid. But above all, African countries need China to take action to stop its citizens pillaging the continent’s heritage.
The partnership between China and Africa is becoming a key driver of global socio-economic development, with the potential to lift billions out of poverty. Africans understand that development carries environmental costs, and that difficult trade-offs often have to be made. But in dealings with the Chinese, African leaders should make it clear that the future of rhinos and elephants is not up for negotiation – and that the announcement of effective action to defeat wildlife crime would boost their standing immeasurably on the African continent. African delegations will then be able to greet the Chinese with outstretched hands, not asking for money, but to shake on new partnerships.
Today the KWS announced a 14% decline in elephants in the Samburu/Laikpia ecosystem over the last 4 years. Samburu and Laikipia’s image as the poster children for Kenya’s wildlife recovery is now dented. The impact on tourism cannot be ignored, heavily armed bandits threaten more than elephants, if we can’t protect elephants how can we protect international tourists? But it’s the long term consequence that are of greater concern. One of Kenya’s Vision 2030 flagship projects is to develop the tourism potential in the area to elevate tourism income, create jobs, and increase tax revenues. If we have no elephants in Samburu –will tourists bother to come? Putrid elephant carcasses do not make good tourist attractions. And that is not all, it is now known that the poaching of elephants and rhino’s in Kenya and other countries is linked to criminal cartels that are financing Al Shabaab and other terrorist organizations. Kenya has remained silent the seriousness of this, but US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton has not.
In a way the result of the Samburu census is good news. For the first time in 8 years, KWS has admitted that elephant poaching has reached alarming levels and that it threatens our elephant populations, tourism and our economy. Hopefully this will lead to concrete reaction from the state. Conservationists are not surprised with this figure. Most scientists knew we were in a crisis all along but openly questioning the official number can be dangerous as Onesmas Kahindi discovered when he was arrested and nearly charged with “undermining a public official” earlier this year. He was released, but the experience of his arrest resounded through the conservation community and sadly many Kenyan conservationists have backed away from raising their concerns to the authorities or the press.
The results of Samburu could have been predicted. In 2011 a count of the Tsavo Ecosystem found 500 dead elephants, a 3 fold increase since 2008 suggesting a rapid rise in poaching over that period. And, similar results are expected where poaching is escalating in Galana, Masai Mara, Laikipia, Amboseli and Kerio Valley. The problem is not just in parks nor is it one group of people we need to stop. In the previous elephant crisis it was primarily the Somali’s who were armed, today numerous tribes in north and Central Kenya are armed and the weapons are being turned against each other and wildlife. Nor is the elephant poaching problem restricted to Kenya, CITES (the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species) estimates that over 25,000 African elephants across the continent were killed to supply illegal ivory markets in 2011. This was the highest rate of poaching recorded in the past last ten years.
And its not just elephants. Poachers are also gunning down rhino’s, robbing people and engaging in money laundering, gun running, drugs trade and the money is said to be financing terrorist activities.
To make matters worse, Kenya is not just a haven for poachers, it is also a gateway for ivory movements from other African countries. In July this year CITES noted that together Kenya and Tanzania account for a whopping 65% of the illegal ivory trade in Africa. The ivory is going to China which consumes 75% of the world ivory. But China only recently became the main threat to Africa’s elephants. Elephants have been killed for their ivory for millennia and the ivory trade thrived during the colonial period of Africa’s history – in those days ivory was sought after for billiard boards and piano keys. After the 2nd World War Japan became the world’s largest consumer of ivory taking 40% of all of all ivory for the production of Hanko’s or name seals/signature stamps. By the 1980’s the world began to recognize the crisis facing elephants and CITES put systems in place to regulate the ivory trade through a control system and registration of ivory stocks. This only worsened the situation as criminal cartels found ways of “legalizing” illegal ivory. As a result, ivory prices continued to rise and elephant killings reached a zenith. Legalizing the elephant trade was driving the species to extinction and African countries wildlife authorities were overwhelmed by the highly militarized killings.
It took two men and a crazy idea to turn it all around. In 1989 Richard Leakey persuaded Daniel Arap Moi, the Kenyan president, to publicly burn the entire Kenyan stockpile to send a message in what became the worlds most iconic conservation spectacle. That year Tanzania pushed through a proposal to put elephants on CITES Appendix 1 which bans international trade in elephants and their products. Though not all countries agreed with the listing, yet it is clear that the ivory trade ban led to the immediate a collapse of ivory demand and prices plummeted. Poaching came under control and African and Asian elephants began to recover across Africa and Asia.
Why is the crisis back?
In 1997, four southern African nations sought down listing of their elephants to sell live elephants. This was granted and then in 2000 they sought sales of their ivory stockpiles. Despite concerns that legal ivory trade never worked in the past, and warnings that any legal trade would trigger renewed demand and illegal trade, the sale went through and in 2002 a one off sale of ivory was permitted to Japan. In 2007 another one off sale was permitted, this time, to the horror of conservationists, China, a country notorious for weak enforcement of laws affecting endangered species was permitted to receive the ivory. The legal ivory met a massive demand from the hundreds of millions of newly rich in China resulting in a phenomenal rise in the price of ivory. The state cleverly manipulated the situation by releasing small amounts of legal ivory onto the market each year at very high prices. The Chinese use ivory for art (carvings) and making household implements like chopsticks. They value it for its texture, warm feeling, softness, glowing colour and ease of carving. Despite the availability of man-made alternatives, real ivory is what is in demand because it symbolizes wealth and status. One study found that the 75% of Chinese buyers would purchase illegal ivory if it was cheaper than legal ivory, it is no wonder then, that similar studies have found that 90% of all ivory on sale in China is illegal.
This high and rising price of ivory has been the main driving force behind the continuing and escalating massacre of elephants in Africa where criminal cartels control the killing of elephants and the movement of ivory. The influx of Chinese workers across rural Africa have, no doubt, been an important part of this. The impact is worst in countries that are poorly governed, minimally equipped and burdened with weak legislation and minor penalties to fight against highly militarized poaching gangs. DR Congo is thought to have lost over 80,000 elephants as a result. Despite the huge investment in the military wing of KWS since 1989, Kenya is a country where rule of law means little, especially in rural areas where elephants are being slaughtered. Weak governance has made it easy for poachers and dealers to get off, the police and the judiciary are notoriously corrupt. Until now, the shooting of suspected poachers has been the most effective deterrent against poaching, but even this is not sustainable. The social backlash is likely or has already started to threaten conservation efforts and relations with local communities.
So what can be done?
Most conservationists agree that the only solution is to ban ivory trade forever. Even CITES now admits that the partial lifting of the ban on ivory sales sent a confusing message out and stimulated a demand that has driven the price up and led to massive laundering of illegal ivory. Regulating legal trade is horrendously expensive and difficult especially in a country like China where it is estimated that 90% of ivory on sale in China is illegal. Detecting the impact of ivory trade on populations is expensive, slow and it is virtually impossible to prove. Kenya has always held a principled position against the ivory trade, and has been a leader on CITES elephant issues and has always sought to unite African elephant range states around elephant protection and a total ban on ivory trade. A simple single message is needed, that ivory is banned. Southern African countries argue that their elephants are well managed and that they deserve cash for their ivory stocks. We propose then, that they be compensated for the destruction of their ivory stockpiles to prevent it from ever entering the markets and again stimulating demand. The Chinese argue that Kenya has failed to protect elephants effectively. It is true. We urgently need to step up enforcement, crush the cartels, increase penalties, enact new laws, and create awareness and genuine benefits for communities who live with elephants, otherwise poaching will continue to tempt poor people. We propose that Kenya restores her image by allowing a public audit of her ivory stockpile to prove that it is not making it’s way into the illegal market, and then destroys all of her ivory in renewed commitment to protect elephants.
Unless Kenya cleans up her image she will find it hard to present her position and concerns at the next CITES convention in Bangkok in March 2013 with much conviction. The challenge is to prevent Kenya’s neighbor and former ally, Tanzania, from winning permission to sell her ivory stockpile. Even though the Tanzania proposal is as good as dead in the water (Tanzania has admitted high level government corruption in the illegal killing of elephants and the illegal ivory trade) it would be more effective it Tanzania and Kenya stood side by side on this crisis. Tanzania is losing elephants even more rapidly than Kenya – they say that they are losing 30 elephants per day to poachers. Tanzania and Kenya are accountable for 65% of all ivory trafficking out of Africa, a truth we conveniently keep quiet about. Unless Kenya takes the urgent steps to demonstrate integrity, transparency and seriousness her position will not be taken seriously especially against the loud and aggressive clamoring for the opening up legal ivory trade by southern African states. The idea that legal ivory trade can generate funds to protect elephants is equivalent to resuming slavery to finance efforts to end slavery. It flies in the face of all of our known experience in trying t manage legal ivory trade. If only the proponents of ivory trade had the memories of elephants, they would know that we already tried that and it failed. We cannot afford any more experiments with elephants. We must send out a crystal clear message to the world and ban ivory trade forever.
Its that time of the year when WildlifeDirect goes back to school – we have just spent ten days running a field course for Princeton undergraduates as part of their semester in Kenya. What have they been doing? Well, the 13 students will tell you about it through their own blogs which will appear right here on Baraza, as well as on Nairobi Park blog
Here are some photos to illustrate what we’ve been up to.
Students interviewing members of the local community in Olerai Conservancy with David Paramisia who was instrumental in setting up this far sighted approach to saving wildlife in the dispersal area from Nairobi National Park.
John Solonka and Evelyn who work for The Wildlife Foundation talk to Princeton student Patty
Rangers in Olerai Conservancy – a new wildlife sanctuary. These rangers were trained by the Kenya Wildlife Service
Most of the men were hundreds of kilometers away with the livestock so we interviewed mostly women. The women had unique perspectives on the future of wildlife in their areas.
Kohei made friends with the local kids
Interviewing Masai women was followed by song at this homestead.
Dino Martins of Dudu diaries assisted with the course and drew attention to the bugs in the ecosystem. A KWS ranger named Jacob accompanied us to ensure we were safe.
Gettings stuck – nearly every day. To reach the National Park dispersal area we had to cross the Mbagathi (Empakasi) river.
Olerai conservancy allows pastoralists to graze herds of sheep and cattle in a controlled manner to ensure that wildlife can coexist with the livestock
Children in the villages were just as interested in us as we were in them
Molly meets a baby elephant on our one day off
Patty on the suspension bridge
Adjani measuring grass recovery after the drought in a livestock exclosure
Morgan and Hillary assess grass condition outside the park which was rather overgrazed
Erin and others cross the suspension bridge in Kitengela to cross a dangerous gorge to continue our vegetation sampling.