Tag Archives: Amboseli National Park


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 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.

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

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.


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 sweat: elephants living with people aren’t stressed

Erica Santana, Mongabay
July 23, 2013

Nature preserves, wildlife sanctuaries, national forests, parks, grasslands and protected areas are the cornerstones of conservation. These are the wild places where animals can still dwell, grow, and reproduce in their natural environment without any human-caused stressors. While many of these special places have facilitated leaps and bounds for wildlife conservation, the reality is that these areas are extremely limited and most plants and animals live beyond, or must migrate out of, their bounds.

Animals have a host of stressors that have to be overcome on a daily basis—finding enough food and water, avoiding predation, competing for mates, raising young, battling for hierarchy, surviving drought, parasites, and injuries, etc. But in addition to these daily pressures, animals living outside protected areas have to contend with humans in a shared landscape. Rural, human-inhabited areas are often outfitted with livestock and agriculture, and wild animals that live in these areas are subject to interacting with humans and domestic animals–leading to potentially stressful events.

An increasingly-popular conservation strategy is that of community conservation areas (CCAs) where locals are encouraged to manage their land in a wildlife-friendly capacity that allows for peaceful co-existence between people and animals. This is a great idea, in theory.

But conservationists trying to save populations of wild animals need to know if animals living outside protected areas have a realistic chance of surviving in these theoretical utopias. So scientists at the Nature Conservancy and the Smithsonian Institution paired up to explore whether anthropogenic (human-related) exposure was having a negative effect on wildlife using African elephants (Loxodonta africana) in Kenya as their platform.

African elephants are a hearty, long-lived mammal. They travel over long distances, have large home ranges, and require large areas of open land to maintain viable populations, often putting them in contact with rural people and livestock in Kenya.

To test elephant stress, scientists collected dung from elephants in three different geographic areas in Kenya. Two were well-known protected areas, Amboseli National Park and Maasai Mara National Reserve, both of which are protected natural areas with marginal human development. The third location was a community conservation area on Maasi community land in the southern Rift Valley.

Researchers measured levels of fecal glucocorticoid metabolite (FGM), a stress-detection hormone in mammals, in the elephant dung. Examining levels of the FGM hormone in elephants is a good indicator as to whether they are experiencing high loads of stress.

A single glance at FGM levels is a snapshot in time and can only tell so much about the stress an animal may or may not be experiencing. As Marissa Ahlering, the primary investigator on the project, explains, “elevated levels of glucocorticoids can be adaptive in the short term and do not necessarily constitute stress.“ But changes or elevation in levels of these hormones over time can have major implications on an animals’ fitness, which is directly proportional to its ability to survive.

Ahlering and colleagues discovered that animals living in the CCA did not have elevated FGM levels compared to elephants in the Maasi Mara or Amboseli Parks, on the whole. There were some significant differences between animals within areas, and this is likely due to a variety of environmental factors at a local scale. “Elephants seem to be able to perceive danger or risk and if they are in a more hostile landscape I would imagine this would cause elevated stress levels,“ Ahlering explains.

Overall the results, published in Conservation Biology, indicate that under a set of normal circumstances, elephants living in human-inhabited, agricultural landscapes were not experiencing detectable amounts of stress. And aside from specific, intense stress events (poaching, crop raiding, etc.) elephants living with humans in the Maasi community seem to be coping well.

This news bodes well for most conservationists. It means that populations of wild animals dwelling in human-inhabited areas might have a realistic chance of being successful.

Some conservationists, however, are wary. If elephants are that comfortable living in close proximity to humans, will it make them less wild or habituated to humans? Ahlering doesn’t think so.

“For me the broader implications of our results is really just that it is possible that elephants can live outside traditional protected areas in heavily human-dominated landscapes without experiencing stress levels (or the negative fitness consequences that would go along with that) any different from what they experience in the parks,“ she notes.

Ahlering says that even in parks, elephants remained elusive and shied away from humans. She tells mongabay.com that “these results don’t give us the answers for how people and elephants can best co-exist…all these  results say is that in some situations it is possible for elephants to live among people without the negative fitness consequences associated with stressful situations.“

People and elephants living together can be dangerous. In a mere couple of hours, elephants can devastate an agricultural operation by taking crops, trampling plants and trees, and disrupting the landscape. Animals experiencing high levels of human pressure have been known to attack people, especially when they are being harassed. Many elephants are killed each year by disgruntled farmers whose livelihoods are affected by elephant damage.

Citation: Ahlering, M. A., J. E. Maldonado, L. S. Eggert, R. C. Fleischer, D. Western, and J. L. Brown. 2013. Conservation outside protected areas and the effect of human-dominated landscapes on stress hormones in savannah elephants. Conservation Biology, volume 00, No. 00, 1–7.


Paradise Grows for Amboseli Elephants

NAIROBI, Kenya, July 17, 2013 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ — Space for elephants to roam free and safe at Kenya’s Amboseli National Park, grew by nearly 16,000 acres today, with the signing of a lease agreement between the local Maasai community and the International Fund for Animal Welfare (IFAW – www.ifaw.org).

“Paradise for elephants and other wildlife has just grown that much bigger,” said Azzedine Downes, President of IFAW, at a ceremony to mark the creation of the “Kitenden Corridor.” The leased area will extend elephant range space from Amboseli National Park to the Tanzanian border, where a similar strip of land, also referred to as the Kitenden Corridor connects to Mount Kilimanjaro National Park.

“We have the community of the Olguluilui/Ololarashi Group Ranch (OOGR) to thank for their foresight and concern for the safety of Amboseli’s wildlife. By agreeing to lease land to IFAW, elephant range space has been massively extended and both humans and wildlife can look forward to living free of conflict,” said Downes.

About 1,400 elephants live in the Amboseli ecosystem, and routinely move into the ranch area, particularly during the rainy season and sometimes come into conflict with farmers and villagers. The Kitenden Corridor which runs from Amboseli to Mount Kilimanjaro will ensure that a favored route that elephants have used for millennia to move across the Tanzanian border is secured from habitat fragmentation and potential conflicts with local communities.

IFAW has a long standing relationship with the leadership and people of OOGR. Earlier this year ten community scouts sponsored by IFAW graduated from the Kenya Wildlife Service Enforcement Academy. The scout’s mission is to save elephants and protect human livelihoods and IFAW will continue to support the KWS training programme.

“The Government recognizes and appreciates the role played by IFAW in support of wildlife conservation in our country, in particular conserving elephants and other endangered species and their habitats,” said Professor Judi Wakhungu, Cabinet Secretary Ministry of Environment, Water and Natural Resources.

“The greatest threat to wildlife conservation today lies mainly on the human population pressure on scarce land resources and this leads to human-wildlife conflicts. This calls for the need to plan on how to manage the elephant populations and this Kitenden Corridor conservation area is one such approach,” said Wakhungu.

The OOGR, and five other adjoining group ranches, are the first community in Kenya that has agreed to an ecosystem management plan between Kenya Wildlife Services and Amboseli Maasai ranches that surround the park.

The next steps for the Kitenden Corridor, will be transforming the land into an operational conservancy.

“IFAW’s aim is to work with the OOGR and KWS, to ensure that habitat is improved, that viable tourism initiatives are established that will benefit every member of the OOGR, and that Kitenden will ultimately become a viable and safe habitat for elephants and other wildlife,” said James Isiche, Regional Director of IFAW East Africa.

“It is a profound day for IFAW and the OOGR, and honours the Maasai community values of protecting wildlife in Amboseli for nearly 300 years,” said Isiche.

The signing agreement was attended by Professor Judi Wakhungu, Cabinet Secretary Water, Environment and Natural Resources under whose docket wildlife management in Kenya falls, Daniel Leturesh, Chairman of the OOGR, Azzedine Downes, President of IFAW, William Kiprono, Director of KWS, Dr David Nkedienye, Governor of Kajiado County, Katoo Ole Metito, Mp for Kajiado South, Joseph Ole Lenku, Cabinet Secretary Interior and Coordination of National Government, and other dignitaries.

About 500 landowners from the OOGR were present to witness the historic event, having walked for hours from all corners of the ranch which borders Amboseli, and is roughly 3.5 times the size of the national park.

From the following source: http://www.prnewswire.com/news-releases/paradise-grows-for-amboseli-elephants-215861491.html