Tag Archives: Climate change

WildlifeDirect’s 2nd Courtroom Monitoring Report 2014 & 2015

A study by WildlifeDirect of wildlife trials in 18 courts between 2008 and 2013 concluded that Kenya was a safe haven for wildlife criminals because of major weaknesses in the legal chain. This second study examines progress made in the wildlife trials in Kenya in 2014 and 2015, after the enactment of the Wildlife Conservation and Management Act, 2013 (WCMA 2013)

CMR

Here is the link to the full report

WildlifeDirect Courtroom Monitoring Report(1)

Finally, Kenyans can watch their own country’s wildlife on TV

A ground-breaking series of programmes on Kenyan TV is set to transform public attitudes toward wildlife conservation

Publicity image for NTV Wild, a series of wildlife documentaries shown on Kenyan TV in 2016
Publicity image for NTV Wild, a series of wildlife documentaries shown on Kenyan TV in 2016 Photograph: Munir Virani/Courtesy of NTV/The Peregrine Fund

Africa’s unique wildlife heritage attracts millions of tourists to the continent and contributes enormously to the economy. It is a tragic irony that this wildlife remains unknown to the majority of Africans.

Recently I have been involved in an initiative that aims to change this state of affairs. Launched in January, the TV series “NTV Wild” is a collaboration between NTV, Kenya’s leading TV channel, my NGO WildlifeDirect, and the Kenya Wildlife Service (KWS).

NTV Wild will broadcast two hours of programmes on African wildlife on prime-time TV every week of this year. Screening of an hour-long documentary on NTV and its sister Kiswahili language channel QTV on Saturday night is followed on Tuesday evening at 10 pm by “NTV Wild Talk”: an extended in-depth discussion of the issues by leading film makers, conservationists, politicians and legal experts

The first eagerly awaited programmes attracted record numbers of viewers and provoked huge excitement on social media. Here are some of my favourite tweets:

@janegatwiri3

My Saturday night is booked.Thanks to . pic.twitter.com/rLDI8I5axq

Njoki Njoroge @Njokay

, of I can take a safari while seated in front of a TV. Yaaaay

@ntvkenya Came running, literally, huh!…arrived just in time for , now glued @paulakahumbu.

I’m so loving the responses to . Nature does that to people…it brings us together

Not all reactions were positive. Following screening of ‘Mzima – Haunt of the River Horse’, an Emmy award winning film by Mark Deeble and Vicky Stone about the secret lives of hippos (click here to watch a trailer ), one blogger complained that the film was 15 years old. This was stale stuff, he wrote: “You know, a lot can happen in 15 years … in the hippo calendar. Viewers were hooked, but also hoodwinked”.

It’s true that many of the films to be shown by NTV Wild are classics, years – or even decades – old. They are familiar to and loved by hundreds of millions of viewers across the world. So why haven’t Kenyans seen them before?

Economics has a lot to do with it. The sights and sounds of our wildlife are transformed by film makers into products that are simply too expensive for African TV channels to buy – and therefore beyond the reach of most ordinary Africans.

But that’s not the whole story. On last night’s NTV Wild Talk discussion, film maker Mark Deeble revealed that he had offered ‘Haunt of the River Horse’ free to Kenyan TV channels when it first came out. But they had refused, reflecting the widespread (but profoundly mistaken) prejudice that “Kenyans aren’t interested in that sort of thing.”

Whatever the reason, it is scandalous that, for decades, TV viewers in most African countries including Kenya have been denied access to these documentaries made about our own wildlife.

Most people that I speak to about the lack of access to wildlife documentaries in Kenya are aghast and astounded – and one person was even reduced to tears – by the fact that American and European children know the names of our lions in the Masai Mara, and our elephants in Amboseli and Samburu, while ours do not.

This also goes against the avowed intentions of many distributors of wildlife films. For example, National Geographic describes itself as:

… a global nonprofit membership organization driven by a passionate belief in the power of science, exploration and storytelling to change the world. Working to inspire, illuminate and teach, National Geographic reaches more than 700 million people a month through its media platforms, products, events and experiences.

How can National Geographic fulfil this mission if its films are not seen in Africa, where they could be inspiring Africans to save their continent’s natural heritage?

In fact, I know that many producers and distributors would like to make their films available in Africa, but they are locked into a commercially-driven system that is very hard to change.

When I spoke to leading wildlife film makers when they met at last year’s Jackson Hole Film Festival, I discovered that many of them had been unhappy about this situation for years. A group of them, including Mark Deeble, Vicky Stone, Dereck and Beverly Joubert, Lisa Samford and many others got together and agreed to make a concerted appeal to major distributors to make them more widely available in Africa on a non-commercial basis.

The breakthrough came last year, when National Geographic gave permission for one free broadcast of the recently released documentary “Warlords of Ivory” on Kenyan TV. (Click here to see my article about this hard-hitting film that provides direct evidence of links between elephant poaching and terrorism in Africa.) Within five minutes the show was trending on twitter in Kenya.

The experience of that broadcast persuaded NTV to partner with WildlifeDirect for a year to bring world-class award winning wildlife documentaries to Kenyan audiences on a regular basis. We knew then we had an audience, but we didn’t know how hard it would be to get the films.

When I first floated this idea to distributors on behalf of NTV, responses were not encouraging. The following was typical of the replies we received:

Dear Paula,

I picked up this request and contacted our Africa sales team to run this request by them but they are still exploiting these titles. They are tasked with generating as much profit as possible from content in the African territory so that we can return funding to the [the company] to enable them to make these programmes in the first place.

I’m sorry not to have a more positive response for you.

This provoked the following impassioned response from one of the programme hosts:

It beggars belief that Paula’s current initiative – with its sensitizing and educational rationale – would in any substantial way detract from the [the company’s] licensing agreements. Talk of ‘profit’ at this point is insulting to the very nature of what Paula is trying to do. It sends a very clear message – money rules.

I thinks these sentiments portray [us] in a very poor light and are contrary to my long held belief that [we are] not purely driven by commercial considerations – but educational and inspirational ones too. These are things people like Paula have dedicated their life to doing. I believe we have to find a way to support these kinds of initiatives. Is that not still possible?

Thankfully arguments like these are winning the day. Disney Nature and the BBC World Wide are among major companies that have already agreed to make their films available and we are optimistic that others can be persuaded that they had nothing to lose and much to gain from supporting our proposal. We have written to Discovery and National Geographic as well as smaller production houses.

My fingers are tightly crossed and I make wishes on every shooting star in the Kenyan night sky.

Putting wildlife programs on African TV is not a “nice to have”. It’s a globally important imperative, and change cannot come too soon. The future of African wildlife hangs in the balance, under the impact of multiple threats, including poaching, climate change, habitat loss and land degradation. One of the main reasons why African governments have failed to respond to this unfolding crisis is that few Africans even know or understand what we stand to lose.

Our critic was right that a lot can happen in 15 years. Last night’s “NTV Wild Talk”, shot on location at the iconic Mzima Springs in Tasvo West National Park, revealed how all the hippos in Mzima Springs died in the drought of 2009. The ecosystem collapsed and since then recovery has been very slow, with only a handful of hippos there today.

Smriti Vidyarthi (right), host of NTV Wild, hosts a discussion with panellists Mark Deeble, Robert Obrein and Richard Leakey, filmed at Mzima Springs, Tsavo West National Park, Kenya
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Smriti Vidyarthi (right), host of NTV Wild, hosts a discussion with panellists Mark Deeble, Robert Obrein and Richard Leakey, filmed at Mzima Springs, Tsavo West National Park, Kenya Photograph: Norbert Rottcher

Moderator Smriti Vidyarti engaged panellists Mark Deeble, KWS Chairman Richard Leakey, and Regional Assistant Director Robert Obrein in an informed discussion of the complex causes of this collapse. They described how drought, fires, and the encroachment of cattle into the National Park had created a ‘perfect storm’ for Mzima’s hippos, and how the loss of the hippos had affected the entire ecosystem.

The panellists also explained how Mzima was also key to Kenya’s economic development as the principal source of water for the city of Mombasa, and the importance of forest conservation in the watershed to maintain continuity of supplies. They discussed threats to the area posed by urbanization and proposed infrastructure projects.

The three panellists did not pull their punches. Richard Leakey described corruption as the biggest threat to African wildlife. Robert O’Brein talked frankly about the problems involved in administering Tsavo’s national parks.

In short, viewers were treated to an informed and intelligent, but by no means pessimistic discussion of key issues for the future of Kenya and global biodiversity conservation – that topped the ratings on prime-time TV!

This is only the start. With the support of KWS and tour operators, the programmes shown on NTV Wild are linked to promotions to boost local tourism to Kenya’s national parks. WildlifeDirect is partnering with local schools to take more students into the wilderness and national parks to do science, art and other subjects (click here to read about our visit with Nairobi school children to Amboseli National Park).

We are also planning to produce our own wildlife reality show, bringing celebrities and Kenyan scientific experts together in an informative and entertaining exploration of our country’s astounding wildlife.

I am sure that initiatives like these can have transformational effect. They will inspire more Africans to go to the parks and witness our wildlife first hand, just as they have inspired tens of millions of international tourists. They will encourage the emergence– for the first time – of a new generation of African wildlife film makers.

Above all, Africans will be motivated to demand more of their leaders, and will possess the knowledge and confidence they need to do so.

Behind fun projects like school visits and reality game shows, our aims are deadly serious, and the stakes couldn’t be higher. The wider aim is to mainstream wildlife at all level of Kenyan life and society: as headlines news and a political priority, as family entertainment, as part of the curriculum in schools and universities, in corporate social responsibility programmes, and in the worlds of sport, music and fashion.

The age-old aphorism states that “knowledge is power”. Only by giving Africans knowledge about our wildlife can we acquire the power to save it.

http://www.theguardian.com/environment/africa-wild/2016/feb/03/finally-kenyans-can-watch-their-own-countrys-wildlife-on-tv

#NTVWild Talk on NTV Kenya

If you missed the discussion on #NTVWild about Mzima Springs, Mzima: Haunt of the Riverhorse (the film), Tsavo National Parks and conservation issues in that region of Kenya, watch it here

 

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NTV WILD Season Premiere on 16th January 2016

We are proud to announce the official premier of NTV Wild, a partnership between NTV one of Kenya’s premier broadcasters, WildlifeDirect and the Kenya Wildlife Service.

NTV Wild is a partnership between NTV, KWS and WildlifeDirect. The first ever broadcasting of the Award winning wildlife documentaries made in Kenya and Africa every Saturday.

We will awaken your sense of awe and wonder at our magnificent wildlife heritage, which you own and have a responsibility for protecting.

Help us save it. Visit our magnificent parks, and take actions against anything that threatens our protected areas, wildlife spectacles, wild landscapes and endangered species.

Tune in every Saturday (from the 16th of January) at 8 pm. Share this widely through your networks and on social media using the hasthag NTVWild
We look forward to your feed back

 

The Pope’s Great Chance To Help End Ivory Trade

November 24, 2015

By Paula Kahumbu

Conservationists will be hoping that Pope Francis speaks out against poaching and ivory trafficking during his upcoming visit. We have reason to feel confident that he will. Pope Francis has brought a new style of leadership to the Roman Catholic Church that has earned him respect among Catholics and non-Catholics alike.

His forthright pronouncements on environmental issues such as climate change have revealed his deep scientific knowledge, as well as his love for the “irreplaceable and irretrievable beauty” of the natural world, and a profound awareness of the linkages between environmental and social justice.

For example in his Encyclical letter “On Care for Our Common Home”, he warns:

“Our Sister, Mother Earth …cries out to us because of the harm we have inflicted on her by our irresponsible use and abuse of the goods with which God has endowed her. We have come to see ourselves as her lords and masters, entitled to plunder her at will. The violence present in our hearts, wounded by sin, is also reflected in the symptoms of sickness evident in the soil, in the water, in the air and in all forms of life”.

You do not have to a Catholic to be moved by these words.

On his visit to Kenya, there is a specific contribution that Pope Francis can make to combating ivory trafficking. He can speak out against religious practices that venerate objects made from the tusks of dead elephants. These are an integral component Buddhist and Hindu traditions and are still common among Catholics, for example in the Philippines. An article in National Geographic on the use of ivory for religious purposes quotes the head of Philippines customs police as saying: “The Philippines is a favourite destination of these smuggled elephant tusks, maybe because Filipino Catholics are fond of images of saints that are made of ivory.” Between 2005 and 2009, almost 20 tons of ivory were confiscated by customs in or on its way to the Philippines, representing a total of approximately 1,750 elephants.

Devotees believe that through their use of religious icons made of ivory they are honouring God. Ironically, the very opposite is true: they are complicit in the desecration of what Pope Francis calls the “infinite beauty and goodness” of His created world.

In his Encyclical, Pope Francis acknowledges his debt to his namesake Saint Francis of Assisi, who preached to birds and flowers. Pope Francis insists that it was not “naive romanticism” that led Saint Francis to venerate all of God’s creation in this way. In preaching to flowers, Saint Francis was celebrating the miracle of life. Surely, the difference between a flower that turns it head towards the sun and our ‘sophisticated’ human consciousness is only one of degree? Among higher animals, elephants in particular display qualities that fill us with wonder and awe. For example, elephants will go to extraordinary lengths to protect and care for an injured member of the herd.

Convinced that “we are all creatures of one family”, Saint Francis taught that “those who will exclude any of God’s creatures from the shelter of compassion and pity will deal likewise with their fellow man”. In modern language: a crime against nature is also – in a very real sense – a crime against humanity. Poaching destroys communities. Ivory trafficking is sustained by a web of violence and corruption. Moreover, in the words of our President in his inaugural address, poaching and trafficking are “economic sabotage”.

The Kenyan government has made great strides towards bringing poaching under control. Pope Francis’s Encyclical contains many insightful passages on the practical measures needed to protect this environment. But he also has an important message for Kenyans about the moral foundations of good governance. He warns: “

“In the absence of … sound principles other than the satisfaction of our own desires and immediate needs, what limits can be placed on human trafficking, organized crime, the drug trade, commerce in blood diamonds and the fur of endangered species?”

Kenyans will make Pope Francis welcome. We should listen carefully to what he has to say.

Dr Paula Kahumbu OGW has a PhD in Ecology from Princeton University. She is a Kenyan conservationist and elephant expert. She is the CEO of WildlifeDirect, a Kenya based NGO that is running the Hands Off Our Elephants campaign with HE Margaret Kenyatta, the First Lady of Kenya.

– See more at: http://www.the-star.co.ke/news/popes-great-chance-help-end-ivory-trade#sthash.vkTWTlvC.dpuf

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

brochure to mail (3) (1) (1)

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

Raising Awareness for Wildlife Plight

By Brodie Owen

Kenyan Night May 10 2014 Hall Photos 007

The Ambassador (wearing HOOE armband) receiving a gift from District Governor Geoff Tancred D9700

 

Kenya’s Ambassador to Australia made his first diplomatic trip outside of Canberra to Wagga on a mission to protect African Elephants and Rhinos from greedy international ivory markets

Ambassador Isaiya Kabira, a former journalist in his home country has been in the top job for about two months and is determined his appointment will be defined as one that raises about the beauty of the animal with tusks, sharp and strong.

“In the 1990s we had about three to four million elephants roaming Africa. Today we are talking about a number closer to 500,000”, Ambassador Kabira said on Saturday.

“With a growing middle class, particularly in Asia, we’re seeing a lot of demand for ivory…it’s seen as a status symbol”

The cause to raise awareness of animal poaching across the plains of Kenya is being championed by Rotary International Australia which is planning a trip to Kenya within the next year.

The Coolamon Rotary branch has taken particular interest to curtailing the ivory demand. There are fears the level of demand threatens the very survival of African elephants.

Rotary District Governor Geoff Tancred compared the plight of African wild Elephants and Rhinos to Australia’s Tasmanian tiger which was hunted to extinction in the 1930s.

“The numbers of wild elephants and also rhinoceros in the wild in Africa is depleting at an alarming rate,” he said

Ambassador Kabira said Australians should view Africa’s wildlife as international heritage

“We should work together  here in Australia to ensure that there is no demand at all for ivory,” he said

“Only Elephants should wear ivory”

Exchanging business cards, Wagga Mayor Rod Kendall and member for Riverina Michael McCormack agreed to work closer together with Ambassador Kabira

Crying Rhino

 

 

John Glassford (wearing HOOE T-shirt) H.E. Ambassador Kabira & Mrs. Kabira

John Glassford (wearing HOOE T-shirt) H.E. Ambassador Kabira & Mrs. Kabira

WildlifeDirect wishes to thank:
John Glassford
Chair 2013 -2014
Proposed RAG for Endangered Species
Rotary Club of Coolamon District 9700
New South Wales, Australia

http://www.endangeredrag.org/

London wildlife crime summit: all eyes on China

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.

http://www.theguardian.com/environment/africa-wild/2014/feb/13/london-wildlife-summit-all-eyes-on-china

Local People Saving The Mau

Two or so weeks ago – 15 January to be exact – Kenya’s Prime Minister Raila Odinga, who has been unwavering in his quest to save the Mau Forest, led a large delegation of government officials to Kaptunga Forest in the Mau Forest Complex to launch the governments Mau Forest Restoration programme. A large crowd of local people – as would be expected – turned up to cheer him on in this endeavor that has bred discord from within Mr Odinga’s political party. The rehabilitation of the Mau Forest, and the eviction of illegal settlers inside East Africa’s largest forest bloc has been controversial and Mr Odinga’s Orange Democratic Party has suffered some seemingly ideological splits between those who support eviction and those who oppose the eviction.

But, as the politics of the Mau heated up at Kaptunga, I was in another village a few kilometres away from where the Prime Minister was planting trees. I was with a group of Ogiek people – a hunter gatherer indegenous community that has lived in the Mau for thousands of years – planting trees. I was there by invitation from Dr Mukuria Mwangi who has started an on-farm tree planting innitiative as a contribution to the restoration of the Mau Forest – and blogs at Mau-Mandala. We were latter to go to the political rally that followed the prime minister’s tree planting launch at Kaptunga.

I got to talk with Dr Mukuria and the local people about the project and  how they are going to make it work. I recorded some of our discussions on video.

[kml_flashembed movie="http://www.youtube.com/v/Ovh3wBHmoBQ" width="425" height="350" wmode="transparent" /]