Tag Archives: Maasai

#NTVWild Second Documentary – January 23

If you are in Kenya, Be sure to watch #NTVWild on Saturday January 23rd 2016


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#NTVWild panel discussion: Understanding the wild in Kenya with Jonathan Scott

It was a pleasure to listen and watch Jonathan Scott LIVE in studio. Many have watched him on Big Cat Diaries but few have ever met him. Along with Dr. Paula Kahumbu, WildlifeDirect CEO and Paula Mbugua from KWS, they talked about the new series #NTVWild that Premieres on NTV KENYA on Saturday January 16, 2016

Watch the discussion here:




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 Marsh Pride: end of an era

Jonathan Scott: The poisoning of members of the Marsh Pride, the world’s best known lions, highlights the need for a lasting solution to human–wildlife conflict in Africa


Lioness Bibi in her prime in the Masai Mara National Reserve, Kenya. Bibi was a member of the Marsh Pride that featured in the BBC TV series “Big Cat Diary” from 1996 to 2008. Bibi died on 6 December 2015 after being poisoned along with other members of the pride. Photograph: courtesy of © Andrea Scott. All rights reserved.

Lioness Bibi in her prime in the Masai Mara National Reserve, Kenya. Bibi was a member of the Marsh Pride that featured in the BBC TV series “Big Cat Diary” from 1996 to 2008. Bibi died on 6 December 2015 after being poisoned along with other members of the pride. Photograph: courtesy of © Andrea Scott. All rights reserved.

On Sunday morning (6 December 2015) news broke of the poisoning of members of the Marsh Pride. These are the lions that Angela and I have followed since 1977 and were the stars of our “Big Cat” TV series, that documented the fascinating and often tumultuous life of the pride over a period of more than 12 years.

The Marsh Pride occupies a territory on the edge of the Masai Mara National Reserve in Kenya, one of Africa’s foremost protected areas. All members of the “big five” (lion, leopard, African elephant, African buffalo, and black rhinoceros) are found on the vast plains of the Mara, plus a wealth of other wildlife.

On Saturday night, the lions had killed cattle belonging to a family living near the reserve. In retaliation, a member of the family sprinkled pesticide onto the carcass, knowing that the lions would return. He was intentionally trying to kill them. How many lions have died as a result is still unclear.


The body of Marsh Lioness Bibi, who died from poisoning at 7.30 am on Sunday 6 December 2015, along with other members of the Marsh Pride. Masai Mara National Reserve, Kenya. Photograph: Courtesy of Patrick Reynolds

The body of Marsh Lioness Bibi, who died from poisoning at 7.30 am on Sunday 6 December 2015, along with other members of the Marsh Pride. Masai Mara National Reserve, Kenya. Photograph: Courtesy of Patrick Reynolds

I wish I could say that this was shocking news, but there is nothing shocking any more about what is happening in the Masai Mara. Tens of thousands of cattle encroach in to the Reserve every night when visitors are safely out of sight – but when the likelihood of conflict with predators such as lions and hyenas is at its greatest. This makes no sense.

This sorry state of affairs is testimony to the appalling management of the Reserve east of the river. This is a situation that has existed for at least as long as I have known the Masai Mara. Management failures contributed to the precipitous decline in the Mara’s black rhino population from an estimated 150 to 200 in the 1960s to just 11 by 1983 (it has risen again to between 30 and 40).

The BBC filmed the hugely popular TV series ‘Big Cat Diary’ in Marsh Pride territory from 1996 to 2008. Our base in the Mara was – and still is – a stone cottage at Governor’s Camp. This is a safari camp set in the heart of the reserve, in the vicinity of the glorious Musiara Marsh after which the Marsh Lions were named.

The Marsh is the heart of the Marsh Pride’s dry season territory, while to the east the intermittent watercourse known as Bila Shaka was the traditional breeding site and resting place for the pride. Bila Shaka means ‘without fail’ in Swahili, testimony that the guides could always find lions here. Not now.

Each year Governor’s Camp outfitted a special tented camp for us along the Mara River just upstream from Main Camp. The foundation of the series was that we always knew that we could find lions, leopards and cheetahs in the area on a daily basis. The Marsh Pride were at the heart of the series, and virtually never let us down.

The Marsh Pride at home in the Masai Mara National Reserve, Kenya. Photograph: courtesy of © Andrea Scott. All rights reserved.

The Marsh Pride at home in the Masai Mara National Reserve, Kenya. Photograph: courtesy of © Andrea Scott. All rights reserved.

But that all changed when the authorities decided to turn a blind eye to the incursion of cattle into the reserve, forcing the lions to move out or risk death. The Marsh Pride has always been vulnerable since its territory spreads beyond the reserve boundary. This is particularly apparent in the wet season when Musiara Marsh (and Bila Shaka at times) becomes waterlogged and the lions move to higher ground to north and east.

Each year we lose lions to poisoning or spearing by pastoralists. That was always part of life for the lions. But in the last few years the situation has escalated beyond all reason, with the Marsh Pride becoming increasingly fragmented by the influx of cattle and herdsmen. Today it would be impossible to film Big Cat Diary in the same location. What a damning fact that is.

This year the impact of livestock has been all too apparent. Huge herds of cattle would camp during the daytime along the boundary of the reserve waiting for the tourists to head in to camp. Soon the Musiara area looked like a desert and each night you could see dozens of flickering torches as the cattle were driven in to the reserve after dark.

The deep tracks leading into the reserve are testament to this, along with piles of cattle dung scattered deep inside it. And the Musiara area is not alone. Guides from other parts of the Mara have been complaining about this situation for years. But nobody seems to be able to do anything about it.

These incursions are threatening the social cohesion – and very existence – of the Marsh Pride. Earlier in the year a breakaway group of young Marsh Pride females with young cubs were forced to cross the Mara River and set up home in the Kichwa Tembo area. The older females – Bibi (17), Sienna (11) and Charm (11) – and their cubs increasingly avoided Bila Shaka and the Marsh, loitering at the fringes of their traditional territory, forced to encroach on neighbouring prides.

The pride males – Scarface and his three companions – no longer visit the Musiara area, ever since Scarface was shot in 2013. He was treated and recovered but knew better than to stay.

In the past pride males often only managed a tenure of 2 years – sometimes less – before being forced out of their pride by younger or more powerful rivals. It was not uncommon to see groups of five or six young nomadic males roaming the Musiara or Paradise area together. I have counted as many as nine travelling as a group. That was a sign of a healthy lion population with lots of dispersing sub-adults.

Now Marsh Pride males are able to remain as pride males for many more years, due to a decline in the number of young nomadic male lions vying to replace them. The scarcity of these nomadic males suggests that they are not surviving as well as in the past, due to the disturbance that lions are facing on a nightly basis in parts of the Mara from livestock and herdsmen, or from trying to survive in less optimal areas beyond the reserve boundary.

Lions are always going to kill livestock if it comes within range – and of course they will sometimes kill livestock outside the reserve and must bear the consequences when they do. The only way to prevent this happening is if there are sufficient incentives to persuade the herdsmen that lions equate to tourists – and that means a financial return.

And that is the key point. Many Masai do not think of the Masai Mara Reserve as a source of income. They often feel that it is unfair that wildlife is allowed to share their pastures, and sometimes kill their livestock, while they are not allowed to reciprocate by bringing livestock in to the Reserve during dry times.

The Masai have roamed these areas for hundreds of years, long before it was given official protection. Understandably the Masai claim the Mara as their own. The authorities urgently need to address this issue by ensuring that everyone benefits from tourism to the Mara in a truly tangible way.

There will be no safe place for the Marsh Lions until the reserve authorities decide to address all of the issues that have been debated ever since I first came to live in the Mara in 1977. Measures must be taken now to ensure an equitable distribution of revenue from the reserve to the local community, and to increase support for the wildlife conservancies created on private lands around the reserve, where cattle grazing is permitted on a rotational basis.

Within the reserve, there should be a moratorium on any further tourism development, and an embargo on grazing of livestock.

What a miracle it would be if the demise of the Marsh Pride became the catalyst for serious dialogue and change as to how the Masai Mara is managed. The Governor of Narok County, the Honorable Samuel Ole Tunai, pledged to do just that when he called a Masai Mara Stakeholders Meeting in Nairobi in September 2015.

I attended that meeting and was impressed by the number of people who made the effort to come along and by the Governor’s openness to dialogue. Since then a small group of concerned individuals drawn from all walks of life have worked to support the Governor’s initiative.

We can only hope that we are about to witness tangible steps towards securing the future of this iconic landscape and its magnificent wildlife.


Paula Kahumbu writes: This is an edited version of an article written by Jonathan and Angela Scott and published on their blog on 7 December 2015. Jonathan and his wife Angie are award winning authors and internationally renowned wildlife photographers. My sincere thanks to Jonathan and Angela for permission to publish the article here.

Responding to a tip-off from visitors, the Kenya Wildlife Service and local authorities acted swiftly to bring the culprits to court, while the David Sheldrick Wildlife Trust and other local conservation organisations were prompt to treat the affected lions. But despite this veterinary support three lions have already died. At the time of writing, another four are still sick. The condition of others is not known.

Kenya has never before charged a person with poisoning wildlife, even though it is a frequent crime that has devastating effects on populations of lions, vultures and other predators.

However in this case the new Wildlife Crime Prosecution Unit has moved quickly to charge the suspects of this crime with offences against endangered wildlife species under Section 92 of the 2013 Wildlife Act, which could result in a fine of Ksh 20 million (USD 200,000) and/or life imprisonment.

This is another welcome sign that Kenyan courts are now taking wildlife crimes seriously. As Jonathan eloquently argues, this needs to be backed up by action to address the root causes of wildlife crime, inspired by the vision of a common future for people and wildlife



Kenya's First Lady at the Launch of the Womens Project in Imbirikani

Kenya’s First Lady at the Launch of the Womens Project in Imbirikani



Her Excellency, Margaret Kenyatta, The First Lady of the Republic of Kenya’s speech at the launch event on Friday.

Distinguished Guests,
Ladies and Gentlemen,

Just over a year ago, we announced our intention to start a project here aimed at women’s empowerment and elephant conservation, in collaboration with Helen Clark the Administrator of UNDP.

I am delighted to return here today to witness the official launch of this project which remains very close to my heart. Although Helen Clark could not be here with us today, I am sure that she is with us in spirit.

In 2013, I joined WildlifeDirect as the patron of the Hands off Our Elephants Campaign.

The campaign has made great strides in raising public awareness and mobilizing support for the protection of our elephants:
And has successfully used the Amboseli National Park as a showcase of excellent conservation partnerships between host communities, government, scientists, NGO’s and international partners.

The stakeholders have closely worked together to protect the worlds’ most famous elephants and I wish to thank all of you, for playing such an important role in that effort.

To save the elephants, we need the support of the host communities who live with them. They are the most important and first line of defence for these treasured animals.

Women are known to play an important role when it comes to conservation issues world over. Which is why we are investing in women projects in this region, because we can count on you to protect our elephants. Women are never known to kill the elephants.

In this regard, we already have wonderful role models right here, two Maasai sisters, Katito and Soila Sayialel who are amongst the world’s most famous experts on elephants; they are both Maasai women from this community!

I thank you both for your dedication and contribution which has made this community so important for the future of our elephants.

Elephants, are truly magnificent to visiting tourists, but can also be a terrifying threat for individual families and farmers.
I thank the UNDP for making it possible for us to turn this challenge into an opportunity for women, their families, their communities, and for Kenya.

I am also grateful that the women of Imbirikani have accepted the challenge to pilot this ambitious idea, of turning challenges into opportunities.

They have worked so hard on this project despite all the difficulties they face on a daily basis – fetching firewood, collecting water, herding livestock, managing their homes, their children and families.

For our women to effectively play their rightful role in conservation matters, it calls for their empowerment through education; additional investments in women projects and eradication of retrogressive cultural practices that limit their opportunities and possibilities.

As a country, we must realize that the absence of women in our economy, especially in rural areas, is holding back our development and our ability to achieve our aspirations to be a wealthy nation.

This project is a boost for those women who want to do business and it launch marks the beginning of a major opportunity for Amboseli.

I request the County Government of Kajiado through the governor, Dr. David Nkedienye, to support the women and facilitate the marketing of the products from this group; improve their health care and also focus on improving the schools to ensure the girls get quality education.

I am truly humbled to have played a role in this exciting project and I am very grateful to all those who have partnered with us especially Big Life Foundation who have been in Amboseli for over thirty years.

I am especially grateful to you, the women involved in this project for your courage and determination to make this project succeed.

It is now my pleasure to declare the Imbirikani Women Group Project officially open.

WLD Project Officer Robert Kaai shows the First Lady the products made by the women

WLD Project Officer Robert Kaai shows the First Lady the products made by the women



Maasai Moran on the catwalk...display of beadwork

Maasai Moran on the catwalk…display of beadwork


Maasai woman displays traditional maasai beadwork

Maasai woman displays traditional maasai beadwork


WildlifeDirect and UNDP hold project inception meeting in Amboseli

On Wednesday, WildlifeDirect initiated a new community enterprise project funded by the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) and in collaboration with the Her Excellency, The First Lady Margaret Kenyatta in Imbirikani, Amboseli.

The project inception meeting was held at the Big Life foundation bringing together over 100 women from three different groups in the area and representatives from UNDP and the community.

The greater Amboseli landscape plays a major role in Kenya’s tourism industry, however its biodiversity particularly its magnificent its elephants is threatened by habitat degradation and issues of human-wildlife conflict and poaching. The communities in this area practice livestock farming and this is their major source of income. Both livelihoods, as currently practiced, are unsustainable, in terms of both natural resource degradation and the extent to which they conflict with the natural movements of wildlife, in particular, elephants are heavily persecuted due to the damages they inflict on crops.

Under this tremendous project, the women groups will be empowered and trained to come up with new ideas which will be funded by UNDP for a period of one year, in a community where men are considered leaders of household with women playing very little roles. This project proposes to empower the Maasai women to take control of their future and have the capacity to plan and implement their own income generating activities.  It will result in the development and marketing of three women’s enterprise utilizing existing groups in the Mbirikani conservancy that are linked to the sustainable use of natural resources.

There is an urgent need to diversify livelihoods in the communities away from both pastoralism and agriculture towards sustainable management of natural resources and other conservation- related activities, so that both wildlife and the communities may continue to co-exist in greater harmony and the ecosystem can be restored to health, providing critical ecosystem services, robust against climate change. This project will help identify potential markets for the women groups and also connect them with buyers for their products.

‘’We need to look at this project at a larger scale and give it the urgency it deserves, we want to make sure at the end of this one year we should have achieved our set goals’’, Paula Kahumbu, CEO WildlifeDirect, said.

‘’it is very important that we quickly agree on the project projects that we need to implement within the stipulated project time that will turn out to be profitable businesses and so I want to thank all the men and women who have come to support this women in this project’’

WildifeDirect will help the women groups in the implementation of the project under the leadership of Community Project Officer, Robert Kaai and Dr.Kahumbu promised to give the women groups enough to ensure the project is a success.

David Githaiga, Team Leader, Energy, environment and Climate Change, UNDP Kenya promised the women groups that UNDP is very much committed to the project, promising the funds for the project  are already available. He said the project is a very good initiative to empower women in this region and said the funds will be released in four quarters immediately after identifying the enterprise to invest in.


Women groups, WLD and UNDP staff after the meeting

Women groups, WLD and UNDP staff after the meeting


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

Dr. Paula Kahumbu’s Interview on XFM

On Monday 6th May 7.30 am – 8.30 am at Lion Place

Fareed Khimani: as promised we have Paula Kahumbu back in studio with us this morning, well it?s kind of a follow up.

Paula Kahumbu: it is, yeah

Fareed Khimani: well come again by the way, you are now officially the most visited, the….. how do you put that…

Paula Kahumbu: Am your most frequent visitor. Oh My God!

Fareed Khimani: of 2013, yes! And also my only one, no am joking, you are not my only one but you are my most frequent one in 2013 coz you have been invited back again. And we will keep bringing you back as long as we are making progress in this battle that you have been doing for years, that you have exposed me to over the course of last couple of months and I have taken a keen interest in your work and the great work you are doing. For those are not aware of what Dr. Paula Kahumbu does, she saves lives of elephants and other wildlife but elephants

hug ele small

Paula Kahumbu: well….

Fareed Khimani: I know it’s much more, much more detailed than that but I know that the ultimate goal is to make sure that this senseless killing of animals stops, but you can tell us a little bit about yourself for those who didn’t manage to catch us together few weeks back.

Paula Kahumbu: well first, thank you so much Fareed for inviting me back again, it?s another spectacular morning, I was thinking as I was coming in, you should invite me in more coz I bring on the sunshine

Fareed Khimani: You bring the sunshine! Imagine going back to school on the first day and it?s raining how awful that would feel?

Paula Kahumbu: today is just spectacular.
Fareed Khimani: it is beautiful

Paula Kahumbu: and it’s a great day to also share with you that, since the last time we met which was just two weeks ago, so much has happened and I just want to tell you all about it but, the main thing was something which I actually put out on twitter because it was so phenomenon: the Director of Public prosecutions Keriako Tobiko, responded to what we’ve been saying and even in the letters we have been sending, not just me, I mean am here alone but if I was to bring in all the people who support me in this, this building would fall down.
We’ve been challenging the judiciary, to take these things more seriously and the DPP announced last week that his office is taking over the prosecutions of wildlife crimes. He actually talks about specifically about creating units in various parts of the country, to take on these crimes and the very first one is an incident in Nanyuki. poached rhinoCouple of weeks ago, a rhino was killed. He was poached, speared by local people. The local community elders put out a curse, they threatened to get these guys through a curse if they didn’t come and confess. They did, they came in and they confessed. They said we did it.

Fareed Khimani: they were scared about the curse

Paula Kahumbu: More scared of the curse than to go to jail. And actually if they go to jail, frankly in this country, the penalty will be forty thousand shillings they will probably pay that;
somebody will send the money via Mpesa. So they’ve killed the rhino which is worth about a million dollar.

Fareed Khimani: a million dollars

Paula Kahumbu: That?s the value of the rhino horns alone,

Fareed Khimani: Wow! And you are fined forty thousand!

Paula Kahumbu: and you are fined forty thousand, that?s what the law says. That?s how the magistrates have been handling it. We asked the DPP, Mr Tobiko to address this as a much high crime and he’s taken this on. So these men have now been arrested, they are now in the cells, were prosecuted not just by the Kenya Wildlife service, but by the DPP’s own representative from Nyeri, he was driven up to Nanyuki. They took on this case; these guys each of them were bailed at a million shillings, which is a record for this country, plus two sureties of a million shillings each, that means each of them had to raise three million shillings, if they were to get out of the cells. Of course they can’t raise that.

Fareed Khimani: so they are there

Paula Kahumbu: so they are there and this is really is a test case. This is what we’ve been asking for so we are just so thrilled that finally its happening and it?s about time too because today is a special day, I don?t know if you know that the United Nation has just announced that as a body they recognize wildlife crime as a serious crime.

Fareed Khimani: Ok. That was today or that was…

Paula Kahumbu: that is happening today, there is a massive press conference happening at the UNEP.

Fareed Khimani: Super!

Paula Kahumbu: this afternoon, they have a famous Chinese movie star who is here especially for this. Her name is Li Bingbing, anybody who don?t know her please Google Li Bingbing. She is the most phenomenally beautiful actress in the planet and she?s going to be here. She has taken on the cause of elephants and she has come to Kenya we are extremely privileged. She is
working with UNEP with Save The Elephants and many other elephant conservation groups to save elephants. The United Nations are saying, for the first time in history, wildlife crime is not just killing of animals, we are putting human life at risk it’s a security risk across the globe. It’s attracting criminal cartels into Kenya and other countries which become hubs for illegal trafficking of wildlife products and timber. So this is a huge opportunity for us to really, you know. We started with a very small thing last week, a couple of weeks ago, actually it?s just, you know; moving like a rocket, it’s just amazing.li bingbing

Fareed Khimani: that’s awesome. And now you talk about this Chinese actress and she is very beautiful Li Bingbing. Who, will be in UNEP today.

Paula Kahumbu: Stop Drooling!

Fareed Khimani: sorry. Let me close the page then and go back to twitter. But also obviously last time we spoke we said that a lot of these wildlife crimes is coming from the east, from far east and we spoke about a guy, I think he was Vietnamese if am not mistaken.
Paula Kahumbu: absolutely!
Fareed Khimani: so this particular figure head from China coming in to be sort of a face for the anti-poaching movement is a huge step forward for the Chinese government as well, I would assume or at least Chinese cinemas whatever the case maybe to actually say Hey Ho! This is our problem and we must deal with it and this is, now this is gonna be the face of sort of anti poaching movement from the East.
Paula Kahumbu: Absolutely, Li Bingbing is the second person to come to Kenya with the same mission, the other one was Yao Ming. Remember that famous Chinese basket ball player?

Chinese Superstar Yao Ming Encounters Poached Elephant in Northern Kenya

Fareed Khimani: sure! Absolutely the 7 foot 3inches. huge guy.

Paula Kahumbu: No! No! 7 foot 6 inches as

Fareed Khimani: 7?6, frankly he is the rocket. Brilliant!

Paula Kahumbu: he is amazing. Yes. It is extremely significant that we have Chinese super stars, celebrities, people who can influence the Chinese people. And people worldwide because
these are worldwide super stars, who are saying,; when the buying stops the killing stops too. So basically they are saying stop buying ivory. They are trying to appeal to the people of the world to stop buying ivory which is just simply used as trinkets and fashion statements. They are saying, “don?t do it, it?s killing elephants”.

Fareed Khimani: just buy diamonds. What?s the problem? I mean, Jesus! I don?t understand. Anyway, so we are moving somewhere which is great. Now, obviously you have a lot more to tell us, a lot more stories coming our way. I did wanna ask you this, last week you… and I will tell you this, you tweeted a thing this morning. Was it… did you tweet this morning? You did, right? Saying you gonna be on the show from 7.30

Paula Kahumbu: yes

Fareed Khimani: response to you being here, I think my listenership goes to the roof when you are on the show.

Paula Kahumbu: oh! That’s great

Fareed Khimani: so you can come back whenever you want actually. It could be you and of course the Samsung galaxy S4, which we are giving away on Friday, but regardless you are here which is great. So we have so much to get through today and of course we will still push the ways our listeners can help, what they can do and also a little bit of stuff you didn’t know that this particular… can we call it a pandemic?
Paula Kahumbu: it?s a crisis. It’s not just Kenya is a global crisis affecting elephants across the continent. Sudan has just announced their elephants have declined from 130 000 twenty years ago to fewer than 5,000 today.
ele down galanaFareed Khimani: there you go
Paula Kahumbu: this is just a massive, just phenomenon decline of elephants.
Fareed Khimani: And we here in Kenya are the sort of the transport hub for the rest of the continent or partly one side of the continent anyway

Paula Kahumbu: we are the transiting hub which is what is so scary. You know; am just going to tell you something else Fareed which am not sure if you have thought about this. Those letters that a child from the US wrote to president Obama, to president Xijin Ping president of China and President Uhuru Kenyatta, it?s the most adorable letter. He says “Dear Mr. President for all the children and elephants in the world, we ask you from our hearts, please stop the elephant poaching in Africa and the illegal trade of Ivory in China. Poachers in Africa killing elephants because many people in China as well as other Asian Countries are buying Ivory which comes from the tusks of the elephant. It poachers keep killing elephants at this rate, they will extinct before we are even out of high school”

Fareed Khimani: My Goodness!

Paula Kahumbu: can you imagine this is a little child, who?s written to say, you know; can you imagine the world without elephants.

Fareed Khimani: that’s ridiculous

ele skull meruPaula Kahumbu: think about your son, is four months old. What would it be like if he grew up and the only thing you could tell him about elephants is, have a look at this picture; when I was a kid they were around but they are gone.

Fareed Khimani: it will be almost like telling your kids about dinosaurs I suppose and in that respect.

Paula Kahumbu: Exactly

Fareed Khimani: that’s really sad and that really puts it in the perspective as well and yes it’s actually a fact if it doesn’t stop before this kid or my son is out of high school we won’t have elephants grazing in the bush.

Paula Kahumbu: it’s really puts an imperative to our generation to make a difference.

Fareed Khimani: ok, but progress is being made and there is still more we can do. We will get more into it, more into details more into the nitty gritty

The destruction being caused both sides I supposes and how we help to improve the situation that is of course is our wonderful tourist attraction, which is our wildlife if you look at it in plain and simple terms the country will suffer, in terms of its economy if we continue killing this animals. However its not about our country?s economy its bout the lives of this wonderful creatures.

Paula Kahumbu: Of course and you know Fareed, as kids we grew up with these incredible documentaries on television and we fell in love with our nature and wildlife. At some point I will tell you a bit of why I do this but just want to tell you that you know, it?s not… I don?t think it?s fair to convince all Kenyans that the only reason why should save this animals is so the tourist can enjoy them,

Fareed Khimani: Right

Paula Kahumbu: Because, yes that a big economic imperative and that what we were told as kids, but think about it we would lose key species, this is part of our national heritage. Kenya really is the birth place of humanity, we evolved with these animals and I think that?s why we have this natural instinct to protect wildlife. I was just told yesterday that in Wajir, a community caught a cheetah that had just killed 10 sheep. Now in most part of this country you would expect the first thing to do is kill the thing and then call the KWS. These guys didn’t do that, they held this cheetah for 2 days, fed it tied it then they matched it down on to the police station and they said to the police “you take care of this animal this is our national heritage”.

Fareed Khimani: Really? What a lovely story

Paula Kahumbu: Exactly I think it’s so extra ordinary that what we have is so special in this country compared to nowhere else in the world. Nowhere else is there the dawn of mankind really,

Fareed Khimani: It?s almost like a mothering sort of parenting type of outlook the story from Wajir.

Paula Kahumbu: And these are not people who are wealthy and care about cheetahs in way maybe a rich American might. So I think it?s really does…. It’s something need to value, our
human connection to our natural environment, to the wilderness, to the wildlife species we evolved with and that why I think we are so attached to it.
But think about all the other elements of what happens when we have this poaching that escalates so Kenya as an international hub for trafficking of ivory means we are attracting criminal cartels to this country because it’s easy to operate it here. It’s easy because of corruption and because the penalties are so low, that means our cost for securing this wildlife is just rocketing, that means we are taking money from other areas of development or wildlife protection because we are so busy chasing down poachers, our economic growth is affected partly because of tourism as well but also just think of the economic potential of those communities who live in places with lots of wildlife. They can’t promote wildlife because there are these gangsters roaming around with guns. Which tourist would go in place like that?

Fareed Khimani: They are afraid. Absolutely

Paula Kahumbu: So that clearly affects their economic potential but also affects them directly. Communities are being attacked by gangsters. If they can’t find elephants they will actually attack people because they are hungry. They will even rape people

Fareed Khimani: Yeah, what’s the deterrent now we talked about it last week; we have touched already on it this morning. Is it different penalties, different fines, but again you can double triple, quadruple a fine, some will bail this guys out. What is it really…what is in your opinion how we stop this from happening? Is it in education or is it a combination of many things.

Paula Kahumbu: It’s absolutely a combination of everything so the reason why we are seeing these escalation is because partly impunity. The fact that the penalties are so low actually gives these guys license to keep doing this because they know they can get off. They can get off very easily, so we really need do to change this culture in the country – citizens have to take responsibility and help to restore order. But of course the legal side of it is very critical, The Wildlife Act is out of date; the penalties are too low; that needs to be reformed immediately. The Wildlife Act is huge, it covers all kinds of things but the most important thing that needs to be done right now as a crisis is to address the penalties. We can raise those penalties to the same level of economic crimes or organized crimes which is a minimum of 13 years in jail. That’s what I want. In addition if you get charged with organized crimes, you can actually have all your
assets seized. Now, you know, if you are a dealer just being under investigation means your assets are seized your bank accounts are frozen. That?s a massive disincentive
But as you said big part is education and awareness especially in the countries where there?s demand. We can keep increasing the boots on the ground and everything but so long as the demand is where it’s at in countries like China, Thailand, Vietnam, Philippines, Laos, we going to keep adding more and more costs in order to protect our elephants here. It will be a losing race.

Fareed Khimani: Is it …. Sorry I know you have more to say. Is it the more we develop the more we engage in foreign investments, the more we are at risk of losing what is our heritage. I mean that really,….and I know that its sad if it is but is that really … or is it not managing the investment properly not managing the influence properly from the west and the east and all this?

Paula Kahumbu: I think there are two things here, first as I said the demand is huge and the demand has nothing to do with Kenya engagement with any country, the demand is purely because people in Asia have got enough money to buy ivory and their governments in many cases even encouraging it. They have open legal ivory markets in China. The government in a way is agreeing, supporting enabling this trade, 90% of that ivory is illegal ivory. So what we are asking Asian governments to do is to crack down and actually close the ivory trade altogether in recognition of nature of this crisis

Fareed Khimani: But last time you were here you were also saying that a number of people that are wearing and buying the ivory think that when the elephants of rhinos die, the ivory, the tusk or the horn just fall off, that?s where it comes from.

Paula Kahumbu: So a big part of the problem is that they are very misinformed sometimes even by official figures will inform them. For examples in Vietnam, a minister told his people that he was cured of cancer because the rhino horn, this is why the price of the rhino has gone through the roof, because he has persuaded them that this thing which is equivalent to implying that chewing your fingernails can cure you of cancer. It is so ridiculous and yet so powerful because they believe in the power of the animal and size of the animal and the strength of the animal. So Yes, education is massive and it basically means we have to engage at many different levels, we want our president Uhuru Kenyatta to Engage the Chinese Premiere, the Thai Premiere, the
Vietnamese Premiere and actually show a new kind of leadership which we have never seen before.
A lot of people say we have our heads in the clouds, what are you doing? There is no way Kenya could do this. I don?t believe that. We were surprised when we saw the structure of our cabinet, I mean; I don?t think anybody expected that caliber of cabinet secretaries to be selected. We are also used to lowering our standards. I am saying, let?s break that roof.

Fareed Khimani: And it?s a possibility

Paula Kahumbu: Why can’t Uhuru Kenyatta convene a meeting of all these leaders and actually discuss with them what could be done to reduce the demand or eliminate it all together, so that we save the species, it?s not just for Kenya, it?s for the world, it?s for the worlds? future children

Fareed Khimani: Come and see our elephants, absolutely.
I know we focus quite a bit on elephants and obviously that is a passion of yours and probably one of the biggest problems we have at this point is the ivory trade but it is not about just elephants we will get to that just a little, while I got a lot of questions since the last time you were here they are saying how is that you are this person that has become so compassionate towards the wildlife in this country and where did it all come from, so I think let’s start with that because we are never really given, we know what you do but we don’t know why you do it.

Paula Kahumbu: Well thank you for that Fareed it’s such a unique opportunity to be able to tell this story I think that growing up in Kenya is the really the answer to why this country has probably highest concentration of conservations and experts in this field
I grew up in a part of Nairobi that was very wild, it was forested we had buffaloes, leopards and hyenas all over the place. I don?t if you know that am one of nine kids. My family was good Catholics, and we were sent out doors to play and that was our play ground and was literally in the forest the streams the swamps and our neighbor was Richard Leakey. I grew up I am the 6th born so I was very little and my elder sister we had this thing going that we had to catch everything that walks, crawls, or flies or swims or whatever, you catch it and take it to Richard Leakey and see if he knows what it is, because he was so smart and we were sure we will catch
him at some point. So we would catch snake, frogs and birds and take them over to him and he would tell us incredible stuff about them their scientific names , life histories and take them back where we found them and release them again. We were really good about that. I grew up surrounded by this incredible knowledge and this person who was amazingly accessible and so as I grow up, he was always there for me. As I finished high school I applied to university and it was way outside of the price range that my family could afford, my mother thought the best thing for this girl, at least, was that she can be a secretary. So I was sent off the secretarial college to learn how to type and do short hand and all this stuff that was mind numbing . And after the third month that was it I couldn’t take it anymore of it. I ran away with a friend of mine and we got on a bus went to the national museums of Kenya it was the wildest thing I have ever done in my life. I was 17 old we went to national museums and we listened to a seminar about Kora National Reserve which is where George Adamson was and it was all about the research he had been doing. I knew then this is it this is what I wanted do and so I went to Richard Leakey’s office and I knocked on the door and I said, ‘I want to be a ranger’ that was my world and all I wanted to do was be a ranger and work for George Adamson. Richard Leakey was phenomenon, he remembered me from when I was a kid, he talked to me about my grades and what I wanted to do and he said well you know, maybe you don?t want to be a ranger maybe there?s something else. I was sent around the country to these amazing places. orphanI went down to Amboseli and I spent 2 weeks with Cynthia Moss and her Maasai women who know the elephants down there and I got to learn about the elephants.





I spent 2 weeks with Jean Altmann and Philip Muruthi studying baboons also in Amboselli then I was sent to Kiwaiyu the island of the north coast which is famous now for tourism but at the time was so interesting about Kiwaiyu is not just the beaches but there were monkeys on the island. They are separated from the main land and probably has been separated for than thousands of years.

Fareed Khimani: Are you serious? I don?t know that.”

Paula Kahumbu: There are baboons and vervets on that island that are somehow surviving in a marine kind of environment,

Fareed Khimani: “bizarre!”

Paula Kahumbu: where there no fresh water, they were interested in physiology of this and you know it?s interesting and it?s not what I really wanted to do. I was sent to the Tana river which is you know quite a dangerous place but the time for me it was just a phenomenal play ground, full of wildlife and I got to work with scientist such as Margret Kinnaid who now runs Mpala research center, she was studying one of the most endangered primates in the world the crested mangaby, and so I had this amazing experiences I ended up at the Institute of Primate Research also working with primates and it was just this incredible emersion as a 17 years old with these top scientist.
And then I was invited by Iain Douglas-Hamilton who I know is listening into the show and Iain invited me to help him to conduct a stock take of Kenya?s ivory so we took all the ivory out of the vaults which that time at the national museums of Kenya.hand on ivorysmall We measured each and every tusk, it’s a really depressing experience because this ivory represent elephants that have been shot, murdered. There were huge tusk and the y were down to tiny tusks and what we were able to show, working with a whole team of volunteers ,was that over the last 15 years is that the size of elephants being poached had decline and declined until we were actually shooting baby elephants. It put me off doing research to elephants and I said to Iain these animals are going extinct, am not going to invest my degree research on a species which is going anyway.

Fareed Khimani: So your emotion and passion and love is wow! I mean it?s something that going to be gone soon I suppose

Paula Kahumbu: Exactly, so I really have Richard Leakey, Ian Douglas Hamilton and all these other people I have just mentioned to thank for having the confidence in me and really giving me the space to learn, participate and contribute at a search a young age, it really made a huge difference for me.

Fareed Khimani: So you once run away from home and left home without your parents knowing and all of a sudden we go on a few years and here we are now and this incredible woman sitting opposite me with so much passion and love for the wildlife of our country. Do you mentor now as you were mentored by those wonderful people. Do you mentor and are you trying to raise the next generations of doctor Paula Kahumbus?

Paula Kahumbu: Absolutely, I think that Kenya is blessed with having these phenomenal resources of incredible capable people. I work with a lot of schools and I do talks in schools and I participate in all kinds of school event to tell kids what I do and really inspire them to get involved in wildlife conservation and its not a particular sexy of fashionable thing to do so we try and convert it into other areas of interest and last year, I met this amazing boy as part of research we were doing on lions this term. we are looking at the human-lion conflict in Kitengela just south of national park and there was one particular homestead that was not getting attacked and it didn’t make sense because they were right next to the national park. All the homes around them were being attacked by lions but this home wasn’t and there was this little light around this homestead on the outside shed of cow stockade, the boma. They told us this was the little boy invention, he was 10years old and he had come up with this amazing system of keeping lions away from his fathers homestead by tricking them into thinking he was awake at night walking around because the lights blink in such a way it looks like somebody is awake walking around all night long.

Fareed Khimani: I have actually read about this kid, so this is an incredible story. So basically this lights makes it look like someone is a watch walking around with a touch basically. That is incredible.

Paula Kahumbu: It is really amazing, his name is Richard Turere, so he is now my mentee, I am his guardian.

Fareed Khimani: Super!

Paula Kahumbu: The first thing I did before we even went public with this thing is we got him a scholarship to Brookhouse school so you know huge kudos to Brookhouse school for recognizing, he?s a kid from rural area going to a local school, they took him immediately, he spent a year there and you would not recognize him this boy from where he was a year ago and where he is today I went with him to the US, first time he ever went on an airplane, you know his dream is to be a pilot and an engineer, so the first time he ever went on an airplane was to fly to the long beach California and tell the world about his invention, he got a standing ovation.

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YouTube DirektTurere at ted 2013 [youtube Richard Turere at ted 2013 http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RAoo–SeUIk]

Fareed Khimani: Are you serious?

Paula Kahumbu: He got more attention for his talk that most of the other TED speakers.

Fareed Khimani: That?s brilliant.

Paula Kahumbu: I can?t wait to see it on local television as now they are airing TED talks

Fareed Khimani: That’s super, that’s wonderful. So, there are thousands of kids like this who have this ideas and who can make a difference so if it’s your kid, this is to my listeners or anyone you know please encourage them that it doesn’t have to be my parents considered a profession growing up, it can be about saving our environment like what you are doing and proof is here opposite me that it is a proper position in life and what a position to be in, you are in a great position Dr. Paula. if you have questions we have tones more of time am not letting this lady leave until we are done so please get to me, you could tweet us, it?s very easy you can tweet myself @fareedkhimani or you can tweet @paulakahumbu.

Transcribed by Loise Njagi_ (Intern at WildlifeDirect)
For more information contact [email protected] or [email protected]

Six Nairobi Park Lions killed in Kitengela

It is with great sadness that we announce the killing of six lions in Kitengela this morning. The two females, two juveniles and two cubs were attacked by angry residents in a homestead 15 km south of the Nairobi National Park. The lions of Nairobi Park have been wreaking havoc amongst the residents and communities of villages and towns and residential areas around Nairobi National Park for several months now. WildlifeDirect and the Friends of Nairobi National Park have been monitoring the situation since last year and so far 149 livestock have been killed since October last year. In January 2012 three lions were killed by the community. In response the government promised to take actions and the community promised to stop killing lions. However, the situation has worsened with 115 head of livestock killed by lions since the 1st  of January.  Te problem has overwhelmed the authorities as well as the community.

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The cost to the community has proven to be too great to bear and this morning the six lions were killed right inside a homestead. This video taken by Nation TV illustrates the situation http://youtu.be/_SGxVLKEMTc.

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Paula Kahumbu talks at National Geographic

Dear Friends Lions, wildebeest and many other animals are disappearing Africa. Here is why

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This was the  talk that Paula Kahumbu gave during the Explorers week at National Geographic when she was awarded status as a National Geographic Emerging Explorer and is a recipient of funds from the National Geographic Big Cats Initiative.

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Thank you Paolo Torchio for several photographs used in this presentation