Tag Archives: poisoning


The objective of this two day meeting was to analyze the proposed Regulations and suggest any necessary amendments to the team of consultants, who drafted these Regulations. Initially the expected number of Regulations was 24 but the consultants reviewed them and came up with 22 Regulations.
Major stakeholders who attended the meeting included KWS Board of Trustees and expert staff, Wildlife Direct, ICIPE, National Museums of Kenya, NACOSTI, Ministry of Agriculture, Researchers and representatives from Conservancies.

The meeting was chaired by Dr. Richard Leakey, Chairman of Kenya Wildlife Service (KWS).
Day One the following regulations were discussed:
• Access and Benefit Sharing,
• Bio prospecting,
• Wildlife Research,
• Establishment of Wildlife Data base,
• Wildlife Compensation,
• Community Participation,
• Conservancy and Sanctuary Regulations,
• Activities in Protected Areas.

On day two:
• Licensing of Trade in Wildlife Species,
• Endangered Species Management,
• Implementation of Treaties,
• Game Trophies,
• Joint Management of Water Towers,
• Marine Protected Areas,
• Mining Regulations,
• Protected Wetlands and
• Security Operations.

Several recommendations were made and noted down by the consultant to be included in the next draft of the Regulations. Discussions on Endowment Funds and Security Operations Regulations were deferred until the board seeks further consultation. The Chairman stated that there will be another review meeting after the consultants have incorporated the proposed changes.


WildlifeDirect Legal Team with KWS Chairman

WildlifeDirect Legal Team with KWS Chairman




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


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


Cabinet Minister flags off the March

Cabinet Minister flags off the March

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

Bikers leading the March

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

Justice for Wildlife



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


China MUST act, but AFRICA take the lead to stop ivory trade

China must act, but Africa take the lead to stop ivory trade

By Paula Kahumbu with Andrew Hallyday


Workers destroy confiscated ivory in Dongguan, southern Guangdong province, China, Monday, Jan. 6, 2014. Photograph: Vincent Yu/AP

Workers destroy confiscated ivory in Dongguan, southern Guangdong province, China, Monday, Jan. 6, 2014. Photograph: Vincent Yu/AP


A major new study provides disturbing proof that the crisis facing African elephants is even worse than people imagined, driven by the exploding trade in illegal ivory in China.

The study, written by ivory market researchers Lucy Vigne and Esmond Martin, and funded by Save the Elephants (STE) and the Aspinall Foundation, found that skyrocketing demand for ivory in China has sparked a booming trade in smuggled ivory. There are ever greater numbers of items on sale, carving factories, and legal and illegal retail outlets.

The expanding legal trade provides a perfect cover for laundering vast quantities of illegal ivory. The Chinese government is taking some measures to control the illegal ivory market, but it’s not doing enough. The situation is currently out of control.

The study concludes: “without China’s leadership in ending demand for ivory Africa’s elephants could disappear from the wild within a generation.”

This conclusion seems self evident. In fact this point has been made time and again. For example, an article published in Time magazine almost exactly a year ago concluded that if the Chinese authorities don’t act fast, we could be heading toward a future without elephants.

In the run-up to London summit on wildlife crime in February, I wrote “all eyes are on China” and in the aftermath suggested that we are losing to battle to save wildlife because “western leaders … don’t have the guts to take on China”.

What’s depressing is that so little has changed, despite the impassioned rhetoric of world leaders, high profile campaigns celebrities and British royals, and the sterling efforts of campaigning organisations like STE. To make change happen I suggest we need to challenge the notion of “China’s leadership” on two counts.

First, although Chinese action is essential to save Africa’s elephants, the leadership should come from Africa. While China may face a “conservation challenge” as stated in the title of the report, it is Africa’s elephants that are facing extinction.


Young demonstrators sit with a placard as they prepare to take part in the “Global March for Elephants and Rhinos” in Nairobi, Kenya Saturday, Oct. 4, 2014. Photograph: Ben Curtis/AP

Young demonstrators sit with a placard as they prepare to take part in the “Global March for Elephants and Rhinos” in Nairobi, Kenya Saturday, Oct. 4, 2014. Photograph: Ben Curtis/AP

Unfortunately, despite growing civil society engagement with wildlife issues, so far few African leaders have demonstrated they are serious about taking action. One of them, President Khama of Botswana, recently asked me, despairingly: “Where is the pride of Africa? Why aren’t we setting the agenda here? It is we who have the elephants.”

A recent Environmental Investigation Agency (EIA) report made some highly publicised claims about involvement of visiting Chinese officials in ivory smuggling out of Tanzania. These claims were furiously – and unconvincingly – denied by Chinese authorities. What got less publicity was the much longer part of the EIA report analysing ingrained institutional corruption in Tanzania and the complicity of Tanzanian authorities in the illegal ivory trade.

Africans will not have the political or moral authority to make demands on the Chinese until we put our own house in order.

Secondly we have to stop thinking about “China” as a monolith – a single actor in the unfolding drama.

China is a highly complex society. The dynamic of ivory trade is driven by interactions among a wide range of actors. Political leaders, government officials, organised criminals, consumers and civil society organisations all contribute to the illegal ivory trade and attempts to control it in different ways. We need to understand their roles and target our actions and campaigns accordingly.

For example, was the ivory spending spree by the Chinese delegation in Tanzania sanctioned ‘from above’ or was it a case of lower-level officials getting out of control? In the first case, a high level diplomatic protest might be in order. But in the second case it might be more effective to engage with Chinese civil society organizations already combating corrupts officials at home.

Consumers who purchase ivory are also driven by different motives. The report suggests that “investors banking on continued rises in the price of ivory appear to be a significant factor in the recent boom, rather than buyers of traditional ivory carvings”.

This is important information. Buyers of handicrafts might well be swayed by awareness raising campaigns, but law enforcement is likely to be a more effective strategy against unscrupulous investors – and of course also against the organised crime networks that supply them.

Let’s be clear: China is also a highly centralised society. If the Chinese nation is contributing to the ongoing extinction of Africa’s elephants – as it is – the Chinese government deserves the lion’s share of the blame.

But, here again, we need to understand China better in order to know the best way to the influence Chinese authorities. China’s leaders are sensitive to pressure from foreign governments— and the hard evidence of reports by organizations like STE and EIA. It was notable that the first online report I found of the press conference in Nairobi today to launch the report was a long article in the South China Morning Post.

But Chinese authorities are also sensitive to pressure from an increasing confident civil society inside China. A recent visit to China by two young African activists, Christopher Kiarie of WildlifeDirect and Resson Kantai of STE, provided encouraging evidence of the potential for linkages between African and Chinese civil society organizations, to work together to increase pressure on the Chinese government to change.

A joined-up strategy led by Africans at all levels of society offers the best chance of success in these desperate times.



Sights from Hands Off Our Elephants Official Launch

Seated from left to right: Dr. Manu Chandaria; Mr Francis Kimemia (Secretary to the Cabinet); Dr. Evans Kidero (Governor, Nairobi County); Prof. Judi Wakhungu (Cabinet Secretary, Ministry of Environment); Her Excellency The First Lady, Mrs. Margaret Kenyatta; John Heminway (Chairman, WildlifeDirect)

Seated from left to right:
Dr. Manu Chandaria; Mr Francis Kimemia (Secretary to the Cabinet); Dr. Evans Kidero (Governor, Nairobi County); Prof. Judi Wakhungu (Cabinet Secretary, Ministry of Environment); Her Excellency The First Lady, Mrs. Margaret Kenyatta (Patron, Hands Off Campaign); John Heminway (Chairman, WildlifeDirect)

Here are some pictures from the Launch of Hands Off Our Elephants campaign. The event took place at Sankara Hotel in Nairobi and was attended by The First Lady Mrs. Margaret Kenyatta – Patron, Hands Off Campaign, Cabinet Secretaries, Members of the Diplomatic Corps, and many Heads of Conservation Organizations in Kenya.

There was also the Premiere screening of the documentary film “Battle for Elephants” which details the illegal ivory trade in Kenya and Tanzania.


Her Excellency The First Lady and John Heminway wearing Hands Off our Elephants mourning bands

Her Excellency The First Lady and John Heminway wearing Hands Off our Elephants mourning bands


From left to right: Prof. Judi Wakhungu; Her Excellency the First Lady (Patron of Hands Off Campaign), John Heminway, Dr. Titus Naikuni (CEO, Kenya Airways) & Dr. Richard Leakey

From left to right: Prof. Judi Wakhungu; Her Excellency the First Lady (Patron of Hands Off Campaign), John Heminway( Chairman, WildlifeDirect), Dr. Titus Naikuni (Group Managing Director & CEO, Kenya Airways) & Dr. Richard Leakey(Founder, WildlifeDirect)




Pesticide poisoning may be the greatest threat to wildlife in Kenya

According to Kenyan law, it is a serious offense to misuse or abuse pesticides in this country and the Pest Control Products Board is meant to regulate the safe use of pesticides for food production. Through my organization WildlifeDirect, I have been calling for a total ban on the deadly carbofuran pesticide locally known by its trade name Furadan in Kenya since 2009 because it is devastating wildlife in the country.  Carbofuran is intended to kill agricultural insect pests and is a neurotoxin that paralyses its victims. WildlifeDirect has documented the misuse and abuse of this chemical which may now be the most serious threat facing wildlife conservation in Kenya today.

To raise awareness, and get government help, we called a national workshop to address the issue of pesticide poisoning of wildlife in April 2008.  It wasn’t until late 2009 that a Task Force under the Ministry of Agriculture was created to address the issue of pesticide impacts on the environment. The Task Force chaired by the Pest Control Board however, has achieved nothing tangible, and the agency has refused to acknowledge a single poisoning incident report submitted by WildlifeDirect. The PCPB has not called a meeting since September 2010 or explained why they have not done so.

Wildlife Direct scientists have been consistently reporting that Furadan has been used to poison lions due to human wildlife conflict, and it is considered to be one of the main causes of the decline of population of lions in Kenya – now reduced to fewer than 2,000 individual animals. The pesticide is sprinked onto carcasss of livestock to kill lions which cannot detect its presence as it has no smell or taste. Any animal that scavenges on a laced carcass will die within minutes and that includes jackals, hyena’s and vultures. Go to the national parks and you will hardly see a vulture anymore. Vultures populations have declined nationwide  by between 50 and 80% due to pesticide poisoning targeting lions.

We have also been reporting the large scale bird poisoning came in Mwea (central-eastern Kenya) where tens of thousands of birds were killed by the lethal poison in the mid 1990s. Farmers were reported to be eliminating the birds to prevent damage to crops. Researcher Martin Odino of WildlifeDirect documents the use of Furadan to poison wading birds in Bunyala (western Kenya) where poachers poison tens of thousands of wild ducks, geese, storks, doves and other birds using Furadan-laced bait every year. The White faced Whistling duck has disappeared from the area completely. WildlifeDirect has documented in photographs and film, how birds are killed and sold for food to local people in markets. The PCPB has refused to acknowledge or investigate these reports despite the serious public health risk.

Though produced in USA by an American firm FMC, Furadan is not permitted for use in the country after the Environmental Protection Agency declared it unsafe for users, consumers and the environment in December 2009. After the airing a shocking documentary showing the poisoning of lions in Kenya in 2009 on CBS 60 minutes, FMC announced a complete withdrawal and buyback of the pesticide in all East Africa where they admitted it was being misused.

According to their website, “FMC Corporation has repurchased Furadan 5G from distributors and retailers in Tanzania, Uganda and Kenya.  The buy-back program remains open for any product that might still be in commercial channels.  Should any additional product be found in the marketplace, please let FMC know the location details so it can be repurchased.  FMC has no plans to reintroduce the product in these countries in the future”.

The poison was removed only from Kenyan stores, and it was simply moved to Tanzania and Uganda. From there it has been coming back across the border and continues to be found in some Agrovet outlets. Despite the global concerns concerns about the dangers of Furadan, the PCPB continues to permit its use of Furadan in flower farming. It is supplied locally by Juanco Ltd and is advertised on their website.

WildlifeDirect has consistently argued that the pesticide management system in Kenya needs to be revised. Deadly pesticides like Furadan should not be sold over the counter as users are not trained in safe use, and do not have or use any safety gear. Moreover, when poisoning incidents do occur,  rural clinics cannot handle them. In 2009, the Standard newspaper and WildlifeDirect reported that Nelson Kimutai, a three-year old boy from Kitale in Kenya, had died after consuming Furadan that his father had bought to rid his maize farm of rats and insects. He had stored the product in the kitchen and was using it with his bare hands. His son did not associate the chemical with danger and ate a little. Four hours later the local clinic was unable to save his life as they did not know how to reverse the effects of the pesticide.

In her best selling book “Silent Spring” Rachel Carson describes how the poisoning of the earth with DDT and other organophosphates in the USA threatened the lives of people and nature. She accused the agrochemical industry of being untruthful, and raised concern that public officials were failing to protect the public and environment by accepting industry claims uncritically.  The awareness that this book raised led to the banning of DDT in 1972. America has never looked back. Kenya is now experiencing her silent spring and it is time that the public questioned the governments decisions on which chemicals are used in food production. To date Kenya has no standards for pesticide limits in food, and conducts no testing of consumer products in shops. While the medical fraternity express concern about a cancer epidemic, nobody is examining the possible causes.

Given the obvious risks associated with the use and misuse of agrochemicals in Kenya it seems clear that our regulations and capacity to enforce the law are inadequate.   The PCPB its self is compromised by the fact that it is located in the Ministry of Agriculture therefore it cannot be an industry watchdog looking out for the interests of human and environmental health. Moreover, the PCPB is severely under resourced with only 9 inspectors and 2 vehicles nationwide. There are over 9,000 agrovets in the nation. This puts the tiny agency at the mercy of powerful agro chemical industry players who promise to “self regulate”. According to their annual reports, the PCPB’s meagre income is obtained almost entirely from the sale of agrochemicals. No wonder they are allergic to any suggestion of pesticide product bans.

We urge the government of Kenya to urgently address the human health and environmental risks by banning the use of carbofuran and removing the PCPB from the ministry of Agriculture where it is in a position of conflict of interest, and provide adequate resources to enable the PCPB to be effective.

Dr. Paula Kahumbu has a PhD from Princeton University and is the Executive Director of WildlifeDirect.c

Death by Furadan – The Story of Nelson Kimutai

After we received reports of the death of a 3-year old boy by Furadan poisoning in Kitale, Kenya, we wanted to verify the case. I therefore traveled to Kitale to talk with the bereaved father of the 3-year old Nelson Kimutai.

I found the grieving parents of the young boy at their farm in Sobokeret village, some 20 kilometers from Kitale Town. They were preparing recently harvested maize (corn) to store in their small granary.

Kimutai’s father, Mr Nahashon Kigai, talked to me about that sad day when he lost his only son to Furadan poisoning. He has another child, a little girl aged one-and-a-half years. She is the only child the young couple have now – all because of the deadly Furadan.

This video is a summary of the story of the death of Nelson Kimutai, whose life was cut short by a killer pesticide that the government of Kenya continues to ignore.

[kml_flashembed movie="http://www.youtube.com/v/u0HhYK4oK0w" width="425" height="350" wmode="transparent" /]

TEDx Nairobi: Engaging Conversation on Conservation in Africa

Paula was one of the speakers in a recently held Technology conference in Nairobi. Mark Kaigwa (aka mkaigwa), one of the friends of WildlifeDirect, who was attending the conference on 8 August 2009, wrote the great entry about Paula’s presentation reproduced below. Thank you Bwana Kaigwa.

Engaging Conversation on Conservation in Africa
Posted on Tuesday, 17 November 2009 by mkaigwa

Paula at TEDx Nairobi
Paula at TEDx Nairobi (Photo via mkaigwa)

A self-confessed tree hugger, Paula Kahumbu opened by reminding us how extraordinarily privileged Kenya is as a country as far as diversity is concerned, and how most times, it’s taken for granted by Kenyans themselves. By demonstration when she asked to see those in the crowd who had been to a National Park in the last month, only a handful inferred to the affirmative. It brought life to her statement!

She shared on how Kenya has one of the world’s largest diversities of bees – over 1500 species. We assume the Maasai Migration is going to be around for generations (for those who’ve not seen it already.)

Her second confession was that she didn’t have a television. Her veranda is her television from her home on the edge of the Nairobi National Park and you can always follow her amazing tweets and extraordinary wildlife pictures.

Paula elaborated her reason why she’s a wildlife conservationist and set out to make a case. “We’ve often been told that wildlife is crucial to the economy and our economic development. However, we’ve been misled to believe that it is important for tourism alone.”

“The world’s current population is 6.9 Billion people. We’re far too many people for the planet…,” as Paula showed and while we’re now aware of our carbon footprint, we shouldn’t forget our ecological footprint. We’re using the earth, our forests, our seas and changing the landscape faster than it can regenerate itself.

“Over 1000 species are disappearing every year,” she stated. Adding that two-thirds of these species have named, they’re yet to be classified and already disappear off the face of the earth. 25% of our mammals are facing extinction. A sad reality to come to terms with.

Paula went on to share information from a recent study done in the United States where scientists conducted research and studied how valuable insects were to the economy. As insects performed basic services for human beings and the value in a year is $57 Billion and that’s a service that is free; remarkable.

The US is facing a major crisis with their bees, having lost around 80% of their bees. Bees contribute about $15 Billion a year to the US economy and that brought home a stark reality of the situation, given that Kenya has one of the largest biodiversities of bees.

She went on to elaborate on the current drought in Kenya (which has since turned into rains, and occasionally floods in some provinces). The reason why this drought is hurting, Paula said, was because we have degraded our landscapes to such an extent and silt is filling up our dams and the water is unable to penetrate the soil and replenish the reservoirs.

The global cost of saving our protected areas is $45 Billion a year for the whole world. The estimated value of these protected areas in terms of ecological services is actually $5 Trillion. She jokingly asked Aly Khan Satchu what the return on investment was.She brought the point back to order that we’re losing the race with our environment and examined the situation in Kenya with the Kenya Government and she frankly admitted that we’re losing the race to conserve our wildlife.

She also told the amazing story behind Owen and Mzee, her award-winning children’s book about a hippopotamus and a tortoise. Paula was working for Bamburi Cement in the coast running a small sanctuary, using a rehabilitated quarry where they kept hippopotamus after the aftermath of the 2004 tsunami that hit the coast just outside of Malindi.

The story, involves a hippopotamus calf that was orphaned during the tsunami and had to be taken care of. The 1 year-old hippo mistook a Seychellois tortoise for its mother, and not longer after the first pictures were taken, they quickly became viral and were abuzz all over the internet.

People were soon calling, texting and emailing asking how the tortoise and baby hippopotamus were. By this time, they had both been named, the hippo; Owen, after the man who caught him and the tortoise; Mzee – a respectful Swahili word for elderly person.

So they started a diary, written by a man who had been working at the sanctuary for 25 years, Steven Twaid. He would show what was happening with Owen and Mzee as they played, swam and grew closer together. Soon, they had over 500,000 people reading and keeping up with the life of Owen and Mzee every month. From this, they developed the children’s book – Owen and Mzee.

The book has since sold over 1 million copies and is in 24 languages across the world. From this, her meeting with Dr. Richard Leakey lead to her running Wildlife Direct which has grown from 7 blogs to over 115 different blogs, each with its own set of bloggers, volunteers and fundraisers. They’ve since raised over $1,000,000 since 2007 and now, enable people all over the world to donate and adopt projects and conservancies as they support them.

An example she raised was in the Maasai Mara where, after the post-election violence, the Maasai Mara needed funds to sustain its conservation efforts to cover the shortfall due to the nosedive in tourist revenues. They raised $280,000 towards this effort.

She spoke of the Lion Guardians project with Anthony Kasanga, a 23 year old Maasai man who is a poacher turned Lion protector. The Maasai people, as a rite of passage, have their young men kill a lion. Anthony, together with the Lion Guardians, has been able to raise $28,000 and develop a strong international following as he educates Maasai in the region on how and why to protect lions.

Paula shared on a trend that Wildlife Direct began noticing – lions were being poisoned with a cheap over-the-counter pesticide called Furadan. Kenya’s already lost 85% of lions as a result of poisoning. The impact on tourism, if this trend continues would be devastating. Luckily, Wildlife Direct rallied support and was even contacted by the US-based manufacturer of the pesticide, who agreed to take it off the market in Kenya, Uganda and Tanzania.

The challenges for Wildlife Direct include raising support, especially in this period of the recession and developing the technology from their base in Kenya. Changing perceptions from a reliance on governments to bring environmental change is something Wildlife Direct is set on developing in Africa

A key strength of Wildlife Direct is its transparency, where all support is accounted for and results are documented by the bloggers and every action is shown and shared. The tangible impact shown to the world, shows the potential of the model behind Wildlife Direct which can be replicated and applied to different fields such as poverty alleviation and education.

Press release: Lion Sculpture to Send Anti-poisoning Message

WildlifeDirect issued this press release on Thursday, 3 September 2009 after Dr Richard Leakey inaugurated the ‘Androcles Lion’ by appending his signature as support for the campaign against lion (and other wildlife) poisoning using carbofurans (Furadan). The release received audience among readers of Nairobi’s Capital FM’s site, was picked by AFP, and blogged about at the Big Cat News blog. I thought you should also have the opportunity to refer to it.

Nairobi, 3 September 2009 – Renowned Kenyan conservationist, Dr Richard Leakey, who is also the chairman of WildlifeDirect, today inaugurated the display of the WildlifeDirect lion statue that will be creating public awareness about poisoning of lions by cattle herders using Furadan. The lion statue, which is part of the Pride of Kenya campaign to create awareness about the status of, and to raise funds for, conservation of Kenya’s remaining 2,100 lions, will be on public display at Yaya Centre, a popular shopping mall in Kenya’s capital, Nairobi.

On Tuesday, September 2, WildlifeDirect joined the Born Free Foundation in the official launch of the Pride of Kenya campaign at the Nairobi National Park. Integrated in this campaign to save the last lions of Kenya is the inauguration of WildlifeDirect’s call to have all carbofurans – especially Furadan, a lethal agricultural pesticide that is behind the death of 75 lions in the last 4 years – banned in Kenya.

With the life-sized lion statue christened The Androcles Lion as the centerpiece of their campaign, WildlifeDirect seeks to rally support from prominent Kenyans and the general public to have the deadly carbofuran class of pesticides banned from the Kenyan market by the Kenyan Parliament. The Androcles Lion, which is painted Fuchsia, the prominent colour on the retail packaging of the most used carbofuran in Kenya – Furadan – and with chains around it denoting bondage by these poisons, seeks to communicate the threat that carbofurans are posing to the survival of this charismatic species.

Prominent personalities such as Kenya’s renowned conservationist and anthropologist Dr Richard Leakey – who became the first person to endorse the campaign – UNEP Director Achim Steiner, Nobel Laureate Wangari Mathai among others, have been invited to show their support for the push to have Furadan banned in Kenya by inscribing a signed message supporting the ban on the body of the lion. The objective is to initiate public debate and support of the proposed ban such that Kenya’s Parliament will finally discuss the motion and eventually pass a law that makes it illegal to import, manufacture, repackage or sell this killer pesticide and anything else in it’s class.

Kenya’s lion population is declining at an alarming pace and climate change, habitat destruction and conflict with humans have been the key drivers for this precipitous fall in numbers. On Monday, August 17, the Kenya Wildlife Service (KWS) announced that Kenya’s lion population has been declining by an average 100 animals per year in the last 7 years and now stands at a little over 2,000 individuals. In the 1970s there were about 30,000 lions in Kenya. Given the current decline rate, lions will become extinct in Kenya in just two decades. KWS spokesman Paul Udoto told the media on 17 August that “communities are the largest threat to the lions and other cats.”

It is through conservationists blogs hosted by WildlifeDirect that the widespread use of Furadan by cattle herders for retaliatory poisoning of lions suspected of killing livestock first came to the limelight. With increasing reports of lion and other predators as well as birds of prey and scavengers being poisoned using Furadan, WildlifeDirect convened, in 2007, a meeting to bring together affected conservationists and Furadan importation firms in order to chart a way forward in addressing this situation. The meeting resolved that a total ban on Furadan would be the best way to eliminate herders’ access to this lethal poison and thus reduce poisoning of lions. The Stop Wildlife Poisoning campaign was thus launched.

On 29 March this year, American broadcaster, CBS, aired a documentary showing the devastating effect that Furadan was having on Kenya’s lions. Following this documentary, and the information that WildlifeDirect had provided the Member of Parliament for Naivasha, Honourable John Mututho – who brought the issue to parliament – the question of banning Furadan was discussed in Parliament. Parliamentary recommendation was that a committee be formed to craft a notice that would, if integrated into law, make it illegal to import Furadan and other carbofurans into Kenya. The Honourable Minister for Wildlife and Natural Resources, Dr Noah Wekesa, instructed that that committee be formed.

With the distinctively pink lion with a mane covered with replica Kenyan currency notes, representing the greed that is driving the sales of a poison that has already been banned in the US and Europe WildlifeDirect will continue to drum up support to the member for Naivasha and all those parliamentarians who support banning the substance. WildlifeDirect’s quest is to end the poisoning of lions by herders using Furadan, and that is the message that the Androcles Lion will be sending as it goes on public display at Yaya Centre.

WildlifeDirect is a non-profit conservation organization based in Kenya that uses the internet to create awareness about conservation issues and to raise funds for conservation through Web Logs (blogs) written by field conservationists. WildlifeDirect endeavors to create a movement powerful enough to produce a virtual endowment capable of reversing the catastrophic loss of habitats and species. WildlifeDirect is Registered as a charity in the USA and in Kenya.

# # #

For more information and high-res pictures contact:
Samuel Maina [email protected]

Low res pictures of the inauguration by Dr Leakey are published in the Baraza blog http://baraza.wildlifedirect.org/2009/09/03/the-mighty-androcles-lion-comes-home/

To learn more about the Stop Wildlife Poisoning campaign go to http://stopwildlifepoisoning.wildlifedirect.org

The CBS 60 Minutes documentary can be found here

The Pride of Kenya campaign website is http://www.prideofkenya.co.ke/ and their blog here http://prideofkenya.wildlifedirect.org/