WildlifeDirect has partnered with Kenya Wildlife Service and NTV to bring you NTV Wild, a program that brings award winning documentaries on wildlife and also provides the platform for debate and discussion with experts on Kenya’s wildlife, its conservation and why it matters so much.
NTV Wild Talk S1 E1
“The mystery of Mzima”
Smriti Vidyarthi visits Mzima springs to bring a story about the spring that would be lifeless without hippos. A world class site that is amazing.
NTV Wild Talk S1 E2 “Kenya-US relations in protecting wildlife”
Smriti Vidyarthi engages US ambassador to Kenya Ambassador Robert F. Godec and the US Secretary – Interior Sally Jewell as #NTVWild talk focuses on US-Kenya relations in protecting our wildlife
TV Wild Talk S1 E4 “Saving Kenya’s big cats”
From the seventh wonder of the world, Maasai Mara is home to the largest population of lions. Smriti Vidyarthi share the incredible life stories of two cat families.
NTV Wild Talk S1 E5 “Safeguarding Karura Forest”
Smriti Vidyarthi takes a look at whether Karura forest is under threat or not. The show looks at the struggles to save Karura forest from land grabbers.
NTV Wild Talk S1 E6 “Wildlife Newbies & Champions”
Smriti Vidyarthi speaks to some of the new faces linked with protection of wildlife.
NTV Wild Talk, broadcast an interview with Richard Leakey about the past and the present for wildlife and heritage in Kenya. It aired on Tuesday March 15 on NTV at 10 pm.
I also want to draw attention to the new article in SWARA here in which he states
“Parks will only be sustainable if Kenyans want them to be sustainable. Middle class Kenyans who own TV sets watch international soccer, international vanity shows and news but none of them watch wildlife programmes because they’ve never been put on air in this country.”
This sentiment is the reason that we created NTV Wild. For those who have not been able to catch previous episodes, NTV Wild is a partnership between NTV, WildlifeDirect and KWS to broadcast wildlife documentaries made in Kenya and Africa on national Television for the first time in our history to inspire Kenyans to visit our parks and appreciate our spectacular wildlife heritage. The program airs on Saturdays and a discussion program on Tuesdays.
This is the list of all the NTV Wild documentaries so far on Saturday’s at 8 pm
1. Mzima Haunt of the River Horse – Mark Deeble and Vicky Stone
2. The Last Lions – Derek and Beverly Joubert
3. African Cats – DisneyNature
4. Here be Dragons – Alan Root
5. Battle For the Elephants – Nat Geo
6. The Queen of Trees – Mark Deeble and Vicky Stone
NTV Wild Talk on Tuesdays at 10 pm
Launching the series with Jonathan Scott
NTV Wild Talk S1 E1 “The mystery of Mzima”
NTV Wild Talk S1 E2 “Kenya-US relations in protecting wildlife”
NTV Wild Talk S1 E3 “Stopping wildlife trafficking through Kenya”
NTV Wild Talk S1 E4 “Saving Kenya’s big cats”
NTV Wild Talk S1 E5 “Safeguarding Karura Forest”
TV Wild Talk S1 E6 “Wildlife Newbies & Champions”
In this episode: Kitili Mbathi shares the challenges & successes at KWS, Lena Munge tells of how she hopes to transform the Masai Mara, Najib Balala explains why he jumped off a plane for conservation & 12 yr old Luca Berardi stresses the importance of wildlife for future generations.
Both the documentaries and the talk shows have been trending on twitter since we began 7 weeks ago and people are telling us that they are setting their alarm clocks to catch the programs. We are already on week 7 and we have 45 more to go! Enjoy
Africa’s unique wildlife heritage attracts millions of tourists to the continent and contributes enormously to the economy. It is a tragic irony that this wildlife remains unknown to the majority of Africans.
Recently I have been involved in an initiative that aims to change this state of affairs. Launched in January, the TV series “NTV Wild” is a collaboration between NTV, Kenya’s leading TV channel, my NGO WildlifeDirect, and the Kenya Wildlife Service (KWS).
NTV Wild will broadcast two hours of programmes on African wildlife on prime-time TV every week of this year. Screening of an hour-long documentary on NTV and its sister Kiswahili language channel QTV on Saturday night is followed on Tuesday evening at 10 pm by “NTV Wild Talk”: an extended in-depth discussion of the issues by leading film makers, conservationists, politicians and legal experts
The first eagerly awaited programmes attracted record numbers of viewers and provoked huge excitement on social media. Here are some of my favourite tweets:
Not all reactions were positive. Following screening of ‘Mzima – Haunt of the River Horse’, an Emmy award winning film by Mark Deeble and Vicky Stone about the secret lives of hippos (click here to watch a trailer ), one blogger complained that the film was 15 years old. This was stale stuff, he wrote: “You know, a lot can happen in 15 years … in the hippo calendar. Viewers were hooked, but also hoodwinked”.
It’s true that many of the films to be shown by NTV Wild are classics, years – or even decades – old. They are familiar to and loved by hundreds of millions of viewers across the world. So why haven’t Kenyans seen them before?
Economics has a lot to do with it. The sights and sounds of our wildlife are transformed by film makers into products that are simply too expensive for African TV channels to buy – and therefore beyond the reach of most ordinary Africans.
But that’s not the whole story. On last night’s NTV Wild Talk discussion, film maker Mark Deeble revealed that he had offered ‘Haunt of the River Horse’ free to Kenyan TV channels when it first came out. But they had refused, reflecting the widespread (but profoundly mistaken) prejudice that “Kenyans aren’t interested in that sort of thing.”
Whatever the reason, it is scandalous that, for decades, TV viewers in most African countries including Kenya have been denied access to these documentaries made about our own wildlife.
Most people that I speak to about the lack of access to wildlife documentaries in Kenya are aghast and astounded – and one person was even reduced to tears – by the fact that American and European children know the names of our lions in the Masai Mara, and our elephants in Amboseli and Samburu, while ours do not.
This also goes against the avowed intentions of many distributors of wildlife films. For example, National Geographic describes itself as:
… a global nonprofit membership organization driven by a passionate belief in the power of science, exploration and storytelling to change the world. Working to inspire, illuminate and teach, National Geographic reaches more than 700 million people a month through its media platforms, products, events and experiences.
How can National Geographic fulfil this mission if its films are not seen in Africa, where they could be inspiring Africans to save their continent’s natural heritage?
In fact, I know that many producers and distributors would like to make their films available in Africa, but they are locked into a commercially-driven system that is very hard to change.
When I spoke to leading wildlife film makers when they met at last year’s Jackson Hole Film Festival, I discovered that many of them had been unhappy about this situation for years. A group of them, including Mark Deeble, Vicky Stone, Dereck and Beverly Joubert, Lisa Samford and many others got together and agreed to make a concerted appeal to major distributors to make them more widely available in Africa on a non-commercial basis.
The breakthrough came last year, when National Geographic gave permission for one free broadcast of the recently released documentary “Warlords of Ivory” on Kenyan TV. (Click here to see my article about this hard-hitting film that provides direct evidence of links between elephant poaching and terrorism in Africa.) Within five minutes the show was trending on twitter in Kenya.
The experience of that broadcast persuaded NTV to partner with WildlifeDirect for a year to bring world-class award winning wildlife documentaries to Kenyan audiences on a regular basis. We knew then we had an audience, but we didn’t know how hard it would be to get the films.
When I first floated this idea to distributors on behalf of NTV, responses were not encouraging. The following was typical of the replies we received:
I picked up this request and contacted our Africa sales team to run this request by them but they are still exploiting these titles. They are tasked with generating as much profit as possible from content in the African territory so that we can return funding to the [the company] to enable them to make these programmes in the first place.
I’m sorry not to have a more positive response for you.
This provoked the following impassioned response from one of the programme hosts:
It beggars belief that Paula’s current initiative – with its sensitizing and educational rationale – would in any substantial way detract from the [the company’s] licensing agreements. Talk of ‘profit’ at this point is insulting to the very nature of what Paula is trying to do. It sends a very clear message – money rules.
I thinks these sentiments portray [us] in a very poor light and are contrary to my long held belief that [we are] not purely driven by commercial considerations – but educational and inspirational ones too. These are things people like Paula have dedicated their life to doing. I believe we have to find a way to support these kinds of initiatives. Is that not still possible?
Thankfully arguments like these are winning the day. Disney Nature and the BBC World Wide are among major companies that have already agreed to make their films available and we are optimistic that others can be persuaded that they had nothing to lose and much to gain from supporting our proposal. We have written to Discovery and National Geographic as well as smaller production houses.
My fingers are tightly crossed and I make wishes on every shooting star in the Kenyan night sky.
Putting wildlife programs on African TV is not a “nice to have”. It’s a globally important imperative, and change cannot come too soon. The future of African wildlife hangs in the balance, under the impact of multiple threats, including poaching, climate change, habitat loss and land degradation. One of the main reasons why African governments have failed to respond to this unfolding crisis is that few Africans even know or understand what we stand to lose.
Our critic was right that a lot can happen in 15 years. Last night’s “NTV Wild Talk”, shot on location at the iconic Mzima Springs in Tasvo West National Park, revealed how all the hippos in Mzima Springs died in the drought of 2009. The ecosystem collapsed and since then recovery has been very slow, with only a handful of hippos there today.
Moderator Smriti Vidyarti engaged panellists Mark Deeble, KWS Chairman Richard Leakey, and Regional Assistant Director Robert Obrein in an informed discussion of the complex causes of this collapse. They described how drought, fires, and the encroachment of cattle into the National Park had created a ‘perfect storm’ for Mzima’s hippos, and how the loss of the hippos had affected the entire ecosystem.
The panellists also explained how Mzima was also key to Kenya’s economic development as the principal source of water for the city of Mombasa, and the importance of forest conservation in the watershed to maintain continuity of supplies. They discussed threats to the area posed by urbanization and proposed infrastructure projects.
The three panellists did not pull their punches. Richard Leakey described corruption as the biggest threat to African wildlife. Robert O’Brein talked frankly about the problems involved in administering Tsavo’s national parks.
In short, viewers were treated to an informed and intelligent, but by no means pessimistic discussion of key issues for the future of Kenya and global biodiversity conservation – that topped the ratings on prime-time TV!
This is only the start. With the support of KWS and tour operators, the programmes shown on NTV Wild are linked to promotions to boost local tourism to Kenya’s national parks. WildlifeDirect is partnering with local schools to take more students into the wilderness and national parks to do science, art and other subjects (click here to read about our visit with Nairobi school children to Amboseli National Park).
We are also planning to produce our own wildlife reality show, bringing celebrities and Kenyan scientific experts together in an informative and entertaining exploration of our country’s astounding wildlife.
I am sure that initiatives like these can have transformational effect. They will inspire more Africans to go to the parks and witness our wildlife first hand, just as they have inspired tens of millions of international tourists. They will encourage the emergence– for the first time – of a new generation of African wildlife film makers.
Above all, Africans will be motivated to demand more of their leaders, and will possess the knowledge and confidence they need to do so.
Behind fun projects like school visits and reality game shows, our aims are deadly serious, and the stakes couldn’t be higher. The wider aim is to mainstream wildlife at all level of Kenyan life and society: as headlines news and a political priority, as family entertainment, as part of the curriculum in schools and universities, in corporate social responsibility programmes, and in the worlds of sport, music and fashion.
The age-old aphorism states that “knowledge is power”. Only by giving Africans knowledge about our wildlife can we acquire the power to save it.
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.
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
The Cabinet Secretary Prof Judi Wakhungu walked the entire 14 km which was the longest GlobalMarch (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
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.
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 GlobalMarch in Nairobi was organized by WildlifeDirect, Stand Up Shout Out and KWS.
We will be sharing more information on the work we will be doing in 2016 soon. Meanwhile, you can start guessing what the adventure will be.
We are priviledged to have excellent partners:
Kenya Wildlife Service has granted us access to the Amboseli National Park; Ol Tukai Lodge offered full board accommodation; Sunworld Safaris graciously donated the use of an excellent vehicle during this exercise and Two amazing women, Usha Harish, an exceptional photographer and Soila Saiyalel – an excellent Elephant expert have spent hours photographing elephant families in the park.
We look forward to seeing what they have gathered soon
Vehicle donated by Sun World Safaris
Selfie with the Elephants?
With the Staff of Ol Tukai Lodge and Elephants in the background
Usha & Soila with the Staff of Ol Tukai Lodge outside the Lodge
Soila doing what she does best – Observing and Identifying Elephants
Mandela of the Sarabi Band performs during the Ndovu Zetu concert
On the last day of February this year, some of the top most bands in Kenya put up a grand show…wait for it…for elephants!
Sauti Sol, Sarabi band, Juliani, Muthoni Drummer Queen, Emmanuel Jal were among the top artists that performed at the Ndovu Zetu concert on 28th February, at the United Nations Recreational Grounds. This was the first time that a concert was held in Kenya just for elephants.
It was also the first time that ‘Tusimame’- an elephant anthem song was performed live for the very first time. Tusimame was written and performed by various artists including former South Sudan child soldier Emmanuel Jal, Juliani, Syssi Mananga from Congo-Brazzaville and Vanessa Mdee from Tanzania.
Over 1,000 people attended the concert.
“We are excited to be hosting a show just for elephants,” said Dr Paula Kahumbu, the CEO of WildlifeDirect. WildlifeDirect, whose patron is the First Lady Her Excellency Margaret Kenyatta, is the main sponsor of the concert, working in conjunction with the Kenya Wildlife Service, the Ministry of Environment, Water and Natural Resources.
Baraza of the Sauti Sol charges the crowds during the Ndovu Zetu Concert
This concert was the kick-off event of the Kenya Wildlife Festival. The Kenya Wildlife festival is an initiative of the Kenya Wildlife Service and the ministry of Environment Water and Natural Resources and several conservation organisations to create awareness among the public and celebrate Kenya’s wealth and natural heritage in wildlife.
“People do great things for people and causes they love and believe in. Were doing this for elephants because we love them. Like humans, elephants feel, worry, play, hurt, mourn, remember. Elephants are human too”
And the reasons to celebrate our elephants are many!
Kenya hosts the world’s most famous elephant research project ; the Save The Elephants and the Amboseli Trust for Elephants. The Amboseli Trust for elephants has been running for 40years. All the elephants at the Amboseli eco system are known by names and their families. Save the Elephants operates on Northern Kenyan where they have been on the frontline to take poaching down and create awareness about elephants conservation.
Paula Kahumbu addresses the crowd during the Ndovu Zetu Concert
Kenya is also home to the David Sheldrick Elephant Wildlife Trust which hosts the world’s most successful orphan–elephant rescue and rehabilitation centre.
But the truth remains that African elephants face imminent extinction if nothing is done to save them. Approximately 33,000 elephants are killed every year across Africa to supply the ivory market especially in Asia. Dr Kahumbu explains that in Kenya, we have made huge strides in the last couple of years in efforts to protect our elephants. But a lot still needs to be done.
“The public is better informed and engaged now, a suspected ivory kingpin, Feisal Mohamed Ali, is behind bars and the poaching level is down. But we still need to win the hearts and minds of Kenyans of all walks of life; we hope that every Kenyan will know of the benefits of elephants not only to our ecosystems but to our economy as well. At WildlifeDirect, our goal is to get all Kenyans and Africans to love our elephants so much that extinction is no longer a threat”
Part of the crowd at the Ndovu Zetu concert
The Ndovu Zetu concert and the Kenya Wildlife Festival was aimed at winning the hearts and minds of everyone, big and small, young and old. To have every Kenyan loathing poaching and trafficking and become our brothers keepers to watch that no one is poaching our elephants or trafficking ivory to satisfy their greed.
A Blow to Conservation – Poachers Kill Iconic Elephant
Picture and story courtesy of Lewa Wildlife Conservancy
Mountain Bull in his prime
The Lewa Wildlife Conservancy is deeply saddened to announce the death of Mountain Bull (MT Bull), the enigmatic elephant whose dedication to using the traditional elephant migration routes in northern Kenya captured the imagination of many and led to numerous conservation initiatives.
Mountain Bull’s carcass was found in Mount Kenya Forest on Thursday, with visible spear wounds and its tusks missing.
No other animal has had greater impact on wildlife conservation in northern Kenya than Mountain Bull. Many credit him as the force behind the construction of the pioneering Lewa/Ngare Ndare Forest/Mount Kenya elephant corridor that links the forest ecosystem of Mount Kenya with the savannah ecosystems of Lewa and Samburu plains further to the north.
This has led to the opening up of the traditional migration route of over 2,000 African elephants that had previously been blocked by human development in Mount Kenya. The ground-breaking establishment of this corridor also led to Kenya’s most recent World Heritage Site inscription when in June of 2013, Lewa and Ngare Ndare Forest were extended to be part of the Mount Kenya World Heritage Site.
Mountain Bull’s death is a great loss to the conservation fraternity. He taught us much about elephant and animal behaviour, migration routes and patterns, and to a large extent, left many inspired by his bravery and resilience.
Richard Leakey, founder of the Kenyan Wildlife Service, has called on President Kenyatta to declare a national emergency and take personal charge of the war on poaching
Richard Leakey and Paula Kahumbu at press conference organized by WildlifeDirect on March 19, 2014 in Nairobi. Richard Leakey and Paula Kahumbu at the press conference organized by Wildlife Direct on March 19, 2014 in Nairobi. Photograph: Tony Karumba/AFP/Getty Images
Nairobi 19th March: Four days ago I was in the bush, heartbroken, by the mutilated body of a rhino gunned down by poachers. Now I am in the Serena Hotel in Nairobi at a crowded press conference called by Wildlife Direct, the organization I work for.
In a strongly worded statement, WildlifeDirect’s founder and chairman Richard Leakey calls on Kenya’s president Uhuru Kenyatta to take decisive action in the war against the poachers.
The current situation is dire. Poachers are killing rhinos and elephants with impunity, even in heavily fortified private conservancies that were thought to be impregnable. Despite tough new laws, smugglers and poachers caught red-handed are still walking free from Kenyan courts.
Our press release argues that poaching and smuggling are controlled by international crime rings that pose a major threat to the economy and national security. Reports in Kenyan media reflect the sense of hopelessness that many feel in the face of this powerful enemy.
However, though critical, the situation is not hopeless.
As head of the Kenyan Wildlife Service (KWS) in the 1980s, Richard Leakey is credited with having turned around the war on poaching in a matter of months at the time of the last major crisis. With the right leadership, he is convinced it can be done again.
NTV Kenya news report of Wildlife Direct press conference, Nairobi March 19th, 2014
The story of piracy off the coast of Somalia shows how crises like these can be overcome. Piracy and poaching are similar in many ways. In both cases, the scene of the crime is sub-Saharan Africa. Both were long-standing problems that suddenly became major crises and threatened to spiral out of control. In both cases, poor people using primitive technology were able to inflict massive damage that threatened global interests.
The major difference is that piracy directly threatens western commercial interests. In response world leaders have acted decisively – and effectively. After 46 hijackings off the coast of Somalia in 2009 and 47 in 2010, there have been none at all since 12 May 2012.
Crucially, money has been no object when it came to taking on the pirates. The current annual cost of anti-piracy security off the coast of Somalia is more than US $ 2.5 billion. This finances two key elements of the anti-piracy strategy: surveillance and protection. Around $1 billion goes on round-the-clock military naval patrols; the rest is spent by ship operators on employing privately contracted armed guards.
Piracy has also been stopped by the simple measure of locking up the criminals. More than 1,100 Somali pirates are currently in jail in 21 countries, many of them in Kenya.
Operations are coordinated by the UN’s Contact Group on Piracy, which includes more than 85 countries as well as international agencies and private sector representatives. If you have never heard of this organization, that’s because they’re not interested in publicity, just in getting the job done.
Four “C words” sum up how piracy was defeated: Cash – lots of it, a Coherent strategy, Coordination, and Commitment. How far are these four “keys to success” in place in the war on wildlife crime?
Unlike the war on piracy, until now this one has too often seemed to be all about publicity. In the run-up to the London summit on wildlife crime in February, National Geographic commented: “Everybody and his uncle in wildlife conservation is clamouring for a seat at the table.”
Hopefully this is about to change. America grabbed the headlines at the London summit in February with the launch of a new National Strategy for Combating Wildlife Trafficking. The strategy makes some big promises about US commitment to tackle all aspects of the crisis. Secretary of State John Kerry affirmed: “We must act now. The Departments of State, Justice, and Interior are leading the President’s whole-of-government fight against wildlife trafficking”.
There are also signs that western countries and international agencies are now prepared to commit serious money to fight wildlife crime – even though the amounts are still minuscule compared to what is spent on controlling piracy.
For example, the Clinton Global Initiative recently unveiled a three-year $80 million anti-ivory poaching partnership with conservation organizations that will deploy sniffer-dog teams at key ivory transit points in Africa and hire 3,000 rangers to help protect elephants at 50 sites.
These are encouraging signs of more cash, improved coordination, and greater commitment. But what is still missing is a coherent strategy that recognizes and responds to the truth that Richard Leakey spelled out forcefully at our press conference: the traffickers are getting away with it because in many countries authorities are not prepared to take on the small numbers of gang leaders who control the operations.
The best equipped and trained rangers, and the most stringent laws, will remain impotent as long as the gang leaders are at liberty to use threats and bribery to neutralize them.
After the London summit, UK Foreign Secretary William Hague commented: “this is not just about governments, this is about the public understanding that the ivory trade involves the death of elephants on a great scale”. This sounds as if the UK government is trying to evade responsibility.
The truth is, only states have the resources needed to defeat the organized crime networks controlling the $10 billion trade in illegal wildlife products. People across the world already understand the problem and what is at stake. We are waiting for our governments to take decisive action to target the gang leaders, and root out the high-level corruption that allows them to operate with impunity.
“My fellow Kenyans, poaching and the destruction of our environment has no future in this country”
These were the words of President Uhuru Kenyatta at his inauguration almost exactly one year ago. Today in the year of the 50th anniversary of Kenyan independence, I am asking the president to put his words into action and declare a NATIONAL DISASTER. I ask him to invoke emergency measures to crack down on the poachers and to declare elephants and rhinos National Treasures under protection of the state. In 1989, President Daniel Arap Moi took such extraordinary measures and wildlife poaching was curbed within 6 months. I am certain that this can be achieved again.
Elephants and rhinos declining in Kenya
Though KWS are not making information public, already this year we have lost at least 14 rhinos, more than in the whole of last year. Rhinos have been gunned down in our national parks, often in broad daylight and from sites close to ranger posts. Rhinos have also been lost from heavily fortified private conservancies that were believed impregnable. KWS estimates the population of Kenyan rhinos at more than 1,000 of which just over 50% are in the National Parks. However, independent scientists doubt this figure and question the data – 38 rhinos that have not been seen for more than 3 years are still in the parks are still counted in the total. An independent audit of rhinos is conducted in all conservancies but not parks.
KWS report that fewer than 400 elephants are killed annually across the country. The results of a KWS census last month reveal that the elephant population in the Tsavo Ecosystem alone has fallen by 1,500 over 4 years. The census found 800 elephant carcasses.
Newspaper coverage and conservationists in the field also report that elephant are being shot and killed in Tsavo, Masai Mara, and Amboseli and other parks by poachers armed with automatic weapons. Many others are shot with poison arrows, causing unimaginable pain followed by slow death.
Kenya is the world’s hub for ivory smuggling
The latest Interpol report reveals that Kenya is now No. 1 in the world for ivory smuggling. The port of Mombasa serves as a staging post for ivory from Tanzania and many other countries. More than 13 tons of ivory were seized in Kenya last year and we can only speculate at the quantities that passed through undetected.
A study of trials in Kenya reveal that fewer than 4% of all convicted poachers are ever jailed. Interpol reveal that despite many ivory seizures in Kenya, no dealers have ever been arrested and prosecuted in court. A major rhino horn smugglers caught at JKIA was released. A Chinese ivory dealer was sent back to China. If a Kenyan threatened a Chinese Panda bear, he or she would face life imprisonment.
Current measures are not enough
Despite our best efforts, the new law, the creation of an elite force in KWS, the promises of the Judiciary and DPP, and the commitment stated by the President, our elephants and rhinos are being massacred across the nation.
Tough new laws that mean convicted poachers and traffickers can be given life sentences,have not resulted in a single offender jailed without the option of a fine. In a recent case a Chinese man was arrested in Riverside Drive where he was manufacturing ivory carvings and sending them out of Kenya through Chinese mules who are being sent to Kenya as “tourists”. He was sent back to China without ever going to a Kenyan court. Last week the court acquitted Chinese national, Ou Kai Ming, even though he had been caught red-handed by customs officials at JKIA.
On the ground poachers have a free rein in many places. KWS staff who attempt to do their job are under increasing threat of violence and at least 8 KWS rangers have lost their lives to poachers in recent years. Managers who allow poaching to happen on their watch are simply moved to other locations, instead of being held to account for their dereliction of duty.
Emergency provisions under status as National Disaster
The failure of leadership and resources at KWS is compounded by the failure of the state to recognize that this is not just a wildlife crime. The president can no longer ignore the fact that these criminals belong to international crime rings that pose a major threat to the economy and national security. In 1989 President Moi recognized that the country was facing a national crisis and acted presidentially to stop it.
I am calling on the president of the Republic of Kenya to address the problem because our national security agencies are not working together to combat this threat to national security. I am sure that the Ministry, NIS, CID, KWS all know who the top dealers and financiers of this bloody business are. They number fewer than 50 people, some of whom have been exposed in the media, but not one has been arrested to date.
In responding to the threat of piracy Kenya’s performance was exemplary. This is the kind of coordinated, fully committed response we need to the poaching crisis.
The voice and political will of our president are most critically needed if we are to win this war. The Kenyan public, corporations and our international partners will all respond favorably when decisive action is taken. The president cannot afford to leave a legacy for future generations of Kenyans that does not include elephant and rhinos.
Richard Leakey, 19 March 2014
WildlifeDirect is a Kenyan NGO and US registered 501(c) (3) organization co-founded in 2004 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. Kenyan Trustees include Irungu Houghton, Ali Mohamed and Philip Murgor. The CEO is Dr. Paula Kahumbu. WildlifeDirect is headquartered in Nairobi, Kenya. WildlifeDirect is dedicated to “Changing minds, behavior and laws to ensure Africa’s critical species endure forever.”
Hands Off Our Elephants, our flagship campaign comprises a winning combination of expertise including wildlife ecologists, communications specialists, lawyers, politicians, media representatives, strategists, and linguists, making us bold, influential, and successful. This African led initiative is supported by Kenya’s First Lady, Her Excellency Margaret Kenyatta as patron. The campaign has already mobilized the public in Kenya and driven 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.
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WildlifeDirect is separately registered in the US (501-(c)3 not for profit) and Kenya (not for profit), aimed at helping endangered animals worldwide. No administration fee is taken for the funds that are transferred through us so that the financial support, net only of bank fees, can go where it was intended in its entirety.
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