On the road in Kenya for elephants
I’ve always liked a good protest march. Back in the day, they were usually anti-apartheid gatherings, or protests against repression of the media where we taped our mouths shut with duct tape.
So two weeks ago, when I and IFAW's VP for Communications Erica Martin, found ourselves in Nairobi on the final day of Jim Nyamu’s Ivory Belongs to Elephants Only march, it seemed like a good opportunity to spend a couple of hours with ordinary Kenyans giving a shout out to save elephants.
Jim Nyamu is simply amazing. Earlier this year he walked 500 kms on the Mombasa Road – the hectically busy highway that runs between Mombasa and Nairobi, to raise awareness of the scourge of illegal ivory.
A couple of months later he was back at it – this time, starting mid-May, he strode 1,500 kms from Masai Mara National Reserve to Nairobi to raise awareness of poaching and the ivory trade. He braved searing heat, and bandits and has become a national hero in the process. Jim has been invited to take his mission around the world – he will walk in Switzerland in October, and a walk in China is also on the cards.
East Africa, and Kenya in particular has been identified as a major source and trafficking route for poached ivory – with nearly 3.5 tons of ivory directly linked to Kenya reported seized in January 2013 alone (two tons were seized in Mombasa port and a further ton, shipped from Mombasa, was seized in Hong Kong). In May, Dubai authorities seized 259 elephant tusks concealed in a container shipped from Mombasa, and last week just a few days after we joined Jim’s march a further 1.5 tonnes of worked and raw ivory was seized in Mombasa itself.
On Saturday 29th June, we joined an enthusiastic group of people who included staff from Kenya Wildlife Service, government, Jim’s own organization, the Elephant Neighbour Center, (which IFAW helps support), and other NGOs at Uhuru Park.
It was an absolute treat to meet some of the legends of elephant conservation – Iain Douglas-Hamilton and Kuki Gallmann among them. But best of the lot, was when Jim marched up Langata Road. He was like the Pied Piper - as he had walked through the city more and more people joined the following throng.
The KWS Brass Band, immaculately turned out and with instruments a-twinkle, swung out in front, senior officials marched in a row with Jim, and the rest of us were absorbed into a noisy happy protest of about 1,000 people.
It was, put simply, brilliant fun and a great indicator of how seriously ordinary Kenyans and their law officials are taking the poaching of elephants for ivory, and illegal trafficking.
On arrival at KWS HQ, a fantastic spectacle of music, dance, acrobatics and speeches was laid on for this brave, yet simple man. Millions of people around Kenya followed Jim’s journey around Kenya, and hopefully millions around the world will soon be doing so as well.
IFAW is proud to support the Jim Nyamu’s of this world, and we look forward to keeping the Ivory Belongs to Elephants campaign march on the road, wherever that road may lead.