Spotlight Kenya: braving blisters and blistering heat to save elephants

From left: Iregi Mwenja, Jim Nyamu of  the Elephant Neighbor’s Center, and Steve Njumbi, Head of Programs, IFAW East Africa walk by dozens of freight trucks lining Machakos Junction on the Mombasa-Nairobi roadJim Nyamu cut a lonely figure these last two weeks, as he trekked nearly 500 kms from coastal Mombasa inland to Nairobi, in a heroic effort to make us all think just a little bit harder about the threats to elephants and the need to protect them.

I’m no athlete – neither’s Jim really – but I joined him for a kilometre or so this past weekend, to hear more about his incredible effort.

It was brutal – it’s the hottest time of the year in Kenya, and the midday temperature at Machakos junction was around 33 ° C (91° F), and made hotter by the scorching tarmac that burned through our boots.

Hundreds of heavy duty transport vehicles thundered past us carrying goods inland and – heading for the coast, in the other direction - loaded high with product bound for ships and faraway places.

It got me thinking...

Kenya has the unwanted reputation as both a source and a major trafficking route for illegal ivory – nearly 3,5 tonnes of ivory linked to Kenya were seized last month, two tonnes of that in Mombasa Port.

Most of it was bound for Asia, China in particular.

So the enormity of the challenge that faces us in trying to draw a halt to this bloody, wicked trade that killed as many as 50,000 elephants in 2011, is made all the more clear when you are jumping to avoid the multiple wheels of massive trailers loaded high with freight.

It is simply daunting, and to win this battle we really do need the help of everyone – from the biggest corporations, to governments, the NGO community and the public.

Jim Nyamu’s walk is part of the “Ivory Belongs to the Elephant” campaign of the Elephant Neighbor’s Center which is supported and funded by the International Fund for Animal Welfare (IFAW) through the Kenya Elephant Forum.

I think Jim Nyamu is some kind of a hero.

All along his hot path, he has been spreading an important message to ordinary Kenyans, that elephants need our help and protection.

Jim sent me a message this morning.

It read: “Steve, it was good to see you on Friday. I wish to take this very opportunity to express my sincere gratitude on behalf of ENC to IFAW.

Your moral, financial and in-kind support was the most thrilling motivation when sweating and subjecting my feet to the difficult terrain”.

IFAW’s proud to support a hero like Jim.

--SN

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Experts

Céline Sissler-Bienvenu, Director, France and Francophone Africa
Director, France and Francophone Africa
Dr. Cynthia Moss, IFAW Elephant Expert
IFAW Elephant Expert
Grace Ge Gabriel, Regional Director, Asia
Regional Director, Asia
James Isiche, Regional Director, East Africa
Regional Director, East Africa
Jason Bell, Program Director, Elephants Regional Director, South Africa
Program Director, Elephants, Regional Director, South Africa
Peter Pueschel, Director, International Environmental Agreements
Director, International Environmental Agreements
Vivek Menon, Director of IFAW partner, Wildlife Trust of India
Regional Director, South Asia