WATCH: True Blood star Kristin Bauer with IFAW in Amboseli National Park
I write this on my last day in Amboseli National Park, in the shadow of Mt Kilimanjaro.
It has been a spectacular journey so far, full of wildlife and the amazing people here to protect them, set on a beautiful landscape that I’ve long dreamed of.
Amboseli is a flat savannah, the pale grass of the dry season sharply contrasted against the green foliage of the acacia tree. Spotting wildlife is easy then, best in the cooler morning and evening when the animals are more active.
I had heard that the Kenyan people are unforgettable, and yet I am struck by their kindness, sincerity and genuineness, that I feel if everyone were a little more Kenyan, what a kinder place the world would be. There is an authenticity to Kenya and its people that touches the core of your soul. I feel like I have come home, and know I will return – if I even manage to leave!
Here in Amboseli I have spent time with some of the people working so hard to protect the animals in this important ecosystem – James Isiche, IFAW Director of East Africa, who fueled my passion for elephants and inspired this documentary to protect them; Jason Bell, IFAW Director of Southern Africa and the Elephant Program; and the IFAW experts gathered here to implement IFAW’s ambitious Amboseli project.
The Kenya Wildlife Service hosted a ceremony at the park headquarters where IFAW handed over three new Landcruiser vehicles so the rangers can patrol the park, protect the wildlife from poachers and help mitigate human-wildlife conflict.
While there, I saw the importance of these new vehicles as I watched a team of mechanics work to repair a dilapidated old truck. These rangers are the true heroes, risking their lives to protect wildlife and deserve the best equipment to do their jobs.
Julius Kipng’etich, the Director of the Kenya Wildlife Service, started his remarks by asking for a moment of silence for a ranger who died in the line of duty last week, shot by a bandit in one of Kenya’s parks.
As we stood remembering this man, I was deeply moved by the sacrifice the rangers make every day to protect wildlife from harm – and for products nobody needs. I thought about his family and their loss of a loved one – and probably their only breadwinner.
It was an unexpected honor to interview Kip and learn how KWS works to protect wildlife in Kenya and serves as a model for conservation throughout Africa. I also met two senior Maasai elders, Nick and Johnson, who have been working on wildlife conservation for a very long time. And amazing elephant activist Pat Awori, whose passion for saving elephants will inspire me far into the future.
Today was truly a once-in-a-lifetime experience as I spent the morning with iconic elephant scientist Cynthia Moss, who has been studying the elephants of Amboseli for forty years – the longest elephant research study in the world. Much of what we know about elephants has come from Cynthia’s research and later I met Vicki Fishlock, an IFAW-supported scientist studying the effect of the 2009 drought on elephant families.
Cynthia took us off road to get up close and personal with the GB elephant family, so relaxed, playful and happy. How I wish every elephant could live that way, every day, free from the threat of poaching – in the wild as they’re meant to be. And that’s why I’m here – to make that wish a reality.
Together we really can ensure these majestic beings will roam our earth for generations to come.