Walking the Talk to Save Kenya’s Elephants
Jim Nyamu has had plenty of time to think on his feet this year. By the time he arrives in Nairobi tomorrow he will have walked 1,050 kms raising awareness of poaching and the ivory trade, and becoming a national hero in the process.
Starting at Masai Mara National Reserve in early May, he has spent nearly six weeks on an awareness raising walk to save Africa’s tuskers from ivory poaching. Poaching has killed between 25,000-50,000 elephants in 2011 alone, according to the International Fund for Animal Welfare (IFAW – www.ifaw.org).
East Africa, and Kenya in particular has been identified as a major source and trafficking route for poached ivory – with nearly 3.5 tonnes of ivory directly linked to Kenya reported seized in January 2013 alone (two tonnes were seized in Mombasa port and a further tonne, shipped from Mombasa, was seized in Hong Kong). Last month Dubai authorities seized 259 elephant tusks concealed in a container shipped from Mombasa.
“Incidences of elephant poaching in Kenya are on the rise, and it is clear that the country is a growing smuggling route for traffickers,” said James Isiche, IFAW East Africa Regional Director.
“While IFAW is encouraged by the hardline approach recently elected President Uhuru Kenyatta is insisting Kenya takes towards the scourge, including heavy penalties for poachers, much more will need to be done in collaboration with other African elephant range States to seal off ivory trafficking routes."
Yesterday Steve Njumbi, Head of Programs for IFAW East Africa, spent the day walking with Jim Nyamu as part of the “Ivory Belongs to the Elephants Only” campaign of the Elephant Neighbor’s Centre. IFAW is the main institutional supporter of the campaign.
“Jim Nyamu has become a national hero for elephants. Millions of people around Kenya have cheered for this gentle man on his noble walk to raise awareness of the need to save elephants, and the fact that elephants are far more precious to us alive, than dead for a piece of ivory,” said Njumbi.
“The threat to elephants should concern every single Kenyan. It is not just the responsibility of the authorities to catch the poachers and stop the smugglers; it is something that every member of the public can get involved in.
“It is through the efforts of men and women like Jim, who take the path of peace to spread the message for elephants, that lawmakers and officials are changing their attitudes towards the need to better protect our tuskers,” Njumbi said.
East Africa’s reputation as a clearing house for illegal ivory is growing, adding to the spectre of the poaching heydays of 1970s and 1980s when elephant and rhino poaching reached their heights.
Most illegal ivory is destined for Asia, in particular China, where it has soared in value as an investment vehicle and is coveted as “white gold”. Limited availability of legal ivory in China purchased form the stockpile sale in southern Africa in 2008 has, in turn, boosted demand encouraging illegal ivory trade and the poaching of elephant to meet market needs.
IFAW is a member of the Kenya Elephant Forum, which has helped fund Nyamu’s efforts. The Kenya Elephant Forum consists of scientists, NGOs and the business community intent on creating awareness of elephant conservation and supporting the establishment of community-based elephant monitoring initiatives.
Nyamu left Masai Mara National Reserve in early May and will finish his journey in Nairobi tomorrow, when hundreds of people will celebrate his arrival at KWS headquarters.
About IFAW (the International Fund for Animal Welfare)
Founded in 1969, IFAW saves animals in crisis around the world. With projects in more than 40 countries, IFAW rescues individual animals, works to prevent cruelty to animals, and advocates for the protection of wildlife and habitats. For more information, visit www.ifaw.org. Follow us on Facebook and Twitter.