TenBoma: Former Tsavo warden reflects on how tech will help KWS

The intelligence now being shared with KWS officers in the field would be precise and preemptive and would allow for planning of more effective use of their resources.Recently, I visited Kenya Wildlife Service (KWS) headquarters to hand over more equipment to KWS under our tenBoma partnership which is helping to revamp KWS security, particularly in vital intelligence areas.

As the equipment was being assembled for the brief ceremony, I took some time to catch up with officers and rangers who had come to collect the equipment all the way from Tsavo, my last station before I took my current position at IFAW. Besides the Tsavo team, I knew seven other men and women in the assembled group as I had worked with them at KWS while stationed in the field. All are upright and hardworking individuals who are proud to serve KWS and their country, despite the odds that they sometimes are up against and the risk to their lives.

I could not help but admire the resolve that was written on their faces even with the heavy responsibilities that I knew they bore on their shoulders, ones that I myself had carried during my time as Tsavo warden. I felt a tinge of nostalgia looking at them, resplendent in their uniforms and fatigues which they proudly wore to this ceremony.

There were many a sleepless night spent on planning how to find – with the meagre resources at hand – three or four well-armed poaching gangs that were reportedly heading to Tsavo from different directions intent on poaching elephants and rhino. Finding them was akin to searching for a needle in a haystack given the vastness of Tsavo. Without attendant infrastructure, it was even harder.

I was jolted back from thinking of laying ambushes to the day’s ceremony when my co- guest of honour, Mr. William Sing’oei, KWS Deputy Director for Security, arrived and the equipment hand-over began.

IN OTHER NEWS: At the Presidential Task Force on Wildlife Trafficking Symposium in the US this week, my colleagues Kelvin Alie and Faye Cuevas presented on  “Stakeholder Applications of Data and Information Sharing” for the tenBoma project. The symposium featured experts in the fields of geospatial data and wildlife trafficking, including The Honorable James R. Clapper, Director, National Intelligence, Robert Cardillo, Director, National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency, Daniel M. Ashe, Director, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, and a video address from John E. Scanlon, Secretary General, the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora.

In my brief remarks, I said I appreciated the work done by former colleagues, especially given the perennial dearth of resources they had to contend with. I touched on how, with improved intelligence the tenBoma project provides, the intelligence now being shared with them would be precise and preemptive and would allow for planning of more effective use of their meagre resources. More importantly, the improved intelligence would enable them to preemptively deal with would-be poachers, placing them “to the left of the elephant kill,” so to speak.

This capability also allows KWS to go beyond poachers and target those involved in all levels of organized crime, which has been linked to wildlife trafficking.

When Mr. Sing’oei made his remarks, he was elated that IFAW's support through tenBoma addressed a most wanting need for KWS: that of timely and actionable intelligence.

 As the function concluded, all that was on my mind is that I did my job at KWS when I had to and now I need to do my job at IFAW to help the men and women of Tsavo and East Africa keep our wildlife heritage safe from criminals.

Thankfully, tenBoma will make this possible.

--JI

Learn how the tenBoma project is building a network to destroy a network.

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