Celebrating 15 years in East Africa

Planning and organizing IFAW’s 15th anniversary event felt like putting together a production to be viewed by more than 200 sets of eyes. It took more than three months to send out invitations, visit several venues and select the best one, organize catering, décor, entertainment, sound and the exhibition not to mention hold biweekly meetings with IFAW staff to go over every small detail several times to make sure that we came together as a team to understand every aspect of the ‘production’.

And come together as a team we did!

We were at the venue of the event bright and early on March 18 to begin setting up of the ballrooms and ensure all the service providers were on time. Everyone was in good spirits and all seemed to go well – from the setup of the décor and the lights, to the entertainment, food and drinks.

As we planned the event our biggest fear was not that we would not put together a stellar event but that the turnout would be lower than we had expected. Our fears were unfounded as the turnout was more than we had expected.

Invited guests cut the cake to mark IFAW EA 15th anniversaryMore than 200 guests turned out in large numbers to celebrate the milestone. Guests included Azzedine Downes, IFAW President and CEO, Prof. Judi Wakhungu Cabinet Secretary in the Ministry of Environment, Water and Natural Resources and Dr. Manu Chandaria, IFAW Honorary Board Member, as well as representatives from conservation organizations, members of the diplomatic corps, government officials, members from the private sector, even partners from across the East Africa region

There was a collective sigh of relief from all the IFAW staff led by James Isiche who was co-Master of Ceremony at the event. All of our efforts were worth it! And unusually for this part of the world, the event even started and ended on time!

The event kicked off with an exhibition where IFAW and our partners showcased our achievements and conservation activities. IFAW’s stand was ably manned by Evan Mkala who is the Amboseli Project Officer.

As the exhibition went on, there was a slide show of pictures in the ball room where the main event would be held showcasing IFAW activities over the last 15 years. The slideshow with almost 200 pictures and respective captions had been together by Beatrice Owayo IFAW EA Executive Assistant. As soon as the event started until it ended several hours later, Samuel Mutahi whose regular 8-5 job is Wildlife Trade Project Officer displayed his exceptional bar-tending skills as he served beverage after beverage to the guests.

Evan Mkala (left), IFAW Amboseli Project Officer explain elephant movement maps to Patrick Mulandi Capture Warden KWS

The Hon. Dr. Moody Awori, former Vice President of the Republic of Kenya, was the Chief Guest at the event. Dr. Awori noted that his relationship with IFAW has spanned the 15 years that IFAW in East Africa has been in existence. He gave very precise recollections of his first meeting with Fred O’Regan who is the immediate former President and CEO, when the latter was a member of the U.S Peace Corps and not yet with IFAW, to his meeting with Azzedine Downes, current IFAW President and CEO.

Dr. Awori also recalled his commissioning of the IFAW KWS Tsavo Project in 2006 where IFAW donated US 2,250,000 million towards the Tsavo Conservation Area. He referred to the donation as a ‘lifeline’ to Tsavo. In 2007 together with Dr. Chandaria, they handed over an aircraft from IFAW for the conservation of the Tsavo area to immediate former President Hon. Mwai Kibaki to present to KWS.

Dr. Awori also spoke passionately about the importance of balancing wildlife conservation with economic development, stating that human encroachment on wildlife habitats is leading to increased human wildlife conflict. He emphasized the importance of living a heritage and legacy of wildlife for coming generations who will need to see the wildlife in their natural environment and not in zoos. “We must learn how to manage and maximize what we have – not everyone can own land. There are hard decisions to be made. In our development plans we must look at wildlife in the long term as an economic asset. We must strike a balance between the welfare and survival of animals and our own economic development – animals have a right to exist,” he stated.

After the speeches and remarks, IFAW honored several individuals that we have worked with over the years through presenting them with certificates of recognition for their work ethic and dedication to the cause of conservation. Those recognized included Simon Maina Gichuki, a KWS Plant Operator, who 15 years later is still based at Meru National Park! Also recognized was IFAW EA founding Director Michael Wamithi, IFAW Honorary Board Member Dr. Chandaria, community members from Amboseli and some of the IFAW staff based in the East Africa office. Having worked for IFAW for 15 years since the inception of the East Africa office, Steve Njumbi IFAW EA Head of Programs was given a special award for being as ‘old’ as the office! 

The highlight of the evening was a six-minute video showcasing IFAW’s activities in the region. There was a twist at the end of viewing the video – a question and answer session, hosted by Steve, where guests were required to answer questions from the video just watched. There were prizes up for grabs for those who gave the correct answers. It was fun and interesting as the guests tried to remember what they had just watched determined to receive the prizes on offer.

At the end of the day, the IFAW ‘production’ was a great success thanks to the collective efforts of the IFAW staff and to the guests who graced us with their presence and gave our production a great applause.


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Céline Sissler-Bienvenu, Director, France and Francophone Africa
Director, France and Francophone Africa
Dr. Joseph Okori
Regional Director, Southern Africa and Program Director, Landscape Conservation
Faye Cuevas, Esq.
Senior Vice President
Grace Ge Gabriel, Regional Director, Asia
Regional Director, Asia
James Isiche, Regional Director, East Africa
Regional Director, East Africa
Jason Bell, Vice President for Conservation and Animal Welfare
Vice President for Conservation and Animal Welfare
Matt Collis, Director, International Policy
Director, International Policy
Peter LaFontaine, Campaigns Manager, IFAW Washington, D.C.
Campaigns Manager, IFAW Washington, D.C.
Vivek Menon, Director of IFAW partner, Wildlife Trust of India
Consulting Senior Advisor to the CEO on Strategic Partnerships & Philanthropy