More of the same? The “will” to balance growth while protecting flora and fauna rests with democratic structures and mediating structures. Everything is a delicate balance between self-interest and social justice, or so it seems to me. Oligarchies and powerful people rule unless others, the people who have less power, organize for the common good. Who speaks for the animals in Nairobi National Park? Who complains about executive excess?
The newest threat in Kenya is a planned railway intended to cut through the middle of Nairobi National Park, the only park in the world that shares a boundary with an urban center, a center as large as the biggest city in East Africa. Political leadership will announce the intent to proceed with the railway across the Park’s boundary, which would literally cut it in two. The announcement is set for September 26, 2016. If the a railway is constructed on the proposed site it will
Land grabs and money deals continue, but observers in the United States ought to be careful not to throw stones. There are examples of unfettered self-interest in the U.S. too. We learn that Bill Clinton as honorary chancellor of Laureate International Universities earned $17.6 million over a period of five years until 2015 (Washington Post Sept 5, 2016, by Rosalind S. Helderman and Michelle Ye Hee Lee, in the Politics section). These earnings seem a tad bit excessive, even for a private school. The West is critical of excessive use of power and influence yet there are examples of excesses everywhere.
For a country like Kenya, where raw earth materials and transportation to the coast is a priority, special protections for places like Nairobi National Park are cast aside. Kenya’s new constitutional processes established six years ago are ignored. A broader solution building the railway around the Park would save habitat and the animals living in the Park promoting future tourism. It isn’t a done deal yet. Let’s hope there is a change of heart and Nairobi National Park will be saved for future generations of animals and people. Here is speaking for the animals first and for the people second.
While the Orlando killing of 49 plus people at a gay night club haunts our daily life, I am dedicating this entry to the sting of the death of Harambe, the silverback gorilla at the Cincinnati Zoo. Sad and tragic as the death of the gorilla is, it is quickly lost in the Orlando Florida mass killings. Violence is everywhere. Heartfelt condolences and sadness to the families, Orlando our country for this tragedy.
Back to animal welfare; it is sad to learn of the death of Harambe. The mixed feeling shared by many and considerations for ways to avoid something like this happing again, its on the minds of conservationists.
What is the role of zoos and why do we keep animals captive the way that we do? The Denver Zoo hosts millions of people each year. Zoos are extremely popular. Indeed, my wife and I took our children to the Denver Zoo many time in the 1980’s. As our children have children, they too take their kids, our grand children to the zoo, or at least they did until a few years ago. Their annual membership has lapsed, in part, out of a growing concern regarding the ethics of caging animals. Younger people are changing their view about zoos.
Is there a better way for inspiring a sense of wonderment about the animal kingdom and commitment towards habitat and animal conservation? Many believe there is and a growing movement argue it doesn’t include caging animals in zoos.
There was a time when I personally didn’t think it mattered. I chalked it up to collateral damage. So much good came out of seeing elephants in a 10 acre enclosure it didn’t matter that they experienced severe food and leg disorders due to waking on hard pack. So the monkeys were in a cage bored with existence, so the tigers sprayed the viewing glass behind where I gazed in to their exhibit. Tigers seemed agitated. So what? I was of the opinion that the harm done to caged animals was far outweighed by the experience of seeing live exotic animals in zoos. Seeing those animals triggered a humane response in young and old, a concern for conservation that seemed to be a fair exchange for the pain of life suffered in zoos. No more. Like my past apologies for the use of a billhook as the legitimate tool for managing elephants, I have changed my opinion. I’ve changed my mind after observing and participating in animal care for eighteen years.
I have learned from conservation biologists, human/animal connection professionals, shelter administrators, people growing up in the generation and with Louis Leakey, as well as the current team of people I work with in Africa, I’ve learned why many individuals are changing the way we view animals.
Animals are legal things. They are not “persons” nor do they have rights but they should be recognized as living, thinking, tool using beings, with language, self-recognition and advanced cognition capabilities. Just because we humans don’t speak their language, live in their living room, eat their preferred foods, like what they like, etc., doesn’t mean they should be treated as less than living thinking beings.
Animals don’t have rights, but should they have something? Do they deserve more status than a cracker box zoo existence? A new movie Unlocking the Cage takes a provocative look at our ethic for caging animals. I personally hope it has the same effect on the public as the film Blackfish had on attendance at Sea World.
So, why have animals in captivity: 1) to rehabilitate them for release back into the wild, 2) because they are so injured they cannot survive in the wild, 3) for reintroduction programs for endangered species, 4) confiscated animals that no longer have the skills (and will not acquire them) for release back into the wild. The idea, however, that zoos will maintain populations of animals in captivity in case they are some day needed for reintroduction is fast coming to a close. The captive programs are failing, which is why the zoos are trying to revamp their Species Survival Programs into a new iteration called SAFE: Saving Animals From Extinction.
Animals are sentient beings. They have emotions, they feel pain, they seek to live in they way they are created. If we honor what is on this frail blue dot, we should recognize we need to be better caretakers.
I am dismayed by comments in the press that we take care of animals the way we do because we are on top of the evolutionary heap. Another reasoning cited in the opinion pages and comments by readers is that God created the animals for human use. The justification that humans can exploit the planet without boundaries of consideration of consequence hold sway and is the dominate attitude. Scary really.
Over 100 years have passed since the Lions of Tsavo, the story of man eating lions attacking railway workers laying the track across the great country was told. Many workers lost their lives.
Today, with less drama for being eaten by lions a company from China is replacing the rail track with a full-gage line raised above the valley floor on an impressive earthend railway bed over much of the route.
Provisions have been made for wildlife to pass beneath the railway. Humane groups here are monitoring wildlife movement to assume it works. Similar tunnels and overpasses are in use in Colorado providing wildlife corridors and movement safe from traffic on Interstate 70.
Kenya’s railway program is fast moving. The country is in transition as it has been since independence in 1963. Amazing when you think about how much change has taken place in 53 years.
Thursday, with Munir Viranti and Darcy Ogada, of the director of the East Africa Peregrine Fund office, and Richard Reading, consultant and Africa Network for Animal Welfare-USA board member, I visited a location near Nanyuki where several White-backed vultures and one Rurpell’s eagle had been poisoned, probably unintentionally in an attempt by the local people there to retaliate. It seems lions had killed one or two cows so baited meat was distributed throughout the area. The unintended consequence was the poisoning of these birds. Regrettably human-animal conflicts are common throughout Africa as pastoralists compete for grazing location.
Poachers intentionally kill vultures to avoid detection after slaughtering elephants. It is a terrible reality that the vultures of Africa are at risk of endangerment and extinction.
Colorado State University has raised the bar for convening its Pathway conferences outside Colorado. This was the fifth conference organized by the Department of Human Dimensions of Natural Resources and the first outside Colorado. About a third of the participants were students and wildlife guardians, rangers and young people from all over Kenya. The exchange of ideas and information sharing was top notch. Including so many local enthusiastic young people interested in conservation was brilliant of the organizers.
University of Denver faculty and the One Health team were represented with the presence of Dean James Herbert Williams and professors Philip Tedeschi and Richard Reading. Representing the Africa Network for Animal Welfare (ANAW) were Josphat Ngonyo, executive director, and Ambassador Nehemiah Rotich, president of the board. Staff and adviser to ANAW, Kahindi Lekalhaile, was there along with myself representing the Africa Network for Animal Welfare-USA (ANAW-USA).
Kahindi Lekalhaile, who grew-up near Nanyuki, presented the keynote address kicking off the conference along with the Munir Virani, the director of The Peregrine Fund. Not present but appreciated by me personally was Meme Kinoti, Chair of the Management of Nonprofit Management department at Regis University in Denver. Kinoti, a Kenyan, collaborated on developing the ANAW presentations.
Tom Serfass facilitating
Fairmont Safari Club
Toward Mt Kenya
Mt Kenya Fairmont
Dave Gies, Josphat Ngonyo, Philip Tedeschi
Elephant Tusked Entrance
Pictures here are the Mt Kenya Fairmont Safari Lodge (complete with a disturbing array of elephant and wildlife trophies) Tom Serfass facilitating a session, Philip Tedeschi, DU and ANAW-USA Board Chairman, Josphat Ngonyo Executive Director of ANAW and David Gies also for ANAW-USA.
Several scientific papers were presented covering topics of wildlife and fishery management, humane wildlife conflict, case studies for resolving conflicts and creating conservation, integrating social science into One Health to inform policy, aspects of hunting, zoonotic disease transmission and the conservation revolution taking place in East Africa and other parts of the world through community based efforts.
The ANAW team presented on the importance of civil society and voluntary association in mediating attitudes for addressing wildlife crimes. Our talk emphasized observed changes taking place showing the will of Kenya to stop poaching. For example, the courts are dishing out harsh penalties now for elephant and rhino poaching. An example is a recent sentencing to life in prison to a major supplier for transporting ivory through Kenyan boarders. Kenya has the unfortunate distinction for being largest exit point for ivory leaving Africa to China.
These changes taking place are not the result of just ANAW hammering away on the problems. For the judiciary work, especially in real time monitory of the courts Wildlife Direct and Paula Kahumbu along with the support of the Africa Wildlife foundation and countless other organizations and funders are recognized.
This evening the Africa Network for Animal Welfare is the guest of the Brighter Green Foundation and hosts Mia McDonald and Martin Rowe for an update on ANAW’s efforts in Kenya for humane treatment of animal and sustainable habitat. ANAW’s mission has many mutual tenets with Brighter Green’s efforts promoting sustainable food and a healthy planet. Josphat, Kahindi and Ambassador Rotich will be present. Thank you Mia and Martin for your hospitality, repeated again this year. It makes a huge impact in sharing the ANAW story to new friends.
A similar event is planned for November 23, 2015 in Denver Colorado at our home in Greenwood Village. If you are in the vicinity, you are welcome and invited to attend. You are encouraged to join us. Simply respond to this posting and I will forward details for the 7:30PM gathering on Nov. 23.
Kenya is a remarkable East African country with a growing economy surrounded by fragile habitat. Wildlife habitat is under extreme pressure as agriculture expands. Elephants and most other wildlife are being exploited for ivory and food. Illegally trapped wildlife, or bushmeat, continues to be harvested at an alarming rate. It is estimated that more than 50% of animal protein entering Nairobi is bushmeat.
You will hear from the leadership team visiting New York, Washington D.C. and Denver Colorado.
Ambassador Nehemiah Rotich (MBS), the Chairman of ANAW’s Board of Directors, has vast experience in environmental and biodiversity conservation and management, post-conflict environmental reconstruction and access benefit sharing. His most recent national position was as the Chairman of the National Taskforce on Wildlife Crime. His rich career includes former director of the Kenya Wildlife Service; Senior Programme Officer- United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP), Head of Biodiversity, as Ambassador/ Permanent Representative, Kenya Mission to UNEP and Chief Executive of the East African Wildlife Society. He has also been the Chairman- Board of Directors, Eastern Africa Environmental Network. Among his notable awards is as the recipient of the 1999 Presidential Award of the Order of Moran of the burning spear (MBS) for distinguished service in conservation
Josphat Ngonyo is ANAW’s Founder and Executive Director. He holds over 15 years experience in wildlife conservation, serving in various capacities in wildlife circles. Some of his national appointments include member of a Ministerial Task Force charged with formulation of an Animal Welfare Policy and the review of the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act (cap 360) and also, member of the National Steering Committee involved in the review of the wildlife conservation and management policy and legislation. He is a past Executive Director for Youth for Conservation; Honorary Warden of the Kenya Wildlife Service, member of the Global Task Force for Farm Animal Welfare and Trade, member of the United Nation’s Food and Agriculture Organization’s Gateway to Farm Animal Welfare editorial board. Mr. Ngonyo is hands-on in animal welfare and conservation matters, working closely with communities living with animals.
Kahindi Lekalhaile is ANAW’s wildlife advisor. His job experience in nature conservation spans 25 years working as a naturalist, environmental education expert, trainer in wildlife social work, field research scientist, ecotourism expert, university lecturer, community-based conservation advisor and senior program manager. Some of his past experience includes assisting to set up the Samburu Elephant Research Centre under Save The Elephants charity in Africa under the supervision of the world-famous expert, Dr. Iain Douglas-Hamilton; executing the United Nation’s Monitoring the Illegal Killing of Elephants (MIKE) program in Kenya covering the northern Kenya elephant population, which is the largest elephant free-ranging elephant population living outside any protected area in East Africa and pioneering the ‘PIKE’ technique (Proportion of Illegally Killed Elephants) as an early warning system for elephant ivory poaching in the world. A renowned crusader against illegal global trade of wildlife and wildlife products, Mr. Lekalhaile is an Earthwatch Fellow in Madagascar and the recipient of the 2006 Disney Conservation Hero award from Disney World.
Plan to attend this important introduction and briefing about our friends in Africa. You are most welcome. David Gies
Pope Francis’s message resonates with conservationists who care for animal life. His message speaks to everyone, or so it seems. His writing about quality of human life and the breakdown of society, the privatization of certain spaces and limited access to nature deserve more attention.
I am not Catholic but I find, as my friend Joan Casey brought to my attention, his encyclical letter written to “every person living on this planet” is extremely insightful and appropriate.
The simple observation that there are too many humans on the planet and our methods for caring for one another, for sharing resources with non-humans needs attention, is admirable. Nicholas Kristof’s A Pope for all Species hits the nail on the head. Not only is this Pope reaching out to animals but he might help heal the broken reputation of Christianity. Welcome to the United States, Pope Francis.