Two Kenyan Conservationist React to President Trump’s Decisions

Jim Nyama, Executive Director of Ivory Belongs to Elephants and Kahindi Lekalhaile, Director of Public Affairs at the Africa Network for Animal Welfare discuss President Trumps recent action reversing the 2014 ban on transporting ivory from Zimbabwe and Zambia and his subsequent retraction putting the decision on hold for further study.

This lengthy interview reveals a candid discussion of the ethic for human-animal co-existence in Kenya as defined by local values.  Local values are in conflict with elitist, powerful foreign pro-hunting influence.  Lekalhaile and Nyama provide an African perspective to the post-colonial pressures existing throughout the continent.

  • China’s commitment to end ivory consumption transfers pressure to the United States
  • The United Kingdom is second to the United States in consumption of ivory
  • 70% of wildlife lives outside national parks
  • Communities should not be characterized as poor.  Communities live with Kenya’s wildlife every day
  • To protect and conserve wildlife living outside national parks, as well as inside national parks, the conservation discussion must include Kenyan communities
  • Tourism represents 12% of Kenya’s GNP
  • In African countries where hunting is allowed white hunters are poachers not conservationist in the eyes of locals
  • 70% of hunting revenues go back to the country of origin not to the local people who live with wildlife
  • In Kenya, revenue from Kenya Wildlife Service does trickle down to local communities
  • New revenue to help fund conservation in the host country is largely a myth

 

Trump Removes Ivory Ban

101_113 - Copy
Tsavo National Park, Kenya, 2012 D.Gies

Trump removes the Ivory Ban for U.S. Citizens hunting in Zimbabwe and Zambia.

It is disturbing that our country is often characterized as largely self-serving, materialistic and elitist.  We have become small yet we shrink more. There is something very mischievous in our president removing the 2014 Obama ban on transporting ivory back into the United States.  Reading the news today there is speculation this executive order is a solution for sons to bring their big game trophies home.  His pronouncement is retroactive to 2014 forward. Larger editorials and repeated comments from readers of the Washington Post, New York Post and Snoops and a host of others observe that this reversal is really about undoing absolutely everything Obama ordered during his administration.

Countries in East Africa like Tanzania allow elephant hunting.  Kenya does not.  It is a mixed bag in Africa but the continent is moving in the direction of saving wildlife for camera safaris, future generations and sharing the experience of simply living in awe of life, its manifestation of creation against the swashbuckling avarice of powerful oligarchies.

Kenya experienced a trying election last month.  Zimbabwe’s government, one of the countries Americans can now import elephant parts from is in turmoil.  There was a time when these countries looked to the United States for inspiration.  For some, the United States still provides inspiration but it seems an exclusive arrangement benefiting world elites revealed in an honest display of winner-take-all in the personality of a sexist chest-pounding president standing over the carcass of animals, change, dignity, world citizenship, and capitalistic fairness.

The reality of today’s leadership is revealed in blunt honesty about its self-serving nature.  It appears we have met the enemy and it is us, in the words of Walt Kelly.  But I think we are better than this, kinder to all people including a demonstration of the care for all living creatures.  Time will tell.  I hope so. Should citizens march on Washington D.C. again?

ANAW Contributes Perspective and Insight into Animal Welfare in East Africa

Earlier today I thought I had posted a link to the Africa Network for Animal Welfare’s  (ANAW’s) second edition of their signature publication Animal Welfare.  It is a great example of grassroots action to save African habitat and animals.

For anyone following my blog, the actual link is highlighted above.  (Sorry to have omitted it and thanks to a reader for bringing it to my attention.)

If you are interested in what volunteers and staff are doing in connection with ANAW in Nairobi, please take a look at the magazine. One story highlights Dr. Lisa McCarthy, a Fort Collins, Colorado veterinarian,  who mobilizes veterinarians for travel to Africa vaccinating animals and spay and neutering dogs and cats.

giraffe cover 170713
Continue reading “ANAW Contributes Perspective and Insight into Animal Welfare in East Africa”

Conservationists Throttled by Kenya Wildlife Service

The National Environmental Tribunal in Kenya has issued an order blocking the construction of the railroad across Nairobi National Park.  Regrettably, the Kenya Wildlife Service (KWS) and the government do not recognize the Tribunal, also known as the National Environmental Management Authority (NEMA) as an authority for overseeing Kenya’s natural resources.  Steve Itela of the Africa Network for Animal Welfare (ANAW) and other conservation groups are throttled by the Kenya Wildlife Service whose agents are guarding the construction site and allowing the railroad work to proceed.  This is reported by the Star News in Nairobi.

Advocates, friends of Africa, conservationists, world travelers, and others seeking to save Nairobi National Park and its wildlife can speak out by writing the Kenya Tourist Authority raising the concern about the damage taking place to one of the jewels of East Africa.  Indeed, it is reported by The Business Daily that a key rhinovirus sanctuary is Kenya’s habitat within the secure boundaries of Nairobi National Park.  Damaging the integrity of the park’s land mass harms the rhino population, all the park’s wildlife and the recovery of Kenya’s tourism.  The influence of tourist dollars may be the only lever left in this fight for the park. 

Jot a quick email to the Tourist Authority linked in the previous paragraph.  Support ANAW.  Make a little noise.  Thank you for taking the time to read this note.

Kenya’s Nairobi National Park Under Siege

Animal welfare advocate/conservationist are gaining on a few fronts so it seems. In the U.S., Ringling Brothers Circus is closing due to poor ticket sales.  Young audiences prefer to have elephants, lions and the like left in natural habitat.  It’s good.  At some point in their lives, they will travel to Africa, stimulate the economy, and see animals in natural settings appropriate to the space needed to live well.

The jury is still out on Sea World, under similar pressure with shaky ticket sales revenue.  One of my financial advisory letters observed that now might be the time to invest in Sea World’s stock speculating on a dramatic comeback.  I’m not going to include it in my portfolio.  It’s too risky for my interests, and I don’t agree with the ethics/business model. Just my opinion.

In Kenya, like-minded people are arguing against government plans to build

p1160884
Red Line is proposed railway bisecting Nairobi National Park

the proposed elevated railway through Nairobi National Park.  I have been to the wildlife refuge several times when I was living in Nairobi. It is a remarkable place set aside and encouraged by Jomo Kenyatta, the first President of Kenya in the early 1960’s.  It is literally adjacent to Langata Road on the eastern side of the city.  It is remarkable to enter the park that is so close to the city and see rhinoceros, lions, ostrich, and a diverse abundance of Africa’s wildlife.  No elephants to speak of, but so much of everything else.  The presence of construction, bulldozers, trucks, noise and the lasting result of building a massive railway through the park will be devastating.

In Nairobi, advocates are speaking out.  They are taking the position that legendary Richard Leakey, the head of the park’s administration should step down because he is not protecting the public resource. Richard Leakey, now in his 80’s, is the son of the famous Louis Leakey.  In the past, Richard Leakey championed the establishment of Kenya Wildlife Service.  He has a reputation for effectively fighting corruption for decades.  Now he is being accused of supporting questionable government moves to grab park land so close to the city for alternative development and private enterprise.

Hurray for mediating structures and the efforts of brave souls in East Africa willing to speak out against officials that break promises and do not follow due process. My view is to support these people fighting to conserve the animals and the land necessary for their existence. Indeed, the land is necessary for the people as well as the animals. We need to support these organizations in the non-governmental sector.   Like my friends in Africa say, “We are better together”.

Same Manure, Different Flies

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?

Governments have to act, to prioritize habitat and conservation.  Elephants have taken a real beating.

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

p1160884
Red Line is proposed railway bisecting Nairobi National Park

change Nairobi National Park forever. Opposition to the proposed railway is growing.

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.

 

The Future of Zoos

 

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.

harambe
Cincinnati Zoo’s picture of Harambe,

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.

# # #

Railroad construction linking Nairobi and Mombasa Kenya

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.