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. 


Rurpell’s Eagle and White-backed vultures

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.


Pathways Kenya 2016

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.

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.

Brighter Green Foundation Hosting ANAW in Brooklyn N.Y.

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.

The Team: 
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 sharingHis 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, Patron Saint of Animals


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.


East African Court of Justice affirmed its jurisdiction on environmental issues; Serengeti Road blocked for now

Professor Wolfgang H. Thome reports on the decision of the Appeals Division of the East African Court of Justice upholding most of the ruling of the lower court requiring the stoppage of construction of a road that would cut across the Serengeti wilderness.

The East African Court’s decision does more than block the building of the road.  Indeed, the court’s decision isn’t about the road, but more on point to its jurisdiction over the East African  countries that have signed The East African Treaty.  The treaty is a declaration for the oversight of environmental resources including animal migration and general well-being of mutual animal resources.  This includes a wide range of habitat resources yet to be tested in the court.

This is a victory for East Africa as well as all conservationist for protecting the magnificent ecosystems of Africa.  Still, as mentioned by Serengeti Watch, a major activist mobilizing funding for this case, what we must do now is keep an eye on the Serengeti.  The battle is won but the earth’s resource continue to be attacked by many forces.

Hard Truths for Africa

Saturday’s Denver Post Editorial about Obama speaking hard truth in Africa is right on the mark in my view.  President Obama’s visit was the occasion for an American President to speak openly about Africa’s own responsibility for creating a better life for Africans.  He came with no package of U.S. aid or promises that haveP1040492 not already been made.  Because of his legacy he speaks like no other U.S. President could.  It is remarkable that as a guest he was so calm and authentic in addressing corruption, politicians who are reluctant to leave office, and the cost of cronyism to middle-class Kenyans.  Kenya loses 250,000 jobs to corruption annually. He spoke about the importance for encouraging entrepreneurialism, education, especially for girls and the importance for creating a strong civil society.   Frankly, as I read the Daily Nation newspaper when living and working in Kenya, I think President Uhuru Kenyatta is working diligently to clean-up his cabinet putting six of the highest ranking people on administrate leave until investigations for graft are completed. This is a first for a Kenyan President.  Times are changing.

So we have Obama talking seriously about Africa’s responsibilities and when not referring to corruption he emphasizes the huge economic growth currently taking place across the continent.  He says we need to, the West needs to, re-evaluate its perceptions about Africa.

Indeed people like Minnesotan Walter Palmer, who killed Cecil the lion in such a despicable manner, is a sharp contrast to the likes of a caring son of Kenyan blood who happens to be our President.  Compare him to the narcissistic criminal act of one very self-deluted hunter and one can wonder just who are we really?  The irony of the this week’s news.