Our Friends in Africa

As many of you know I have a fond association with the Africa Network for Animal Welfare (ANAW) in Nairobi Kenya. Indeed, over the past fifteen years through the efforts of many, Colorado Gives recognizes the sister organization in Denver as a hub for connecting our lives to the lives of people and animals in Africa. In the spirit of giving where we live, we recognize Kenya with the Colorado connections through local veterinarians and students at the University of Denver’s Graduate School of Social work, to name a few.

I am writing to my friends and readers of this blog to implore you again to support ANAW-USA through Colorado Gives Day. The agenda in Africa is ambitious but it is paying off in many ways. For example, ANAW plays a significant role co-hosting the Africa Animal Welfare Conference in association with United Nations Enviromental Programme. You can read more about this and other programs taking place with our friends in Africa. The point is ANAW and its twenty-four employees are making a difference. You help make this possible by supporting specific programs in Kenya and the employment of these people.

Your gift today will support medical services in association with the Kenya Wildlife Service (KWS) and other nongovernmental groups to rescue animals. Without donations such as yours the staff at Africa’s ANAW would not be paid for their gallant efforts. The staff makes frequent visits to the bush rescuing and provides medical treatment to a wide range of unguents and other wildlife. This male giraffe was darted in August with a poison arrow in attempt to kill it for bushmeat, an illigal activity in Kenya that ANAW strives to curtail.

Thank you for your gifts in previous years matched by the Colorado Gives campaign. Please consider making a gift again this year before December 1, 2022. 100% of the contribution to Colorado Gives/ANAW-USA is forwarded to ANAW in Nairobi.

Happy Thanksgiving and Holiday Season to you and yours.

Best wishes,

David Gies

co-founder for ANAW-USA and ANAW board member

Cameron Peak Fire

I have known George since 1964. We were 17, working at a youth camp as ranch hands with a couple of other guys who have continued to be lifelong friends, some closer than others, but we continued to stay in touch, brothers in life by any measure, George, Clark, Terry, Stan, the guys I particularly remember. George loves living in the mountains and is a great host. His story is an epic journey like each of ours but suffice it to say that today he lives an idyllic life nestled beneath the Mummy Range on the northern edge of Rocky Mountain National Park. Idyllic, but changed for the foreseeable future due to last year’s fires.

Clark, the another ranch hand in the summer of 1964, joined me in a visit to George’s house on a weekend in June, 2021, a year after the fire. George lives on a small parcel of land immediately adjacent to Hourglass Reservoir, a mile or so east of Comanche Reservoir. Although Hourglass is on private land, Comanche Reservoir sits inside Roosevelt National Forest. Unfortunately, the entire terrain around George’s place and the neighboring CSU Pingree Park and Sky Ranch Lutheran Camp was engulfed in the Cameron Peak Fire, the largest fire on record in Colorado, burning 326 square miles of forest.   

The New York Times last week published a full-page story about the effects of fire on water quality from scorching, slow-moving fires. (Google NYTimes “Wildfires threat to urban water suppliers”). The article specifically references Cameron Peak. We experienced the aftermath of such a fire walking to Comanche Lake, our destination for the weekend. While the lake was surrounded by fire, the lake itself survived the burn. Still, after hiking to the base of the last ridge, it was impossible to go further because the trees that were teetering half on the ground were unstable.  Remaining trees, half-dead half-alive were oozing with raw sap. The fire’s extreme heat destroyed everything on the ground incinerating all organic material. It was raining. The soil unable to absorb moisture caused the rain to immediately charge downhill quickly becoming eroding torrents.

The point of all this is to recognize things have and are changing. It’s not like we can go hiking in the 60s and 70s. I generally write about my experiences in Kenya, the people there, their commitment to animal welfare, conservation, and the notion of “one health.” One Health, everything is connected. Habitat, climate, weather, biological diversity, water quality, these are common natural elements changing or under attack. After our Comanche Lake hike I realize and appreciate the efforts in many places to save our environment for our children. We keep at it.

A special THANK YOU to all the Firefighters who worked all summer and into December to bring the Cameron Peak Fire under control. Anyone with buildings still standing owes the government and those involved a ton of gratitude.

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.

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.

Saving the Serengeti Migration Route

Dear Friends:

Only 30 days left to raise funding supporting the legal effort to block the building of a road across the Serengeti.  The Serengeti and Maasai Mara represent a world heritage site under siege.  Your contribution is important to the group I am working with, the Africa Network for Animal Welfare (ANAW) in Nairobi.  Please lead a hand, a gift of any amount is appreciated.  The effort so far has been supported in total by the Serengeti Watch people and their network.  It would not be accomplished with out Serengeti Watch.  A big thanks to their organization.  This last push rests with ANAW and and ANAW’s friends.  Can we count on your help?  Please go to the link below and make a contribution of any amount.

Check out related stories and reference to the legal battle taking place.   The status at this juncture of the “legal battle” is fully on the shoulders of ANAW.  Please join the community of conservation monitors and experts.



Kenya: Employ more rangers solving both an economic and poaching conundrum

Stories about poaching were in the New York Times last week. The Wrong Way to Protect Elephants and In Africa, All Conservation Is Local are both in the op-ed pages discussing this timely issue.  The first article opposes the ban of ivory sales claiming old pianos with ivory keys and treasured ivory-handled pistol grips will be lost forever, hidden away in some upstairs drawer or a piano held hostage in Japan.

The Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES) “one-off sale”, as it is called, the sale that let countries sell off stockpiles of ivory as a one-time event, stimulated the market. These one-off sales, and there was more than one, sparked an appetite in China and Thailand.   The United States doesn’t barter so much in ivory.  It had, and perhaps still does, have more ivory on display for sale than any other country, but it doesn’t consume more.

In a discussion with Esmond Martin, co-author of the seminal study for the sale of ivory in the U.S., he reports we don’t really know how much is sold in the America.  What we do know is that most of the ivory sold is classified as antique ivory.  Displayed antique ivory represents 70% of the ivory offered in the U.S.  New ivory, or 30% of ivory displayed in the U.S., comes from Asia.

Actual sales data for ivory sold in the U.S. doesn’t exist.   Regulations in the U.S. seem to have curtailed ivory ownership.  Still, if 30 percent of ivory on display is or used to be new ivory there is room to keep the pressure on.  As for rhinoceros horn, Americans don’t use it.  Men of North America use  pharmaceutical alternatives instead.

I continue to promote the ban of ivory, using existing regulations and adding to regulations where it makes sense. I know of several states considering the introduction of new laws to supplement the federal directive banning the sale of ivory.

As for the “All Conservation is Local,” if Africa really wants to halt the killing, it should spend more of its tax revenue on youth employment. Thirty-nine percent of Kenya’s 40 million population are under the age of 30. Unemployment is at a staggering 40 percent. Petty thievery would go down if the unemployed were not so desperate.

Solving the animal crisis in Kenya is really about solving the human condition. The first article’s report on lack of poaching in Nepal, a poor country too, is encouraging. The program compensates farmers suffering losses due to elephants destroying maze crops. It deals with animal conflict and at the same time makes elephants valuable for local protection and tourism. It is a market driven solution.

Philanthropy from interested donors can do more to help the situation.  More encouragement is needed that nurtures new nongovernmental organizations. NGO’s provide a different approach to problem solving and leadership development than governmental employment.  Growing new leadership outside the elites equalizes the distribution of resources while empowering networks to expand into rural communities.   International support by philanthropists should empower NGO’s to:

  • Negotiate with the Kenyan government to spend more funding on young people. Hire and pay people in bush communities to patrol, ranger and scout against poachers.
  • Include a broad spectrum of employment opportunity across all age groups
  • Continue limitations on corruption by organizing local groups through the charitable sector
  • Disrupt the traditional flow of funds by engaging interested philanthropists to partner with unrepresented groups
  • Link the evaluation back to increased security, GDP and tourism

Let me say a little about these solutions. Kenya’s government is very busy with many issues.  The new government is working to curb crime, stop terrorism, build schools, hospitals, infrastructure and the like. The country is only 50 years old and comes from the mixed experiences of colonialism and tribal tradition.  The country is making huge strides in moving 40 million people into the 21st Century.

The West would do well to pay more attention to East Africa. The influence of the Chinese is everywhere as they build the roads throughout the land. These road construction projects are government-to-government contracts. Usually the Kenyan government borrows money from China with China negotiating contracts to construct roads.  They are good roads. Unfortunately these good roads don’t encourage free markets, economic multiplier effect, capitalism or an ideology for holding private property.

What I am proposing is adding a capacity for youth, stimulated by a massive employment program aimed at reducing hostilities toward people and animals. An example is the newly established Kenyans United Against Poaching (KUAPO).  The African tradition of coming together to mediate structures larger than themselves exists. KUAPO represents an organized grassroots network evolving out of the value to simply protect elephants and rhinos. Members represent many communities across the country of Kenya. They meet, they plan strategy, they bring awareness to the poaching issue. They are assertive and thoughtful.

It is good to see so much attention to this topic in the New York Times. It is good that we are taking notice. As one Kenya expressed last week, “poaching of rhinos is bound to get worse before it gets better”. Poaching has not stopped and the prospects for a quick turnaround are not encouraging.  More philanthropic investment is needed at the grassroots level.  Grow Kenyan leadership.  Reform and mediate Kenya Wildlife Service (KWS).  Time is short.

Counting elephant and rhinoceros poachings

The results are mixed. Based on a flyover census by a joint force of Kenya and Tanzania authorities, elephants had a modest increase compared to counts in previous years.  According to the government, elephant population increased 36 percent, the lowest increase recorded since the beginning of aerial census taking.  During the same period, ending with the census of 2010, Africa’s zebras and other large mammals doubled.  Buffaloes increased by 72 percent.  According to conservationists, Africa has lost over 1,000 rhinos in the last 18 months.  Kenya lost 384 elephants to poachers in 2012, compared to 278 in 2011, and 177 in 2010.  These statistics are reported today in the Daily Nation, one of the major papers published in Nairobi.

Since January of this year Kenya has lost 172 elephants and 21 rhinos to poaches.

The census for 2013 will provide further evidence to the killing off of elephant and rhinoceros in Kenya and Tanzaina.   Interestingly, the United States has blood on its hands when it comes to the sale of ivory.  According to a 2008 report, which I will detail more in another post, demand in the United States for ivory ranks is among the highest.  It is time to address this with awareness campaigns and legislation outlawing the sale of any ivory in our country.  It is tragic that demand for animal tusk and horn may ruin the experience of our children to see an unfenced world with free roaming animals of antiquity.  Today we are borrowing from our children.  Our generation borrows from Social Security to the over use of limited resources.  I often wonder if the planet will someday simply dry up and look like planet Mars. It is an interesting planet to look at but I wouldn’t want to live there.  We ought to do our best to keep the planet biologically diverse for the next 10,000 years.