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.

BBC News uncovers need for training freight handlers to identify animal trafficing

On February 7, 2015, the BBC News Science & Environment division published a report about the lack of preparedness among freight and shipping handlers for identifying animal parts transported across international boarders.  Among the findings and statements:

  • Poaching of rhinos in South Africa reached a record of 1,215 last year
  • Tigers have been killed off to a level that is 5% of what the population was a century ago.  There are approximately 3,000 tigers left in all the world
  • Smugglers are learning new tricks to disguise horn and ivory
  • Asian ivory carvers are moving into Africa to practice their trade

The article is noteworthy because it is describing the lengths criminals pursue to evade detection.  All this is fueled by consumer demand for animal parts.  Bangles, or bracelets are easily disguised as plastic.  There are few techniques for testing the composition of items declared as something that is not horn or ivory.   Ivory bracelets are labeled  “vintage” or “antique”.  Shipping handlers are stymied and have little recourse but to accept the shipment as is.  How can they question the age of an item?  In practice the burden of proof of age falls to the agent and veracity of the owner shipping the item.

Today, I did a search on eBay and found many bangles for sale that look like ivory.  EBay prohibits the sale of ivory on its site because eBay doesn’t accept the documentation of age from owners.  I wonder if anything slips through and is published for sale?  Perhaps someone reading this blog knows how on-line marketing groups like eBay monitor bangles and ivory-looking objects.  I would be interested in knowing more.  I don’t want to disparage legitimate dealers, but who monitors the claims that ivory is pre-ban and can they prove it?  The volume of pre-ban bangles for sale on the Internet is impressive.  I found one pre-ban bangle priced at $700.

Ivory carvers from China moving to Africa to ply their trade is disturbing.  It puts tradespeople closer to the source of ivory and bone further encouraging demand.  It also suggests the markets in China are expanding.  Edmond and Stiles, in their landmark 2008 publication, Ivory Markets in the U.S.A, identified fewer than 200 ivory carvers in this country (pages 21-23).  In the U.S., carves worked ivory for knife-handles, billiard cues, jewelery, musical instruments, scrimshanders, restored antiques, netsuke and handgun grips.  I’m not aware of an inventory of carvers since this publication which suggests the trades are dying out in the U.S.  The news in the BBC article suggest the trade in carving ivory is far from dead.

This is all the more reason for the bringing attention to the expanding markets worldwide.   We should not be complacent that the poaching of African wildlife is going away.  We might be hopeful the situation is changing.  Fewer elephants were poached in Kenya in 2014 than in 2013.  However, the observations about animal trafficking and general preparedness to identify, arrest and prosecute criminals is not encouraging.

Finally, selling ivory is still a problem for us in the United States.  The purchase of ivory  feeds supply lines and commerce requiring more dead elephants.  A colleague visited San Francisco California last month (January 2015) and took these store front snapshots.  If the American public wants to buy ivory, there still is a lot of it for sale.

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Elephant Poaching Continues

NPR’s story featuring four African Presidents  calls for diplomatic pressure to be brought to bear on China as well as night vision goggles and helicopters.

Poaching elephants continues, even in the face of more publicity and awareness throughout the world.

The Wall Street Journal publishes an Opinion piece by Tony O. Elumelu, a philanthropist in Lagos, Nigeria.  Mr. Elumelu’s comments are about the U.S. Africa Leaders Summit in Washington D.C. that is going on this week.  It is the coincidence that brings together the panel of four African Presidents interviewed by NPR.

Elumelu’s headline is “Africa is Open for Business, Ready for Investment”.  He extolls the ventures of entrepreneurs across the continent and the shift for companies like General Electric, Wal-Mart and IBM to expand efforts for capital investments and ideas impacting Africa’s economy.

Still, Africa experiences internal grabs for power and land, overwhelming population growth, the drought and mass killings of wildlife.  These are factors requiring continued focus by the developed economies of the world if Africa is to grow a middle class.  Hostilities need to be squelched for tourism to return, a significant employment engine throughout Africa but especially the in coastal locations on the Indian Ocean.   And in all this, Africa’s strategic importance to the United States becomes more evident.

Saving wildlife is not a simple task.  It will take support of richer countries to encourage rule of law and the development of governance systems in countries as young as the ones in East Africa.  The world seems more complicated everyday.  Somehow the countries that are rich, through policy as well as philanthropy, must transfer its capitalistic systems with sufficient vigor to build a middle class or the alternative of poverty, chaos and division between the haves and the have-nots is all that will be left.

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.

Unfettered Global Capitalism

A recent Washington Times article by a Senior Fellow at the CATO Institute caught my eye this week.  BANDOW: Obama’s ivory-trade regulatory overkill – Washington Times.  

I’m a free-market, private property advocate, but this report about President Obama’s move to ban ivory sales in the U.S. doesn’t dig deep enough into what is really transpiring in Africa.  I am disappointed that the article misses the point about our national security interests.  Having lived in Kenya last year during the Westgate Mall massacre, I can tell you there were several observations about Al Shabab’s involvement in elephant poaching and killing rhinos for quick cash to buy weapons and ammunition.

Another omission was the fact that sports hunters, individual Americans, will be permitted to bring their ivory trophies back to the States.  Each hunter can kill two elephants per year under the proposal and keep the tusks as long as they are not commercialized.  Actually, this is not a change from the previous rules.

And I have to take issue with the claim that it is easy to determine the age of ivory. There are many ways new ivory can treated to look old.   The end-stream-market-price is as high as the price per ounce of gold.  Demand and price motivates counterfeiters.  The flow of merchandise to high-end stores from Manhattan to low-end garage sales and flea markets in Arizona and Colorado continues unabated.  The U.S. is the second largest consumer of ivory.  China is the first.

The last issue I have with the CATO article is how it dismisses the problems another country experiences in controlling animal crime.  It is troubling to see a respected bastion for conservative American ideals and thought demonstrating such lack of civility, or is it humanity.  What right do we have to weigh-in on the topic of killing iconic animals to the brink of extinction when a country like Kenya is demonstrating the will to stop the slaughter?  I can only assume the Institute’s argument rests on the belief that private individuals can, in the pursuit of happiness, kill these animals, 1) because they can afford to do it and, 2) it is a positive function of the free market and invisible hand, that forces of capitalism will generate conservation funds to save the rest of the species.  Regrettably the past 50 years of Kenyan independence doesn’t support this notion.  Kenya embraces democracy and socialism.  In the gap between democracy and socialism there is the ugly head of corruption.  The rules don’t play out the same way under these circumstances.

Let me point out that Kenya does not permit hunting.  Yet, the demand for ivory is so strong, curbing the slaughter of animals in Kenya is very very difficult to accomplish.  Last month, January 2014, a rhinoceros was killed in Nairobi National Park for its horn. Some people were bold enough and knew enough about the landscape to enter the gated and guarded park, find the rhinoceros, kill, butcher and escape. The park shares its boundary with the largest city in East Africa.  How does this happen? Where does it end?

Poaching ends, in part, with symbolic gestures like banning the sale of ivory in the United States, to show solidarity with other countries, that America stands behind efforts to save the species.  The truth be known, if you read the small print, real antique ivory like a world-class collection in Denver, Colorado, is safe from destruction and eligible for sale.  So  to is the right of hunters to bring legally harvested ivory back to this country.

Support the ban.  Stop the criminals.  Find the middle.

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Photo: D.Gies 2010, Tsavo East National Park, Kenya

Vanishing Treasures

Westerners and people in East Africa are critical of Asia and China in particular for the consumption of ivory.  There is a degree of ethnocentrism in our view of who is at fault for killing off elephant and rhinoceros.  This YouTube clip provides balance and expands our perspective at least a little bit.

People strive to get ahead.  It is only natural.  Taking ivory, selling it, displaying trophy and making  jewelry generates income.  Sales of ivory in the United States appears to be dropping off since the writing of the 2008 monograph “Marketing Ivory in the United States” published by Care for the Wild International and Save the Elephants.  The jury is still out really but it isn’t only new wealth in China buying ivory.  More attention worldwide is needed.

In the United States’ stockpile of ivory is soon to be destroyed in a media event similar to the landmark burning of 2000 tusks in Kenya in 1989.  Ivory will be crushed in the parking lot, ivory confiscated by U.S. Customs officers over the course of many years.  And it is taking place in Denver Colorado.  Coincidental but bravo nevertheless.

U.S. Ivory Sales

The recent news to crush elephant ivory confiscated by customs agents continues the symbolic effort bringing attention to ivory demand in the United States.  I’m glad to learn about the plans to crush the ivory.  In Nairobi’s National Park, the site of the first burning of tons of ivory is the pride of conservationist in Kenya.  Richard Leakey, then the director of the Kenya Wildlife Service, persuaded President Moi to make a bold statement, to set Kenya Wildlife Department’s stockpile of 2000 tusks on fire (picture below).  It was torched on the morning of July 18, 1989.  The placard in the park notes that Kenya is “making a statement of global concern: that Kenya would no longer allow the slaughter of its elephants to satisfy market demand for ivory.”  The crushing of ivory in Denver will make the same symbolic statement.  Regrettably, a couple of decades have passed and history repeats itself.

A 2008 publication by Care for the Wildlife International and Save the Elephants by Esmond Martin and Daniel Stiles) documents the United States as being the second largest retail market for elephant ivory, the first being mainland China including Hong Kong.  While this publication is five years old, the slaughter taking place today suggests US demand continues to be a factor.

So I’m thinking, how would I know if ivory is legal or not.  How would I even know if I was handling ivory?  When Josphat Ngnoyo and Nehemiah Rotich were in New York City last May we were shocked to discover an antique store on Madison Avenue selling a huge variety of ivory.  The store owner said much of it was “not real ivory” and any thing that was real was  pre-1988, before the enactment of the African Elephant Conservation Law.   I have sense learned The U.S. Department of the Interior forensics laboratory is developing or has developed a manual for ivory identification by visual inspection.  Elephant ivory is often mislabeled as mammoth ivory coming from Russia.  Mammoth, no longer around are not in danger of eradication and therefore not covered by the endangered species law.  And there are many other alternatives to elephant ivory.   Bone and plastic be made to look and touch like authentic tusk. The Department of Interior’s website where this manual can be had is The site is currently closed due to the government’s shutdown.

Denver doesn’t have a large retail ivory market according to Martin and Stiles research.  There is a large market on both coasts where one can find ivory in Los Angeles, San Francisco’s China Town and New York City’s antique stores and flea markets.

Denver’s Federal installation is the large depository of illicit elephant ivory.   It is a good thing that we demonstrate there is not street value or black market value for this ivory.

Kenya’s  historic 1989 ivory burninglImage