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.

Serengeti Road Construction ordered unlawful

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D.Gies 2009

June 20, 2014, the long-awaited decision by the East African Court of Justice, on the status of building a 53 km road across the Serengeti is finally in.  Judgement-Ref.-No.9-of-2010-Final

The East African Court rules the roadway built to bitumen standard (asphalt on top gravel and sand) across the Serengeti National Park is unlawful and infringes on the Treaty for the Establishment of the East African Community, Articles 1 and 3.

The Africa Network for Animal Welfare (ANAW), with funding from Serengeti Watch and others, successfully argued that building the road would do irreversible harm to this “World Heritage Property” of  “outstanding Universal value” as described by the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization.

This is a big win for environmentalist and the conservation movement in Africa.  The court was careful to balance the decision by adding that it did not want to block the development programs of Partner States to its jurisdictional powers.  Economic development will move forward and it is encouraged in all of East Africa.  This question was one of protecting the environment, the animals, and migration patterns of the hartebeest, wildebeest, zebra and the like, from irreversible harm in the face of human expansion.  Balancing commerce with conservation will always be a difficult battle.

This is a defining moment for saving an important part of the ecosystem in East Africa. Congratulations to ANAW, Serengeti Watch, and all those concerned for keeping a few places in the world majestic and untouched.

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  http://www.lab.fws.gov/html. 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