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.

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

Kenya Dialogues on Wildilfe and Environmental Crime

As we end 2013 an important meeting has concluded among Kenya’s leaders committed to curbing wildlife crime, especially poaching. The meeting took place at Amboseli National Park on December 20.  John Mbaria, communications expert for the Africa Network for Animal Welfare (ANAW) reports 76 participants attended representing  the Judiciary, Kenya Revenue Authority, Kenya Police, Kenya Wildlife Service (KWS), Ministry of Environment, Water & Natural Resources, Ford Foundation, Kenya Tourist Board, Mombasa and Coast Tourism Association, Lusaka Task Force, Interpol, Office of Director of Public Prosecution, South African Embassy, U.S. Embassy, Kenyans United Against Poaching and several local and international conservation NGO’s including Lewis & Clark’s College of Law of the U.S. of A.

The meeting was remarkable in that for the second time this year, the first was with Wildlife Direct and KWS officials, Kenya’s leadership is demonstrating a way forward to stop elephant and rhino poaching.  The meeting brought renewed focus to the mutual priorities between government, the judiciary and economic interests to respond to well planned criminal activities that go beyond the national borders of Kenya. Poaching finances terrorism.  Big rewards are paid to the end producers, the crooks selling illicit ivory and rhino horn.  It was reported at this meeting that the street price for rhino horn per kilo has reached $65,000 U.S. about 5.5 million Kenya Shillings,  A full grown rhino horn can weigh as much as seven kilos.  Yet, the conviction and fines imposed on poachers did not exceed 40,000 Kenya Shillings, about $500 U.S.

The meeting concluded with several pages of agreed upon action steps that will be pursued by the various governmental agencies and conservation groups immediately.  It is too early to boast of success but the meeting was a powerful show of the countries resolve to do something to effectively address wildlife crime.

U.S. Crushes Ivory Stockpile

I had the opportunity to attend the crushing of the ivory in Denver.  Listening to the many presentations several important announcements were made.  U.S.  Fish and Wildlife Service, WWF, IFAW, Africa Wildlife Foundation, Wildlife Direct, WildAid the U.S. Department of Justice and others reported past successes as well as new efforts to curb the trade of ivory in the United States and around the world.  Demand for ivory in the United States is second only to China.  Speeches were forceful in describing a changed attitude toward blocking trade of ivory across international boundaries. For me, an important solution was reported by Brian Finley of the Denver Post when he quotes Jim Nyamu, a former Kenyan Wildlife Service employee who reflects on the poverty of people in rural Africa.  If you want people to stop killing elephants, “Give us jobs”.  These three words say it all.  Hire more rangers. Plug the leak.  Give people a reason to protect the environment.  Give tourists the peace of mind to return to Kenya.  Renew the economic engine and the multiplying effect of cash flowing through society and everyone will prosper.  Plus, the elephants will come under less pressure.  It won’t all go away however.  Kenya’s human population growth guarantees human animal conflict into future decades. But it can be a whole lot better. Here are two of the speeches made at the  ivory crush on November 14, 2013.

Robert Dreher, U.S. Department of Justice

Paula Kahumbu, Kenya’s WildlifeDirect