Rare black rhinos find new sanctuary in northern Kenya

Agence France-Presse (AFP)
Lewa, Kenya

A black rhinocerous stands in a capture crate at the Lewa wildlife conservancy (AFP)
A black rhinocerous stands in a capture crate at the Lewa wildlife conservancy (AFP)

Nasha was first to go down, a red-feathered dart sticking out of his thick-skinned rump. Next it was Syrah’s turn as Matthew Mutinda, a vet, fired his tranquillizer gun from a low-hovering helicopter.

Minutes later the one-tonne rhinoceros crashed headfirst into the ground in a cloud of dust.
Frantic activity followed. Batian Craig, a conservationist specialising in wildlife security, revved up a chainsaw and sliced off the rhino’s horn. Then he drilled into the remaining stump and stuck a radio transmitter in the hole. An oxygen tube was inserted up the rhino’s snout, blood samples were taken and cooling water poured over his back. Nasha’s breaths were deep and steady. His skin felt like a hot, damp carpet. Continue reading Rare black rhinos find new sanctuary in northern Kenya

The Kenyan Connection: drug bust exposes new heroin route

Agence France-Presse (AFP)
Nairobi, Kenya

(L-R) Baktash Akasha, Vijaygiri 'Vicki' Goswami, Gulam 'Old Man' Hussein and Ibrahim Akasha in court (AFP)
(L-R) Baktash Akasha, Vijaygiri ‘Vicki’ Goswami, Gulam ‘Old Man’ Hussein and Ibrahim Akasha in court in Mombasa (AFP)

When a crack unit of Kenyan narco cops raided a Mombasa villa in November, after an eight-month undercover US investigation, it marked a step change in Africa’s fight against drug trafficking.

The drugs sting was a first in East Africa. Four men were arrested: two sons of a murdered Kenyan drug lord, a convicted Indian trafficker with a faded Bollywood star wife and a bigtime Indian Ocean transporter from Pakistan known as “Old Man”.

The next day, on November 10, a New York indictment was unsealed and a US extradition request lodged. Nearly seven months later the groundbreaking operation is in jeopardy as efforts to extradite the suspects founder, casting doubt on international efforts to block a new “southern route” funnelling heroin from Afghan poppy fields to European and American streets, via Africa’s poorly policed eastern coastline. Continue reading The Kenyan Connection: drug bust exposes new heroin route

The End For Elephants?

Earth Island Journal
Samburu, Kenya

For two decades Koyaso Lekoloi was among the most aggressive elephant poachers in Northern Kenya. He has since retired from poaching under a government amnesty program (Tristan McConnell)
For two decades Koyaso Lekoloi was among the most aggressive elephant poachers in Northern
Kenya. He has since retired from poaching under a government amnesty program (Tristan McConnell)

Koyaso Lekoloi shot his first elephant in anger. The hundred or so that followed he killed for money. During nearly two decades as a poacher, bandit, thief, and alleged murderer Lekoloi killed more elephants than any other individual in northern Kenya until, tired of life on the run, he decided to give up poaching.

I met Lekoloi by the side of a dry riverbed just outside Samburu National Reserve in Kenya’s arid, craggy north. We sat on the ground beneath a towering acacia tree to talk. The sand flies buzzing in our ears didn’t seem to bother him. “I had a happy childhood,” Lekoloi began, speaking in the local Samburu language. The youngest of eight children born to the last of his father’s six wives, Lekoloi grew up herding livestock, like many young boys in rural Kenya. With a switch in his hand he would trail the family’s goats, cows, and donkeys as they sought out grass or leaves among the whistling thorn shrubs of the sandy East African bush. There were no schools in or near his village of Larisolo, an hour’s walk northwest of Archers Post, so formal education was neither offered nor sought. “I never even went to nursery school,” Lekoloi told me. Continue reading The End For Elephants?