Who shot Kuki Gallmann?

The Observer Magazine
Nairobi, Kenya

Darknes and light: Kuki Gallmann poses for a portrait inside her Nairobi home about a month after being shot by armed men on her ranch in Laikipia County, in Kenya.
Photograph: Pete Muller for the Observer

There is thunder and the equatorial rain falls perfectly straight, drenching the lawn and a pair of towering candelabra trees that frame the driveway which leads to a two-storey, colonial-era house. Inside, logs burn in the grey stone fireplace, worn kilims are spread on the parquet floor and Kuki Gallmann – 74 years old and recovering from two bullet wounds in her abdomen – sits regally upon a chair of wrought iron and stained glass shaped like a resting bird. Continue reading Who shot Kuki Gallmann?

A struggle for land and survival in Kenya’s restive highlands

Agence France-Presse (AFP)
Laikipia, Kenya

A young herder from the Samburu pastoral community grazes his family cattle on the dwindling pasture of the Loisaba, Kenya (AFP/Tony Karumba)
A young herder from the Samburu pastoral community grazes his family cattle on the dwindling pasture of the Loisaba, Kenya (AFP/Tony Karumba)

The broad plains of Mugie, a huge estate on a high plateau northwest of Mount Kenya, are crisscrossed with cattle trails and the wildlife is mostly gone. The knee-high grass remains, but not for long, reckons manager Josh Perrett.

Tensions between semi-nomadic pastoralists and settled landowners are nothing new, nor is competition between livestock and wildlife, but in Kenya’s central Laikipia highlands they are taking a destructive, sometimes violent turn. Continue reading A struggle for land and survival in Kenya’s restive highlands

The downfall of Yang Fenglan, the “Ivory Queen”

New Statesman
Nairobi, Kenya

2016_22_ellieLate last year, a car chase through the streets of Dar es Salaam ended outside a blue art deco hotel when police officers rammed their car into another belonging to their suspect: a small, bespectacled Chinese woman in her mid-sixties. Continue reading The downfall of Yang Fenglan, the “Ivory Queen”

An elephant returns to Somalia for first time in 20 years

Agence France-Presse (AFP)
Nairobi, Kenya

Morgan the elephant on his way to Somalia (Save the Elephants)
Morgan the elephant on his way to Somalia (Save the Elephants)

An elephant marched hundreds of kilometres and briefly crossed into Somalia this month marking the first time the animal has been seen in the country in 20 years, conservationists said Wednesday.

Morgan, a male bull in his 30s, was fitted with a tracking collar in December in Kenya’s coastal Tana River Delta, but in mid-February began an unexpected march northwards to Somalia, reaching the border nearly three weeks later. His march has excited conservationists who say it shows the elephant remembered ancient routes after decades of absence due to war.

Continue reading An elephant returns to Somalia for first time in 20 years

Saving the wildlife ‘miracle’ of Congo’s Garamba park

Agence France-Presse (AFP)
Garamba National Park, DR Congo

A young female elephant lies sedated as Garamba National Park rangers attach a GPS collar to track her movements (AFP Photo/Tony Karumba)
A young female elephant lies sedated as Garamba National Park rangers attach a GPS collar to track her movements (AFP Photo/Tony Karumba)

Chronic insecurity, regional conflict, tough terrain and isolation make Africa’s Garamba park perhaps the most difficult place on the continent to practice conservation. North-eastern Democratic Republic of Congo, where the park is situated, is a bad neighbourhood: South Sudan to the north collapsed in civil war in 2013, as did nearby Central African Republic a year earlier, while Congo itself is still plagued by armed groups including rebels, horseback raiders and renegade soldiers. Continue reading Saving the wildlife ‘miracle’ of Congo’s Garamba park

Armed groups line up to kill Congo’s elephants

Agence France-Presse (AFP)
Garamba National Park, DR Congo

Rangers set out on the hunt for elephant poachers in Garamba National Park (AFP Photo/Tony Karumba)
Rangers set out on the hunt for elephant poachers in Garamba National Park (AFP Photo/Tony Karumba)

In a remote part of Garamba, a vast national park in Democratic Republic of Congo, a team of rangers loads assault rifles and backpacks into a helicopter as they begin their hunt for elephant poachers. During their nine-day patrol to protect the park’s precious beasts the rangers risk coming into conflict with the heavily armed poachers that prey on them. Continue reading Armed groups line up to kill Congo’s elephants

In Congo, a war for Africa’s elephants

Agence France-Presse (AFP)
Garamba National Park, DR Congo

Elephants stand in tall grass in the Garamba National Park (AFP Photo/Tony Karumba)
Elephants stand in tall grass in the Garamba National Park (AFP Photo/Tony Karumba)

André Migifuloyo and Djuma Uweko lived together, worked together and last October died together fighting to protect Congo’s elephants from voracious ivory-seeking poachers. In the continental war to protect Africa’s elephants, the rangers of Garamba National Park in north-eastern Democratic Republic of Congo are manning the frontline.

The two men grew up in the same small town of Dungu and joined the park service in their early twenties, a good job that pays a decent monthly wage of around $200 (180 euros). Migifuloyo became a ranger in 2011 and two years later Uweko followed. Both were quick to make friends with others and lived with their young families in Nagero, the park village by the Dungu River with its little red brick church and thatched homes. Continue reading In Congo, a war for Africa’s elephants

The Ivory-Funded Terrorism Myth

International New York Times, Op-Ed
Nairobi, Kenya

Late last year, the Oscar-winning director Kathryn Bigelow produced a powerful short called “Last Days,” about the dangers and depredations of “ivory-funded terrorism.” Viewers — and Ms. Bigelow’s celebrity friends — were encouraged to share #LastDays on social media, which many duly did. Their efforts gave yet another boost to the widely accepted belief that terrorists across Africa are killing elephants and selling the ivory to finance their attacks. But like her full-length feature film “Zero Dark Thirty,” Ms. Bigelow is offering a beguiling story divorced from reality. Continue reading The Ivory-Funded Terrorism Myth

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 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?