Category Archives: Born Free Kenya

Snared buffalo and zebra saved by the Born Free Kenya team!

After our team helped to extinguish the deadly fires on Mt. Kenya National Park last month, part of the team left for Naivasha for a de-snaring and outreach mission.  The Naivasha area in the Great Rift Valley is one of the most hard-hit bushmeat trade hotspots in Kenya and our teams take every opportunity to pitch camp here.

After the usual catching up with our hosts; the Senior Warden Hell’s Gate National Park Nelly Palmeris, Karen Ndiema the Warden in charge of Naivasha station and the other Kenya Wildlife Service officials in the region, it was time to begin our outreach mission concentrating on the schools in the bushmeat hotspots.

“With a Kenya Wildlife Service vet now based in the Naivasha region, we couldn’t be happier!  We don’t have to wait any longer for a vet from either our Headquarters or the Mara  to come to the aid of our injured  animals, instead,  our interventions  are now based on real time” were some of the Senior Warden’s most reassuring words. Unlike our previous rescues, we knew that we wouldn’t need to wait too long for the vets help.

During one of our patrols we spotted a zebra which was dragging a long copper snare around her neck. Thankfully the snare had not eaten too much into the zebra’s skin although it had already started taking its toll on the poor animal. Within exactly 33 minutes, the vet had joined us and we were all trying to capture the snared zebra which appeared to nearly outrun our two Land Rovers. Ndambiri the KWS vet, who we must say hardly ever misses his target while darting the animals, had the zebra comfortably on the ground and after removing the snare, the zebra was swiftly back with the rest. We then got back to our regular patrols – lifting tens of snares in just a few hours.

Four hours later and about fifteen kilometers away we spotted an adult buffalo with a huge snare around her neck and a young calf in tow. Unlike the zebra’s wounds, the buffalo had already suffered life-threatening injuries from the snare. The vet was again able to re-join us quickly. Treating what is easily the most dangerous animal in Africa is not for the fainthearted!  Even the bravest of our team members betrayed a little tension and more caution than usual. Our driver was particularly alert and was ready to drive to safety.

As we attempted to have the buffalo darted, it seemed like everyone had stories to tell on experiences with buffalos. It took the buffalo a while to go down and once on the ground the vet led us in removing the deadly snare which had almost cost the buffalo’s life and almost certainly the calf’s life too.  The wounds were cleaned and antibiotics given. As we all held the buffalo to the ground to allow the vet to attend to the injuries, it was clear that everybody was on very high alert; tense but determined to give the poor animal a second chance. And sure enough the buffalo was on all fours and reunited with the calf and the other herd members. These are always the moments we shed tears of joy!

“With the support of Animal Rights Reserved Mobile Vet unit in collaboration with KWS the wildlife welfare in the area has received a major boost.We have saved many animals since we settled here in Naivasha early this month (March 2012).” Assured Dr. Ndambiri, the vet in charge of the new team as they work to ease the pain of the long suffering animals.

The rest of the week was busy, particularly after more schools got wind of our now very popular outreach missions. We had to double our efforts in sharing our conservation message with the ever attentive children and teachers. Soon it was again time to bring down our tents having given our contribution to the welfare of our wildlife; a job I would not trade in for anything.

Victor Mutumah- Born Free Kenya

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Mount Kenya – world heritage in flames

In recent days, a dangerous bush fire has broken out in Mount Kenya Forest, located in central Kenya.  According to The Nation newspaper, the fire has consumed thousands of hectares of the forest and killing unknown numbers of wildlife. In response to this unfolding tragedy, Born Free Kenya sent a team to the Mountain to assist.

“For over a week, the fire has given us sleepless nights, our men and women have had a serious battle with the ranging flames, it is not child’s play” were the welcoming words of the charismatic Simon Gitau the Deputy Warden Mt. Kenya National Park. “Kenya wildlife Service, Kenya Forest service, community members and the Mount Kenya Trust have been working hard to contain the fires, we are grateful that you have joined us” Mr. Gitau added as he directed us to the camping site.

Fire fighting has not previously been a required skill for Born Free Kenya staff, but this did not dampen our contribution to the fire-fighting efforts!  Mt. Kenya Forest hosts the second highest Mountain in Africa after Mt. Kilimanjaro and is home to thousands of species of wildlife including some of Kenya’s most endangered. It forms one of the greatest water towers in Kenya and provides an important habitat to a host of wildlife species. Protection of wildlife habitat and the various ecosystems within Kenya form one of the greatest responsibilities Born Free has on its shoulders. We spend many hours each month talking to school children and various community members in different areas of Kenya about the need to conserve our environment. With the increased deforestation and general destruction of our environment, we continue to face serious conservation challenges.

Soon, we realized that fighting a fire of this magnitude at such a high attitude was not a small task.  At about 3400m above sea level, oxygen is in short supply making it even more difficult for us.  With the support of Kenya Wildlife Service, Kenya Forest Service and British Army, we quickly learnt the ropes. Fighting fires with human hands alone is neither easy nor is it for the faint hearted.  Rubber flippers and clearing vegetation to create firebreaks were our main methods of containing the fires.

On several occasions, we had to retreat with the flames seemingly hot in our pursuit! We witnessed several bushbucks and other wildlife running for dear life. As wildlife continues to take refuge further towards the community area, we see a clear source of conflict for the few resources between humans and wildlife. Watching trees hundreds of years old burn to ashes was one of our most disturbing moments not to mention the thought of the animal lives that could have been lost.

Iregi Mwenja, Country Manager commended the efforts of those involved; “Born Free would like to thank our supporters and volunteers who responded with speed and made it possible to send our teams to Mount Kenya less than 12 hours after the fire alarm was raised by those on the ground. We are proud to have friends like these!”

As we prepared to depart for our other assignments, more support was arriving from the Kenya Police, more Kenya Wildlife Service personnel, various stakeholders in the region and more community members. As the efforts to keep the fires at bay continue, we hope the hovering clouds will bring rains to quickly end the unforgiving fires. When all is settled, a substantial afforestation effort?? needs to be initiated to help revamp the badly damaged ecosystem.

Victor Mutumah and David Manoa – Born Free Kenya.

If you would like to help fight the fires in Kenya, we are raising funds to pay for the deployment of our teams and associated volunteers. Please donate here –

A Christmas gift to injured animals!

Born Free Kenya’s Victor Mutumah reports on a distressing but ultimately successful de-snaring mission in Kenya:

Before the end of a very eventful year, our anti-poaching and outreach team travelled to the Naivasha area for the last time this calendar year.  As usual, our great partners, Kenya Wildlife Service (KWS), were happy to receive us, and together with our team of volunteers drawn from Wildlife Clubs of Kenya, we started our operations. It is during the festive period that poaching activities rise, making it important for all of us and particularly KWS to work round the clock.

While on our patrols on our second day in Naivasha, we spotted a zebra in great pain dragging a snare with its front right leg. We had just lifted 15 snares in the same area. Clearly this zebra must have suffered for several days and was on the verge of giving up. We contacted the ever supportive KWS Vet team in Nairobi. They needed transport urgently to help and the Born Free office in Nairobi was on hand to provide a Land Rover within hours. We continued with our patrols while monitoring the injured zebra, spotting three more injured zebras and an adult female giraffe.

By midday, Dr. Kariuki of KWS and his active capture and treatment team arrived in time to start giving the injured animals a second chance. The injured giraffe with her clearly caring calf in tow made an attempt to get away from our Land Rover, but soon we had her tranquilized and ready for treatment.  Just like our other operations, we had to use a rope to bring the tall animal down carefully and safely. The giraffe had managed to shake off the snare but one of her other legs had what Dr. Kariuki described as a minor joint dislocation and tissue injury. After treatment, the giraffe was back on her feet, still with a limp but hopefully not for long. The re-union with her calf was a particularly happy moment, not only for the two animals but for all of our team members. We watched the two giraffe gradually join the rest of the family and we wished them well!

Giraffe being treated © BF Kenya

Giraffe being treated © BF Kenya

We quickly changed gears and focused on the zebras; starting with those evidently in serious suffering. The first zebra was almost giving up; it could hardly move, making it very easy for the vet to sedate it. The sight of the injured animal was disturbing, not to mention the smell from the now rotting section of the leg.  Despite this sad sight, we were pleased to know that the poachers responsible for putting up snares in this area had been arrested a few days ago. It took a while to get the visibly huge winch wire capable of towing a Land Rover off the now sedated zebra.

Winch wire being removed © BF Kenya

Winch wire being removed © BF Kenya

We had a light moment when we all agreed to hold down the second zebra since we thought she was too weak to be sedated. We all took positions, approached the sleeping zebra and as soon as she felt some hands on her back, she quickly got up taking us by surprise. Steve our driver proved to be the fastest of us all as we all took to our heels!  I reckon Steve could give some of our leading athletes a run for their money.  The zebra was soon on the ground and the snare removed before the cleaning of the wound and administering of the antibiotics.

The third zebra proved more elusive, being naturally camouflaged, and we had to call off the operation since it was getting dark. At 6am the following morning, we were all up looking for the third zebra and the injured animal successfully received the Vet’s attention before mid-afternoon.

Another zebra with similar cable snare injury © BF Kenya

Another zebra with similar cable snare injury © BF Kenya

“This dramatic rescue was Born Free’s Christmas gift to individual animals in peril.  These animals would probably not have survived into 2012 had the dedicated BF Kenya team not been there to help.  Many people are already on holiday at this time of year, but I am proud to be part of a team that puts the animals first” said Iregi Mwenja, Born Free Kenya Manager.

As we come close to the end of the year, we thank all our partners, supporters and donors who make our work possible. Next year, we will once again keep you posted on our work in the Kenyan bush.

–Victor Mutumah, Programmes Officer

Elephants’ graveyard offers hope to the living

Smoke signal - a beacon of hope? © BFF

Smoke signal - a beacon of hope? © BFF

Pile of ash will be last remains of hundreds of elephants

Tsavo National Park, Kenya. 20 July 2011. Smoke from the bonfire reaches up into an elephant grey sky as a flaming torch wielded by His Excellency Mwai Kibaki, the President of Kenya, ignited a funeral pyre of nearly 5 tonnes of illegal ivory – the tusks of hundreds of elephants, originally seized in Singapore in 2002.

“It was intensely emotional.” said Shelley Waterland, Wildlife Trade expert with the Born Free Foundation. “To imagine the great herd that those tusks represent being wiped out for human vanity and greed was overwhelming.”

As poaching intensifies and illegal ivory smuggling continues apace, the Lusaka Agreement Task Force, an intergovernmental law enforcement organisation comprised of Kenya, The Republic of Congo, Lesotho, Tanzania, Uganda, Liberia and Zambia, determined that there was only one way to draw the world’s attention to the plight faced by African elephants across much of their range – torch the ivory

“Poaching imperils elephants in many African countries, threatening their very survival.” stated Waterland. “In Chad, for example, the elephant population has been decimated. Barely 600 elephants remain from the nearly 4,000 that existed just six years ago.”

Speakers at the ivory burn were outspoken in their condemnation of poaching and their fears for the future of wild elephants.

President Kibaki’s presence and participation highlighted the gravity of the situation. Affirming Kenya’s commitment to the war against wildlife crime, the President also called on the world to unite behind the African Elephant Action Plan, a blueprint for elephant conservation supported by all 37 African elephant range States.

Dr Julius Kipng’etich, the Director of the Kenya Wildlife Service, stated that poaching was being fuelled by “growing demand in the Far East” and that Kenya’s highly trained wildlife law enforcement team will “now be introducing extra luggage checks at airports.”

The Director of the LATF, Bonaventure Ebayi pointed out that “20 years after the 1989 international ivory ban, the Lusaka Agreement Task Force is taking a leading role in ‘”standing against the illegal trade in wildlife, and ivory in particular”. “Africa” he went on, “should play an integral role in the protection of wildlife for the sake of the whole world”.

Kenya’s Minister of Forestry and Wildlife, the Rt. Hon. Dr Noah Wekesa, spoke of sending a ‘powerful message to all those involved in the illegal trade,” by introducing tougher penalties and of “establishing a museum where contraband items from wildlife trade can be displayed.” He urged everybody possessing ivory to donate it to the new museum.

The Rt. Hon Najib Balala, Kenya’s Minister of Environment, pointed out the importance of wildlife and the 37,000 wild elephants to Kenya’s tourism industry while Sammy Lui, Master of Ceremonies, claimed that “elephants could be wiped out in a generation”.

The Rt. Hon. Professor Ephraim Kamuntu, Uganda’s Tourism Minister speaking on behalf of President Museveni, confirmed “Uganda’s commitment to wildlife conservation” adding that “the days of poachers are numbered.”

Over 11,500 kg of illegal ivory have been intercepted worldwide by law enforcement agencies since the start of the year and new incidents are taking place almost every day. Last week nine elephants were reported poisoned in Zimbabwe and their tusks spirited away. On the 16th July, Namibian and Bostwanan anti-poaching teams arrested four men and impounded eight tusks. Just days ago, smugglers were apprehended with over 110 million Uganda shillings worth of ivory while, in the north of Kenya, poachers were caught in possession of 41 tusks – another 21 dead elephants.

To coincide with the ivory burn, the LATF is launching a new initiative designed to bring extra attention and resources to the poaching issue. The African Elephant Law Enforcement Day not only recognises Law Enforcement heroes (such as Paco Bockandza Head of Wildlife Law Enforcement with LATF for the Republic of Congo) but establishes a new law-enforcement fund in an effort to secure extra resources to fight increasingly well-armed poachers and the criminal syndicates that operate them.

The Born Free Foundation has pledged US$5,000 towards this fund and urges donors and people who care about elephants to boost the fund and save lives.

His Excellency The Rt. Hon Mwai Kibaki, President of Kenya and dignitaries ignite the ivory © BFF

His Excellency The Rt. Hon Mwai Kibaki, President of Kenya and dignitaries ignite the ivory © BFF

Elephants’ Graveyard © BFF

Elephants’ Graveyard © BFF

Dr Julius Kipng’etich (fifth from left) and the Kenya Wildlife Service Wildlife Law Enforcement elite © BFF

Dr Julius Kipng’etich (fifth from left) and the Kenya Wildlife Service Wildlife Law Enforcement elite © BFF

Bonfire of the Vanities

Ivory to go up in smoke as elephant poaching escalates

20th July 2011, Manyani, Tsavo West National Park, Kenya: In an effort to draw the world’s attention to the impact of poaching on Africa’s elephants, the Lusaka Agreement Task Force will host the burning of 5 tonnes of seized ivory in Tsavo National Park on Wednesday 20th July.

The ivory, which originated in Malawi, Zambia, and Tanzania, was confiscated during a notorious 2002 seizure in Singapore.

Will Travers, CEO of the Born Free Foundation, explained the importance of the ivory burn: “Reports of elephant poaching and ivory seizures are becoming an almost a daily occurrence.  The bloody, corrupt and merciless ivory trade that precipitated the slaughter of 600,000 African elephants during the 1970s and 1980s is sadly booming across Africa again.”

Ivory burn of 1989 © BFF

Ivory burn of 1989 © BFF

Data collated by Born Free reveals that in the last six months more than 10,500 kilogrammes of ivory has been seized by customs and police officials. That’s the last mortal remains of more than 1,700 elephants. Seizures have been made in Thailand, Vietnam, Mozambique, China, Kenya and Portugal. One seizure in Guangxi Province, China in April 2011, for instance, included 707 elephant tusks, 32 ivory bracelets, and a rhino horn.

Born Free Foundation Wildlife Trade Specialist Shelley Waterland flew from England to Kenya to witness the ivory burn first-hand, along with co-hosts the Kenya Wildlife Service. Ms. Waterland declared: “Let the fire shine a spotlight on this growing crisis and motivate us to take action against the bloody ivory trade – no more sales of stockpiled ivory; no more tusks sold for a staggering $1,500 a kilo; no more rangers and wardens killed by poachers trying to protect wild elephants; no more ivory orphans. The last major ivory burn in Kenya marked the beginning of the ivory trade ban (in 1989).  Poaching is now so bad because that life-saving ban has been eroded by ‘one-off’ sales and the development of trading mechanisms, both of which send entirely the wrong message to poaching networks and the organised crime syndicates that operate them.  My message from Kenya is clear – the ivory ban must be reinstated in full and we must increase our wildlife law-enforcement effort.”

The global trade in elephant ivory is regulated by the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES) and is monitored specifically by its Standing Committee. Travers concluded: “Born Free is calling on the UK and other members of the CITES Standing Committee to withdraw ‘approved ivory trading nation’ status from China and Japan and to re-impose a full global ivory trade ban. Only then will the message be clear, will the poachers realise they have nowhere to hide, will the enforcement agencies and customs authorities be able to act with certainty… and will the world’s wild elephants stand a fighting chance.” The Standing Committee next meets in Geneva 15-19 August 2011.

With an estimated 35,000 elephants a year killed for their ivory, and between 400,000 and 500,000 elephants left across the African Continent, the Born Free Foundation has declared the situation critical and is concerned that without immediate and resolute action, elephants face a bleak future.

Find out more about the ivory trade here – and

Back to Ruma!

Nine and half hours later, through the traffic of Nairobi, the famed Rift Valley Scenery and the numerous farms and country side, and exactly 498km from our Nairobi Office, Stephen Waruingi our driver pulls over next to the Ruma National Park gate. “This will definitely be a unique and special week for all of us”, Mr. John Wambua, the Kenya Wildlife Service Warden in-charge of the 120sq km park, remarks as he warmly welcomes our team. Being our first visit after several years, we go through the basic introductions and soon we are down to real business. According to Mr. Wambua “the entire world needs to know and appreciate Ruma, a truly unique and still virgin land”. I can’t help noticing the hospitality accorded to us by Mr. Daniel Rono the head of Security and Madam Grace Wendot the Deputy Warden of the Park in charge of Tourism and community. Just like Mr. Wambua and indeed the rest of the team here, the handshakes are genuine, so are the smiles, and of course the cup of tea!

The team © BF Kenya

The team © BF Kenya

For starters, we are in the ONLY habitat for the very threatened Roan Antelope in Kenya and indeed one of the rarest of Africa’s antelopes. The Roan Antelope is ruthlessly hunted both for its meat and for its horn which is valued as a musical instrument! We are very close to the shores of Lake Victoria, Africa’s largest inland lake. According to Mr. Kanyi, the Park Scientist, this is truly a unique park with close to 200 Rothschild giraffes, the biggest concentration of the subspecies in Kenya.

On the second day we were ready for the outreach programme. After about half an hour of planning and fine tuning of the two week programme, Warden Grace leads us to Kamato Primary school where we are welcomed by loud cheers and a clearly excited group of school children. In any rural setup here in Kenya, kids will always be fascinated by visitors, particularly those who come loaded with a complete Cinema Unit! Our team never disappoints, we always have our generator, cables and the entire package in good working condition! It is always amazing to see the smiles in these innocent children’s faces whose future sadly continues to be compromised by the poaching activities and other environmental issues. Soon our lecture begins “Wildlife is our most precious heritage, we need to appreciate and love this fact” we begin as we dive into convincing our audience that poverty levels in sections of the country will increase if Kenya’s wildlife population continues to decline. As we move on to the next destination we are sure of many new supporters.

In this trip we are making use of one of Africa Film Foundation’s new films “Endangered Heritage” which, just like our film ‘Mizoga’, helps educate the masses on the importance of conservation. With images of snared and trapped animals, our team is able to explain the grim reality of what continues to threaten the wildlife of this country.

During one of our outreach missions we made our presentation to young scouts drawn from 30 schools within the Homa Bay County. The 1,200 scout members through their commissioner promised to support our efforts. It is encouraging to listen to the many initiatives the young boys and girls continue to put in place under the guidance of their teachers to safeguard the environment.

Having reached out to about 4,700 children and hundreds of parents and village elders, we shift gears to the anti-poaching efforts. With our ever-committed volunteers from Wildlife Clubs of Kenya; Simon, Andrew and Julia and under the leadership and guidance of Kenya Wildlife Service Wardens and rangers and a community rep, we hit the bush. Here camouflage gets its true meaning; poachers can spot our team from miles up the hills meaning we had to be even more careful than usual.

Born Free Foundation, Community representatives, Kenya Wildlife Service and Wildlife Clubs of Kenya © BF Kenya

Born Free Foundation, Community representatives, Kenya Wildlife Service and Wildlife Clubs of Kenya © BF Kenya

In addition, with a high presence of snakes, both venomous and non-venomous in the park, our team patrols are extremely cautious. Any slight movement in the shoulder-high grass is investigated! Occasionally the team stops after the sporadic light moment of a volunteer jumping after mistaking a log for a snake. The occasional lone buffalo is also avoided at all cost!

The presence of snares and other poaching activities in the Park is currently low. According to the Warden in-charge of Security in the Park, Mr. Daniel Rono, the poachers have retreated after vigorous patrols and arrest. Clearly the efforts of the ever dedicated team of KWS rangers (along with our own efforts) appears to have given a serious warning to the poachers; the results are obvious! In total we retrieved just six snares within the park.

One of the snares © BF Kenya

One of the snares © BF Kenya

As we bring our tents down, we are already thinking about our next assignment. Soon it will be time to get back to Machakos, hoping to get better results this time (less or no poaching)! Stay tuned for more exciting field updates from Machakos!

Victor Mutumah

Into the Wild with State House Girls!

Earlier this year, Australian Education Consultants, in partnership with the Born Free Foundation, Serena Hotels and Kenya Wildlife Service, conducted a lion-conservation art competition aimed at high school students across Kenya.  Many of the entries depicted lion portraits and some reflected human-wildlife conflict.  One such entry portrayed trophy-hunting from a lion’s point of view.  The student’s method of using wit and humour to portray such a serious message captivated the judges and this was selected as the winning entry.

A few weeks later, the prize-giving ceremony took place at State House Girls School.  The girls stood in line at the grand front steps of the school, quietly, in anticipation. Then the announcements were made – State House Girls School had secured first and second prize in the same competition!  Loud celebrations erupted and the students cheered each of the sponsors as we took turns to congratulate the girls.   First prize was a fully paid trip for the winning team to Amboseli Serena Lodge, for three days and two nights, in a Born Free Foundation Land Rover. 

Makenna and Martin from Born Free Kenya accompanied the four girls – Faith Nakhungu, Daisy Kendi, Tracy Muringa and Doreen Muringa; their teacher, Mrs. Maria Mvati and Mahul Shah of Australian Education Consultants, on this grand trip.

On our first day, we visited Ol Moti School – a Born Free Foundation / Global Friends sponsored local community-school.  We were warmly received and before we left, we presented the school’s deputy Headmaster, Dan Kelek, with various materials for staff and students which were graciously received!  

State House Girls – Faith Nakhungu, Doreen Muringa and Daisy Kendi (left to right) present Ol Moti School students with stationary and materials.  Dan Kelek, the school’s Deputy looks on © BF Kenya

State House Girls – Faith Nakhungu, Doreen Muringa and Daisy Kendi (left to right) present Ol Moti School students with stationary and materials. Dan Kelek, the school’s Deputy looks on © BF Kenya

The next day, we visited the community members that have benefited from a Born Free-sponsored Lion-Proof Boma and had a first hand experience of their lifestyle.  This was very rewarding, as the community members shared how well-protected from predators, such as lions and hyenas, their family and livestock are, now that the community uses a lion-proof boma.  

A Born Free sponsored community Lion-Proof Boma © Manoa David

A Born Free sponsored community Lion-Proof Boma © Manoa David

The daily wildlife drives were a welcome bonus.  It was all worth it when we sighted several lions, lazing in the sun, after a night’s successful hunt.  The lion-proof bomas have undoubtedly contributed to their protection.

Our hosts, Amboseli Serena Lodge, led by Lodge Manager Herman Mwasugha, also provided us with the opportunity to plant indigenous trees in their own Serena-Kenya Wildlife Service tree nursery, in an adjacent compound set aside for this specific purpose.  This was a fun experience, as we lowered young trees into the ground, leaving them well watered and ready to start a new green future in the park.

The Serena Group is one of Born Free’s lion-conservation partners and is regular supporters of our projects.  Thank you Serena!

The four students who were able to take part in this exciting trip exclaimed, “We were privileged to have won the competition and to get a chance to visit the Amboseli Serena Lodge on 27th May 2011. We had the chance to explore and understand the neglected yet important aspects of life. What we saw made a change in our lives. We experienced what words cannot describe and pictures cannot depict. We saw many animals and experienced the wild first- hand with people who knew the wild like the back of their hands.”

The State House Girls Winners and Mrs. Mvati (left to right), joined by Mahul Shah of Australian Education Consultants and Herman Mwasuga, Amboseli Serena Lodge © BF Kenya

The State House Girls Winners and Mrs. Mvati (left to right), joined by Mahul Shah of Australian Education Consultants and Herman Mwasuga, Amboseli Serena Lodge © BF Kenya

Contributed by Makenna Nyammo, Born Free Kenya

A Visit to the Machakos Prison!

March 2011 – To the shock of one of my colleagues, I mentioned I was headed for prison! I explained further – we had secured an outreach programme with the prisoners, through the Warden-in-charge and the Kenya Wildlife Service, Machakos Warden. Understandably, our first moments were filled with anxiety – what if the prisoners don’t listen to me? What if they become unruly and make our efforts futile? Eventually the hour for our presentation arrived.

After offloading our outreach equipment, the Senior Warder ushered us in for a briefing about the premise’s do’s and don’ts! We registered our belongings at the front desk and entered the dark doors into the area holding over a thousand inmates who were clearly excited to have guests! We received a lot of support and evident goodwill and our fears were allayed. Two prisoners rushed to help us with the power connections.

One spiritual leader in the prison gave a word of prayer then I took possession of the microphone, explaining our mission softly but firmly. Up to twenty convicts confessed to being in prison as a result of committing crimes related to wildlife abuse. One by one, they shared their willingness to behave differently once they exit the prison walls. Our message revolved around the need for a change in behaviour and wider appreciation of wildlife. Using many examples, we explained how it was in the benefit of Kenyans to conserve wildlife.

Our now popular Mizoga film spiced up our presentation. The audience patiently watched, laughed and listened. Mizoga, the Swahili conservation film was produced with the young and old of Kenya in mind, giving details and demonstration as to why bushmeat consumption is wrong and harmful. As the screening came to an end, the inmates were evidently better informed and receptive to a positive behavior-change. We promised to consistently work with all sectors of society in addressing the threatening problem of poaching and bushmeat trade.

In the next two days, we visited hundreds of school children aged between seven and fifteen, with a similar message. As usual Mizoga and our presentation were popular with the school children and the community members alike. We may not quantify the figures of the ‘converted’ but what we are always sure of is that some meaningful change happens every time we do our presentations. We always hope that our message about wildlife conservation increasingly makes a difference to wild animals across Kenya.

Victor Mutumah
Programmes Officer

Keeping Lions Away!

“They are back!”, a village elder remarks as our Land Rover comes to a stop. We had arrived at the destination for our next lion-proof boma. As usual, the community is expectant. This time, the roads are much better, with dust rather than the deep mud we experienced last year. The same cannot be said of the emaciated livestock and the clearly drought-stricken wildlife. The crystal clear Mt. Kilimanjaro standing majestically in the background with very little snow says a lot about global warming; I guess that is a story for another day.

We exchange pleasantries with the friendly community members and swiftly start marking the spots for the new fence poles. It is clear everybody is eager to begin, and soon everybody is busy digging the 2 feet deep holes, all too happy to be part of this life-changing assignment. The communal nature of the Maasai people is clearly evident today; the neighbours have spared their time to come and join us in helping their needy neighbour! It doesn’t take long before the first lion-proof boma is completed.

© BF Kenya

© BF Kenya

© BF Kenya

© BF Kenya

“How many lion proof Bomas are you able to eventually build for our community?” Mr. Jeremiah the Assistant Chief of the area asks. It is not a straight forward question to answer and one that we are currently researching. Our interest is to eliminate lion-human conflict in the area. Although we have a long way to go, our hopes have always been high! Luckily, our friends, supporters and donors have continuously shown interest in making our work possible.

Mr. Chepkwony the Deputy Senior Warden of Amboseli National Park and the local Assistant Chief are with us today. They helped us transport the boma construction materials to the site using their Kenya Wildlife Service truck. It doesn’t take long for us to notice Mr. Chepkwony’s carpentry skills as he hammers one nail after the other attaching the triple twisted chain link to the erected poles. One of the young Maasai Moran narrowly missed his thumb as he tried copying Chepkwony’s trick of hammering the nails. “It is not as easy as it looks!” remarks Steve our driver as everybody bursts into laughter. One after the other, the triple twisted chain link is unrolled as the children watch in awe.

© BF Kenya

© BF Kenya

© BF Kenya

© BF Kenya

Hardly three kilometres from one of the lion-proof bomas we built late last year, we come across a lion and a lioness crossing the road hardly ten metres from our Land Rover. Having spent so much time taking photos of our earlier projects, my camera has run out of battery! How can this happen? We drive off thinking about how successful the story of the lion-proof bomas has been!

By the end of our third day, two lion-proof bomas are in place. Hundreds of livestock are secure and therefore so must be several lions. Our faces are again full of genuine smiles. As we say our goodbyes, a goat goes into labour and sure enough a kid is born! I jokingly ask the lady midwife to name it Born Free and yes, there is now a goat named Born Free! We drive off to the Amboseli Serena Lodge where Mr. Harman the ever helpful and accommodating Manager has made arrangements for our refreshments, before hitting the road back to Nairobi. With Amboseli National Park and the highest mountain in Africa, Mt. Kilimanjaro, behind us, it is time to start thinking about our next de-snaring mission in the vast Tsavo National Park.

Victor Mutumah – Born Free Kenya

Born Free Kenya conducts extensive national awareness raising campaign

In the last couple of weeks, I have visited 3 radio stations as a guest speaker to talk about wildlife conservation in Kenya and Born Free’s effort in this field. This comes barely a month after another massive media campaign where we featured on 3 national TV stations showcasing our lion conservation project in Amboseli. Click here to view the link: NTV news clip: Man vs. Beast

But why all these media campaigns? We at Born Free Kenya have realized that the media is a very important awareness raising tool that has not been fully exploited in Kenya. The last 5 years have seen the proliferation of radio and TV stations, which have become increasing popular and therefore an easy tool for reaching the target audiences with messages specifically packaged for them.

Mwenja at XFM studio © BF Kenya

Mwenja at XFM studio © BF Kenya

A good example is Radio Jambo, a Swahili station with a good following in rural areas (where bushmeat consumption is rampant). They invited me to talk about the illegal bushmeat trade. With my advanced training on bushmeat, I was able to package messages for this audience in order to capture their attention and stigmatize killing and eating wildlife. The numerous call-ins and text messages that came in during the live show were a clear testimony that the message had a lasting effect on the audience. Click here to view a link of the recording: Radio Jambo Interview (in Swahili with English subtitles).

Another very important message we have been getting across in these radio shows is the need for Kenyans to come out strongly and support conservation. One of the biggest lessons Born Free learnt from the Pride of Kenya campaign was that there is an overwhelming amount of public support and interest from the general public on lion and other conservation issues. We are using these media opportunities to reach out to our current and potential future supporters so that they are kept informed of our tireless efforts to protect Wildlife in Kenya.

Iregi Mwenja
Born Free Kenya Manager