John visits Amara.

This month, Amara welcomed John Carver to Kenya, visiting us in the field for the first time, he had an eventful and interesting trip around Kenya. John is an entrepreneur who has been involved in many successful for-profit and non-profit companies, and is on the Board of Directors of Amara USA. He has been a great supporter of our work.

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Lori and John

It was great for John to see first hand the beneficial work Amara does in the field. To sit, see a room full of hundreds of children go from no hands raised when asked the question “do we benefit from elephants”, to a room full of students who understand the benefits of wildlife, simply through providing information, is very moving. We are honored to be a part of something so important to the communities in Tsavo.

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An interactive session with the students

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John visiting orphan elephants

Through education and information sharing, Amara is helping humans and elephants coexist and support each other, ultimately protecting their beautiful land. We strive to make communities understand the crucial role these species play in one of nature’s most important ecosystems; once moderate changes in lifestyles can have a powerful impact on the viability of the creatures they share their environment with. As communities become aware of how organized thugs are wrecking their very own future, as well as that of their children, the trend is reversed and the sustainable outcome is possible and reached.

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John,Lori and Dan in Maasai Mara-Kenya

 

A day in the park – By Towett

A huge number of Kenyan children have never seen an elephant before, or even the most common of wildlife species due to the associated costs of visiting National Parks in Kenya. For this reason we at Amara together with Purdue University students arranges free field trips into Tsavo West National Parks, encouraging children to for Wildlife Clubs and embrace their wildlife and environment.

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Group photo

This year Kishushe Primary School in Taita-Taveta County had an opportunity to tour Tsavo west and interact with University students from USA.

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Interacting with kids

 

While classroom learning undoubtedly provides the foundation of education, there is so much to be gained from supporting indoor learning with outdoor experiences. Students can observe how the world works in real life situations, adding depth to curriculum-based learning and bringing the subject alive as they encounter real world examples first-hand. By being involved in this particular trip, students had a chance to view the most endangered ecosystems in the park.

 

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Kids climbing the beautiful Chaimu hills, Tsavo West

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Mzima Springs Tsavo West

 

The serene environment of Tsavo comes mainly with thorny  bushland, open grasslands and among the most beautiful sceneries is; the yatta plateau, which is the world longest lava flow, stretching 290km, Mzima springs, Shetani lava, Chaimu hills among other attractions.

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Purdue students at Information Center- Tsavo West

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Purdue Students

 

Wildlife lures our eyes to excitement and happiness. Tsavo National Parks are also home to diverse wild animals including, zebras, leopards, lions, and buffalos. During each school trip, a KWS field officer who has a wealth of knowledge accompanies students and gives them an overview on biodiversity and challenges facing them in protecting the park.

 

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Lori with Amara team, Purdue students and Kipalo staff

If we all participate by visiting our parks and reserves we will be building our own country and getting to appreciate the vital resources available in our beautiful country. We at Amara with Purdue University offer such opportunities to kids bordering protected areas in Tsavo. We give thanks to this year’s Purdue Students for making the event successful and also for raising funds to support school trips in Kenya. Ahsante sana!

Why Kenya burned ivory.

The practice of burning ivory dates back to July 1989 when Kenya’s then-President Daniel arap Moi ignited a pile of 12 tones of elephant tusks and helped change global policy on ivory exports.

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After that, the trade was banned under the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species.

By burning Ivory, Kenya is protesting the continuous poaching of elephants and rhinoceroses targeted for their tusks and horns through a mass burning of ivory and rhino horns that took place over the weekend in Nairobi National Park. The event marked the world’s biggest burning, with over 100 tones of ivory and 1.35 tones of rhino horns involved. The Kenyan president, Uhuru Kenyatta lead the symbolic mass burning against poaching of the country’s iconic species, while other African Heads of State, Amara Conservation, conservationists, local and international celebrities were in attendance.

Poaching is a national issue as it threatens both the lives of the animals and the individuals delegated to protect them. Generally, elephants in Africa are increasingly faced with possible extinction judging by the rate they are killed by poachers. A continuous loss of elephants will spell disaster for other wildlife species given the role that they play in the ecosystem.

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However, mixed reaction trailed the mass burning, as a number of individuals disagreed over the point of the exercise. In their opinion, burning the ivory was wasteful; will only serve to drive the price of ivory tusks higher and is, therefore, not a sustainable solution.

Sadly, most of the solutions they proffer – including selling the ivory instead – will simply make it difficult to totally eliminate the illegal and harmful trade of ivory, because the action makes them desirable still. Kenya is not alone in adopting this tactic of mass burning to fight poaching. Malaysia recently expressed its intolerance for poaching endangered species by burning 9.5 tones of ivory valued at $20 million, which port officials had earlier confiscated.

IMG_0559At the basic level, burning confiscated ivory serves to discourage smugglers and dealers from partaking in the barbaric act of killing precious wildlife. But more than that, Kenya and other countries in the world that stand against poaching elephants and other wildlife for their parts, are sending a message that some things are worth more than money and can never be replaced.

 

Lions on the loose

Our co-existence with the wild has not been all rosy. HWC has been in existence for as long as people and lions have shared land. The intensity varies with time and place, but it has always been there. It’s an inevitable part of living alongside predators. On the other hand, whenever people are determined enough, solutions are always found that benefit both man and beast. For example: Maasai’s are considered as warriors skilled at lion killing, but how many realize they mastered the art of co-existing with lions many years ago? They developed herding techniques that were perfectly geared toward preventing lion attacks on their livestock; and they used dense thorny acacia bushes as fences for their bomas (livestock enclosures) to keep out predators at night. Were these perfect solutions that worked all the time? No. There’s no such thing as a perfect solution. But they were good enough and if it wasn’t for such, there would be no Masai Mara today and you would have never seen Big Cat Diary on your television.

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A maasai boma (Enclosure)

Obviously things have changed in the modern age. Many of these traditional practices have been abandoned, though not all, and people have become urbanized. There are new challenges to overcome. In places where people keep livestock with the risk of lion predation, different less effective fences are often used and make conflict more likely to happen.

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Lion napping

A lot of today’s conservation issues are related to space. In protected and non-protected areas, it’s the dispersal area that is quickly being diminished. The northern, eastern and western boundaries of the Nairobi National Park are fenced as they border the urban and suburban areas of Nairobi. But the south is un-fenced to allow movement of wildlife to the open dispersal area of Kitengela, and parts of areas surrounding the park to the South. This movement has always happened, and historically large herds of wildebeest migrated all the way to Amboseli and back to Nairobi – a migration that resembled the Mara-Serengeti migration. This movement corridor was all communally owned land but in recent decades, land has been sub-divided, sold and developed which has fragmented the ecosystem. Restoration of lion connectivity would have to involve educating the general public on how to behave if they see a lion in their area. People need to understand that a lion is not going to be aggressive if it doesn’t feel cornered or threatened. Communities also need to realize that it is necessary for lions to move between different areas and in NNP’s case it might involve moving through some areas of dense human population.

Giraffe in Nairobi National Park

Collaboration is needed between KWS, NGOs, governments and the people living in these wildlife dispersal areas with proper agreements on benefits that landowners would gain from keeping their land open to wildlife. This could be through land lease programs, eco-tourism or other means. It could even be agreements such as a community getting a school built for them in exchange for their agreement to keep their land free of unsustainable development. There are many ways that people and wildlife can benefit mutually.

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White Rhino’s

Nairobi National park, the only national park in a capital city worldwide, is an epitome of this age-old co-existence between people and wildlife. It would be an extreme shame if we let the park and its lions disappear forever, only to be seen in the pictures and videos. Lets all play our part and support rather than condemn each other as we strive to conserve our priceless heritage.