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Kenya’s Elephant Man- Wake up call for Kenyans to own wildlife

Jim Justus Nyamu has literally walked across the globe to create awareness on the plight of Elephants, locally known as ‘Kenya’s Elephant Man’ Jim has just completed a walk from Kenya all the way down to Botswana the south of Africa where According to CITES, four countries namely South Africa, Namibia, Botswana and South Africa down listed their elephant population from Appendix I to II in 2008, there has been global and continental efforts in reverting this decision in view of ending domestic trade on ivory that has escalated poaching across South and East African region. Africa host about 415,000 elephants according to Africa Elephant Data Base with some countries almost losing their elephants due to poaching, habitats loss and climate change.

As an elephant enthusiast, Nyamu has been trained, honoured and awarded on several occasions such as an awarded on Professional Development Grant (WWF), where he attended an International Elephant and Rhino Conservation research Symposium Rotterdam at Netherlands, Colorado State University& National Museum. Wildlife migration, awarded a Research Fellowship Rufford grant, Biodiversity Research Program, attended the Global Human Right Leadership Training Institute Ibadan University Nigeria, took part at Earth Watch Darwin Initiative Magadi: Field techniques for biodiversity Monitoring program.

Nyamu is an active member of the Kenya Elephant Forum, Ecological Society of Eastern Africa (ESEA), and Wildlife Clubs of Kenya. Through his field research, Nyamu has consolidated a lot of elephant knowledge on several publications and articles.

Jim founded Elephant Neighbors Center in Feb 2012, he is currently directing the three programs Conservation and Research, Education program and community based natural resource and management (CBNRM) supported by WWF-EFN USA.

Recently Jim in his bid to protect the African elephant and secure landscapes for them has been engaged in a campaign walk dubbed “Ivory Belongs to Elephants Walk”. The campaign involves Jim walking to raise awareness on the value of elephants, how to mitigate human-elephant conflict and to raise awareness on poaching.

It’s in this spirit that Jim lead an East – South Africa Grass –Elephant campaign and awareness walk. The 180 days walk aimed at covering approximately 4500km aiming at one (mapping the elephant movement (trans-regional) from East – South Africa secondly showing the residents/nations how significant it is in safeguarding these long corridors and thirdly lobbying for an amalgamated wildlife anti-poaching and trafficking strategy from the two regions. Lastly, this walk also diplomatically asked the four countries namely Zimbabwe, Namibia, Botswana and South Africa to take their elephant population in Appendix I. These four countries are the only in Africa whose elephant population is in Appendix II and they can legally trade on elephants and have negatively affected the neighbouring countries/region.

After his arrival back in Kenya Jim took some time off to reconnect with Nature and had the following remarks “After spending 3 days in Amboseli National Park, doing game drives in out of the park!! I feel like the park’s future is not promising to look at the ongoing land use changes, there are new farms and new fences in some areas previously used to be dispersal areas.

The implication to the above issues will cause.
(1) High human-Wildlife conflict. Wildlife and in particular elephants spend very little time in the park and a lot of time outside the park. The end result will be most of the wildlife will be breaking on these farms, raiding and damaging community properties. The current wildlife and management Act acknowledge and stipulate wildlife damage compensation, this act is now 4 years old and so far much has not been done! It’s going to be very hard for KWS to deal with this monster ( Mitigating Human-wildlife conflict).

(2) The second issue will be; loss of wildlife I.e. Giraffe, Zebra and Elephants! Amboseli host very few lions and the above species will have a lot of problems since they spend a lot of time foraging outside the park. Some will trapped by these fences and others may be speared or killed.

These are serious issues that require a collective efforts from both, Kajiado County, like-minded ministries which include; Agriculture, Lands, Tourism and Wildlife. All is not lost but we things are not looking good.”

Personally, I have interacted with Jim for a couple of years, as a wildlife management student I did take part in two of his walks; one as he walked from Mombasa to Nairobi and during the East Africa Ivory belongs to Elephants walk and I can tell you for free it does have an impact, when civilians come in their multitudes to witness a group of dedicated individuals who stop to talk to them in the various towns about the plight of wildlife.

Walking alongside Jim during The Ivory belongs to Elephants East Africa Walk in 2016

I recently met up with Jim and got to interview him,

 1. What motivated you to walk for Elephants?
The idea behind the walk came about after interacting with the general public at Galleria mall 2012 during elephant day.I noted most people that included government officials were ignorant towards elephant conservation and how elephant poaching affect our livelihoods.
2. How Many walks and appropriate kms have you covered so far?

Since 2013 I have walked 17,570kms in Kenya, East Africa , US , UK and South Africa . I have done 15 walks so far.
3. When is your next walk?
I have two walks coming next year 2019. ( 1) In March 40 days I will be walking in Jordan ( Jordan trails ) about 600km.
(2) July -Nov 2019 I will walk from Nairobi – South Sudan-Ethiopia-Djibouti to Eritrea
4. Tell us about your documentary and publication that you are currently working on .

We are working on my documentary in particular on the just ended East South Africa Elephant walk and will be released in Feb 2019.

I am also working on my diary and hopefully by Feb it’s will be ready and published as well as my 10 learning lesson points which I will be presenting in schools , universities and to the stakeholders.
5. How can well wishers support you.

My campaign walks are supported by different people’s and wildlife agencies or NGO’s. I also sell t-shirts , hoodies & wristbands in support of this campaign with a message on them. One can use our mchanga account account no 891300 Account name ENC. This campaign needs atleast one support vehicle (Landcruizer) and we are looking for a one before the next walk.
6. Your message for the Kenyan youths.

Youths need to participate in conservation and environmental conservation practically, one they need to know how they affect our livelihoods directly and indirectly. They also need to visit parks and this will improve their attitudes towards wildlife conservation as most of them have negative attitudes driven by perpetual attitudes. They need to start up opportunities such as use social media in promoting domestic tourism and this will create jobs for many youths.