The Ivory Bill has gained Royal Assent to become law. The Act is expected to come into force in late 2019. The end of the ivory trade in the UK removes any hiding place for the trade in illegal ivory and sends a powerful message to the world that ivory will no longer be valued as a commodity. Ivory belongs on an elephant and when the buying stops the killing will stop.

One of the world’s toughest bans on ivory sales has become law in the UK today as the Ivory Bill gained Royal Assent to become the Ivory Act 2018.

Since the Bill was introduced on 23 May 2018 it has rapidly cleared Parliamentary processes, with support from across the House. It is expected to come into force in late 2019.

The number of elephants has declined by almost a third in the last decade and around 20,000 a year are still being slaughtered due to the global demand for ivory.

Environment Secretary, Michael Gove said:

It is an extraordinary achievement to have passed this Act of Parliament. The Ivory Act is a landmark in our fight to protect wildlife and the environment. The speed of its passage through Parliament shows the strength of feeling on all sides of the House on this critical issue.

The UK has shown global leadership and delivered on a key commitment in the 25 Year Environment Plan. We are determined to end this insidious trade and make sure ivory is never seen as a commodity for financial gain or a status symbol.

Once commenced, the Act will:

  • Introduce a total ban on dealing in items containing elephant ivory, regardless of their age, within the UK, as well as export from or import to the UK.
  • Create narrow and carefully defined set of exemptions.
  • Establish a new compliance system to allow owners to continue to trade in exempt items
  • Introduce tough new penalties for those found guilty of breaching the ban, including fines and possible imprisonment.

During October 2018, the Environment Secretary, Michael Gove launched a coalition of political leaders, conservationists and celebrities dedicated to defeating the illegal trade in ivory and establishing ivory sales bans in other countries around the globe. It is called the Ivory Alliance 2024.

Helen Clark, former Prime Minister of New Zealand said:

I am delighted to see the UK’s domestic ivory ban is now law and to be part of the Secretary of State’s Ivory Alliance 2024, which will tackle the demand side of the severe poaching crisis we have seen in the past decade. This crucial agenda has my strong support, and I look forward to playing my part by engaging government leaders on strong legislation and enforcement.

This show of leadership from the UK comes at a crucial time for wildlife conservation internationally — and will go a long way towards influencing countries, including New Zealand and Australia, on movement towards their own bans.

Support from Non-Governmental Organisations working in international conservation:

Will Travers OBE and Virginia McKenna OBE, Co-Founders the Born Free Foundation, said:

Protecting wild elephants from the ravages of the bloody ivory trade requires anti-poaching; intelligence gathering; trafficking interception; deterrent sentencing; public education in market countries; and ending the trade in ivory – all ivory. The measures taken by the Westminster government to bring near-complete closure to the UK’s domestic ivory market – one of the largest in the world – are fully endorsed by the Born Free Foundation and have overwhelming support in the country. They are not only practical, workable and effective, but send a powerful signal that we no longer value the teeth of dead elephants, but champion the compassionate conservation of wild, free-living elephants and the habitats they rely on.

Professor Lee White CBE, director of the Gabonese National Parks Agency said:

This is an important step towards taking action to protect our precious elephants in Africa. At the Giants Club summit in April, Gabon along with many of our African partners called on Europe to implement a ban on commercial ivory sales. I am delighted to see the UK has listened to us in Africa and has continued to be a key partner, with Gabon, in this fight against the Illegal Wildlife Trade.

Old or new ivory and its continued sale around the globe helps to fuel the illegal killing of Forest Elephants in Gabon, as it creates a demand for this commodity. We must stop it by encouraging more domestic sales bans, like the UK has introduced.

I want to congratulate the UK for showing leadership on this important issue.

Charlie Mayhew, Founder and CEO of Tusk Trust said:

The significance of Royal Assent for the Ivory Bill should not be underestimated as we continue our fight to save one of the planet’s most iconic species. Tusk has worked closely with DEFRA and Government Ministers over the last three years to introduce this legislation, for which there has always been overwhelming public support. Whilst recognising the need to include pragmatic exemptions to protect items of important historic, artistic and cultural value, this Bill sends a clear message that there is no place for the use of ivory in the 21st century.

The UK Government has once again taken a lead on tackling the trade and reducing the poaching that has decimated elephant populations over the last three decades. We sincerely hope that this move will now persuade the EU and other countries to follow suit and bolster vital efforts to halt all illegal wildlife trade.

Paul De Ornellas, Chief Wildlife Advisor at WWF said:

Stopping the brutal trade in ivory is crucial to end trafficking and ensure a future for elephants. The UK government has listened and is showing decisive leadership. Now, we need China, the major destination for illegal ivory in recent years, to resolutely enforce its trade ban. It’s also equally important, for other countries on the Chinese border, to commit to closing their ivory markets.

John Stephenson, Stop Ivory CEO said:

We welcome the new Ivory Act. It represents an important milestone in the eradication of the ivory trade, a trade responsible for the poaching that threatens the very survival of elephants as a species.

The new law is exactly what African governments on the front line of the poaching crisis have been calling for.

The 19 African countries that form the Elephant Protection Initiative see this law as a breakthrough in their struggle to save their elephants.

We urge those remaining governments which continue to allow the ivory trade, including the EU, to follow the UK’s leadership and hasten the day when ivory is no longer valued as a commodity. When the buying stops, the killing will stop.

Head of Policy and Campaigns at IFAW, David Cowdrey, said:

The UK ivory ban is a momentous victory for elephant conservation. With populations being decimated by the poaching crisis at the rate of one elephant slaughtered every 26 minutes, it is vital that we close down ivory markets. The British public are strongly rejecting ivory ownership in favour of elephant protection and we are delighted that the UK Government has succeeded in putting in place one of the toughest ivory bans in the world. We hope that others will follow their lead so that in future, ivory is only valued on a live elephant.

Matt Walpole, Director of Conservation Programmes at Fauna & Flora International said:

This ban sets a global standard and, by removing opportunities for trade in ivory, sends a clear message that elephants are more valuable alive. Poaching for trade in ivory is arguably the greatest threat to elephants today. Other countries with legal ivory markets must now follow suit so that elephants will be one step closer to a brighter future.


Ivory Act 2018

Create narrow and carefully defined exemptions to the ban for:

  • Items with only a small amount of ivory. Such items must be comprised of less than 10% ivory by volume and have been made prior to 1947
  • Musical instruments. These must have an ivory content of less than 20% and have been made prior to 1975
  • Portrait miniatures. A specific exemption for portrait miniatures – which were often painted on thin slivers of ivory – made before 1918
  • Sales to and between accredited museums. This applies museums accredited by Arts Council England, the Welsh Government, The Scottish Government or the Northern Ireland Museums Council in the UK, or, for museums outside the UK, The International Council of Museums
  • The rarest and most important items of their type. Items of outstanding artistic, cultural or historic significance, and made prior to 1918. Such items will be subject to the advice of specialists at institutions such as the UK’s most prestigious museums

Ivory Alliance 2024

  • The ambition of the Ivory Alliance 2024 is to reduce the illegal killing of African elephants by at least one third by the end of 2020, and two thirds by the end of 2024, a decade on from the 2014 London Declaration committing governments around the world to fight the illegal wildlife trade.
  • Our ambitions for the Ivory Alliance are based on data from the CITES Monitoring the Illegal Killing of Elephants (MIKE) programme.
  • Tracking and measuring elephant poaching and populations is a complex science. We are setting up a Group of Specialists that will inform the Ivory Alliance campaign. The first task of this group will be to determine the most robust and appropriate metric to measure the success of the Ivory Alliance against its target ambition.

Elephants mourning one of their deceased

The month of December this year is packed with wonderful astronomical events to look up to.

The most notable and certainly my favourite is the Geminids meteor shower which is famous for its bright multicoloured meteors. It also produces the most meteors an hour! Last years show was absolutely fantastic. It lit up the night sky. My stargazing journal reminds me that I began watching the ‘show’ at 11.20 pm right till 3.35 am! Wow (the only time I’ll stay up for sure). The best part of all this? I observed over 60 meteors! And this year, I hope to surpass that number.

Photo was taken with Nikon P900

A weekends stargazing session at Rukinga Wildlife Sanctuary offered plenty of stars and planets to see, of course, the night sky is dark with almost zero light pollution. The most prominent constellation was Scorpius the Scorpion. It is home to many deep sky objects such as the Butterfly Cluster. A cluster is a group of stars or galaxies that appear near each other.

And bright stars like Antares (Alpha Scorpii). This is a red supergiant that is about 500 light years away.

A light year is the distance light travels in one year which is roughly 9.5 trillion Km.

Scorpius covers a very rich and varied part of the night sky and when you gaze upon this constellation and its ‘neighbours’, you are looking toward the centre of our Milky Way.  The actual core lies behind dark clouds of interstellar dust. But between us and the core lie thousands of stars and nebulas that adorn the entire region.

A question raised during our interactive stargazing night was, “how can we tell the difference between a star and a planet?”

well for a start and one of the easiest ways to distinguish between stars and planets in the night sky is by looking to see if the object twinkles or shimmers.  If indeed the object twinkles then it is most likely a star. Planets remain constant in their brightness.

Here we see our Moon & Jupiter (left) with four of its Moon’s; Lo, Europa, Ganymede, Callisto

Note whether the object rises or sets. If the celestial object appears to move in a more or less straight line across the night sky (similar to the sun & moon) then it is most likely a Planet as they rise in the East and set in the West. Stars on the other end, orbit in a circular pattern around the North Star. They do not rise or set.

Compare their brightness. Planets typically appear much brighter than stars as they reflect the suns light. Stars emit their own light.

If you are still unable to tell the difference,

Identify the ecliptic. Planets are usually found along an imaginary belt across the night sky. Note the location and trajectory of the sun and moon in the sky.

A cluster of stars (Photo taken with Nikon P900)


Dec 13-14– Geminids meteor shower. This is the king of meteor showers. Producing up to 120 bright meteors an hour.

Dec 15—Mercury at Greatest western elongation. This is the best time to view mercury as it will at its highest point above the horizon in the morning sky.

Dec 21—December Solstice. The south pole of the Earth will be tilted towards the sun. this is the first day of summer in the southern hemisphere and the first day of winter in the northern hemisphere.

Dec 21-22– Ursids meteor shower. This shower produces up to 10 meteors an hour.

Dec 22 — full Moon. The moon will be located on the opposite side of the earth and its face will be fully illuminated.

Annamarie Borges

Annamarie is very enthusiastic about the cosmos and all its fascinating & mysterious aspects.  She spends most of her time, including those cold but clear nights plotting constellations.


Annamarie stargazing with friends. In between is her 50mm Telescope.

Alberto Borges is a Young National Geographic Explorer, an Honorary Member of the Scientific Exploration Society—UK, and the Founder of The Explorer’s  Club of Kenya and magazine which was first published in 2014. Presently, a 3rd year at Catawba College.

 The previous days’ desert run from Marsabit to North Horr had obviously tired us out. A not-so-cosy bed and a lukewarm shower were comforting but the high temperatures gave us a restless and sleepless night.

At the crack of dawn I watched several desert birds such as the Jackson’s hornbills, crowned starlings and fan tailed ravens forage scraps of food in the sand. It seemed strange as I couldn’t figure out what they kept picking out from there. The locals were now taking their goats and camels for grazing; a typical day in North Horr was beginning.

As there is little to do for a visitor, except to visit any of the three oases and engage locals in ‘chitter-chatter’ on how and what their goats feed on for the day. We however, decided to conquer North Horr’s only highest spot, Daban-Dabli some 1000 ft a.s..l, but only a few hundred feet above the surrounding terrain, and a few miles north of the settlement. It was not an easy climb, since it was steeper than it had seemed. The summer sun scorched us mercilessly.

However, once we got to the top, we had an excellent view of the surroundings, open glades below and Mount Kulal on the southern horizon. The breeze was pleasantly cool and refreshing.

 On our return to the settlement, we saw a herd of Thompson gazelles prancing away to a safe distance. A local cautioned us against climbing down from the steeper incline as there was a high chance of encountering hyenas.

In the middle of our delicious mbuzi choma (roasted goat meat), slaughtered by the locals to welcome our arrival, the D.C received a call with sad news. Some 130 miles from here en route to the border town, Ileret, at an oasis called Darate, two lorries transporting relief food to Ileret were barred from proceeding due to ethnic differences of Gabbra (Kenyan) and Dassanach (Ethiopian) people who frequently crisscrossed the border. The situation was made worse by the killing of four Gabbra men by the Dassanach herders during this period.


The Dist. Commissioner (DC) summoned the O.C.S, the O.C.P.D, the area chief and about twenty police officers. After a long discussion, the DC concluded that they must immediately rush to the troubled area, and try to bring peace to the two communities who were then preparing for war. I thought this would be a perfect time to tour and explore one of Africa’s most remote regions and to understand the hardships of the people living there. I requested the D.C for me to tag along as an observer and to my surprise he agreed. However, he made it clear that it was highly risky as the area could turn to a battleground if things didn’t go as planned and that my life would be at jeopardy. None the less, I was excited to experience the adventure in a totally new way.

We sped off just after lunch in a convoy of two Land Cruisers in a westerly direction, churning up huge clouds of dust. The scenery quickly changed from sand dunes to pans and barren lava fields giving us an impression that we were on the surface of the moon.

For two hours the track was relatively smooth and progress was fast as we drove at nearly 100km/h in straight stretches.

 The track then climbed for several hundred feet until we reached a fertile plateau as compared to desert standards, locally known as Little Chalbi. Here I saw hundreds of camels and thousands of goats grazing in lush  meadows however there seemed tbe no people let alone huts.

Leaving drought stuck North Horr heading to Derate

The track quickly meandered out of sight; the Cruiser snarled its way over thickets and ruts. With no GPS or mobile network, our phones had long been rendered useless.

I consulted my map only to find out, Little Chalbi which lay approximately between 3 – 4 North of the Equator and 36 – 37° East of the Greenwich, wasn’t even indicated on the map I had. We were now off the beaten track when out of the blue it reappeared.

Little Chalbi

We drove through several rock strewn lagas (dry river beds) off Puckoon Ridge.  I had the impression that we were in a time capsule travelling thousands of years back in time, as I had not seen even one person for nearly a hundred kilometres. The landscape was untouched by humans; the little vegetation cover was dry or maybe dead. It was wild, slowly weathering and seemed to come to life during short violent flash floods.

Puckoon, Ridge, East of Sibiloi National Park

I noticed strange tall birds that were least bothered with neither the Cruisers’ diesel grunt nor the deep rumble or the stones being thrown by the tyres whenever we abruptly came to a laga. Their heads were always tilted at a forty five degree angle and didn’t move as we whizzed by. They seemed deeply engrossed with what they were doing. These huge birds are known as the Kori Bustards; the world’s highest flying birds.

The journey was getting more rough and torturous; dusk was beginning to engulf us and several nocturnal creatures were awakening. Night jars were flying off from the ground, bush hares scampered off the road, jackals and dik diks were often being seen near thickets, their eyes glowing in the dark. Suddenly we saw a camp fire, tens of men and hundreds of goats on the side of the road. We ground to a halt in an area called Darate. The foliage was dry, with small ridges covered with lava fields and dry bush. Further ahead, was an oasis fringed with palm and acacia trees surrounded by two hills and several lagas. There was a wind blown dilapidated police post with a communication radio as their only connection to the outside world.

The officers jumped out of the Cruiser and went to interrogate the men. The area M.P, a member from Marsabit  County Assembly and other Gabbra men had been spying on neighboring Dassanach people and plotting against them. They however told the D.C. they were mourning the death of the four Gabbra men who were killed by the Dassanach.

We drove to the police post further ahead where we saw the two lorries we heard about earlier, their drivers and turn boys and nine Dassanach people, mostly women and children had hitched a ride to Ileret. The D.C. summoned the M.P and the member of M.C.A for a discussion along with the O.C.S and the O.C.P.D. It was now dark and the meeting took place under a tree with the clear, star studded sky as the only source of lighting. Meanwhile, two goats, respectfully donated by the M.P to the D.C were being slaughtered. This would soon be our supper.

During daybreak, the following morning, I was taken aback by the immense strength of the wind as I walked around the camp. Engaging the officers in small talks revealed that I wasn’t the only one who had a rough night. Most officers slept on bare ground whilst a few others in the back of Land Cruisers trying to get cozy and warm. I managed to squeeze my self and sleep awkwardly in the cabin of a Cruiser. It had been a long, lonely and sleepless night for everyone.  

Desolate wilderness roamed by tough nomads and survived by hardy plants

As we had breakfast, which comprised of tea made with goat milk, army biscuits and a few groundnuts the D.C had carried, there was a lot of confusion on what was the days’ plan. Everyone had their own imaginary plans but it was up to the D.C to decide on what next. He consulted the O.C.S and the O.C.P.D and not long after, they arrived at a decision. We would escort the lorries to Ileret where the relief food was desperately needed. 

 The next leg of the journey began at about mid morning; progress was slow due to the lorries and yet again several lagas where one had to drive slowly and cautiously. After a mere 10Km, the convoy suddenly came to a halt. We saw an old Dassanach man who was carrying a rifle and head rest cum stool. The D.C stepped out of the Cruiser to enquire the man’s activities. He took my binoculars with him of which somehow made him more superior… well, from a local’s point of view at least. The old man told the D.C that some twenty donkeys of his strayed away at dawn, one of which was a new born foal.

In the background are the wind swept structures that the Administrative Police once lived. This is one of the most remote police posts in E. Africa

He suspected that they went to the oasis to quench their thirst, just near the police camp as he pointed at the hoof prints along the track. I clearly remember seeing donkeys around the camp earlier, however it seemed nobody else did.

We continued clipping off miles of dry, desolate uninhabited wild country as the hours past by. There were several dry bush birds I kept seeing, such as Kori bustards, red and yellow barbets, chest-bellied sand grouse, yellow necked spur fowls, vulturine guinea fowl, superb starlings, fan tailed ravens and Jackson’s hornbills. All this time, Lake Turkana was beckoning us but was unseen, our view blocked by ridge after ridge. However, the tracks had gradually changed from small lava rocks to smooth sands which hinted we were getting closer to the lakeshore and border town. Suddenly, many huts and small structures appeared and soon, children were chasing after the convoy. We had reached.

Ileret is a small outlandish cluster of Dassanach settlements. There are fisheries stores, N.G.Os and missionaries and of course the lakeshores which are home to crocodiles and hippos. The D.C assigned an officer to take me to the lakeshores in his Yamaha motorbike whilst they discussed the situation.

The lake was beginning to flood its shores and the waters were calm and had a deadly brownish hue, this was contrary to what I was expecting. Tales of early explorers that I had read, to Lake Turkana told of the waters being jade in color, just like the oceans yet rougher than the North Sea.  The brownish hue was being caused by siltation from the over flooded Omo River which was carrying sediments from the Ethiopian Highlands.


At this time of the year, the over forty varieties of fish are more in the north than in the south as the sediments bring in nutrients hence breeding occurs. The fishermen harvest high yields of fish and the lake is teaming with plenty of water birds.

After spending some time by the shores, we headed back to the town, at the police station where the rest were having yet another goat meat lunch. We then toured the new Lake Turkana Basin Institute founded by Dr. Richard Leakey to study various fossils that he and his team discovered in Koobi Fora.  Later, we began our return journey to North Horr which took us more than five long hours through the boundaries of Sibiloi National Park. We arrived in North Horr by 9.00p.m safe and sound but tired, dusty and hungry. 

Darate Oasis


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Tracks and signs are all around you, even in the city. Ideal examples are birds that normally leave feces on windows, raptors that swift off the chicken from our backyards which was quite typical for us who grew up in a rural setup or forested area you definitely know not to leave your windows open, the cheeky primates are always on the lookout for an opportunistic feed.

Next time you go for a walk (obviously am not talking about pavements or tarmac) try learning as much as you can from what others have left behind, you will be surprised how much you can learn from foot tracks;

  1. How many people walked the track before you and which direction were they walking towards.
  2. Were they walking or running? Is there a scope on the front tip of the shoe track to indicate they were running
  3. Are the tracks fresh? you can even tell the type of shoe from this example rubbers, boots or sports shoes

However, it is on farms and in conservation and wilderness areas that you will discover the joys and uses of reading signs. There’s so much to read on the ground, all that took place at night is written down on the ground; a hunt, a fight, or even where the animal took a nap. Man-made gravel and sand roads are the best for reading signs especially for an area with less traffic, on one of my previous articles I gave detailed clues on how to read and identify various common carnivore tracks due to public demand I will take you through how to read and identify Rhino tracks and signs next time you’re on a game drive or doing a bushwalk in a rhino sanctuary be on the lookout for this interesting signs and clues.

Black Rhino

-The tracks of the hook-lipped rhinoceros are very similar to those of the square-lipped rhinoceros but are shorter.

-This is one rare rhinoceros to come across, an endangered species to be precise with only 15 metapopulations in Kenya.

Black Rhino tracks

-Tracks are similar to those of white rhino but are shorter

-Indentation of the posterior edge is not  usually well pronounced

Black rhino dung

The black rhino is a browser, and its dung consists of coarse, woody plant material mixed with finer material.

White Rhino

– From their sheer size, the tracks are also larger than those of the black rhino

– Both Rhinoceros species have three horny- nailed toes, the largest in front and a slightly smaller one on either side.

– The front foot track is wider and a bit more rounded than the hind track and maybe a little longer.


-Have three horny- nailed toes.

-Front foot track is wider and more rounded than the hind track.

-Indentation on posterior edge is usually more pronounced.

-The white rhino is a grazer, and so the content of its dung is fairly uniform in appearance with relatively fine plant fibres.

-They normally use their hind legs to spread it around (to mark its territory)

– Unlike the black Rhino which spreads its dung with it’s hind legs to spread it the white Rhino does not



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.


Field identification of wildlife tracks and Scats is a rangers speciality, over time one gets acquainted and familiarized with the various animal tracks, this is one unique skill that is quite handy to every ranger because being aware of your surrounding is optimal for survival.

By interpreting tracks and signs in an area, you can piece together a record of recent visitors and events. For instance, if you come across a recent kill site there is so much information on the ground; approach tracks of a predator, jumping sprints, deep tracks left by the antelope in its bid to escape, blood spots on the sand, a drag mark leading to the bushes for concealment.

Fresh Lion tracks

It would be easy to walk straight past the scene, but a careful observer could easily piece together a vivid picture that is as fascinating as witnessing the kill itself, the stories read on the ground are sometimes amusing or dramatic and add greatly to your understanding of the animals’ behaviour of the particular area

I have taken visitors on bush walks in the various conservancies and parks that I have worked in and it’s quite fascinating how astonished they get on realizing how easily we read the footprints on the ground and tell which animals we are on their tracks, categorizing the various scats we come across, and how various animals differ in browse selection and preference of plant species. But that’s a story for another day.

I would like to walk you through how to identify common Carnivore Tracks and Scats, a breakdown that is simple to be comprehended by anyone from an ecologist, hiker, outdoors fan,wildlife/ natural resource student, conservationist, safari guide and if you live close to any conservation area then be very keen to understand how to tell which carnivore visits you farm at night to prey on your livestock in the event you need to fill up a compensation form.

One of the best pointers to tell apart a Lion and leopard track from a hyena and cheetah track other than size and location found is that Lions and leopards have retractile claws “the claws only come out when hunting” unlike for the hyenas and cheetas that are always out.


Lion Spoor

  • The hind tracks are narrow than front tracks.
  • Each foot has a single large pad with two indentations on posterior edge.
  • No claw marks show in tracksFront paw: Total length 110-130mmTotal width 90-125mm-Hind paw: Total length 105-125mmTotal width 80-115mmLion Scat

The average diameter of the droppings is usually greater than 40 mm

-May resemble those of spotted hyena though scattered at random and with great variation

-Droppings comprising mainly digested blood and flesh retain their dark colour but those containing a lot of calcium will whiten as they dry.

Spotted Hyena

Hyena Spoor

-Claws are blunt and show on tracks

-The front feet are larger than hind feet

-Main pad is large and its posterior edge


Front paw: Total length 90-105mm

Total width 90-105mm

Hind paw: Total length 80-95mm

Total width 75-85mm

Hyena Scat

Dropping are greenish when fresh and turns whitish when they dry this is because of considerable quantities of bones fragments that they consume


Black-backed Jackal Spoor

-The front foot has a large triangular main pad.

-The two middle toes extend well beyond the outer toes.

-In the hind foot, the main pad is smaller than that of the front foot but the two middle toes also extend forward.

Black-backed Jackal Scat

– Produce sausage shaped droppings
-Droppings are greenish but turns white after several days.


Leopard Spoor

-The hind track is elongated than the front

-Each foot has a single large pad with two indentations on posterior edge.

– Front paw: Total length 70-90mm.

Total width 70-90mm.

-Hind paw: Total length 80-100mm

Total width 60-80mm

Leopard Scat

-The average diameter of the droppings ranges from 20 to 30 mm.

-They are usually large but never as large as the droppings produced by an adult lion.

-May contain large quantities of hair.


Cheetah Spoor


Show claw marks on track

-Single large pad with a double indentation in the posterior edge

-Tracks are more elongated than  those of lion

-Front paw: Total length 70-85mm

Total width 65-75mm

-Hind paw: Total length 75-90mm

Cheetah Scat

-Produce sausage shaped droppings.
-May deposit  loose accumulations at lying-up spots near large kills.


Wild dog Spoor

-Claws are blunt & thick & show on tracks

-Main pad is roughly triangular and

-posterior edge is straight

-Each foot leaves fours toe imprints.

-Front paw: Total length 76-80mm

Total width 56-65mm

-Hind paw  Total length 68-82mm

Total width 48-55mm

African Wild dog Scat     

-Generally, scatter their droppings throughout their home ranges.

-Droppings can accumulate at dens sites with pups.


-The tracks of the fox are much smaller than those of jackal

-The claws may extend up to 18 mm beyond the toe pads and hind track is narrower than front track.

-The claws of the middle two-toes of the front foot are close together in the tracks

-The average diameter of the droppings is 18 mm.

-Droppings consist of chiefly of insects fragment but may contain large quantities of seeds and fruit skins.


To learn more about tracking you can write to us for any specific animal that you would like to learn about or alternatively you can purchase a field guide book by Chris & Mathilde Stuart which is quite handy in learning basic tracking skills.

Rangers come across carcasses in the wild on almost a daily basis. Be it a predator kill, natural death, poaching among many other causes during their daily patrols. But not just rangers, ecologists, researchers and my targeted persons Tour Guides do as well, it is of critical importance to report any mortality sighting to the authority of the conservation area, be it a Park, Reserve or private conservation area. You might help detect a disease outbreak, typically if its a predator kill there will be clues if not the predator then scavengers: hyenas, jackals or vultures circulating the site from above or already on the ground.

Back to my guides who provide vital opportunistic sightings of mortalities its always of much help if you can roughly estimate the period that the animal is presumed to have been dead for, now this is why I have decided to take time and come up with a few leads that can help give a rough estimate of the carcass decomposition stages, from a fresh carcass to a very old one.

If you’re in the field of mammalian research be it carnivores or the herbivores you will definitely find this article quite handy.

1 Day old Elephant Carcass

Determining sex of dead elephant

Patrol teams can determine the sex of a dead elephant by examining the animal’s body, tusks, and/ or skull as follows

Fresh body.

– If you have a complete fresh body, you may be able to determine sex from body shape.

Male; shoulder height above rump and this sloped shape becomes more prominent with age.

Female; Shoulder and rump remains same height but back elongates and shows saddle back, becomes more prominent.


Fresh Elephant carcass description (0-3 weeks)

-Complete carcass present.

-Evidence of scavenger activity (droppings of scavengers, e.g. Vultures, hyenas, etc.)

-Round swollen body with decomposition fluids flowing from the carcass.

-The possible presence of maggots.

-Wet intestines within the body or around it.

-Wet skin and visible rot patches.

-A strong smell from the decomposing carcass.

-If tusks are present, they will be firmly secured in the skull, if removed the hack marks are fresh.

Fresh Carcass


Carcass Description

-Pool of blood in the carcass.

-Meat still intact in the bones.

-Presence of a predator preying on the carcass.

12 Hour Old Carcass

Carcass Description

-Pool of blood around the carcass.

-Flesh beneath skin giving rounded appearance.

– Some internal organs remaining, very minimal damage to bones

1-week Old Carcass

Carcass Description

–  This is a recent kill, with blood still present in the bone.

– Less meat and skin on bones.

-No blood or fluid seen.

– Rot patch dry around carcass.

4 – Month Old Carcass

Carcass Description

-Flesh has been totally cleaned and it is turning greyish.

-Less meat on the bones.

-Bare ground around carcass

– Body not rounded or swollen, shrunken.

– No strong smell from the carcass.

– Some bones may still be attached to the skin but easily detachable.

6- Month Old Carcass

– Change of color i.e. whitish-greyish

– Less meat and skin on bones.

– No blood or fluid seen.

– Some bones may be joined to tissues.

– Absence of vegetation within the death spot.

– Death spot dry, absence of body fluids and stomach contents present.

-No fresh or recent signs of scavengers.

-Dry, desiccated skin.

1 Year Old Carcass

Carcass Description

-Bones are ‘White and growing’ in sunlight

-Vegetation has regrown around the carcass.

-No signs of body tissues.

– Bones may be scattered away from original death spot.

– Very little tissue noticeable attached to the bones.

– There may be little movement of bones from the original death spot due to scavengers.

Description of very old Carcass (More than 1 year)

– Bones are becoming increasingly grey in colour.

– Bones are cracking and crumbling.

– Bones usually scattered further away from the original point of death.

– Grey and cracked bones

Difficulties in Assigning Carcass Age stages

Old vs. Very Old

– The onset of colouration is dependent on environmental and climatic factors.

– May be difficult to distinguish white from grey bones in certain habitats.

Recent vs. Old

– Rot patch development depending on the size of the animal, the physical conditions of the death spot (rocky conditions, river bed, swamp etc) human and other wildlife interference.

– The lack of any tissue on the bones should indicate’old’ where there are problems in determining the status of a rot patch.

– Using external characteristics such as external genitalia. Soft external genitalia are, however, the first body part consumed by mammalian scavengers thus these may disappear or be modified very quickly after death.


Scavenging animals in Kenya are on high alert. What used to be a delicacy has recently become their death bed.

Wildlife poisoning has emerged as one of the major threats affecting our wildlife populations in Kenya. Aggrieved persons have resorted to using poisonous chemicals in retaliation for human-wildlife conflict cases, for example, lemme take you back to December 2015 when two Lions from the famous Marsh Pride and 15 White-Backed vultures were poisoned alongside other species in the Maasai Mara ecosystem as a result of retaliatory killing due to conflict.

Wildlife poisoning is a silent killer that indiscriminately kills large numbers of animals and is harmful to human and ecological health. A poison is any substance that can cause severe organ damage or death if ingested, breathed in or absorbed through the skin. The use of poison to kill wildlife is silent, cheap and easy and has, therefore, become a common method used in the illegal control of damage-causing animals, harvesting fish and bushmeat, harvesting animals for belief-based uses, poaching for wildlife products, and killing of wildlife sentinels.

Poisoning of birds, including migratory species, occurs year-round in Kenya’s rice schemes and in other water bodies. Fish are also harvested using poisons and both poisoned fish and birds make their way to local markets where they are often sold to unsuspecting customers with potentially grave impacts for human health.

The Wildlife Conservation and Management Act 2013, has identified wildlife poisoning as one of the major wildlife crimes that is punishable by law. Poisoning has had a profound negative effect on our carnivores: lions, hyenas, leopards, cheetahs, and wild dogs, and on birds of prey: vultures, eagles and other scavengers. Aquatic species including fish have also been affected due to water pollution with poisonous chemicals.

Common Chemicals Used to Poison Wildlife in Kenya

There are a number of toxic chemicals such as agro-chemicals, plant-based extracts and heavy metals which have been used in the illegal poisoning of wildlife in Kenya. Over the last 8 years, the majority of poisoning incidents have been carried out using agro-chemicals which can be broadly classified as pesticides, herbicides, fungicides, acaricides. The most commonly used pesticides are organophosphates, pyrethroids and carbamates.

During the period between 2009 and 2017, some of the wildlife poisoning incidents and chemical compounds identified are summarized below.

Year Month Species affected Number affected Chemical (Compound identified) Location County
2009 Apr Lion 1 Carbamate Maasai Mara Narok
2009 Apr Vultures 40 Carbamate Maasai Mara Narok
2010 Vultures 20 Amitraz (Acaricide) Maasai Mara Narok
2011 Feb Fish Mass die off Pyrethroid Maasai Mara Narok
2011 Elephant 1 Ouabain (Plant extract) Siyapei Narok
2014 Lions 5 Carbamate Ngurumani Kajiado
2015 July Lions 1 Carbamate Laikipia
2015 Nov Lions 2 Carbamate Maasai Mara Narok
2015 Nov Vultures 15 Carbamate Maasai Mara Narok
2016 Feb Elephants 2 Carbamate Maasai Mara Narok
2016 Elephant 1 Ouabain (Plant extract) Tsavo Taita Taveta
2017 May Elephants 2 Pyrethroid Ngurumani kajiado

Table1; Summary of chemical compounds, wildlife species affected, location and year (KWS 2017)

Some of the clinical symptoms to look for in Suspected Poisoned Animal

Clinical symptoms of poisoned animals Generally, animals display similar symptoms of poisoning depending on their taxa. Poisoned mammals may exhibit one or more of the following symptoms:

  • Loss of appetite
  • Paralysis
  • Muscle spasm
  • Vomiting
  • Severe dehydration
  • Drooling of saliva/ hyper-salivation
  • Increased tearing/ hyper-lacrimation
  • Lethargy
  • Disorientation
  • Convulsions
  • Seizures
  • Coma
  • Death

Poisoned bird species may exhibit one or more of the following symptoms:

  • Unable to fly
  • Paralysis
  • Convulsions
  • Drooping wings
  • Blood in the droppings
  • Skin irritation
  • Drooping dead
  • Mass-die-offs

Poisoning of animals around Mara ecosystem is on the rise and drastic measures need to be put in place to curb the menace. On 22nd November a concerned friend of mine who runs a tour firm sent me the photo and video of a tawny eagle which evidently was poisoned, this was at Oloolaimutia and I advised him to report the incidence to the local authority which he had already done.



 All wildlife poisoning cases requiring treatment should be handled by qualified veterinarians registered by KWS

If you ever come across Poisoning cases that require rehabilitation  in Kenya are to be referred to KWS Nairobi Animal orphanage or to KWS approved orphanages some of which are listed below among others;

Nairobi Animal Orphanage

Tel: 020 2379407, 020 6002345,  020-2379408, 020-2379409, 020-2379410, 020-2379411, 020-2379412, 020-2379413, 020-2379414,

Call Center: 0800 597 000 or 0800 221 5566

David Sheldrick Wildlife Trust

Tel: 0202 301396, 0733 891996

Raptor Rehabilitation Center Karen, Nairobi

Tel: +254721969640/ 0723829529

For further reading refer to Response Protocol to Wildlife Poisoning Incidents in Kenya February 2018