WINNER MAA AWARDS FEMALE TOUR GUIDE OF THE YEAR 2019

Tour guiding is a male-dominated career here in Africa but there’s one lady who is setting the pace, gone are the days for stereotyping careers she says and just do what you love, nothing you do will be good enough for everyone so just do what you feel your calling is, had an interview with her and this is how it went

1. Tell us about yourself, where you were brought up, your aspirations as a kid.
I’m Ann Tumpesia, I’m 26years old, born in the heart of the Great Rift valley, Narok county, Transmara west, lolgorian ward. As a kid, I grew up in a culture full of traditions. That means education was not a priority. Something I can say is that I was lucky to be born as the last born of 4.. and that made a difference coz I got a chance to go to school. During our time going to school, I could walk for 10kms every day to school and back in the afternoon. On my way, I could always see different animals as I head to school and I can interpret whether I was safe or not. I could follow animal tracks and poops to get to know if I’m on a safer route or not. And every day was unique to me and my one brother who also got a chance to attend school. As a young kid especially a girl, it was never easy. There were higher chances that I might not have completed my schooling because of culture but thanks to my mom she showed me the right way. When I was 12 years old I lost my mom and I knew this was the end of me. I knew I was going to face the culture once again. This includes (FGM), and early Marriage. I decided to run away from home and I got lucky to find a girl rescue center where I got helped and went back to school. After high school, I knew I was going to make it and not let anything hold me back. I went back home as I knew I was an adult I can make my own decisions.

2. Did you have any other career/job before becoming a guide?
Yes I wanted to be a journalist but I didn’t have money to go to university and before I became a tour guide I worked as a house help for 4 months that’s 2014, then I got some money I went to apply for a dishwashing job in one hotel in Maasai Mara and after 2weeks I got confirmed for the position. This was just the beginning, after a couple of months, the same camp I was working at were looking for waiters and waitresses and since I was learning how to do the waitress job silently I applied for it. A few days later I was confirmed. I got a new job, a new salary, and getting stress free but that was not my stopping point it wasn’t easy either, of course, you’d meet different people you are working with. Some made my working condition hard but I could never give up that easily am a natural fighter. I kept pushing on. At times I wanted to give up but I remember if I stop working hard if I go back to the village I might get married as a sixth wife to someone.  I decided I’m going to work hard for myself.

Ann catching up with one of her guests

3. Why tour guiding and not any other career?
So what made me choose tour Guiding is; 1. I have always been around these animals from my childhood age, and one day as I was still working as a waitress, came a lady named ( Lonah Nabaala) who was having her own guest and she was a guide. One of my colleague waiter said to me “set a table for your fellow lady”. And was like okay.. so I did set a table for her and when she came in for dinner I went ahead and served her and I was feeling deep in my heart that one day I’ll be like her. She gave me more courage to keep chasing what I wanted to do most. I just served her and I decided to ask her some questions which she never hesitated to answer I asked her where I can get the school to study and she told me. On the last day when she was leaving, we exchanged contacts and she promised to keep me posted. And yes she did. One day she asked me if I was free so we can go to a graduation party at the same guiding school and I didn’t want to miss so I asked for permission from my job and one of my colleagues said he was going to work on my behalf for the day. Lonah drove and after few hours we’re in the school since she was one of the alumni she was received and she went straight to have our seats. She met her colleagues and when they were catching up I tip-toed going around the school, looking around and asking people on how I can get a chance to join. And I met one person who told me interviews were going on and I asked him to show me where the interview was being done. I was taken to a hall , people were doing an interview exam. One of the teachers asked me ” are u in for an interview?” And I said yes. He gave me a seat and a paper to fill in and of course an exam. I did it quickly and I left the room praying hard that I get a chance. I went back to the party grounds and I didn’t tell Lonah what I have done. Shortly the party was off and we headed back and still, I hadn’t told her obviously feeling timid, and afraid of getting disappointed or given false hope. She dropped me back at my workplace and after a week I got a phone call from the school asking me to pick my admission letter. Guess who was the first person I called. (Lonah) and she was so proud of me, that really motivated me. And that’s how my dream of becoming a tour guide started.

4. It must be tough for you as a lady in a male-dominated field?
Being a lady in a male-dominated industry has both advantages and disadvantages;  one,you are competing with men and some are quite intimidated by me. They say you chose to do what we are doing so do it a majority of the guides I come across are quite supportive while others are openly chauvinists especially back in the village it’s never easy.

5. How has it been so far for you as a guide?
So far being a guide it’s full of fun and new experiences learning something new each day I don’t think I’m changing my career soon.

6. What’s the most interesting part of your job?
Meeting new people every time and making new friends, am a people person can fit in any crowd it’s full of fun because after every 3to 4 days I meet new people and we have fun differently, it’s never the same with previous guests. I love making fun at work not just with guests but also with my colleagues.

7. How did your family react when you told them you wanted to become a guide?
At first, no one believed because I didn’t ask them for money to go and study the tour Guiding school, they just said that I was joking and they only believed it when I invited them for my graduation day so they should prepare.

8. To the young ladies interested in becoming a guide what’s your advice to them?
Keep focusing, talk to someone about how you want it to happen, get the right mentors to share your thoughts and visions with positive-minded people. Write down what you want to be share with someone. And the other thing don’t rebuke any work that comes your way. Do any work it’s the rope to connect you to your destined work.

9. “Eco Trip match” What’s that all about?
I didn’t know this nomination was happening until I got an email from the company ( Eco Trip match) most of the nominations were done by the guests I have taken on a safari as a guide. The Eco Trip match does analysis each year to encourage and support the conservationist across the world. So this year 2021 I got to be shortlisted as the finalist of the best nature tour guide of the year. Currently, we are voting until the 15th of February and on 16th will get to know who got the highest number of votes. If you want to vote click the link below
How to vote
1. Click the link and wait for it to open … (Don’t scroll)
2. Tap my photo (Ann)
3. Put your email on the space provided below the photos.
4. Submit.

https://www.ecotripmatch.com/best-nature-tour-guide-vote/

10. If I wanted to do a safari with you as my guide how do I get in touch with you?
Currently, I’m working at and beyond kichwa Tembo, Maasai Mara. You can book with them or send an email to me at tumpesia14@gmail.com and I can direct you on how to make a reservation and I’ll be glad to give you an unforgettable experience in the Maasai Mara.
You can also reach me on
Instagram ann_tumpesia
Facebook . Ann Tumpesia
Tweeter. Ann Tumpesia

Whenever theres a Youth forum in active conservation there are some few names that will eventually pop up, Peter Moll is definately top on the list. We met way back in 2014 during one these forums and up to date Peter is still pushing on wildlife advocay. If youre looking for an inspirational wildlife worriors story to motivate you and better yet get a way forward on how you too can get involved , Got to have an interview with him and this is his conservation success story.

I am Peter Fredrick Moll, 28-year-old Kenyan (mixed race, mostly Kenyan (Maasai and Kikuyu) and British) Founder & CEO of the global youth movement, and International Non-Government Organization World Leaders of Today whose main program is Stand Up Shout Out (SUSO) based in over 20 countries and 60 cities (35+ counties in Kenya with 7000 plus members in Kenya alone) WLT deals with good governance, poverty reduction, conservation, youth inclusion, youth empowerment&engagement. I am also Chairman of Africa Conservation Youth Council, WWF Africa ND4NP Youth rep, one of the Africa Youth For Nature leaders, the Vice Chairman of the National Conservation Education Forum which is chaired by KWS, Global March For Elephants and Rhino Youth Rep, and former head of Youth section and outreach of the #HandsOffOurElephants campaign and now behind the developing of the National Youth Platform “Mabingwa” in the Ministry of Tourism and Wildlife through the National Wildlife Strategy 2030 that I helped develop.

I recently won the Kenyan National Diversity and Inclusion award for Youth in Leadership 2019 and this organization was overall 1st Runners up Kenyan National Diversity and Inclusion award Best Youth Employment and Engagement Strategy, I was also recognized for my mentorship of youth and youth work by H.E First Lady of Kenya Margaret Kenyatta in 2017.

Last year I went to Geneva Switzerland for the CITES CoP18 with the Kenya government as the youth rep. I was the second rep in the history of that UN convention, and SUSO was the first official Youth run NGO at that UN convention.

I was recently appointed as the UNITED NATIONS Youth Representative for World Wildlife Day 2020 where I also gave an address at the UN HQ New York in March 2020, 

I got a one-second final stage nomination in health services and two individual categories finalist nominee in environment and youth champion/advocate/practitioner in this year’s 2020 Top 35 under 35 national awards in and two organizational categories. In the individual category, I won the top 35 under 35 YOUTH OF THE YEAR 2020 – ENVIRONMENT CONSERVATION /ADVOCACY. 

PETER MOLL AND PART OF HIS TEAM

I’m a dreamer doer and I know we youth in Africa are the biggest asset to our continent, so I dream to put Kenyan Youth and African Youth at the table from creation, planning, implantation, and management as well as benefit sharing in order to secure a sustainable future. For how dare they create the future without us when we shall live in that future without them.  

WALKING THE TALK

How did you end up in wildlife advocacy?

In 2013 when I started Stand Up Shout Out which was a movement at the time, which was about standing up for what you believe in, your values, your morals and then Shouting Out not just noise but action, and due to the high poaching at the time, wildlife conservation and elephants was our first official project and I started with conservation education in high schools and universities doing workshops and calls to action, I then organized Jim Nyamus first walk and then was taken on board the Hands off our elephants campaign when it started as the youth leader of the campaign.

How can one join SUSO?

 There are three ways to join SUSO:

 1. If you are in a High school or university that has a SUSO Club, you can join the club or create one

2. If there is a SUSO Division in your county or city you can reach out us via social media and we link you to the executive team or if you do not have a division in your county or city you can propose to start one via info@suso.world

3. Through online application on our website www.suso.world

 Peter I must applaud you for your zeal and determination in wildlife advocacy where do you get the energy from?

It’s simple, once I realized the deeper connection between nature and our futures, between wildlife and my tomorrow, it did not matter whether we love wildlife or not, our destinies are interconnected. If you have a dream, be it to be a doctor, engineer, research, make money, etc, no matter what dream you have that dream needs tomorrow to exist, and for tomorrow to exist, we must protect, mitigate and restore our habitats and wildlife for a healthy planet with a healthy population. So the work we do is to secure tomorrow for our dreams, and this for me keeps my zeal at the highest level.

What plans do you have for the future? 

Create Government-led and backed National, regional, and contently youth platforms for wildlife conservation (AU, CITES, Governments), There is a lot of space for Biodiversity and Climate Change but not enough for wildlife conservation yet it’s all interlinked. I shall lobby for Youth engagement in wildlife conservation to be included in National Strategies and or policies, creating structured space and engagement for youth to bring needed capacity. I want to also push for youth mainstreaming within the county and national governments in general in order to utilize our number one asset in Africa. 

You have been recently appointed GMFER Youth lead with over 100 countries under your lead, how does that make you feel?

God is good! I started organising workshops and marches for Global March For Elephants, Rhinos and Lions (GMFER) in 2014, the marches happen in 111 countries every year. This Global organization deals with wildlife advocacy and conservation. looking forward to working with you all on pushing the youth engagement on wildlife conservation, youth action on wildlife conservation, and wildlife advocacy!

Showing the links between wildlife conservation, biodiversity work, climate action is key on my agenda.

Pushing for international and national youth platform for conservation spearheaded by youth and government together, opening the door for all types of youth with different social-economic backgrounds, genders, and educational backgrounds to know what role they can play in wildlife conservation.

I am living in the tomorrow I created, and we need to create an army of ready youth Who are well equipped, trained, experienced, and empowered to take up the mantel across all fields in conservation; in order to restore, mitigate and protect fauna and flora for our future and well beings.

 Advice to anyone interested in wildlife advocacy and  conservation

Do it differently, do not be stuck in ways of conservation that have been tried and arent working, so dare to be you and bring your different approaches to the table, your innovation, creativity, and how you see the world differently is your greatest power. Also, ensure that you know why you are doing what you are doing, ensure your why is strong because conservation isn’t for the faint of heart, your why should allow you to be resilient and determined. Lastly do not be afraid to start or go alone, but make sure after you start, along the way you create a community that shares the same values and goals as you, and be open to partner with other youth, there is enough space for all of us if we work together to create it! #Ubuntu.

I do not pretend to know everything about taking good wildlife photos, but over a period of half a century hopefully, some hard lessons have been learned. Basically, it was my father who started me on photography in the mid-1960s in South Africa. He gave me an old camera with no film in it and step by step taught me some basics. Of course, it also did help that our family spent many holidays and weekends in National Parks and wildlife areas, this practice taught me “bush tactics” as I began to have a deeper understanding of African wildlife, including understanding animal habits and having the patience to wait for special moments. We have been in East Africa for nearly 18 years and during this period have been privileged to visit many national parks and reserves in Kenya & Uganda. East Africa is incredibly blessed with a wonderful range of wildlife and beautiful natural scenery. As I work in Nairobi for many years I used to drive through the Nairobi National Park mostly twice daily on my route to avoid serious traffic delays and hopefully maintain my sanity. This was before the southern bypass was built, so the effect of over 4500 early morning and late afternoon game drives in the Nairobi National Park gave me the opportunity to witness many very special moments. The privilege of being able to take photos of many incredible species and events has enabled me to integrate photos with the articles that I write.

Here are some factors that help me take better “clicks and pics”…

1) Know your camera equipment- even small “point and shoot” cameras can get good results if used correctly.  Some people buy the best and expect instant excellence.

2) Practice makes perfect- it’s OK to make mistakes, but note how to improve.

3) Hold still- if possible avoid “camera shake”, a “bean bag” to rest the camera does help.

4) Sometimes the first and last hours of the day are “golden hours”- when the soft sunlight is just right for great photos.

5) Don’t over zoom- try to get the full subject into the frame. If moving use the “sports function” and follow with the camera as you click.

6) Try to get out of “City mode” and relax into “Bush mode”.

7) Pray for God to show you the glory of creation.

8) Drive slowly- less than 30 km/h is advised.

9) Don’t just look at grass and trees- look through grass and trees.

10) Watch the reactions of different herbivores and birds- I have often seen lions in this way.

11) Having an attitude of “birdwatching” and showing an interest in the smaller creatures is very rewarding.

12) Don’t drive too far- stop often and wait.

13) Stop often and scan the area with binoculars.

14) Go with the attitude of “let nature come to me”- rather than trying to “catch a bit of nature”.

15) Be ready- you never know when that special moment could happen. Always have your camera ready.

Imagine for a moment, what If a 100 people were each given the same camera for just one day and asked to take photos of any wildlife theme or subject, and then submit their top-five selection. I believe that the results would be very interesting, as people, we are all very different in our interests. It has been said that photography is art for those who cannot paint. So, therefore, it is very good if a photographer can actually capture the “mood of a moment” so that when others see the photos they will also sense some of that particular moment.

In recent years I have observed many budding young wildlife photographers who have started to take great photos. It is my sincere hope and prayer that many more people will start to enjoy wildlife enough so that they will also want to capture special sighting moments. In a world where wildlife habitats are threatened, taking photos helps to communicate to people how important it is to conserve our precious wildlife. It has been said that “a picture is worth more than a thousand words”. God has created so much for us to see and observe.

Remember, simply speaking “it is the clicks that become the pics ”. Have fun out there!

About the author

Chairman of the Board Finance and Administration Committee Friends of Nairobi National Park Gareth has been involved in wildlife conservation for over 50 years. He was an honorary ranger (warden) for the South African National Parks from 1989 to 2001. Gareth has been involved in East African wildlife conservation since 2002, focusing mostly on the Nairobi National Park. He writes various weekly media articles with photos to promote the park.

All images courtesy of Gareth Jones

Amidst the COVID19 pandemic and restrictions, with great precaution by observing health safety measures, there are great opportunities to be happy and appreciate the beauty of nature which has always been my best way to spend my free time. I am a nature enthusiast and today I would like to share with you what inspired my passion.

It all started way back in 2003 when I was in standard four, this was after my mum who was a teacher at Nyagidha Primary School in Homa-Bay attended a Wildlife Clubs of Kenya teacher’s training workshop on environmental education at the WCK Western region offices in Kisumu near Impala sanctuary. After the training, my mum started a school forest both at the school and at our home which was not as easy as Homa-bay is an ASAL area and is mostly dry. To ensure that the trees she planted at our home grew, we had to fetch water from the lake which was nearly one kilometer away in the morning and evening. On Sundays and during the school holidays, I was always tasked with the responsibility of maintaining our tree fences to prevent goats and cattle from destroying the trees.

 

In high school I joined the environmental club, our school principal was a senior biology teacher and had great interest in botany. He was always at the forefront in supporting our tree planting initiatives at the school. I was always in love with nature but nature but absolutely NO idea of the career opportunities in it leave alone the courses that I could register for if I could be able to join university. In high school we had a career guiding department but just like most other student in that age, I did not seek guidance on the steps that I would need to pursue my dream.

 

Unfortunately, I was not able to meet the required grade to join University under government sponsorship. My dreams were shuttered but I was lucky as my parents had my back. I shared with them my interests in nature and environmental studies and they helped in getting a college entry at the Kenya Wildlife Service Training Institute (KWSTI) to pursue a Diploma in Environmental Management. From my first day at the institution, I felt that I was where I needed to be. The school environment was amazing coupled with amazing modules, and periodic day trips. The best moments were week-long regional camping trips that we had once per semester and practical sessions of the “Survival Techniques  Module” where we had to hike for more than forty kilometers in Hells Gate National Park, climb Mount Longonot, and do solo nights coupled with swimming and many other sessions on bushman-ship survival skills.

The institution played a great role in boosting my passion and knowledge in environmental issues and from then, my goal was that every step that I took would lead me towards making a difference for nature and more so getting an opportunity to influence others into realize its beauty and importance in order to give back to nature in their own way. In my professional and academic pursuit, I joined the University of Eldoret pursuing a BSc. Natural Resources Management to enhance my knowledge and skills in conservation. After my bachelors, I job hunted for long before I got an opportunity for part time work (at most two weeks long between months) with a consultancy firm in Kenya that worked on Environment, Energy and Sustainable Development as a research assistant or enumerator in Kisumu and Homa-bay counties. My job entailed traversing villages across the counties, identifying respondents, acquiring consent, conducting qualitative and quantitative data collection and giving feedback. This gave me an opportunity to travel, gain much knowledge on various environmental issues affecting development and the measures various recommendations given towards finding solutions.

Tobias posing with one of his favourite lecturersMr Asher at the Kenya Wildlife Service Training Institute

Tobias posing with one of his favourite lecturersMr Asher at KWS HQ during World Wildlife Day on 3rd March 2020

In mid-2018 after several applications, I got an interview invitation call for an internship position at WildlifeDirect, a Kenyan-based NGO I had been following its TV programs and I had fallen in love with them for running a successful campaign against the elephant poaching crisis in Kenya. I was in Kisumu when I received the call and the interview was scheduled for the next day at the organization’s offices in Nairobi, a distance of over 350 km so I had to travel overnight. I was so excited when I was informed that I had passed the interview and I would join the great team in running a Kenya-wide conservation education program. It meant learning, connecting with nature, travelling and meeting amazing people across the country.

In 2020, COVID 19 virus hit the world and this led to a global shift in running activities by working from home since our work involved working with schools which had to be closed in March, followed by containment and lockdowns to minimize spread of the virus. Our last work trip before the first COVID19 case in Kenya was in late February when we took a pupil who had won an essay competition for a five day trip to the Kenyan coastal town, Malindi.

I loved field work, traveling, hiking and camping, working from home without these for months was a bit of a challenge. My remedy has been to go for morning runs or walks to keep myself fit during the week before work and once in a while over the weekends, I do invite a friend or relative to go out for nature walks or visit enjoy natures beauty. This was after I realized that most of my close friends and family members had never had little opportunity to explore and experience the amazing values of green spaces within Nairobi and saw during my free time, I take them to visit parks, forest hikes, cycling and zip-lining experiences. In this way, I hope to change the perception of those around me towards nature.

My current greatest career ambition is to enhance on my research, proposal writing and fundraising skills as part of my career development. Within the next five years, I intend to pursue a Master’s of Science in Environmental Education or MSc. In Conservation Education to enhance my knowledge and skills. This will also broaden my ability to expound on my content creation on conservation education and research skills. As a qualified conservation education, I will be able to work towards bridging the gap between development, culture and conservation towards ensuring that public members are appreciative and taking positive actions for nature.

Currently, I work at WildlifeDirect, a Kenyan Based Conservation Organization as a Conservation Education Assistant in running a Kenya-wide conservation education program with the goal of equipping the younger generation with knowledge in conservation in realizing the importance of nature and inspiring them to take action for nature.

The COVID_19 pandemic has greatly affected the tourism industly majority of practitioners switching to other ventures to sustain their families, Zarek a gold rated proffesional guide has taken this period to share his skills and knowledge with aspiring and practising guides, with  Level 2” qualification with the Field Guides Association of Southern Africa (FGASA), and a “Level 3 Track & Sign” qualification with Cybertracker, a non-profit network for wildlife trackers. These widely-recognized qualifications have provided him with useful tools to interpret the signs and behaviours of wildlife he encounters on safari. Zarek takes nature interpretation to new heights and has so much to share with everyone.

Tell us about yourself, where you grew up?  I was born and grew up in Nairobi where my father is a veterinarian and I’ve been fortunate enough to have been able to travel around Kenya, on safari, since I was 2 years old. So I suppose my love of animals and being on safari has its roots in my upbringing. We never had enough money to stay in fancy lodges or hotels, so we would always cram our family of 5 into a tent or a KWS banda and get up close and personal with various wildlife.  When I was 11, I joined the birdwatching club at my school, where we would take field trips around Nairobi, and other parts of Kenya, furthering my interest in wildlife and ecology. My science and geography teachers in school definitely had a big part to play in my love for the natural world.

How did you end up becoming a guide? Was it your first career? I studied Engineering Drafting in university, but after graduating, quickly realized I didn’t want to spend my life in an office in front of a computer.  I looked online and found some field guide courses in South Africa, so I signed up and went to SA for a 1 month intensive, hands-on field guide course.  After that 1 month, I felt like my head was about to explode with so much new, interesting information. I realized that guiding was what I wanted to do with the rest of my life, and came back to begin applying for jobs and sat for the KPSGA Bronze exam.  Getting a job as a guide wasn’t easy, and I ended up working as an assistant camp manager, an operations & logistics manager, and relief manager for a few camps in the Mara and Laikipia. From there I continued working in operations, but with the opportunity to do some guiding for a tour company based in Limuru.  I’ve slowly transitioned into full-time guiding and guide training over the last few years.

Whats your favourite topic on natural history? That’s a tough question!  I love biodiversity in general, and I’m happiest when I can observe a wide variety of species around me, whether I’m at home or on safari. If I had to pick just one, it would probably be Arachnids – Spiders and Scorpions are my specialty and probably what I get most excited about.

Zarek Cockar Safaris, what’s it all about? I operate as a freelance guide, working for other guides or safari companies, leading my own privately guided safaris, and conducting safari guide skills development courses for camps & lodges across East Africa.  A privately guided safari is the best way to see Africa’s wild places, away from the crowds, with a knowledgeable guide who has helped you design your itinerary from the start. A private guide is a host, an ambassador, an interpreter of the natural world, and a logistician ensuring a trip runs smoothly from start to finish. You can find out more on http://zarekcockarsafaris.com

Tell us about your webinar training and are you planning to have one any time soon? Once Kenya was hit by COVID-19 I found myself out of work with lots of time on my hands! I have been developing various parts of a syllabus for Kenyan guides for a few years, but it’s all been quite disorganized. Now I finally had some time to start putting it together. As a Gold member of the Kenya Professional Safari Guides Association and a certified Trainer and Assessor for the African Field Guides Association, I decided to start making lectures available for free to KPSGA members online to help the members build their skills and knowledge while they have so much free time.  This has been my small way of helping my colleagues during this difficult period, and I have had a very positive response so far.  I have covered 4 topics so far: Birds, Insects, Taxonomy & Scientific Names, and Reptiles.  While I organized and hosted the reptiles lecture, it was actually taught by Stephen Spawls, a well-known authority on East African reptiles, and the author of several leading books on the subject.  Over the next several months, I hope to continue providing between 5-10 additional lectures on various topics from ‘Guiding Ethics & Etiquette’ to ‘Mammal Behaviour’.  You can access a PDF with full details here: https://www.zarekcockarsafaris.com/post/online-safari-guide-lectures

While these lectures are offered free to KPSGA members, they are also available, at Kshs 750/- per person to non-members.  Over the last 4 lectures, approximately 30% of the participants have been non-members.  I would also be very open to sharing these lectures with school teachers and technical institutes should there be sufficient interest.

If you have saved links to your previous ones please share.  Please sign up here for access to previous lectures: https://forms.gle/exwSatr3aqk91mh3A

Please continue checking the KPSGA facebook group and the official KPSGA organization page for updates on upcoming lectures.

Word of advice for upcoming guides?

Humility: Never think of yourself as being too good for any kind or work or better than your colleagues. Be prepared to get your hands dirty when times get tough, and to help out when others are in need.

Persevere: There will be times that you’ll feel stressed or desperate, but push through, remain confident, and always do your absolute best.

Develop: Never get complacent and rest on your laurels.  Always strive to grow your skills repertoire – bush knowledge, interpersonal skills, time-management, driving skills, official qualifications, etc.

Mentorship: Find a mentor who can guide you, encourage you, teach you, and provide a role model.

Ethics: Figure out where your morals and ethics lie, write them down, and continuously refer back to them to ensure you’re not losing sight of who you are and what you believe is right.

Zarek training Kijabe Forest Trust rangers

The older I get, and the farther I travel around the world, the more I am drawn back to East Africa’s wilderness areas. My curiosity continues to deepen and drive my growing understanding for nature and all its intricacies. Join me on a journey of discovery to reveal charismatic wildlife, ancient cultures, and spectacular landscapes. Together we’ll design the trip of a lifetime, where no destination is out of reach, and no dream too big. Zarek Cockar.

Website | Facebook | SafariTalk | LinkedIn
Tel: +254 735046262 / 718763968
Diani, Kenya

What force drives a man to be successful in business, an intrepid adventurer, and a renowned conservationist?

Sit back relaxed, into your comfort zone because am about to narrate a  remarkable story about  Jagi Gakunju, but before we get to that let me break the ice by a brief introduction.

Jagi Gakunju was born into a pioneering Christian family, his father having been ordained a pastor in 1935. His first memories are of the concentration camp where his family members and other Nyeri residents were interned during the Emergency. After independence, he graduated from the University of Nairobi and joined ALICO, an insurance company. A couple of months later, he unearthed a sophisticated fraud. After training overseas, he had mastered the new computer technology and was sent to train ALICO employees in the Caribbean. Developed in West Africa as the Regional Claims Manager, he was in charge of five countries. Back in Kenya, he left ALICO and joined Africa Air Rescue where his innovative sales strategy saw the company’s turnover grow by leaps and bounds. In 2003, he became the CEO of AAR.

Success in business is only half the story. Jagi has always loved nature. He has climbed Mt. Kenya 14 times and was the founding president of the Uvumbuzi club, an organization devoted to discovering the wild places of Africa. The club’s most famous achievement was in 1989 when Jagi led members overland to the Okavango Delta in Botswana. A keen ornithologist, Jagi turned the piece of land he inherited from his parents into a nature reserve known as the Wajee Nature Park. About 120 species of birds have been recorded there and the Park has been registered as one of the official Important Bird Areas  (IBA) of the world.

Now retired, Jagi is “busier than ever” devoting his time to the Wjee Park and to many other conservation organizations of which he is a member: Friends of Karura forest, Soysambu Conservancy, Friends of Conservation, Friends of Nairobi National Park, Wildlife Clubs of Kenya, African Fund For Endangered Wildlife, Uvumbuzi, Friends of City Park, Cycling out of Poverty- Coop Kenya, African Network for Animal Welfare, Riverline Nature Reserve Trust, and Wajee Mara Camp.

He begins with the story of his father, a World War II veteran who survived being murdered because of witchcraft. Born in Nyeri in 1948, Gakunju is a child of traditional and modern crossroads during the Mau Mau era, then walks us through his school life in a new environment far from home, the numerous by road on foot adventures to various destinations in Africa which will give you chills and keep you at the edge of your seat.

Living on the Edge brings new personal experiences such as Gakunju’s life in the concentration villages during the State of Emergency. This book is a “Must Read” Living on the edge is available at various bookshops including; Textbook centre-Sarit, Hub, Galleria, Yaya, Prestige, Nature Kenya Bookshop, and Museums of Kenya.

What really strikes me in this book is his sheer daring attitude for adventure and exploration, His reflections and perceptions are well portrayed in his book I quote “As regards to my main passion, the environment, the most positive development I have noticed recently is the creation of community conservancies”. Unlike in the past when the government looked after wildlife for the benefit of outside tourists, today communities are starting to feel that they “own” the natural resources. In a similar connection. I am happy that many Kenyans are becoming increasingly health-conscious, and that traditional African foods are making a comeback.

Then, of course, there are things which are getting worse. Corruption has become like cancer in our society. In my opinion, those who steal drugs from the poor should be charged with murder. The gap between the rich and the poor also appears to be widening whereas, after independence, we thought that it would diminish.

The number of unemployed youth is truly worrying. Our education system should be training for self-employment but currently, it is geared more towards the regurgitation of information, much of which is in fact quite useless in later life.

Despite the increasing number of Kenyans intermarrying, our leaders carry on propagating negative ethnicity. Instead of creating a nation, we have consolidated tribal empires. During elections, citizens vote for their tribal kings while issues are largely ignored. Due to their lack of vision, our leaders make poor use of the many resources we have. We ought to follow the example of a tiny Singapore, at one time a very poor country, but which has used its only resource, its port, to become many times richer than Kenya.

I believe that each of us should do the little we can to protect the environment. When I inherited Wajee Nature Park from my parents and opted to leave it for the trees and the birds, many of my neighbours thought I was crazy. According to them, I should have used it to grow crops and make money. For me, I felt that creating the Park was the only small contribution that I as an individual could make to safeguard mother earth.

While individuals can play an important part, I also hope that Kenya will come up with overall integrated land policy, something that is missing at present. I feel it is not too late to achieve this.

Getting numerous degrees is all the rage these days but no matter how many you are awarded, one will be missing. That is called travel: travelling with an open mind and interacting with the local people. If you fail to travel, your thinking will be confined to what you have seen in your home area. When you travel, you will see how little you know and how much you have to learn. I had the ambition to go to all the continents and interact with the locals and can now say that I have visited all of them, including Australia. The exception was Antarctica. This travel was one of my best life investments.

When I am at times requested to give motivational talks to the youth, I stress some points outlined above. I advise them to invest in hard work, integrity, and honesty rather than taking shortcuts. I tell them that education is only which is relevant today can be obsolete in five years. They are fortunate that a massive amount of information is available today so there is no excuse for them not to carry on learning. They should invest in several skills since most jobs today require people to multitask. It may not be easy for them to be employed, but the opportunities for self-employment have never been better, thanks to the internet. I am convinced that if a good number of young people take these lessons seriously, our future as a country will be bright.

Passion is the best medicine in succeeding in whatever you are doing. Conservation to me is like a “religion” because I have come to appreciate that human beings, animals, insects, trees, and plants and indeed all living things are all interconnected. If one of them becomes extinct because of our reckless use of finite resources in this fragile planet, we shall all become extinct. 80% of all the food we eat is pollinated by insects. Without pollinators, we cannot survive. I have also come to realize that the survival of this fragile planet is in the hands of ‘man’-Human beings, for the first time in this Century. We have the power to destroy or to heal mother earth. If we destroy this planet, there is no plan B”.

If you’ve been inspired, guess what! That’s just in a nutshell of what the book is all about. To order for your own copy of Living on the edge call +254 722 759 515

 

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.

 

Meet Edwin Sabuhoro PHD, a Rwandese national and an unsung wildlife warrior. He received his law degree from the National University of Rwanda and a MSc. Conservation and Tourism from University of Kent at Canterbury, UK where he specialized in ecotourism management. He worked in all Rwanda’s National Parks but mostly as a Tourism Park Warden for Volcanoes National Park in Rwanda.

Beyond that, Edwin worked as a Senior Economic Development Advisor for SNV (a Dutch development organization), Chairman of Tour Operators and Travel Agents Association in Rwanda, President of Rwanda Chamber of Tourism, a private sector umbrella organization for Rwanda’s tourism and hospitality sector, Chief Executive Officer for Rwanda Eco-Tours and has also lectured at different Universities in Rwanda in fields of environment, ecotourism, biodiversity conservation and sustainable tourism development.

His work to develop ecotourism and to set up a community-based ecotourism project for local communities and ex-poachers at Volcanoes National Park has helped in the reduction of poaching in the park. His work was recognized through; Rwandan Prime Minister’s award of excellence in 2004, Eco-club project of the year 2007, Royal Belum inaugural award in Malaysia in 2007 and International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) Young Conservationist of the year 2008 Award.

He represents young conservation professionals for East, West and Central Africa at IUCN World Commission for Protected Areas. He also represented Rwanda to the President Obama Young African Leaders Forum in Washington, USA and has continued to participate and speak in different forums that highlight youth empowerment, biodiversity and environment, sustainability and community development, democracy, and leadership.

I got the privilege to hear him talk about his success story during the recent Africa Animal Welfare conference and was inspired beyond any reasonable doubt. How I wish other African countries could emulate their model globally. Environmental conservation has been a challenge due to increased pressure on natural resources brought about by an increase in the human population and uncontrolled harvesting on natural resources.

He explained clearly how the pressure for environmental resources is attributed to the inability of communities to support their household livelihoods. Secondly, in this struggle to protect and conserve these resources, conservationists and scientists alike have forgotten to involve and include local communities as a key decision maker. As a result, local communities have remained as ” the forgotten” in the environmental conservation equation. Conservation will not succeed without putting the local communities back to their central position in the conservation of their resources.

Through his work he has proved, that communitie are the custodians of these resources and they have to be engaged and involved in the planning and management of these resources. To address these challenges, local communities have to be directly engaged and involved in the business of environmental conservation. By doing so, communities would be less detrimental to these resources, find alternatives that would lead to their improved livelihoods, and contribute more to the protection and conservation of the environment.

“We have the choice to use the gift of our life to make the world a better place or not to bother” Jane Goodall may we take this inspiring success story as a personal challenge, sit down with community groups and take notes from them because they have all the solutions. Let’s bring in Eco-tourism to strike a win-win balance between conservationists and local communities.

 

 

If a Gorilla safari is top on your bucket list like myself get in touch with Rwanda Eco tours for a journey that benefits the communities. http://www.rwandaecotours.com/index.php/

 

Saving owls in a country that believe them to be harbingers of death seems impossible. But the Naivasha Owl Centre, founded in 2014, not only rescues and rehabilitates owls but Kenya’s biggest and most bellicose birds of prey the late Sarah HigginsSimon Thomsett, and Shiv Kapila, against all odds, set up the Centre and have successfully handled over 190 birds.

Throughout history and across many cultures, people have regarded Owls with fascination and awe. Few other creatures have so many different and contradictory beliefs about them. Owls have been both feared and venerated, despised and admired, considered wise and foolish, and associated with witchcraft and medicine, the weather, birth, and death. Speculation about Owls began in earliest folklore, too long ago to date, but passed down by word of mouth over generations.

Come to get up close with an Owl

In my culture, it was believed that owls were harbingers of death. If one saw an owl or heard its hoot, someone was going to die. In general, owls are viewed as harbingers of bad luck, ill health, or death. The belief is widespread even today, across various cultures and communities in Africa the story is quite similar and it’s going to take a while to change.

But owl mythology is very important today, especially to conservationists, because of myths and beliefs about
owls play a major role in the killing of owls today, especially in regions where the owl is considered evil

                      WHAT IT TAKES TO RESCUE RAPTORS

This all started back in 1986 with a little Barn Owl called Full stop. Sarah used to talk fondly of the first encounter with a giggling smile, He was brought to Sarah Higgins house in Naivasha with a badly damaged wing. When the vet said he could mend the bones but the bird would never fly properly again. Sarah build an owlery. From then, people started bringing in injured, sick and orphaned owls. And from there branched into treating raptors like eagles, kites and vultures, and other large birds such as pelicans and stocks.

Rescued fish Eagles

In 2014 Sarah, Simon Thomsett and Shiv kapila got together and formalized the Centre under a trust now known as the Kenya Birds of Prey trust.

The aim of the Trust is to rehabilitate all birds into the wild. The vet treats them, operates if necessary, and they stay there until they are fully recovered. There are a series of stages that birds pass through while they’re in their care, starting with treatment in the clinic and progressing to larger cages in which they can fly. They end up being trained in the rehabilitation area using falconry techniques.

It’s no easy job especially when it comes to releasing them due diligence has to be done, otherwise, it can be considered abandonment and neglect. These birds need to hunt and defend their territory to survive. The Trust’s falconers work with them, training them to hunt with the skill they’ll need to make a life for themselves.

Come meet Caro the First female falconer in East Africa

The Naivasha Owl Centre currently hosts 23 owls, 18 raptors (including three Crown Eagles), a vulture and two Marabou and Several of these will have to remain at the Centre but the majority will eventually be released once they have been brought back to total fitness. In many cases, falconry techniques are used to get them fit, as an unfit bird won’t be able to catch its food and will thus starve to death.

Rescued Vulture

The late Sarah Higgins lived on the shores of Lake Naivasha in Kenya’s Rift Valley, where she run a rescue Centre for owls and raptors, The Naivasha Owl Centre is one of the two arms of The Kenya Bird of Prey Trust. The Centre’s clinic is currently in need of medical equipment and the Centre would also like to build improved accommodation for the birds.

Please support her legacy, if you would like to donate, please do so through the Kenya Bird of Prey Trust, PO Box 358, Naivasha 20117 or you can email naivashaowls@gmail.com or visit

Website: www.naivashaowls.org for more information

I have been a regular visitor to the trust over the years and the amount of work the dedicated team carries out on a daily basis is phenomenal and outstanding, its actually open for the public feel free to walk in given that its conveniently located along the Moi south lake road next to the Lake Naivasha country club, a stone throw away from Karagita center, You can actually get a rare opportunity to hold an Owl see the beauty of the magnificent birds, it goes a long way into changing people’s perceptions of the species and actually their doors are always open for school groups they get to have a lecture on owls by the experienced falconers

Owl challenge, visit the rescue center tell us about your experience and don’t forget to send us a photo posing with an owl

In 2009 the Tsavo ecosystem was hit by a long prolonged drought period that its parks lost a large number of its wildlife populations, Patrick Mwalua Kilonzo watched as the animals died same as everyone else and in 2016 when the drought hit again this time he felt he had to do something.

The Tsavo Parks are situated in an environment that is generally arid much of the year leading to perennial competition for water between livestock and wildlife

I got to hear him tell his story of how he ended up providing water for wildlife during the recent African conference for animal welfare2018 and was not only moved but also challenged because Patrick is an ordinary Kenyan not backed by any of the “Big-hearted” and “Non Profit” NGOs which actually turned his proposal off, he actually couldn’t stomach watching as the animals died gathered the few shillings he had and requested the KWS park officials to allow him provide water for the animals at the dry water holes and when the Park warden gave him the green light Patrick dashed to Voi town hired a truck and bowser filled it with water and what he felt as he watched the Elephants and other wild animals rush to him as he brought the water to them is what has motivated him over the years.

Moved by his sheer passion for wildlife and conservation for the last two years, Patrick has taken a personal initiative to help wildlife to have drinking water by ferrying 10,000 liters of water by truck to some of the dry bone water. The initiative has since supplied thousands of liters of water to a large number of animals thereby significantly reducing Human-wildlife conflicts where rogue animals stray out of the protected areas to community lands.

To make the initiative more sustainable, the project is now venturing into constructing water pans in the park and digging more waterholes which holds water for quite some time after the rains. This will be particularly critical in the long drought periods that are common in the park areas.

The project also seeks to involve the community in initiatives that will reduce the harsh environmental conditions prevalent in the Tsavo ecosystem and especially anthropogenic activities such as deforestation.

Patrick has done short courses in animal health care and community development, and from 2008 has been actively involved in wildlife conservation initiative programs around Tsavo area and Lumo Sanctuary. With the help of local and international volunteers and supporters who were inspired by his noble initiative, he has reached schools within Tsavo Ecosystem to engage children on sustainable eco-friendly practices such as tree planting and educating them on wildlife conservation within their surroundings.

What really inspires me about his cause is how much ordinary citizens can take lead in conservation Mother Teresa once said ” I alone cannot change the world, but can cast a stone across the waters to create many ripples” well its know up to you and me to come up with our own ingenious little ways of giving back to mother nature. As Patrick has proved it doesn’t cost much the zeal and willingness to sacrifice either time or funds to make the world a better place in our capacity in our little possible way.

Take a peek at some of his online campaigns and please support this noble cause

Paypal account: patotsavo@gmail.com.

https://web.facebook.com/RTDocumentary/videos/1665997240123545/