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Bush Telegraph Newsletter

September 2014


My next Bush Telegraph Newsletter will be published towards the end of October, once I return from my annual safari to Kenya. 


This time I am visiting the Matthews Mountain range, the regions of Meru, Shaba, Laikpia and finishing in the Masai Mara.


My thanks to the teams and management at Southern Cross Safaris in Mombasa, Cheli & Peacock and the Governors Camp Collection

for all their help in arranging this trip.  


I am often asked what is my preferred time of the year to visit Kenya; well the answer is simple - anytime! But my favourite periods have to be late September/October for game viewing and February/March for the beach and big game fishing.   


September/October is generally quieter as annual vacations are completed and schools are back for the autumn semester. However, there is still plenty to see of the annual migration in the Mara and the grasslands are shorter, making it easier to spot the predators, plus a more temperate climate.  


February/March is the height of the Kenya summer and the ideal time to escape the winter misery of Europe, offering white coral sand beaches stretching for miles, calm seas, superb resorts, excellent cuisine and if you are interested in big game fishing, then it is the peak of the Marlin season, which is why Kenya is a world renowned destination for this sport.  


Below is a synopsis of my upcoming safari:   


Saturday 27th September.

BA 0065 departs terminal 5 Heathrow at 10:45 arrives at Nairobi 21:20 Overnight at Ole Sereni, Nairobi on a B/B basis. www.ole-sereni.com


Sunday 28th

Road transfer to Wilson airport for flight to Samburu airstrip.
Overland to
Kitich Camp www.kitichcamp.com  Full board for 3 nights 


Kitich Camp - Mathew's Forest




The Mathews Mountain Range rises up out of the desert; a chain of peaks covered in 900 sq km of dense dewy forest in a remote valley. Kitich Camp overlooks a river glade within the lush indigenous forest.  


The forest is home to elephant, melanistic leopard, bushbuck, giant forest hog, buffalo, as well as ancient cycads, spectacular butterflies, Turacos and wild orchids.  


With only six guest tents, one can expect complete privacy. Each en suite tent is traditionally safari-style, with an al-fresco stone bathroom. Kitich Camp's cosy lounge with open fire and sheepskin covered safari chairs overlooks the floodlit river glade - from here guests can enjoy watching the elephants, buffalo, bushbuck and occasionally the beautiful leopard emerge from the forest at dusk.  


Walk along forest paths guided by the Samburu and Ndorobo people, or swim in natural rock pools of the crystal mountain streams, Kitich Camp offers a truly unique and private forest wildlife experience.  


Wednesday 1st October.
Overland transfer to Joys Camp www.joyscamp.com for 3 nights full board  


Joy's Camp - Shaba




An elegant boutique oasis in the arid lands of Samburu; Joy's Camp is built on the site of Joy Adamson's tented home in Shaba National Reserve. The site was also home to Penny the Leopard, the heroine of her last book. The camp overlooks a large natural spring where elephant and lion jostle for watering rights with herds of buffalo and the rare desert species of Beisa Oryx, reticulated giraffe and Grevy's zebra.   


Each of the 10 sumptuous tents is uniquely decorated with handmade glass and the vibrant fabrics of the local nomadic tribes creating a chic, sophisticated and stylish camp. Each tent has breathtaking views of the surrounding hills, with its own verandah - ideal for game viewing as well as relaxing, reading and soaking up the truly wild environs offered by Shaba.

Saturday 4th

Overland transfer to Elsa's Kopje www.elsakopje.com for 2 nights full board. 


Elsa's Kopje - Meru



Elsa's Kopje is named after Elsa the lioness, made famous by George and Joy Adamson's biographical book and film "Born Free".   


Winner of the Good Safari Guide's, "Best Safari Property in Africa" award. Elsa's Kopje is renowned for being one of the most elegant lodges in Africa, with the most spectacular setting. It is the best upmarket location to view rhino in their natural habitat in Kenya.   


An awarding winning design with stunning views from the open bar, lounge and dining room. Elsa's Kopje is almost invisible to the eye as you approach its home on Mughwango Hill. It blends into the rocky crags of the "Kopje" (small hill), built above the site of George Adamson's original campsite.  


Every sumptuous cottage is the ultimate "room-with-a-view", uniquely designed and crafted, incorporating the natural features of the rocky hillside.  


Monday 6th

Overland transfer to Lewa Safari Camp www.lewa.org for 2 nights full board.  


 Lewa Safari Camp - Laikpia  



Lewa Safari Camp has a stunning location within Lewa Wildlife Conservancy, with outstanding game viewing and spectacular views to Mt. Kenya to the south and arid lowlands to the north. Each tent has a thatched roof, verandah and full en suite bathroom, very much in the "Lewa" style. The central areas have exquisite gardens with a large sunny verandah and swimming pool to enjoy during the day and cosy log fires in the lounge and dining room for the more chilly evenings.   


The camp is based within the private 65,000 acre wildlife conservancy of the Lewa Wilderness Trust. The conservancy is home to about 10 percent of Kenya's black rhino population and the single largest population of Grevy's zebra in the world. Lewa Conservancy reinvests all the profits generated from tourism (including profits from Lewa Safari Camp) into its core programmes. When you visit Lewa as well as enjoying outstanding game viewing in an elegant setting, you will also be helping thousands of people from different backgrounds and cultures to improve their lives and give their children a future and at the same time ensuring Africa's wildlife has a stable home.  


Wednesday 8th.

 Fly to Masai Mara and transfer to Little Governors Camp www.governorscamp.com for 3 nights full board including balloon safari on Friday 10th

Little Governors' is intimate in character, with just 17 luxury en-suite tents tucked around a large watering hole that teems with both birds and wildlife. The camp is approached by a boat ride across the Mara River, then an escorted walk through the riverine forest. Vehicles are left on the far river bank, and the camp is therefore quiet and undisturbed. The guest tents at Little Governors' have wooden decks with large veranda's for guests to enjoy the constant game activity that takes place around the natural watering hole at the camp. All Governors' properties are unfenced, and at Little Governors' there is a resident family of warthogs that wander freely through the camp. Guests may need to make way for elephants which sometimes visit the camp at lunch time.   


Little Governors Camp has just been awarded a Silver Eco-Rating from Eco Tourism Kenya due to their sustainable practices in place in camp.  


Saturday 11th October

Afternnoon flight to Wilson airport, Nairobi and transfer to Nairobi JKIA for BA 0064 departing at 23:15 to London arriving at 05:55.  





"Scarface" and the Marsh Pride are waiting for the migration - and for you to visit! Part 2  


Angela & Jonathan Scott



So what is the answer to how to live with the threat of terrorism - how to manage fear. Of course it is only sensible to be mindful when governments raise issues of security. Having listened, each individual must then make up their own mind about personal safety. The problem with Travel Advisories is that they have a blanket effect on the host country even as overseas governments attempt to be specific about their concerns. Mention one part of the Kenya coast as having security issues and you risk writing off the whole country. They perpetuate a climate of Fear. A Travel Advisory about Zimbabwe can easily prompt the uninformed to presume that it's not safe to travel to Zambia. And our neighbours in Tanzania will certainly be feeling the effect of Travel Advisories relating to parts of Kenya. That's not right. One thing I am sure of. If we abandon wildlife based tourism we threaten the future of the very wildlife that Britain has called on the world to protect. Poaching will become even easier for the criminal gangs and terrorist groups who are the main beneficiaries. The only way to win this war is to stick together.


I am proud of my British heritage but equally proud to call Kenya my home. Not so long ago Angie and I shared the stage in London with the legendary explorer Sir Ranulph Fiennes to speak about our travel adventures. Fiennes exemplifies the great British rallying cry "Stay Calm and Carry On". "And that is exactly what we must do now. Our children went to school here in Nairobi; Angie is a Kenya citizen by choice not birth, our daughter Alia was born here and so was her son Michael. Her partner Richard works for a Kenyan company and loves it here. Alia and Richard chose the wonderful Aga Khan Hospital as the birthplace for our Grandson and as I write Michael is on safari with his parents at Baringo Island Camp in the Great Rift Valley. He has already made two safaris with us to the Mara along with visits to Ol Pejeta in Laikipia and Amboseli and Tsavo National Parks. He spent Easter at the Mombasa Serena and loved every minute of his time there. Michael is 10 months old, yet already he has met the Marsh Lions that Angie and I know better than some of our human friends, the same big cats familiar to millions of viewers around the world through Big Cat Diary the TV phenomenon first aired in 1996 culminating with Big Cat Live in 2008. The show is repeated on the BBC and Animal Planet to this day - with hundreds of video clips on YouTube for the uninitiated. People often ask me how I have so much hair on my 65 year old head. The answer perhaps is because Kike the car-climbing cheetah peed on me so often during Big Cat Week 2003. Since then I have been known as 'The Man the Cheetah Peed On'.  


People think Angie and I don't have a proper job - that life is one long holiday as we follow our dream. When they ask us where we go for a holiday we say the coast - celebrating the ocean that Angie so loves having lived for most of her childhood in Dar es Salaam in Tanzania. We love nothing better than to feel the sand under our feet and the sun on our faces, to smell the sea breeze. I have never forgotten standing stunned by the brilliance of the blue of the sea and the whiteness of the coral sand at Diani Beach on Kenya's south coast where we camped as overlanders in 1974. But right now a 'holiday' is the last thing on our minds. We can hardly wait to head down to the Mara where we hear the Marsh Pride are in robust good health. And so they should be. For the next four months their territory embracing Musiara Marsh and Bila Shaka is going to be swamped with animals as the armies of wildebeest and zebra trek to the Marsh and intermittent water courses - the luggas as they are known - to slake their thirst. The killing is going to be easy for the pride; their cubs will prosper - and we will be there to watch and photograph them. Not least to witness how our old friends Scarface, Sienna and Bibi are faring. Scarface - our favourite among the four powerful pride males we named in 2011 as the Four Musketeers- evokes a metaphor for Kenya right now: Bruised but Unbowed. He is truly a Lion King - a warrior with the heart of - yes - a lion.  


The great cats have always inspired people throughout the world - even in places where they never occurred. Lions and tigers appear as motifs and emblems on our ancient crests and banners, urging us on in to battle, to fight the good fight with courage and honour - to prevail. Scarface is surely the Lion of Kenya. We will lick our wounds, pick ourselves up and come back stronger and wiser than ever.  




Masai Mara Game Report August 2014  



Weather and grasslands    


This is the warmest and driest month we have had in many years. Often overcast mornings with the sun breaking though later on in the day. Alternate days could start with a warm red ball on the horizon as the day breaks into dust. Sporadic rain was not enough to generate grass growth for what short grasses were left on the open plains of Musiara and Bila Shaka. The Marsh water levels have also dropped although what little rain there was on the 11 and 12th July increased the water flow under the causeway for a short time. Total rainfall for the month is 28.2mm. Water levels in the Mara River are low and receding. Average early morning temperatures were 16°c and midday temperatures were 31°C.7




General game  


Resident and some non-resident wildebeest and zebra filed back and forth between the reserves Bila Shaka, Musiara and Topi Plains and via the Masai conservation areas as small pockets of rain generated this hooved movement.  


Wildebeest, zebra and topi crossed the Mara River at paradise most days of this month although many of these wildebeest and zebra would swing around again into the Masai conservation areas. On the 6th many wildebeest were seen filing down from Rhino Ridge and Bila Shaka towards Paradise Plains, it was at 10.30am on the 7th at the main crossing many wildebeest and also topi were seen crossing from East to West. On the 16th literally overnight many wildebeest and zebra were seen coming down from the east, they soon covered the Marsh and Bila Shaka grassland plains.

Photo courtesy of Jacob Lelesara, Governors Camp Guide.

It is not often that you see topi or other ungulate species apart from the wildebeest and zebra crossing the Mara River. Giraffe have been seen crossing as well as Thomson Gazelles, impala, Cape Buffalo and waterbuck.  


These wildebeest and zebra are mainly the resident mixed in with a large number that had come through from the sand river at the end of May. The bulk of the Tanzanian Wildebeest turned back in mid-June due to wetter conditions from where they had come from. On the 19th at 12.30pm at the Mortuary crossing point a large herd of wildebeest and zebra estimated at 2,000 were seen crossing from east to west with one yearling being taken by crocodile, on the 20th at the main crossing points with two being taken by crocodile. On the 22nd many crossed at the main crossing point an estimate of 3,000 were seen crossing from east to west. With the water levels in the river being low wildebeest and zebra cross very quickly with less loss of life as they scramble down and out through narrow hippo shoots on the often steep sides of the river banks. On the 31st at the hippo bend down stream of Governors Private Camp large numbers of wildebeest massed on the high river bank, after one of the wildebeest was pushed over this drew the rest of them to leap high in air as they crossed from west to east, due to the height of the river bank many of these Wildebeest sustained bad injuries and then went on to cross the Mara River.  


There were three crossings in front of the bar platform at Governors Camp towards the end of the month. On the 24th at 4.00pm an estimated 150 Wildebeest crossed from west to east in front of the bar platform at Governors Camp. On the 28th at approximately 12.10pm an estimated 2,000 animals crossed in front of the camp. On the 31st an estimated 1,500 animals crossed at 10.00 am.

Photo courtesy of Moses Manduku  


Elephant have been seen in small herd numbers, of which the Marsh seems a short term holding area for them. There are better numbers of Elephant in the Mara conservancy where there are longer grasses which Elephant actually prefer, although Elephant are catholic feeders and eat a more fibrous diet with leave and bark from many tree and liana species.


Photo courtesy of James Townsend

Many Topi were being seen in the north end of the Marsh and also on Topi Plains, Rhino Ridge and Paradise Plains. Cokes hartebeest are in small pockets throughout the short grass plains of paradise and also within the Masai conservation areas.  


Defassa Waterbuck and Impala are always seen within the marsh and riverine woodlands of the Mara River. Olive baboon are still spending foraging times further afield. The woodland Olive Baboon males will eat meat and share spoils with their favorites. On the 26th at 10.30 am near the wooded areas of the BBC camp site a male baboon had caught a young Impala fawn, not uncommon for them to feed on ground birds and also fawns of other smaller gazelles.  


Small herds of Cape Buffalo males are still being seen resident in the Marsh environs with the larger herds spreading out towards Rhino Ridge and Paradise Plains where there are longer and course grasses still prevalent. Some of these resident old males are struggling with the short grasses and will find feeding harder if the rains still fail.  


Masai Giraffe will be seen in most areas where there are good stands of trees, the Acacia woodlands will always be popular places to see them. Bushbuck are being seen frequently within the woodlands between the camps, late evenings are good times to see them.

Photo courtesy of Alexis Reddy  


Bohors reedbuck will be seen more readily with the grass levels being shorter, these ungulates prefer coarse grasses both for feeding off and habitat residence. The Marsh and riverbed areas within the Bila Shaka are still good places to see them.   


Good numbers of Spotted Hyena are large clans spread over the Paradise, Bila Shaka and Rhino Ridge grasslands. Hyena will compete with lion when times are hard particularly in dry and drought conditions. It is not uncommon to see Spotted Hyena taking down their own prey even individuals will pull down animals the size of adult wildebeest. Spotted Hyena are classified as 'cussorials' who are animals with stamina like wild dog, wolves, and certain breeds of Equids like those Thoroughbred race horses. All of these have large hearts and lungs. One would not say that a Hyena is generous but they do have tremendous stamina.   



Two black Rhino have been seen on the Paradise Plains and these are the two males that also move between the Trans Mara and the Mara reserve while crossing the river frequently.  


Another African rock Python was seen near the river at Paradise this is the second large snake to be seen in this area of paradise, the female that resided close to the north end of the Bila Shaka was seen twice this month although sightings were poor.  


Hippo are struggling for grass and are travelling great distances at night looking for grass levels that can support their large appetite, an adult hippo requires at least 60kg of grass a day. Water levels in the Mara River are also showing that it is receding daily, with this Hippo pod densities struggle for water rights as one may want to put it, and this in turn causes friction between dominant pod males, there is much noise at night and during the day.

Photo courtesy of James Townsend   




New editions

Madomo one for the first breakaway lionesses has three cubs who were born at the end of June in the bottom end of the Bila Shaka river bed, another lioness of the same breakaway pride also has four cubs who are a little younger in the same area so that makes seven all under 6 weeks old. The other good news is that Kini the lioness of the second generation breakaways has also four cubs in the reed beds of the Marsh.   


Kini one of the second breakaway group of lionesses has four cubs who are one month old, she gave birth in the reeds in the North West marsh.   


Marsh pride of 40 lion altogether with an additional seven little ones from Madomo and her sister, and we have to include the four cubs of Kini although they have not been seen that often. There are the 8 sub adult comprising six lionesses and two males Red and Tatu, they are all of varying age groups with five at 20 months and three of them at 23 months of age, the three core lionesses Bibi, Siena, charm and the four musketeers. The little sub - adult lioness whose mother is Bibi is called 'Kabibi' meaning of Bibi.

Photo courtesy of James Townsend    


These sub adults move between the Bila Shaka, Marsh and the Musiara Plains, they cover a big area and have been seen feeding of the zebra and wildebeest that have passed through here. Two buffalo cows have also been taken in the north end of the Bila Shaka. As it gets drier and ungulate species thin out the resident lion prides will start to feed off more of the resident warthog, buffalo and also hippo.  


Jicho and Lippy have their four cubs, three are ten months old and one younger female is six months old. They have been seen north of the Marsh and also in the North East of the Marsh, they have also been seen in the Trans Mara in the last days of this month.  


Most of this month the four male coalition known as the 'Musketeers' have been in the Trans Mara and mating with the Oloololo pride lionesses. These males cross the Mara River at Paradise or near the Kichwa Tembo River crossing point, interesting in that the guides here have noted that these lion and perhaps many male lion that have through this area of Musiara and Paradise plains have a tendency to use specific routes for going back and forth on their progeny gain missions.  


Musiara and her two cubs that are nearly two months old are residing within the copse of trees on the west side of the Marsh. She has been feeding off Wildebeest, Zebra and Warthog. Often Musiara will be seen in the copse of trees that align the west side of the Marsh.



Siena has her three cub's two females and a male who are seven months old they are all being seen mainly in the south west marsh regions and the Bila Shaka river bed. Charm has been seen infrequently this month and last time she was seen in the Bila Shaka river bed.  


Madomo and her sister who have seven cubs between them are at the bottom end of the Bila Shaka river bed they will also be seen further down the tree line. Madomo earlier in the month had her cubs on an island in the Bila Shaka river bed, April three years ago she had four cubs and all of them were not seen again since, we are still unsure what had happened, perhaps it could have been infanticide activity with the newly registered Musketeers who were now in residence. By mid-month she had moved her cubs some 200 meter into the west woodlands under the remains of a fallen Diospyros tree.  




Romi the mother of the 21 month old male cub has been seen a few times this month, on the 12th near the BBC site and again near to the Little Governors crossing. Her male cub has been seen more frequently through the wooded area between the BBC camp site and Il Moran camp, He has eaten four Dik Dik that resided in the camp grounds at IL Moran and two Bush buck females that were often seen near the BBC camp site.  


The female at the Serena pump area who who is called 'Siri' meaning secret, she has two cubs that are a little over a month old now, she was seen on the 16th moving her cubs from one thicket to the rocky hill below Serena.

Photo courtesy of Terry Phelan  


The male of the paradise crossing areas has been seen in the croton thickets at the mortuary crossing points on many occasions this month.  

The large male at the double crossing has been seen often.  


Another male being seen in the southern area of paradise at the rocky kopjes which is near the Serena pump house, it was on the 18th, 19th and 21st he was seen with a young yearling wildebeest he had taken up a boscia tree in the southern paradise area.   




Latterly in the last few days of the month Malaika has been seen near Hammer Kop and the Topi crossing area and she has six cubs that are only three weeks old. Her and her cubs and been cordoned off by the rangers temporarily so that they don't get harassed by cars.  


The Two male brothers are being seen between Rhino ridge, the double crossing and into Masai land in the North East. They have been hunting and feeding off young Wildebeest calves and Thompson Gazelles. They spent quite sometime over the top of Rhino ridge during mid-month.

Photo courtesy of James Townsend   


The young male who is the son of Malaika is being seen near the double crossing area and close to the Ngiatiak area of Masai land. Recently he would be seen near paradise plains and also on Topi plains, he is like his mother and is very apt at jumping onto cars.   


The female with the gash on her left side has healed very well, she was last seen near Emartii on the 27th and again near the double crossing on the 29th in the morning where she seen with a Thomson gazelle fawn she had just killed.   


The female who is the daughter of Narasha was seen near Rhino ridge, paradise plains and the double crossing, she was seen again on the 39th on the westerns fan of Rhino ridge looing over paradise plains, there are many Thomson gazelles here in this area. A male was being seen in the Masai conservation areas of the Ngiatiak and Olare Orok conservancies he has what looks like a lip ulcer in his lower left lip. He was seen frequently this month hunting Thomson gazelles.    


Walking in the Mara North Conservancy.      


Cool mornings will start the day, often with a strong north easterly wind that cuts through. Very little rainfall although some areas in the southern section have received more rain than other areas of the conservancy and this has brought on a green flush.     


Good numbers of wildebeest and Zebra were seen over the short grass plains south of the 'fly over' and also in the north east of the conservancy. Many Thomson Gazelles and also Grants gazelles who are dispersed across the short grass plains.    


With these many zebra and wildebeest that were in and out of this conservancy spotted hyena were very active on the wildebeest. Over many walks it is not uncommon to see hyena running their prey down with good stamina, 85 % of what spotted hyena are eating in these environments is more than likely killed by themselves.     


Good numbers of giraffe were being seen throughout the Acacia gerradii woodlands, herd numbers will be as many as 30-40 animals. Elephant have not been seen that often although two small breeding herds were seen in the white highland ridge and seemed to have come from the southern areas of Masai land, also two large bulls were seen passing through from the south west area of Masai land. Bulls will travel long distances looking for female herds and those in oestrus.      


Buffalo are being seen in the Euclea thickets and within the salt lick valley, the large herd moves as far as the Mara River due grass levels being now too short. There are a few solitary bulls that move about in large circles, unfortunately for bulls at the age of more than 12 years old are now struggling to keep up.     


One Aardwolf female was seen in the southern rocky areas of the while highland ridge, harvester termites in this region have been very active.   


A martial eagle was see taking a cape hare as it was flushed out, these are the largest eagles on the African savannah and is some reserves play a major roles in lion cub mortality.

Photo courtesy of Patrick Reynolds   


Another male leopard was seen on the Olare Orok River he was being chased by Olive Baboons and quickly disappeared through the riverine woodlands and when he came through the others side |I think got more of shock seeing walkers!!   


Two sightings of Lion were seen on the croton rocky hill beneath the white highland ridge, they had killed a zebra earlier in the morning and were seen melting away into the croton thicket.   


There are large herds of Impala in the southern valley and this is the area that has received some rainfall and subsequently brought on a green flush.   


Ground hornbills are being seen in both the conservancies and in the reserve, as the morning progresses these ground hornbills will be seen scrapping in the dung of ungulates to pick and eat what scarab beetles and other insects that are associated with faeces of bovines.   


On the white highland ridge there are many small shrubs sized trees of the species Commiphora, Two Commiphora species the Commiphora tepestris and African are all here. Mist Commiphora species release a resin of which most are palatable. In northern Kenya Commiphora Myrrha produces a resin which myrrh as in the bible.   




The Burning Question   






Every tusk costs a life. That was the ominous theme of a 30-second clip shown on a public- funded billboard in Manhattan's Times Square. It was direct, bold and all too brief. For one month in the Autumn of 2013, there was an elephant in New York City, flashing on a large screen, 24 hours a day for countless Americans and tourists to see. But like so many others fallen victim to gun, arrow and spear, this African giant was eventually taken down.  


Though far removed from Africa, many Americans are disturbed by the thought of elephants being slaughtered for their tusks. It's a crisis that's prompted anger, sadness and an outcry to end it.


It's also compelled US federal and non-governmental organisations to act. In 2013, President Barack Obama issued a series of orders to institute an almost complete ban on the commercial ivory trade. Various US-based NGOs, such as the Clinton Global Initiative and the Wildlife Conservation Society, bolstered funding efforts to increase law enforcement, impose stiffer penalties for wildlife traffickers, and ensure better inter-agency cooperation. And then there was the public burning in Colorado in November 2013 of roughly six tons of stockpiled ivory.  


The thinking behind this united approach is simple - the only way to put an end to the killing is to adopt a zero-tolerance policy, and the feeling in the US is almost unanimously behind eliminating the poaching. But that's the easy part.  


In general, there are two fundamental differences of opinion in the US about the ivory trade. The first calls for temporary regulated continuation of the trade to satisfy current ivory appetites, while simultaneously chipping away at demand. The second follows a more aggressive strategy of banning the trade outright, combatting wildlife traffickers through enhanced policing measures, doing away with reserve supplies, and creating public awareness in one fell swoop. So which is the better approach?  


I spoke with a couple of American wildlife conservationists to get their take.  


Chad president Idriss Déby Itno sets ivory alight in Goza Jarat at the entrance to

Zakouma National Park, 2014. İAfrican Parks/AFP/Marco LongariI


'Having lived and worked in Africa since the late 1960s, and Asia since the 1970s, I've learned that corruption is so endemic in the major ivory supply and consumption countries, that law enforcement will never succeed in making even a small dent in halting ivory trafficking and the poaching of elephants,' says Dr. Dan Stiles, a Montana native and conservationist who's spent years studying global ivory markets. He wastes no time explaining his lack of faith in recent bans on commercial sales. 'The message of zero tolerance is not sent to poachers or traffickers, it is sent to the NGOs who sponsor it, and to the public of mainly Western countries who contribute money to those NGOs.'    


The ban consumes more illegal tusks while leaving demand untouched

Stiles says that ameliorating the trafficking through increased law enforcement strategies, and burning contraband stockpiles is altruistic, but impractical, and economically flawed. 'To turn off supply while demand remains high is a bit like running your house heating and air-conditioning at the same time. It just consumes more energy, and achieves no temperature change. The ban consumes more illegal tusks while leaving demand untouched. It is extremely bad policy, as the great rise in poaching rates after the decision demonstrated. Demand reduction should come first - then start reducing supply.'  


While he certainly sees the trade as evil, and is working tirelessly to expose it through countless hours of research, Stiles will not back a complete commercial ban for the time being. 'Demand reduction is one way, certainly the best and most long-lasting, but this approach will take many years,' he explains. 'Elephants can't wait that long. The most sensible thing is to provide legal raw ivory to the factories that currently buy poached tusks in China, and possibly Thailand if the latter can implement an effective system of regulation. Demand is highest in those two countries. It is imperative that the speculative hoarding occurring now in China be stamped out. Speculation and uncertainty about supply is what is wiping out elephants, not so much consumer demand for worked ivory, though that is of course a factor.  


The message from stockpile destruction is: buy as much ivory as you can afford now, it's getting scarcer.  


His arguments are not unsound. Since 2011 the price of ivory in China has skyrocketed, taking off right around the time when ivory stockpiles were destroyed in Kenya. Recent studies funded by Save the Elephants and the Wildlife Conservation Network have revealed a tripling of ivory prices in China over the last four years. That upswing, according to the study, is increasing the poaching of African elephants. Styles says, 'the message sent to ivory speculators by the stockpile destruction is, buy as much ivory as you can afford now, it is getting scarcer.'  


Chatting with African Wildlife Foundation (AWF) CEO Patrick Bergin felt a lot like conversing with an old friend. He's soft spoken and articulate. His wealth of on-the-ground experience in African wildlife conservation, and successful implementation of species survival programmes has led him from conservation project officer to his current role as leader of the Washington DC- and Nairobi-based organisation. His initial response to the question of the ivory trade pulls no punches. 'Elephant poaching is not simply wildlife crime. It directly correlates with other illegal activities such as terrorism, drug smuggling and other high levels of organised crime. We must send the unambiguous message that the time for this is over.'  


In July 2013, Bergin was appointed by President Obama to serve on the Federal Advisory Council on Wildlife Trafficking, under the US Department of Fish and Wildlife Services and the Department of the Interior. The eight-member panel, co-chaired by Secretary of State John Kerry, Secretary General Eric Holder and Secretary of the Interior Sally Jewell, provided specific recommendations for combatting, and ending, the ivory trade. Since confiscated stockpiles cannot legally go onto the commercial market, the decision to destroy them was seen as a powerful public statement with the potential for spillover effects within ivory-hungry nations like China.


If you want to show off your wealth, buy a painting.  


To their credit, Hong Kong followed suit, burning over 28 tons of seized ivory in May 2013. For Bergin, this success is attributed to the shift in global opinion, and the need to work towards eliminating the ivory trade. 'There is an amazing worldwide consensus that African elephants can no longer afford the risk of this situation, and the only way to handle it is to suppress the trade completely. There is no need to buy ivory anymore. If you want to buy expensive items to show off your wealth, buy a nice piece of art such as a painting.'  


Bergin's sentiments show that he has grown tired of negotiating with a bloody trade that's existed for far too long. It was especially devastating during the 1970s and 1980s when Africa's elephant population dropped from roughly 1.3 million to 600,000. It wasn't until CITES banned the international ivory trade in 1989, that elephant numbers started to recover. The international ban still applies but, in 1997, CITES downlisted elephant populations in Botswana, Namibia and Zimbabwe from Appendix I to Appendix II, thus permitting a limited trade. The result was a one-off sale of ivory stockpiles from these countries in 1999. In 2000, South African elephants were downlisted to Appendix II, and Cites approved another one-off sale of stockpiles from all four countries in 2008.  


'The two objectives were to put money from those sales back into the hands of environmental law enforcement to further increase conservation efforts, and to provide support and revenue for local communities,' Bergin says. The experiment did not work, he continues to explain, because no-one anticipated China's tremendous economic rise, the huge increase in disposable income in that country, and the significant level of money laundering made possible by that new prosperity.  


Demand in Japan fell due to consumer awareness about the connection between purchasing ivory and poaching  


Those two one-off sales are perhaps at the heart of the disagreement between conservationists. Many posit that the transactions increased the demand because it was in direct contradiction to the international ban. But, while Stiles agrees that they were a bad idea, he doesn't view them as directly causing an increase in elephant poaching. Recent research, he claims, shows that demand has decreased since 2012. Stiles also informs me that demand in Japan eventually fell because of effective consumer awareness about the connection between purchasing ivory and the killing of elephants. This is the one issue on which US organisations and wildlife professionals from both sides tend to agree. When done right, eliminating demand through a combination of awareness and education measures can yield great benefits. But it still echoes Stiles' warning that NGOs are in a fight against a shrinking window of opportunity, as elephants continue to be killed at an alarming rate.

 İBurn the Ivory  


AWF is pushing hard to eliminate the appetite for ivory through a variety of education measures with the belief that the market will change when the people do. Through partnership with NGO WildAid, they have issued key public service announcements in China with popular Chinese personalities like basketball player Yao Ming and actor Li Bingbing supporting the cause. Bergin is optimistic that Chinese people can and will have a dramatic change of heart. 'A lot of push-back and speculation revolves around the idea that the Chinese have been buying ivory for thousands of years, so why would they stop now? But it's important to understand that they are changing. I've traveled to China to perform public speaking lectures and have witnessed public campaigning there against related issues such as shark fin soup, and using bear's gall bladders in traditional medicine. There's no reason to believe that attitudes and beliefs, even very old and engrained ones, are not capable of changing - and changing quickly.'  


In the same vein, President Obama extended an invitation to all African heads of state in good standing with the US and the African Union to a US/Africa Leaders Summit this week. While the agenda is primarily focused on trade, investment and infrastructure, it is understood that the issue of wildlife trafficking cannot be ignored. 'What must change is the willingness of these leaders to make this a topic of discussion, especially with the Chinese government,' Bergin says. 'Africa wants to do business with China and that's fine. But they need to make a noise and say that what's happening is a problem when outsiders are poaching their wildlife.'

İAWF/Billy Dodson  


Education and awareness seems to be the key to winning the hearts and minds of those likely to purchase ivory. For now it seems to be garnering some success. But is that good enough? Are there any alternative methods we're overlooking? And if not, which of the two contested strategies works best: a limited, regulated trade, or more prosecutions, a complete ban and the subsequent destruction of contraband stockpiles? Is there some sort of compromise US lawmakers and opposing conservationists can agree on? It seems I'm now left with more questions than answers.  


As an American who loves Africa's wildlife, I too am sickened by the unnecessary killings. I only hope that whichever direction my country goes, it will help the cause rather than hurt it. Meanwhile, on the other side of my world, what is left of Africa's elephants resume their march toward a perilous future. I suppose the only certainty that can be drawn from this impasse is that, if we allow any decrease in elephant conservation initiatives, the outlook for these magnificent animals will be increasingly dire. And much like the temporary billboard of an elephant displayed in Times Square, one thing the real ones are running out of is time.   




55th Hawaiian International Billfish Tournament 


Kona, Hawaii

26 June to 3 August, 2014  


Friends of Kenya Team No 21



The above tournament is an invitation only tournament. When Kenya Association of Sea Anglers ( better known as KASA ), the governing body of big game fishing in Kenya, was approached to appoint a team and provide a team name we were told to make up our own team and make our own arrangements.  


Mark Allen approached people of like mind and willing to meet their own expenses for the trip so we decided, in such difficult times for tourism into Kenya, that it would be appropriate to use the team name "Friends of Kenya". The name "Friends of Kenya" came about as a result of an annual competition held out of Hemingways, Watamu, initiated by Mark Allen some years ago. The team members were, the Team Captain, Mark Allen, owner and captain of the well known sport fishing boat Simba, operating out of Watamu, Mark Smith, a regular fisherman to Kenya, and Peter Ruysenaars, the owner of Pemba Channel Fishing Club, Shimoni.


After long journeys from Shimoni and the UK, the team members finally met up in Kona on 26 July in time for team registration and briefing in readiness for 5 days of fishing for big blue marlin. Kona is known as one of the hot spots in the world for big blue marlin, June through August being considered prime time.  


Team registration took place on 26 July and team briefings and ceremonies started on 27 July with a grand parade of participating teams and the countries they represent. Australia, China, Japan, Kenya, New Zealand, Papua New Guinea, Vanuatu and USA. There were 34 teams entered in all.    


Team 21, Friends of Kenya, as we were known, drew slot number one for the boat roster. This determined the boats and the order of the boats we would fish. The draw gave us a good feeling and the team came determined to do well with the intent on winning.  


The 28 July was the first day of the tournament. Our first boat was named Topshape, voted the best captain and deckhand of the 2013 tournament. Al and John told us that fishing had not been good and that we were not to get too disappointed if we hooked up and lost fish because the marlin were not very aggressive nor were there many marlin about. Our aim was to manage a marlin a day. It took a while before our team captain was lucky to tag our one and only fish of the day, which put us in joint second. Overall this was not a good day for the tournament with only eight marlin caught. Little did we know that fishing was to get worse?  


Day two of the tournament was on Hooked Up, a very old boat. Jim and his deckie RJ did their best to find us a marlin. Our only chance of the day resulted in pulled hooks 15 metres from the boat. Peter was named dropsy and Papa smurf thereafter. Peter was not allowed to live this down. Jim showed us some lures he had been pulling made by a certain gentleman named John Lau. He said they did not bring him any luck but was forced to pull them. Fishing was even worse on day two with only four marlin caught. Team 21, Friends of Kenya, slipped into third position overall but were still very positive.  


Day three of the tournament was on JR's Hooker with Kevin and Scooter as the crew. The day was a total blank; we did not even raise a fish. Kevin also told us the story of lures made by John Lau not working too well, not raising fish and so on. In addition we had "Jonah" on board. "Jonah", a satellite tag, derived his name in Kenya. Simba was given the honour of deploying a satellite tag into a blue marlin out of Shimoni, Kenya in February, 2013. Both Captain Mark Allen and Mark Smith plied the Shimoni waters for days on end not raising marlin or losing them every time they had a hook up. Eventually their luck changed and "Roger the marlin" was tagged and sent on his way. Hence the tag was named "Jonah". The scientist and researcher behind the Great Marlin Race, which is an international satellite tagging programme to help us learn more about marlin, their routes and habits, among others, was on board with us on day three. "Jonah" played his part again, or shall we say it was one of our excuses for not landing a marlin that day. What we did learn, however, was that "Roger the marlin" was eaten by a predator very soon after his release. A sad ending for "Roger the marlin". These satellite tags are expensive and cost US$ 4,500 each. They transmit information for up to 180 days. It is a great shame that the "Shimoni Tag" was eaten soon after "Roger the marlin" was released especially as only 15 of these tags are deployed worldwide annually. Again only four marlin were caught and the warnings of slow fishing were now being confirmed. Team 21, Friends of Kenya, now slips into eighth position but never lost morale. After all, a lady caught a blue marlin of 622 lbs and landed it after four hours, so we knew there were some big ones about.

Day four of the tournament was on a boat named Nasty Habits. There was a crew of three, Captain David, Cowboy and a12 year old named "live bait" by us. He was a very enthusiastic youngster with some good fish behind his name but with too much to say most of the time. After a while we asked "live bait" for the telephone number of his parents as we wanted approval from them to pull him behind the boat as live bait. Needless to say he scuttled up the flying bridge not to be seen for some time. Mark Smith was now fed up of looking at a blank sea for almost two whole days.


He put his thinking cap on and suddenly it all came to him. He ran up onto the flying bridge and mentioned John Lau and his lures. David, the captain, also mentioned he had no luck with the John Lau lures. Mark said, off the boat with them!!! The next thing we see John Lau's lunch box from the day before fly over board and some appropriate words by David. Within the hour Mark missed a marlin and we started to feel better. Next our captain caught a non qualifying fish. Guess what, dropsy Peter dropped another fish, we were not sure what it was, most probably a yellowfin tuna, possibly a marlin that never jumped. Peter will never live this trip down!!! Three strikes in one day, things are looking up for Team 21 and much better vibes on the boat. Mark Smith went out for a cigarette and the next thing a reel started screaming. After a tough battle we tagged a marlin.  


With about one hour to go to lines in our Captain hooked up with a 400 lbs blue. The marlin made an initial searing run and thereafter stayed deep. Controlling the fighting chair, live bait turned round to our captain and said "my grandmother can reel faster than you"!!! Our captain started to apply serious pressure on the marlin as it was swimming deep and not moving and again live bait remarked "stop pinching the line". The next call heard on the radio was "stop fishing, stop fishing, stop fishing". The rules of the tournament allow you to fish on till the fish is landed or lost. The fish was boated just after 1700 hrs and weighed in at 394 lbs giving us the extra points we wanted. Team China had boated a marlin of 662 lbs, the biggest of the tournament. We learned that another boat was also hooked up before the stop fishing radio call. Unfortunately they lost their fish after five hours estimated at 750 lbs. Team 21, Friends of Kenya, arrived at the dock all smiling and now in third position overall, some four points behind Team Japan and 561 behind Team China. We are in with a chance!!  


The last day of the tournament we were on Kona Gold. We suggested to Mark, the captain of Kona Gold, we go to the same area where we caught the two marlin the previous day. It did not take him very long to work out that the fish were not there and move on to the North of the Island. This turned out to be the correct decision as all the marlin caught except for one, were caught North. It was not long before we heard that Team China had tagged another marlin so our hopes of catching them were now gone. We now had to concentrate on second place. Our captain was lucky to hook up and tag another marlin which gave us a solid second place, Team Japan having had no luck on the final day. With a few hours to go we hoped for a bigger than 400 lbs marlin to elevate us into top position but this was not to be.  


We can say it was truly an international event looking at the top five positions below.  


The end result was as follows;  


Team China
1,986 points
Team Kenya
1,425 points
Team Japan
1,129 points
Team South Australia
1,050 points
Team Vanuatu
1,027 points


This was not a bad effort on our debut.