BY Lisa Lindblad
January 7, 2010
Many of you may know of Kuki Gallman from her book, I Dreamed of Africa, which gave birth to a film of the same name with Kim Bassinger starring. Kuki has lived in Laikipia, Kenya, for many years and I am privileged to be her friend. Over time — and particularly during this past year — I have been one of many recipients of Kuki’s clear-eyed, unvarnished reports on life in her northern region of the country. 2009 was a terrible year in Kenya, mostly due to the drought which was harsh and relentless. The drought, coupled with a number of other factors, enabled an ever-present poaching threat to escalate to horrific proportions. The numbers are stunning – on her property alone 57 elephants and three black rhino were killed for their tusks. The outlook is dire as country after country south of Kenya makes a request to CITES to be allowed to sell its stockpile of ivory thus reviving a trade that is unconscionable. To hear it in Kuki’s words, please read her report to me of today.
I chose today for this update, because it was on the 7th of January
1967, in a night of snow in Venezia, that my Son Emanuele was born,
and today would have been his 44th birthday.
It is now almost 27th years since He left us for the silent world, a
bright teenager with the world in front of him, and I owe it to Him
if many things have happened here which would not have, if He were
still with us.
Every minute of my life I have kept the vibrant memory of His
presence, and found daily inspiration in His short full life, His
timeless wisdom and His love of nature: I was and am driven to
compensate this loss with pursuits worthwhile, standing up to be
counted for what I believe whatever the cost, turning the sadness
into joy, the ends in the beginning of new things; it is because of
Him that I chose to devote my time to the less privileged, and join
the great world movement to preserve and to restore what is left of
the untouched earth, and have turned this entire corner of Africa
into a sanctuary, helped my my daughter Sveva, my hope and comfort.
This update is of necessity a bit longer than the others. Sorry for
It is customary at the end of a year to recall the events and
measure achievements and of the year past: 2009 is not a year that I
will remember happily and I was glad to see the end of it.
Yet in it there were good moments too, generous friendship, and team
work and solidarity, feeding the hungry, and sharing, and some
success and joys.
Here in Kenya, and up here in Laikipia Nature Conservancy, it began
with the most dreadful drought, the famine, cattle rustling,
illegal weapons, tribal clashes, and then the fires;arson and illegal
grazing;insecurity; violence; a personal physical attack, then
another; a crippled hand; personal losses of old friends and
family:our beloved respected Patron Professor Maurice Muller in
June;and then my Father, in August ;and then, my Mother in December.
And then, there was the poaching.
I left this story to the end, because I wanted to say good bye to
2009 first;and because I really hope that 2010 will bring a change
and sanity, and the good signs are there.
Over the months, I spoke about relief food and about children and
community, and education and about sport and the good charitable
things that we try to do:
Now, my friends, I must tell you about the poaching, because the world
And because we need your help to stop this madness.
Committed individuals are the ones- as we know-who can make the only
So-for the ones who do not yet know- here it is, with no frills:
Since the ban of ivory sales in 1989, championed by Kenya who was
losing its elephants mostly to Somali Poachers, and the brave
gesture of the ivory Fire, Elephant enjoyed a time of peace and
In mid 2007 four countries in Southern Africa successfully
asked CITES -which regulates the wildlife trade- to be allowed to
sell to China their ivory stockpiled over twenty years: this tragic
move meant an immediate revival of the black market and a renewed wave
of elephant poaching throughout the Continent.
I will not take much of your time: figures only.
Here at home in Ol ari Nyiro, Laikipia Nature Conservancy,
In 2007 we lost 6 elephants;
In 2008 28 elephants;
In 2009 57 elephants- And 3 black Rhino, to Poachers.
For 33 of them the tusks were gone. For the rests our rangers
managed to get there first, only to find a just dead elephant. Some
were just calves shot at random in the herd;some died of hunger and
dehydration next to their dead mother. Some were rescued, but were
too tiny and weak to survive.
Two elephants had to be shot as their wounds were so bad they would
not have recovered.
All this despite our brave rangers, any amount of security and the
total support of the Kenya Wildlife Services- and of their excellent
Because we have the Elephants- and the rhino- and we are on the edge
of the wild unvisited East Rift: we give these animals a home, a
perfect habitat in a shrinking environment, we protect them and
But they are now targets: since there are traders- brokers –
buyers, despicable criminal crooks motivated by greed, some from
neighbouring countries with collapsed governments, who offer an
irresistible high price: and any idle young Pokot in this area who
has a gun or can borrow one is after the elephants and rhino…
… So that in some remote eastern countries trinkets may be made,
objects of negligible artistic value and considerable kitch, dubious
medicine or dagger handles, whose only appeal- a status symbol?_ is
the rarity of the material they are made of.
And no relation from those shop windows, no concern from the
uneducated buyers, about the desperate agonies and horrors and dangers
those stupid, useless objects have caused in the African bush.
LETS PUT THIS DOWN TO RECORD my friends-and it is bit tough not to be
Ivory and rhino horn trade is unecessary, immoral, unethical,
unacceptable : it is CRIMINAL.
THERE IS NO EXCUSE at this present time, when we know the importance
of the biodiversity and the fragility of the web of life, when we
witness the threath to the environment, and climate change, when we
know about the importance of trees and wildlife, to desire a wildlife
And now two countries, Tanzania and Zambia, want to ask, CITES at the
next meeting in Doha in March 2010, as unbeliavable as it may sound,
to be allowed to sell Their ivory.The argument?To use the money from
dead elephants to protect the live ones.
Same as saying… lets sell the drugs to stop drug use…?They must
be stopped. I myself stood out to be counted.I have a crippled hand
to show for it-now you know!- but a determination not to ever let go.
So, what can you do to help?A lot.
Tell all YOUR FRIENDS, start a web page, put it in your blog, CREATE
AWARENESS of whats going on.
Help to create such STIGMA around the trade that CITES will not
succumb to the demand.
That Eastern Countries buying the products will be shamed.
Boycott ivory sales and who promotes them.
Help support the anti-poaching efforts.
Support Kenya:Despite the many problems, this is one things we do
right here.This IS one thing we can be proud of.
Support Kenya stand against all ivory and wildlife product sales now
AND in future. Choose Kenya-an ethical destination- for your travels.
Help the elephant, help the rhino live.
In the next mail I shall send just a photo panoramic of 2009;with
the tragedies and the joys…and the good moments too…But in this
mail I must stick to the topic I have raised and I am sorry if some
images can be disturbing.
Welcome, 2010!! Already the good signs…HERE on 1st January 2010 the
sky opened at last: 5 inches at Kuti- filled all the dams;
next day the KWS caught, red handed, 12 main dealers and poachers.
There are talks of peace between the warring Samburu and Pokot…every
night I hear lions roar…
grass is already green…
and, if the frogs still are strangely absent, today, suddenly, my
office was alive with a forgotten irresistible vibration of life..
laughing, I had to run for cover….after over two years, the bees are
I count on your action and support to the cause.
Thank you and blessings.
Kuki and the team, in Laikipia Nature Conservancy,
7th January 2010
Emanuele ‘s Birthday