Gasps break out in an auditorium full of primary and secondary school pupils as a gory image of a dead, mutilated African elephant pops up on the projector screen.
“Qumquat was killed in 2012,” says prominent Kenyan wildlife conservationist and former park ranger Paula Kahumbu.
“I know it’s a really ugly sight, these pictures, but imagine what happens to [Qumquat’s] family. They cry; they grieve.”
Kahumbu, speaking at the Chinese International School in Braemar Hill, was referring to the death of one of Kenya’s best-known African matriarchs, slaughtered by poachers at the age of 44 for her impressive tusks.
“Many people in Africa often don’t know why elephant ivory goes to Asia. Many people in Asia don’t know where ivory [on the market] comes from.”
Kahumbu was seeking to raise awareness about the issue ahead of a school trip to Kenya this summer. Twelve pupils from the school, aged 15 to 18, will travel to the African country to learn more about elephants and illegal poaching.
Led and coordinated by teachers Toni McNickle and Jacob Stephens, the trip will be to the Elephant Research Centre in Amboseli National Park, home to the world’s longest-running study on elephant behaviour.
The trip has the support of the London Kenya Society and Wildlife Direct, a charity set up by Kahumbu and well-known conservationist Dr Richard Leakey.
Both conservation heavyweights were in Hong Kong last month to promote their Hands Off Our Elephants campaign and to hold discussions with local conservation officials.
McNickle, a primary school teacher, said the 10-day trip to the research centre in July would be the first of its kind for the school.
“The aim is to develop educational resources, share ideas and allow students to observe elephant behaviour up close,” she said. “They will also be able to participate in some of the scientists’ research at the centre and participate in some fieldwork.”
Stephens, a secondary school computer science teacher, said the trip would allow students to have a better understanding of the effects of poaching on Kenya’s elephant population and its effect on Hong Kong, which is a strategic hub for ivory making its way to other Asian markets.
“Many students are passionate about the cause and want to see for themselves … not for a safari, but because they believe in conservation,” he said.