Kenyan Community Cracks Down on Elephant Poaching


Mohammed Yusuf, Voice of America

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As the world marks World Elephant Day this week, conservationists hope to raise awareness of the plight of elephants and focus on greater protection.

In Eastern Kenya’s Game Reserve local communities live side by side with wild animals, but in recent years there has been an increase in poaching activities.

In the town of Samburu, government agencies have increased patrols to nab those behind the crimes. There is a constant police and wildlife presence here in the hunt for ivory sellers and buyers.

But behind a hill lies one of many ivory tusks buried in the ground. A poacher reveals one of three tusks he claims to have in his possession.  

“Its been buried three years, we did that because we are afraid of the Criminal Investigation Department, they are so may of them here,” said Letopas. “We don’t have any other way to sell the ivory tusk, that’s when we decided to tell this guy to look for U.S. buyers.”

In March, Kenya’s president Uhuru Kenyatta burned 15 tons of elephant ivory as part of an effort to curb poaching.

There are other efforts being made to curb poaching in the eastern reserve.  Conservationist organizations like the Lewa Wildlife Conservancy and other donors are giving back to the communities where these animals live.

At one school there is a feeling that children’s lives can be transformed through education.

“Everything is linked to conservation, linked to wildlife and it really helps a lot in terms of stopping poaching, reducing poaching and people to understand that wildlife is benefit to them,” said John Pameri, head of security for Lewa.

Lela Kinyaga, a community elder, agrees.

“There is a lot of benefit these animals can bring while they are alive than when they are killed because it only benefits the one who killed it,” he said.

But for poachers like Letopas, it will be another day risking his life and looking for a buyer, not sure how long it will take him to sell the last three remaining elephant tusks. But he is well aware he is headed for an uncertain future.