Learning about Elephant Conservation in Kenya First Hand!


Michael Musyoka, Project Coordinator, University of Nairobi - Guest contributor

Date Published


How often do you get to rub shoulders with the big names in conservation? For a student in conservation studies or a conservation enthusiast, other than seeing their videos on YouTube or on the news, that chance is usually once in a blue moon.

The 1st University Symposium on Elephant Conservation in Kenya that was held at the University of Nairobi, Chiromo Campus the blue moon shone; courtesy of Save The Elephants and Chiromo Environmental Awareness Club.  The theme: Welcome to the real World. It attracted 300 students from six different universities.

Did you know that elephant’s breasts are just like human breasts?” Dr. Iain Douglas- Hamilton smacked us with that interesting fact amidst his sea of intriguing adventures and interactions with elephants: His near death experience at the mercy of a charging elephant. His fascination with elephants is an inspiration to any young conservationist to follow a path they are passionate in and secure the survival of key species for balance in ecosystems. He was pleased on the increasing number of young people who are passionate about wildlife and who were getting involved in the conservation. The tales about his interesting encounters with elephants surely reinforced that passion.

Dr. Ben Okita illuminated us on the Geo-Political challenges of conservation in a developing world. Normally when really educated people start talking, I tend to doze off in the middle. That was not the case here. Dr. Okita talked of the importance of Eco- civilization. How we as a country on the verge of developing needs to conserve our wildlife and be a model for the rest of Africa.  It is evident that human wildlife conflict is caused by encroachment into wildlife habitat but how do we ensure there is peaceful coexistence where humans and wildlife do not threaten the survival of the other? Those hard hitting questions got me thinking on how I could be a positive force for conservation and economic development. Well the idea of underpasses for animal corridors and mechanisms such as the elephants and bees project were some ways of combating this.  There is a need for more research on the best methods for conducting eco- civilization (career opportunity??) ding ding ding.

Drs Ben Okita and Iain Douglas-Hamilton

Drs Ben Okita and Iain Douglas-Hamilton

Dr. Lucy King who is the head of human- wild conflict at Save the elephants and the Elephants and bees Project Manager talked of how her project was aiding communities neighbouring elephant habitats to quell the conflicts between them.

So elephants are afraid of bees? All the cartoons in my life suggested they are afraid of mice; there’s no evidence to back up those claims but Dr. Lucy’s work does have evidence.

The bees can get into the elephant trunk and Sting them real bad and so these gentle giants are cautious to stay away from the bees choosing to run for dear life. This saves farmers from the damage they could have incurred from the elephants damaging their crops. Other than keeping the bees away, the beehives are sources of income for the farmers. A jar of the elephant friendly honey can be auctioned off for up to 1000dollars.

Mrs. Resson Kantai Duff showed us steps to a career in conservation. We got to learn how to sell our skills in our C.Vs at par with applicants from Ivy- league universities. The mediocrity of most local applications with flaws such as Plagiarism, poor English, lack of knowledge of the organization applying to and mass send out of applications were some of the key issues. I for one will not publicly admit to this (after consulting my lawyer) but I got enlightened on how to personalize my cover letters. Little hacks like getting the spelling of the Organization right, Showing interest and actual knowledge of what you are applying for- not just throwing stones into the wind and waiting for the one that will come back to you.

The five questions you make sure to answer in your C.V

  1. 1. Who are you?
  2. 2. Why do you want to work for this organisation?
  3. 3. What do you think you can bring to the table?
  4. 4. What do you want to gain from this experience?
  5. 5. How will this benefit relationship the wider context?

From all that; what I got is that do not be afraid to put yourself out there for something you believe in. When you choose to say something; no matter how crazy- be loud and a ground breaker- just like an elephant’s fart.

To complete the afternoon session; Mr. David Kimanzi elucidated on the how GIS can be used in the analysis of land-cover and land-use change and how this impacts on distribution of biodiversity. His colorful slides and detailed maps helped to drive his point across.


Well the symposium was a great platform for young Kenyans interested in conservation to interact with professionals in their areas. it was an eye opening experience on how we can be involved in conservation too. We got essential tips from the career talk too on how to write Cover letters and Curriculum Vitae and how to present ourselves for a successful career in conservation. For a first symposium, it was a success, we learnt a lot and can’t wait for the next one.