Preaching Co-existence in Kirimon and Oldonyiro Communities


Jerenimo Lepirei, Research & Community Outreach Officer

Date Published

The trip kicked off on Saturday morning, 7th June 2014. On board was a KWS warden Mr. Steve Okoth, Samburu National Reserve warden Gabreil Lolkipaengi, Osotoa Wildlife Foundation representative Tom Lolosoli, Alex Lekalaile, Henry Lenayasa and Richard Epchae, ex-poachers and the STE team. The team was amazing and bonded throughout the trip. The campaign was expected to take two days.

Day 1: Kirimon

The first meeting was in Kirimon, where a new conservancy was recently established. Kirimon is said to have big human-elephant conflict due to its many farms. It is therefore important for them to learn how they can protect their wildlife. The only wildlife agency nearby is the Kenya Wildlife Service situated at Baawa and Maralal, 24 and 35 Kms respectively. Days before the visit, the community had poisoned an elephant in a farm and called KWS to come and take the ivory. We came across the carcass on our way and as Samburus we followed the tradition of placing green twigs on it.

Our meeting started at 1pm. After a word of prayer from one of the elders the area chief took the stage. He mentioned that many elephants had died in the area, urging the community to stop the killing. He then introduced us and as usual, one of the team members Alex Lekalaile started to tell the community about our campaign. He mentioned how people are benefiting from wildlife conservation in Samburu East. I contributed by talking about STE and the good job we do, including the education program that sponsors students who perform well. I encouraged them to take care of their heritage (especially the new conservancy) as in the future it could provide school bursaries for their children as is the case with the conservancies around the Samburu National Reserve (SNR). Gabriel Lolkipaengi (Warden SNR) a native of a nearby village advised them on how they can make their new conservancy flourish.

Bearing in mind that Kirimon is known for human-elephant conflict, Mr. Steven Okoth (a KWS warden) gave a wonderful speech on how to handle the conflict. He also talked about the new bill that will help incase of death or property destruction as well as penalties. Steven urged them to take care of the remaining wildlife to better their new conservancy.

One of the elders wound up by telling us how elephants have made a mess on their farms and with confidence said that Kirimon people don’t really poach elephants but they only kill due to the conflicts. He stated that they will try their best to solve human elephants conflict amicably and not give poachers an easy way to get ivory. Before dispersing and preparing for the next day’s meeting, Daud Abdi of STE showed the ‘Secret life of the elephants’. This grasped everyone’s attention especially the slides of poached elephants that brought some people to tears.

Day 2: Oldonyiro

Oldonyiro, with an increased poaching rate of late, was our next stop for the awareness campaign. The Samburu Trust vehicle helped to ferry people and we all assembled at one of the Samburu ceremonial villages called Lorora for the meeting. Before the meeting started one of the church pastors stood up and prayed for the elephants.

In attendance were representatives from Ntepes, Parkishon, Nkoteiya, Nalare and Narupa conservancies as well as area KWS officials. Interestingly, the conservation message is now alive in many pastoralist areas and they have learnt the only way to communal success today is setting up conservancies. We also had middle-aged men and elders, our main target groups. The meeting presided over by a former county representative who handled the crowd quite well. Speaker after speaker gave out wise messages on conservation.

The community seemed very happy and really digested the information we gave them. They thanked KWS for their response to the recent incident where three teachers who were caught and arrested with ivory in the area.

They were very angry when we showed them our MIKE (Monitoring Illegal Killing of Elephants) data and explained how we are losing the elephants at a very fast rate; and that the new conservancies would collapse if the killing didn’t stop. This made them promise to revert to the age-old tradition of cursing people who get involved in poaching in their area.

When Koyaso, an ex-poacher, stood up to give a speech, he was accorded undivided attention. He spoke of all the bad things he had done before reforming. He said Oldonyiro had been one of his stops and had had several allies in the area. He urged them to stop poaching and join him in preaching good news that is conservation. The former county representative then thanked the team for their visit.

I would like to thank the Samburu Trust led by Julia Francombe for funding this awareness campaign and slaughtering 6 goats for the members of the community who attended the meetings. The meetings were a definite success!! Our special thanks goes to The Bodhi Tree Foundation’s S.A.F.E. Campaign for funding Save the Elephants’ Community Outreach Programme.