Poaching has been a major problem in Save the Elephants’ area of operation, Samburu County. Their weaponry skills and knowledge of the area have made locals the ideal persons hired to do the dirty work, causing the anti-poaching team sleepless nights. Save the Elephants is always on the lookout for opportunities to reach out to the communities living with elephants. It therefore made perfect sense to attend this very special event.
Predicted to be one of the biggest events this year, the 25 edition of The Maralal International Camel Derby definitely surpassed expectations. Local and international tourists filed into the Yare Camel Club from as early as 6 am, all eager for an experience of a lifetime. As its name suggests, the camel race is always the showstopper and through the years the turnout and themes have continued to grow in numbers and relevance respectively.
This year was especially special as the theme was “Promoting conservation and tourism through sports and culture.” It offered a great opportunity for Save the Elephants and other conservation organizations to sell the conservation agenda. Sporting activities would include the triathlon, marathons, bicycle races and of course, the amateur and professional camel races.
Guests were treated to local cuisines and culture. Mock villages were set up, and morans could be spotted touching the skies with every leap. The women sat next to the traditional houses on display, adding their high-pitched voices to back up the morans. The Samburus, Boranas, Turkanas, Rendiles and the Pokots were all represented here. It was a beautiful mix.
Elsewhere, the different organizations present were playing hosts to a curious crowd. The joint Save the Elephants, OSUTUA and Samburu County stand was a beehive of activity. The organizing team led by our Community Awareness Officer Jerenimo Lepirei did a good job in making the stand a crowd puller. There was a large screen that showed different wildlife documentaries. The tent was dotted with photos and charts detailing STE’s work. The team gave visitors, who included Samburu County governor, Moses Lenolkulal, a tour explaining what exactly Save the Elephants does.
“So many people didn’t know about Save the Elephants but once we engaged them, we could see their interest grow. They asked questions, took home DVDs and brochures and promised to tell others about elephants and why we should protect them. Some even said they want to work as rangers to protect the elephants. It was an absolute success!” said Jerenimo.
Just before the camel race, the crowd was treated to a highly entertaining anti-poaching play put together by the Kenya Wildlife service and the Africa Wildlife Fund. The message: poaching doesn’t pay, it only adds to the existing problems the county has to deal with. There was also a 21km anti-poaching race won by Rosa Eleman from the Turkana community. Hon. Lenolkulal sent out a warning to poachers, “There is no room for poachers in Samburu County. These animals are our pride and as you can see, our major attraction as a county. Poach at your own risk!”
The 3-day event recorded an impressive turnout and as the curtains were drawn on the 25th edition of the derby, Save the elephants is glad to have sensitized a unique audience; from little children to the corporate companies present. One thing is for sure; the conservation message is one that cannot be preached without the community’s help. Success lies in this crucial partnership.