Saving Elephants and Walking with Jim


Resson Kantai, STE Projects Officer

Date Published

Last Saturday Jim Nyamu, director of the Elephant Neighbours Centre and a comrade in arms at the Kenya Elephant Forum finished walking 1500km to raise awareness about the plight of elephants. On his 50-day journey from Nairobi to the Maasai Mara, on to Samburu and back down to Nairobi he preached to all who would listen about the importance of elephants and the environment they live in. The weekend saw a multitude of Kenyans walk side-by-side with Jim and as the procession snaked its way to the Kenya Wildlife Service Headquarters, national radio announced his route and the importance of the cause to everyone.

His walk was a triumph, attracting support and attention from herders in some of the country’s wildest areas to Kenya’s First Lady. To greet Jim and his team in Samburu, Save the Elephants organised a grand reception.

Save the Elephants’ Research Assistant Jerenimo Lepirei recently returned from the Wildlife Conservation Leaders campaign training course in the US, and since his return has been busy formulating plans to put our community outreach into a new gear. Jim’s arrival seemed a perfect time to launch it, so communities, wardens and county officials alike were mobilised to take part in the occasion. Daud and I worked alongside Desmond, STE’s new Conservation Education Officer, to get the schools on board as well.

As the sun rose that morning over Ololokwe, the sacred Samburu mountain, walkers gathered at its foot to show their support for Jim and his appeal that elephant poaching be stamped out one powerful step at a time. Busloads of community members were dropped at the start line, while Jim and his team looked around, amazed at the turnout at what would normally be a lonely outpost in the wilderness.

As the group rounded another corner to Archer’s Post under the new sweltering sun, a hillside of children awaited them. This incredible showing of the county’s future leaders pulsated new energy into the procession, and the pace picked up once again.

The 17km walk broke down barriers between business owners, school children and warriors donning colourful traditional regalia. The thousand-strong crowd rounded the last bend belting out “Don’t Kill Elephants!” a simple yet powerful message that echoed the single-mindedness of the crowd.

Having reached Archer’s post, the demonstrators gathered at the market area where the closing ceremony took place. Every community represented in the area had its chance to take the stage, with each passing on their cultural beliefs about elephants to the young crowd. After a moving performance by Girgir Primary school came speeches, including from the county minister of tourism, the chief warden and STE’s Head of Field Research, David Daballen.

Most memorable was the speech of a reformed poacher. In front of the crowd he confessed to being deeply embedded in merciless crime, and discouraged all at the meeting from ever engaging in it, saying poaching never brought him any peace, or even any money, and after more than a decade of that life, poaching had brought him nothing but sleepless nights. The meeting was stunned to silence as he went on, saying his new life of fighting the crime with KWS had purpose, and he was now bringing poachers to book.

The Samburu event, the Nairobi finish and the walk itself all received good media coverage, including on Primetime National News. But it was those who met the young marchers face to face who were most moved. Just days after the walk, a 12 year old child told authorities of a dead elephant close to his home area, despite others telling him he would get in trouble for reporting what he had seen. The calf turned out to have died from natural causes, but an important precedent had been set.

Jim now plans to walk on, just as Save the Elephants will continue its vital campaign to encourage love for elephants and all that they do for the land. As Jim has shown, action is a powerful catalyst. Through a coalition known as Elephants for Kenya, we hope that all Kenyans will be similarly inspired to do something to end the poaching crisis.