The Wheels of Anti-poaching


David Daballen, Head of Field Operations

Date Published

As the ongoing poaching crisis has developed we identified a need for ranger patrols within Samburu and adjacent areas to be more mobile. The last vehicle that was donated had come to the end of its useful field life, and a new Toyota Land cruiser that STE provided to help patrols on the south bank of the river in Nasuulu, Buffalo Springs and Shaba, had made a big difference. Samburu National Reserve, despite being well guarded, has still suffered the devastation of the ongoing killings.

The new land cruiser was revamped with a reinforced body, new tyres, and an army green paint job so that it was ready for use in the field. On July 20th, finally the hour came when the Governor of Samburu County, Moses Lenolkulal, one of the most powerful people in this district in newly-devolved Kenya, arrived with his entourage to officially receive the vehicle. Upon arrival Iain Douglas-Hamilton, founder of Save the Elephants, welcomed him. He then proceeded to inspect a guard of honour made up of Samburu county rangers. Following this, Iain and I began a tour of camp explaining what STE is all about and the work we do.

After a demonstration of the Google Earth elephant tracking system and an inspection of the collars that make this tracking work possible, the team decided that to honour the governor by naming our next collared bull after him. When he agreed, we reminded him that there might be grave consequences if this bull was poached, and (only semi-joking) spoke of a need for 24-hour security.

After the Governor ‘flagged off’ the car, everyone sat down in readiness for the speeches. First Samburu elders blessed the ceremony, local school children sang and Samburu women sang and danced. This all looked spectacular and the government officials were so tempted that they had to get up and join in with the dancing. Shortly after the entertainment, I thanked everyone for coming and introduced all the conservation stakeholders who were present including the Grevy’s Zebra Trust, Ewaso Lions, West Gate, Kalama and Nasuulu conservancies and several more.

Iain was then introduced to speak a little about STE and his 40 years working in elephant conservation. For many people, young and old, this was their first time meeting Iain in person after only before hearing about this legendary man who works to help elephants.

Iain said that one of the things he enjoys most about the work in Samburu is the collaboration between stakeholders and the local people, which he thinks has made a big difference to conservation in this area. He spoke about STE’s scholarship program and our other work in local communities, stating that giving locals the knowledge is the best way for conservation to continue in the future. He believes STE also makes a huge contribution in marketing Samburu National Reserve internationally with all the film crews that we host to make wildlife films. He concluded by saying that after 40 years working all across Africa Samburu is definitely his favourite place and he assured the council of his continued supporting in providing information to help with management of the reserve and beyond.

Before the governor there were several county representatives who spoke and could not thank STE enough for the continued support they have provided in the many years we have worked together. At a different inter-governmental level we had two members of the National Assembly who spoke in very strong terms about the poaching crises and their commitment to help at both national and local levels. They said that their offices are open to us at any time if we feel we have any information that will help to reduce poaching.

Finally the guest of honor was welcomed to the floor by his deputy, to much applause. He was extremely impressed with how much we’ve done and how much information we have which he thinks will be very useful for Kenya’s Vision 2030 planning. He also reiterated the importance of all the stakeholders working together to achieve the common goal of conservation. On that note he invited all of us to visit his office in Maralal to discuss the challenges facing us as a conservation fraternity. He emphasized the importance of conservationists being open and engaged in informing him of what is happening to avoid the government coming to wrong decisions due to lack of knowledge. In conclusion, he thanked STE for the donation of the car and promised his full support for our work and the values we believe in.