There is Always the Spirit and Hope-Year update
17th December 2011
We look back with gratitude, and also with bewilderment at this 2011 which is drawing to its end.
It has been a strange year, with many ‘unprecedented” incidents, decisions, ups and downs, and successful events.
It began with emotion.
On 7th January Sveva and I buried my Mother’s ashes on the grave of my son on his birthday, as she had wished, with music and birds singing.
As our commitment to communities and weekly feeding of the children and poorest neighbours went- and goes on to-date, every week end since January 2009-, and the maternity Clinic we donated to the community hosted safely many mothers and newborns throughout the year, we began by hosting a group of American doctors led by Bill Chester, of The Paul Chester Children Hope Foundation, who attended to -literally-thousands of sick neighbours- for over a very intense week.
The Pokot Boys Acrobats travelled to the Maasai Mara-a veritable expedition to the moon- to entertain foreign visitors with their new skills.
RHINO & ELEPHANTS
With rising price of rhino horn worldwide due to the insatiable demand from the far eastern markets, Rhino poaching escalated throughout the continent: at the end of February, we suffered a brutal attack to our rhino ranger Josephat Lenariset by a gang led by a notorious poacher and killer,( still in Hospital, ten months later!!), and the consequent soul searching that led to the first ever trans location of rhino from a vulnerable to a safer area.. this led the way by example to other private Sanctuaries who had suffered severe casualties, to follow this example.
Soon after, with the KWS vet team, we had a lucky rescue operation of an elephant collared by Save the Elephants, who had been badly wounded by poachers and could hardly move.
One week later and for ten interminable days, we had to deal with the devastating, terrifying February fires, that devoured over 20,000 acres of prime bushland, and some forest, but
… we decided not to cancel our event” Prayers for the Trees” in support of the International Year of the Forests, of the UN, when Elders from nine forest tribes came to worship in our relic forest of Enghelesha following their ancient rituals, remarkably similar- despite the fact that they all came from very remote areas of Kenya, and none had ever met the others before-.
All asked for natural honey, fresh green twigs of Mukinyei (Euclea Divinorum, the sacred evergreen abundant in Ol ari Nyiro) and the proximity of a running spring(of which we have plenty).
It was an amazing day, and in early March we opened our Yoga and Interfaith Hall, that I had persistently built, with unwavering stubbornness and a tireless team to beat deadlines- inexplicably saved from the flames that devoured everything to its doorsteps.
Then, in mid March-as many of you will know- Sveva was severely hurt in the Naivasha Olerai armed robbery attack, but managed, with great spirit, courage, and a vast dose of good luck, to fully physically recover and to put this horror behind her. Tough girl. That gave all of us sleepless nights for quite a while, though.
In May we received the visit of a group from the Global Peace Initiative of Women and Japanese Shinnyo en Buddhist representatives, to explore Ol ari Nyiro as the possible venue for the next year anniversary and spiritual leaders gathering of March.This will happen, we are delighted to report, and the gathering will open at the UN on 2nd March, prior to moving to Ol ari Nyiro.
THE FLOODS and THE TREES
In June-in the full blooming, elsewhere in North Africa and the Middle East, of the Arab Spring-, I traveled with Sveva to the magical sacred city of Fez, at the invitation of the Kind of Morocco, where a gathering of international personalities including Nobel Laureates, took place.
I went also to Italy to attend a fund raising for Land of Hope by the tireless, wonderful friends of Maisha Marefu, while at the same time diving deep into finalizing my next book…(WATCH OUT)
Back at the Conservancy we had embarked in massive roads maintenance with our ancient D6 caterpillar and managed several hundreds kilometers, before the beginning of unprecedented torrential rains (well, we asked for it…), that continued, off and on, until NOW.
For the ones amongst you familiar with the the conservancy, the flood burst the banks of the Big dam, the Red dam, Kiboko dam, making our already battered roads impassable.
The water level of the Mukutan stream reached unprecedented levels, making fjords of valleys, reaching the pump house of Marati Ine, waterfalls rushing downhill, but all in all it was a perfect time for tree planting, the main activity of our World Environment day led proudly by our forester, Thomas Ole Kaichu. Despite the tree nursery being flooded off and on, our re-forestations plans had a true boost.
THE SCIENCE and the IVORY FIRE
In July we went to Manyani to help the KWS burn old seized ivory, with the support of all the great generous team who had helped the first Historical burning in 1989-, while in the meantime the unprecedented downpours made interesting- but did not stop- the planned biodiversity survey in July with the Museums, when eight scientists, led by Victor Wasonga, spent an all too short ten intensive days, recording,collecting and comparing data from former collections, in the fields of Entomology, Herpetology, Ornithology and Botany.NEW PLANTS WERE FUND!
Funds permitting the decision was taken of continuing this invaluable research at different times of the year, in targeted areas and for longer periods.
WE ALSO- again the blasted funds permitting- PLAN TO RESUME THE ARCHAEOLOGICAL EXPLORATION OF THE VERY IMPORTANT OL ARI NYIRO SITES.
Looking for answers.
LAND of HOPE and HOPE FOR THE YOUTH
In August Sveva and I went down to the wild beautiful and DANGEROUS Amaya valley to meet and promise support to a group of young Pokot hopeful, who want to start a Cultural Centre as an alternative to the illegal activities they will unavoidably get roped into if idle. We gave them beads and hope and will help them.
Then we hosted the wonderful Maisha Marefu group of supporters of our Land of Hope Project for community-see last update- led by Dr. Cristina Cappelletti- who tirelessly attended countless children and women, extracting teeth in the field under thorn trees, giving smiles and medicines to everyone, and are totally committed to support our work in this Project that seems to grow daily, in strength and scope.
The donated bore hole is now functional, producing fresh clean water to drink.
All plans have been done and approved, permits obtained, drawings done etc. Cost a fortune, getting there.
We shall begin building in January 2012 and are fencing the area and hand-making bricks at this time.
SPORTS FOR PEACE and VOLUNTEERS
– September was again the time of the feverish preparations OF OUR ANNUAL SPORTS FOR PEACE event, and back from Italy like a returning migratory bird came Bianca with hundred shoes from former volunteer Renata to give all our overjoyed nursery children who sang the Anthem at the Games.
The 2011 edition of the Laikipia Highlands Games, which saw thousands youth from diverse tribal communities compete resplendent in their tribal attire, were another amazing success.
THANK YOU PATRICK AND THE TEAM!
THANK YOU MARTIN!
Next year take note/save date: 29th September 2011.
The volunteers of Courage Africa returned with with the Disabled Kids from Dagoretti Children home and we hosted a spiritual Retreat of the Catholic Mission and another of St Martin disabled from Nyahururu, in addition to weekly visits of local schools to our Wilderness Centre, with the Laikipia Wildlife Forum Education Officer and our team.
But then the agonizing resuming of the never ending
in October November and December, revived tragic echoes of 2009, and once again the undersigned cut all travels, changed all plans, reviewed a thin budget, and kept vigil at night at Kuti (faithful dogs sleeping on carpets) and a cool head, planning action, (thanks God my hair is already white, anyway, or it would suddenly be by now) -ear straining to detect the sound of Kalashnikov terminating yet another majestic creature, guilty of nothing.
The waste, the utter stupid waste.
My dear Friends, there is so much more to say:
but you have followed the saga, seen the repetitive photo of carcasses and tusks.., the feeding days, read of despair and sadness, recognized the joy and satisfaction, you know, you know, you know it all….so much is needed : food for the children, teaching materials, medicines, scholarships, a new car for the anti-poaching, uniforms, radios, MASSIVE roads work, maintenance of everything that the rains and termites hammer hard, a boost of morale of my TERRIFIC TEAM, community support, incentives…keeping the entire dream together.
Holding the fort in magical Ol ari Nyiro in Laikipia, a veritable island now, more and more by the day, I watch endless flocks of white migrating butterflies, I listen to the thousands birds, lions roaring free at night, grunting buffalo, I hug the trees, and AFRICA is beautiful.
Yes, it IS BEAUTIFUL.
Nothing at all could be achieved without your support, and so much can be achieved with little, here where needs are simple.
We thank you for your help.
We wish you all, my friends far and close, a peaceful, wonderful Christmas and New year, with the ones you love
Kuki, Sveva and the team of The Gallmann Memorial Foundation,
In Ol ari Nyiro,
Laikipia Nature Conservancy,
Good Water, Floods and a Good Place to Die
11th November 2011
Here in Laikipia West we get on with our life and projects.
November is normally a quiet month dedicated to maintenance, staff leaves and repairs.
Road maintenance, buildings upgrade, leaking roofs and cars ship-shape; we plant trees, cut grass, clear bushes from roads, and produce eco-charcoal.
On week ends we host environmental schools visits and feed the children. (From January 16th 2009, we have not missed one single feeding week end)
But from mid October we experienced torrential rains, roads became lakes and lakes overflew, and soon there was” water water everywhere but not a drop to drink” and kids diseases due to contaminated water always escalate at this time. So we invited the neighbour women, who came in huge numbers, to the Land of Hope bore hole to refill their jerricans with clean drinking water from our donated well.
Now that the Environmental Impact assessment is at last done, and the graphic designs approved, building will begin in early January, once rains have subsided and enough bricks have been hand-made out of the red earth and cement, with hand operated brick machines: three men have been employed, 100 bags of cement ordered initially, and we begin next week.
Phase 1. surveyors, legal permits, bore hole, solar pumping, architectural drawings, environment assessments, drawings approvals, advocacy, community sensitivity.
Phase 2. watchman and staff house and fencing.
Phase 3. Building, phase 1.
On building phase 1,there will be a nursery, a women vocational pavilion, kitchen and dining room, toilets, an office, stores and pediatric consulting room-as a start all eco-friendly and imaginative!
(on phase 2, with your help, we shall furnish it all !)
Exciting feeling of positive action ahead!
…but then, with the November full moon, the poaching began again.
Shooting at night in the sleeping savanna lit by a silvery moon.Furtive steps, elephant screams.
The photos below tell their tale.
A tapestry of bush, a cave in the distance, and deep in the valley-a good place to die- an elephant child who has not been fast enough.They cut off his trunk,
they cut off his tail, they shot at our rangers, (who bravely shot back) but could not take his tusks:1.1 kg each! 2.2 Kg. Worth a life?
at least they did not get his teeth.
And in this big sick world only the hyena rejoiced.
For, us, weary, sad, yet another gesture of silent farewell
From a green Laikipia with hope still untarnished, we send you love and blessings and thank you for your support
Kuki and Sveva and the Team
In Laikipia Nature Conservancy,
Photos: Steven Ali, Kuki and Ellen Leavenworth
Feeding, Singing to the Bees and the Cheetah on the Roof
12th October 2011
This month we hosted again the German volunteers of Courage Africa, who came for two weeks and 60 children in 3 shifts of twenty- from the slums of Nairobi.
Children confined to wheel chairs saw elephants and lion, sang and prayed on hill tops looking at the Great Rift valley.We felt privileged to be able to extend once again the healing magic of Ol ari Nyiro to the poorest of the poor.
Rains came late in this part of Kenya, the crops are not ready and hunger bites.
So, we made a big grain porridge and dumpling for the kids, and distributed the milk and maize we had left- donated by the Kenya Red Cross – and from early morning crowds began to gather at East Pokot gate, and later at our West gate. Old Cheptosai brought Sveva/ Makena-who came back once again, especially, the second time this month-, to help in a very busy time- three small eggs as a gift.
People kept coming, it took most of the day.
All danced and sang, went away with large loads…and on the way back…what was it on the roof of the old hangar at our Laikipia Main airstrip..?
A cheetah, a large MALE CHEETAH ON THE ROOF !!! Stalking impala. He lept gracefully off, and he was gone.
It was a special day…it ended in a special way, and today, as I sat in my veranda, the largest swarm of bees came suddenly as from nowhere in the heat of noon, determined, on a mission as bees are.
Soon thousands bees were everywhere, everywhere, everywhere- crawling on my hair, walking on my back, dashing on the terrified dogs.
The dogs ran to hide… and I stayed where I was, frozen still- not much choice, forty bees stings are enough to be history…- and- self control, do not move- sang them a song, a soothing bee-song I made up…sending them unthreatening thoughts, sincerely feeling there was room in the big world for me and the bees… so they left me alone… and half an hour later they had quietly built a new MASSIVE hive…in one of the sitting room cabinets!
From sunny Laikipia we send you love and blessings
Kuki, Sveva and the team
In Laikipia Nature Conservancy,
HERE AGAIN ARE THE GAMES
24th September 2011
we had wanted the rains, we prayed with the Elders for rain in the forest, and the rains came.
And came. And came.
So it took us months and an army of hand labour, to have everything ready in time for the Games, despite heavy downpours, grass growing back as soon as cut, elephant putting down fence woven by twenty Pokot women around the feeding grounds, zebra rolling on just dug holes and buffalo knocking down poles.
Kibaru and Fred marked the grounds, Maina and the builders constructed the stands, Ali and his team put up tents, mountains of food was bought and prepared, Bianca came from Italy with one hundred pairs of littles shoes for the nursery children who she coached with Jacintah to sing the National Anthem.
Hundreds of flags flew in the morning wind, and the people came to the fourth edition of the Laikipia Highlands Games.
The Njemps/Illchamus resplendent in pink came from the remote bomas along the Great Rift valley, from Amaya came the wild Pokot, and from the land of Samburu the handsome Moran. Tugen and Turkana, Kikuyu and Nandi, Borana and Masai mixed peacefully, side to side in the fields. And hundreds of school children and community.
Once again the magic skills worked and we managed to keep away the rains above the games fields.
The Samburu, Njemps and Pokot Morans raced each other and climbed the podium to get their medals, the Pokot Girls won the Tug of Peace and the Maasai warriors played cricket. And all had food sent by the Kenya Red Cross! It was an amazing success
This is the last edition of the games before next year election and we hope that it will go some way to avoid the pre and post election tribal tension in our part of Kenya.
The photos below tell the tale.
We send you love and friendship and thank you for your support
Kuki and Sveva,
and the Team of the Laikipia Highlands Games, Sports for Peace
In Laikipia Nature Conservancy
24th September 2011
LAIKIPIA HIGHLAND GAMES 2011
1st September 2011
The Ivory fire… and the elephant die
12th August 2011
it is not just in the nights of full moon: it is even when the sun is high and birds awake in my garden at Kuti that we hear the sound of the AK 47 Kalashnikovbringing death to the innocent remaining elephant herds in Western Laikipia.
The same happens in Tsavo,in Voi, in Samburu in Mount Kenya: wherever there are elephants left.
Nothing has changed despite every conceivable effort by the KWS:
for as long as there is a demand for ivory from the Far East, and brokers in Kenya trading lucrative wildlife parts ending up in Somalia at our boundary to be sold tosupport Al Shaabab
for as long as the dealers and traders are unpunished and laughing at our efforts,
for as long as the magistrates do not understand or care about the tragedy of losing a priceless and irreplaceable heritage
for as long as this is new wildlife law promoting a special tribunal and stiffer penalties is not approved- after waiting for many years gathering dust without attracting the attention of our legislators, and – after the new Kenya Constitution, it was found that it needed to be updated… a simple matter that has taken ONE YEAR to accomplish (during which many hundreds of elephants have been murdered everywhere in Kenya…)… and now is in the attorney General chambers for approval…it will take to December..at which time Kenya legislators will be thinking at the next elections, and Elephant survival will not be a priority ( has it ever been ?)
“GOOD INTENTIONS, LIKE SOME AFRICAN RIVERS, ARE APT TO RUN INTO SANDS OF REPORTS, COMMITTEES, CONFERENCES AND GLOBALSTRATEGIES…WHILE PEOPLE PASS RESOLUTIONS, ELEPHANTS DIE”
This quote, adapted from Elspeth Huxley, you will read in my new book .
What is going on is- simply put- unforgivable.
Untrained magistrates who could not care less, hesitate to apply even this present obsolete law- a mockery of justice .
Dealers and brokers are doing a great business;when arrested they walk out laughing with ridiculous fines,while sedentary bureaucrats take one year to do few changes to a document of whose very existence most of the Mps are unaware of!
We are tired of counting carcasses and to allow Al Shaabab to fill their coffers with the results of the extermination of our herds.
The large males have ALL been killed. Most Matriarchs as well. Young females and confused, terrified juveniles only are left, while the present wildlife law document is being “checked”.
Do legislators intent in self promotion realize this is a national emergency?
Security as well as environment are at stake!
Kenya is killing the goose laying golden eggs and no one even knows it is happening. None of the ministers I met socially in last few days had any idea there is a problem!!
What was the point of burning 10 years old ivory from Malawi/ Zambia if nothing at all changes in Kenya??
While we await ” for document to be ready”Elephants-and rhino- will continue to die.
…a few weeks ago,with a song in our heart I flew to Manyani with Sveva in a KWS plane to help the KWS and the Lusaka Agreement burn 5 tons of ivory-in a sign of public outrage for the ongoing slaughtering of elephants.
Twenty two years ago I had lent my services to help burn the twelve tons accumulated from poachers. An historical gesture that gave elephants twenty years of official respite.It was quite a thing to do since actually ivory does not burn!I was fortunate and I am grateful to Robin Hollister, who-like twenty two years ago-lent his skills and time to design the complex system that made the burning possible, and the companies- the same as twenty two years ago-hwo donated fuel, glue, the solar pump which allow this operation to be such a success.
Now it is up to the law to step in and help us.
I also advocate compulsory immediate environmental education both to teachers and students in primary schools as part of the curriculum.
We are doing our best.
Thank you for caring for the African creatures who need your support
Kuki Sveva and the team
in Laikipia Nature Conservancy
10th August 2011
…twenty two years ago…
Nairobi National Park 1989
Manyani, Tsavo 2011
Sveva and I then and now- and the way we were.
Ivory from elephant male shot on Ol ari Nyiro on 3rd August 2011-and retrieved by us before the poachers got it- being weighed to be given to KWS with other tusks retrieved in 2011
Nelson and Sveva
Hunger and Doctors, trees and Land of Hope
12th August 2011
The problem with leaving my updates for a while is that so much accumulates it is difficult to put it all in one email…so there will be two, and I shall try to concentrate as much as I can..
Number one reason of my relative official silence (I have been in touch with many of you individually, of course) is that I have been working full time on my new book-now finished and at the editing stage-.
This is a story of dramas overcome, the disasters of droughts and fires, the shrinking of the wild, the challenges of poaching, the commitment, growth and new perceptions, and the victory of imagination) that I simply had to write at this time in my life- so please forgive the delay.
Tragic news of drought in North Kenya: but in the Conservancy we have protected the forest and the trees for over a generation and since our event Prayers for the Trees- !!- we have been blessed with rain and the situation with our immediate neighbours is not as tragic as it is in other parts of the country
Work has of course been going on:
Trees were planted on Environment day by visiting schools and we started a “Friends of the Enghelesha Forest” scheme with neighbouring schools. Children are learning the names of trees in vernacular and Latin and to recognize the different medicinal plants.
Our neighbouring children were fed regularly uji and biscuits every week end. We have distributed donated clothing including the sweaters donated by the”Knitting grandmothers of Australia”!Thank you!
We reopened our nursery for thirty of the poorest children of the neighbourhood, employed a teacher (our Lilian) focusing on feeding and playing and have hosted again six generous Italian doctors of Maisha Marefu, who have brought their great spirit and mountains of medicine and have worked tirelessly for one week to help HUNDREDS of our neighbours.
LAND OF HOPE update: we have at last obtained Environmental impact assessment and approval from National Environment Authority to proceed with this community plan.We have finalized the architectural drawings and marked the spot of the buildings which will be strictly eco-friendly.
On a happy afternoon we went to the site and children and women came to sing.
We are costing materials and soon the construction will begin.
… and our battle against poaching continues, with lots of heartbreak (see next update)
Thank you for your help, support and friendship
Kuki Sveva and the Team
From Laikipia Nature Conservancy
5 August 2011
The wonderful Italian Doctors volunteers of Maisha Marefu..eyes, ears, teeth
.. and we went to Land of Hope
the nursery re-opened and sweaters donated
Our team with Lillian Chepkemboi-school teacher-Nelson Moiben, Mussa Lenana and Moses Lendorope,(all former sponsored students) and the nursery children at Land of HopeDear Friends
LAIKIPIA HIGHLAND GAMES 2011
5th June 2010
10th May 2011
Another Easter, and where are the rains?
Once again cloud come but do not stop, and rains are late in Northern Kenya.
A heavy shower in late March set the bees in a frenzy, flowers bloomed, but the guinea fowls were not moving in couple- a sure sign that no steady rain is forthcoming, and in the day I watch from my study baboon and warthogs come to dig up the only patch of green grass around to Paolo and Emanuele’s’ graves,and and during the night elephant and buffalo.
Easter again, and we painted the eggs, cooked Uji and mandazi and sweet biscuits for a treat, and once again, like every week end since the 16th of January 2009, we went to feed the children, and it seems to me that the hunger is still the same, and the small dusty faces as pinched as they were in the dreadful days of the long drought of 2009.
…the T shirts left by Ann where distributed to delighted youngsters at Mutaro!
Boards were put up and clean, drinkable water found at Land of Hope, now waiting for the Environment Impact Assessment to move on with building…
Watch next update!
From Kenya we send you love and blessings
Kuki Sveva and the Team
Laikipia Nature Conservancy
elephants and Lions, and where the tree terrace was, The Buddha.
7th April 2011
Another Way and Choosing Life
My Dear Friends
– a delay, sorry,-it has been a difficult month…-
– a long story this, a story of change- but one that must be said- and some archive photo can help tell it -to a point.Bear with me?
back in the ’80s, when I was recently widowed, with a just born baby, and a teenager son who loved snakes, I decided to stay on in Ol ari Nyiro.
Things were different: there were less people, less hunger, more space, more trees, more tolerance for the wild things and less conflict between humans and their needs and the wild and its right to exist.
But things were changing fast.
Poaching, at that time, became a real issue in Kenya, rhino and elephants were being killed every where, in Ol ari Nyiro nine rhino were poached in one year, and I was a woman in a man world, who- to be able to be there- needed to learn man’ s rules and act as a man would.
Or go back”home ‘with the tail between my legs.
The fact was, that this was HOME: there was a grave in my garden- and soon there will be two-. I was deeply committed to my new home, and needed to decide the way to go.I had been brought up to face challenges, and in time learnt to take decisions that would affect many- and never look back.
So I decided: “Not on my watch”, and to fight the poaching,- tooth for tooth-, started the first private anti-poaching in the country-. It worked, than.
Poachers were fewer, less well equipped and organized, and the Far Eastern countries still not so rich and prominent, nor so hungry for the natural resources of this continent.
Rhino man Michael Werikhe,with Rhino Skulls, in Ol ari Nyiro.1984″.
Ol Ari Nyiro, May 1986: Sveva, age 5, and Saba Douglas- Hamilton, help the first ever rhino monitoring operation.Rhino Mahinda being outfitted with a radio transmitter by Dr. Rob Brett for the Gallmann Memorial Foundation. Mahinda was poached in East Pokot, in 1990.Rob Brett went on to lead Kenya Rhino Rescue project for the KWS
Elephants also, were being decimated throughout Kenya. And in 1989, I actively supported the historical gesture of the burning of 12 tons of ivory at Nairobi National Park that initiated a world- wide moratorium in the sales of ivory that lasted 20 years and gave the elephants at last a chance.
Sveva and the ivory fire: what a way to grow up!
But, in 2007, CITES, misguidedly, allowed four southern African Countries to sell their stockpiled ivory to China: and this was the beginning of the end: so called”legal’ ivory being available, the black market soared. Poaching escalated to unprecedented levels.
Here, in OL ari Nyiro, we face East Pokot where there are any amount of illegal AK 47-and thousands of jobless young men, good hunters, endless reservoir for brokers and buyers-who flourished, unpunished, protected by inadequate legislation, and penalties which are no deterrent.
I said this before, and I say it now: it is unethical, immoral and criminal- we are in 2011- to desire to own uneccessary objects made with body parts of wild, rare animals, whose habitat is already restricted;
wealthy buyers are more guilty than the physical killers-.These last in most cases do so since they are hungry and have no choice.
the only chance is to STOP the trade, and to make sentence so severe that risk is not worth to be taken.
Trophy Hunters – despicable as well. The long story of “man is a hunter” is simply not working in this day and age.
I question the condoning, TODAY, of the “Hunting for Fun”.
Who is the individual who actually takes pleasure in the murder of defenceless placid creatures, whose habitat has been destroyed, whose numbers have been depleted..? Who hide wherever they can…and WHY??
Too many elephants ??WHAT?? an estimated 23,000 a year are killed in the continent-as per recent reports. Elephants are rapidly becoming mammuth-.
Ol ari Nyiro, Google earth-an island of green in a desert.Where can the elephant go…?
So as men would, we improved our anti-poaching, added personnel, employed a very skilled, decorated, commander…
In 2009, I stood up to be counted.
As Honorary Warden for the KWS, I helped as much as I could with intelligence, to have the culprits brought to task: several were (photos omitted).
KWS and Government extremely supportive- sent unprecedented personnel. Still….
In 2009, we lost SIXTY FOUR ELEPHANTS IN OL ARi NYIRO. And four black rhino in one year.
Tumbo’s Calf 2009
I was attacked three times.Threatened, dozen of times.They shot at a plane I was flying in with. Once, they caught up with me…and I lost 50% of the mobility of my hand… this show of force was not working.
2011: I have had enough.Must change tactic. The fight is uneven. We have few old shot guns,inadequate,antiquated weapons.The new poachers offensive is armed with automatic Kalashnikov and, they use them, to kill:not just the animals, people too.
Here below see Wakesa, and her female calf Toya: happy but wary, and extremely vulnerable in their chosen unusually open, well known, habitat.
Needed to be guarded round the clock, almost impossible.Many attempt to kill them and then…
The night of the rising moon of 20th February 2011, radios went crazy, cell phone kept ringing:the desperate voice calling me from his post in the bush was of one of the young rangers, Josephat Lenariset posted with other 5 rangers to guard Wakesa and Toya- against another possible poachers attack in the full moon:they had intercepted a poachers patrol, who immediately shot directly at them and Lenariset was was seriously wounded.
I rushed there.
Sitting on the ground in the night with ranger Josephat Lenariset as his blood was seeping away, waiting for the Mission ambulance to arrive, – a cold night with no crickets -I took a decision;it was only a matter of time before the poachers caught up with these specific rhino. And now they shot at my people too.To kill.
A week later I wrote to the KWS director and Senior Warden, and A. Director of my area, and backed my mail with a phone call-which was warmly and encouragingly received: with a heavy heart, but in the interest of life and sanity, I asked them to remove the two females to a safer area under their jurisdiction.
Lets face it: KWS, today, are equipped to protect them better than we can, in private land.
I care. As a conservationist I plant trees I shall never see fully grown, and the quiet joy is to know these rhino are alive wherever they are ;they do not need to be in my backyard if this is no longer safe for them.
And I could not reconcile it with my conscience if a young man’s death could be avoided- and I did not act. After all, I am a mama.
Ol Moran, Gallmann Memorial Foundation Health Centre, 4th April 2011; with Josephat, miraculously alive-who for another five months will be confined to bed with a shattered femur
20, February 2011, Ol ari Nyiro, night.
Sister Alice, of Ol Moran Catholic Mission administering life aid to ranger Josephat Lenariset, wounded by poachers while guarding Rhino Wakesa and Toya, at Rhino dam.
He was brought by ambulance to North Kinangop Mission hospital and underwent emergency surgery the same night.
The efficient rescue operation and release by KWS of Wakesa and Toya 20th March 2011.Wakesa -who is pregnant – safely traveled to her new home
KWS personnel unloading Wakesa and Toya in the National Rhino Sanctuary of Meru Park,20 March 2011-Photo provided by Dr.Mutinda
When I heard that the rhinos had been successfully released very late the same night, I felt a mixture of deep sadness, and elation.
I knew this was the right decision to take.
Who was it that said:
“You cannot end evil, but you can decide if you want to fight it or not. But if you decide not to fight it, your mind will lose interest in evil, and –as it does- evil will retreat”.
Let’s hope he was right.
With love and blessings to you all.
Ol Ari Nyiro, Laikipia Nature Conservancy
in Northern Kenya
We would like to thank the KWS Director, Senior Warden, District Warden, ground personnel, all the pilots and Vets -and in particular Dr.Mathew Mutinda- for an extremely efficient operation and the prompt support, generosity and good cheer with which they responded to this appeal.
6th March 2011
The Happy rescue of elephant Enghelesha
Dear Friends of the Elephants
I would like to express to the entire KWS team led by Dr. Mathew Mutinda the deepest gratitude of all of us, at Laikipia Nature Conservancy, and commend the extraordinary efficiency, competence and smoothness with which the entire elephant rescue operation of elephant Enghelesha was carried out this morning.
The chopper piloted very skillfully by Major Nyanjui arrived punctually at about 9 am, just a few minutes after the KWS support vehicle and team with extra fuel had reached the position.
Our team of nine rangers who had followed this elephant for the last month was alerted and waiting; it was fortunate that the elephant was quite close to a road, but in extremely thick lelechwa which made the operation very tricky.
With great skill and in a few minutes only the elephant was darted and on the ground, where the team immediately reached him.
The elephant back left leg-and not just the foot as originally reported- was extremely swollen, possibly as a result of being speared, but not broken, and after treatment with massive doses of injected antibiotics the vets expressed optimism in the possibility of his recovery.
Few minutes later we rushed back to the cars and Enghelesha was up, and moving!
We shall monitor his progress closely, as this elephant is very slow and an easy prey to poachers.
Enghelesha had been collared in August 2007 by the team of Save the Elephants led by Dr.Iain Douglas Hamilton and Dr.Chege .It was Jake Wall of the Save the Elephant Team who reported to us a “Poach” alarm, when his signal went practically static for a number of days; we put three patrols to monitor the elephant round the clock, and KWS sent Dr.Mutinda to check.The bush was impossibly thick, with zero visibility.The chopper was seen as the only alternative.
On behalf of us all- and of Enghelesha himself, of course!- we thank Assistant Director Njue and Senior Warden Maumo for having taken this matter so much at heart and for their generous cooperation, and in particular Mathew Mutinda for exceptional skill with which he led a very dedicated team.
We shall keep you updated.
Bless you all who have made this possible,
Kuki and the team of Laikipia Nature Conservancy
4th February 2011
Ps on 4th March Enghelesha moves much further and faster and on the way to recovery despite his broken leg!
5th March 2011
PRAYERS FOR THE TREE
when people tell me (as they do):
“Come on, Kuki, it is now time you take a break and get a good rest at last”, they do not normally realize that my greatest satisfaction, what really gives me a major, major kick, my true deep joy, is to to work extra hard, with our wonderful and dedicated team, to achieve the impossible .Building, creating,putting unexpected people together across worlds and cultures, meeting ambitious deadlines in the hardest circumstances: creating meaningful beauty; making something to last for ever, spiritual or material, a memory or a building, starting from zero, with respect and creativity, in natural materials, on the top of some magical hill, in the depth of a valley, facing a lake, up on a treetop… here in Ol ari Nyiro: and sitting there, alone, letting my thoughts and memories wander and return to the reasons of my choice; what brought me and kept me here despite the pain and loss… love.
So it was in this spirit, that days only after fires destroyed thousands of acres, and the marvelous tree platform on the Great Rift valley, there, on those ashes we brought the Giant Buddha donated by generous sculptor Manu Shah, – which fitted perfectly among the stark charcoaled skeletons of burnt trees, and we built a water bowl there, for the birds.
Then-having fed the kids uji, given food take away to women and clothes donated by kind friends(charity is vital, the drought horrendous)- we changed the venue of the Prayers for the Trees, since part burnt forest not good for this!
…so legions of local women removed the dead branches, cut grass by hand grass, wiped the ashes; tidied up the venue, the tractor brought hey bales for sitting; our taylor Kariuki-having stitched up burnt out tents- churned out green flags by the hundreds;our cooks cooked thousands-literally- of vegetable samosas, our girls donned white frocks and leaf-like aprons, and we drove down to the forest to celebrate the trees.
Secret forest tribes drove from everywhere to be with us.Their prayers translated and printed; Sveva/Makena organised them in sequence with relish and natural flair
So we sat in the shade of the great Mother tree who had survived the fires and many seasons and against whose bark elephants go to scratch…guests had walked, driven, flown…. and we began the Prayers for the Trees.
It was a memorable day.
Welcome to our world.
With love and deep respect for the trees and the life-giving Forests
Kuki, Sveva and the tireless Team
The Enghelesha Forest
Laikipia Nature Conservancy
on 26th February 2011
Thank you to Annabella Francescon and the Ambassador of Chile to Kenya for the beautiful photographs.
2nd March 2011
AFTER THE FIRES
Centre of Origin at Makena’s Hills
Where the Tree Terrace once was, now The Buddha.
Ven. Banthe Bikku Buddhakkarita, Founder of the Buddhist Centre of Uganda, with the Great Buddha donated by sculptor Manu Shah.
12th February 2011
PRAYERS FOR THE TREES
My special Friends,
It began with a plume of smoke in the valley of Sambara, then two and three, and soon it was black smoke in columns approaching incredibly fast from every side, climbing the hills of Makena’s in the billowing wind of noon like a live horde charging… a barrier of fire approaching with terrible speed and the sound of a million locusts.
And there was sun no more.
1.pm on a Saturday: all Makena staff resting or off for weekend. Alone and no time to lose.
I ran to my car throwing in computer, phones… parked it in a wide clearing far from trees and ran back to my tent to see.
In front of me as I stood on the path, a wall of flames advanced, that made a mockery of the fresh twig which was my weapon to confront the flames.
I screamed on the handset radio the fire alert, S8 patrol had spotted the smoke and were converging on foot, our car turned back with the load of builders on their way home; I ran back to the sitting room and tongues of fire could be seen at the steps, while, next to the back wall, a rubber hose pipe had caught fire close to an olive post, exhaling a dark toxic sooth that stung my eyes, and burnt through the soles of my shoes as I kicked it off in despair; formless prayers rose incoherent, supplications, and birds of preys circled above gorging on insects.
Life and death danced in turns, in swirls, all moving…
Cliches’ “devoured by flames’ “towering inferno” took on a real meaning, I, sadly veteran of dozen bush fires, had never seen it so bad, so close, so destructive, so horribly FAST.
Then Gilfrid flew in to coordinate operations, monitoring new outbreaks from the sky…our tractor with gyro mower was sent at dusk to cut a line at the airstrip to prevent further spreading…I went to meet him through two barriers of flames to get spares and supplies, only to realize in horror that the road up the hill had become impassable.. I was cut off… remembered a steep short cut down the valley on the front, I made it up again through singed grass… and met police and KWS who had all converged to the rescue, saluted, and grabbed my hand in silence…
It was along day, a long night, an early red dawn- lightened for me by the incredibly cheerful, positive energy of all the staff and team of builders who had ran back- all had gone off for week end- to attack this common enemy with gusto, determined not to allow their effort to go up in smoke.
Through an amazing, relentless team effort for 24 hours, and an extraordinary, uncanny dose of the unexplainable, while as I write the fire is still on in the valleys, the bulk of the lodge was saved- inches from rooms, it stopped.
More birds than ever sang on the still living trees to restore my hope.
PRAYERS FOR THE TREES is on on 26th FEBRUARY.
Tribal people who pray in forests.
If the poor trees ever needed a prayer, it is now.
LOTS of work betwen now and then, awesome amount of clearing, but we shall do our best, it will be amazing.
See you all there.
The spirit never fails.
on 13th February 2011 from Centre of Origin at Makena’s Hill,Laikipia Nature Conservancy
PS At A4 gate- Sunday today- late afternoon, we fed the children.
The Breakfast terrace this morning, after last night fire …..
one of the tents the no 6, untouched.
the wooden Platform, untouched- scorched all around it
Makena as it once was
Now, untouched, but the grounds….
THE LITTLE BIRD CAME DRINKING, LIFE WENT ON
12th February 2011
PRAYERS FOR THE TREES
Following the moving and overwhelming success- in February 2010 – of our Prayers for the Earth event that saw 1700 tribal people across 9 tribes converge to Ol ari Nyiro for a day of tribal and interfaith prayers for peace and rain and thanks giving to Mother Earth,we shall this year-The INTERNATIONAL YEAR OF THE FORESTS hold: Prayers for the Trees
a day of interfaith and tribal Prayers
in our relic and protected forest of Enghelesha.
The attendance – strictly for invited guests, is free.
At the end, there will be indigenous trees available to plant (optional) in support of :
PLANT FOR THE PLANET:ONE BILLION TREES CAMPAIGN
a UNEP initiative that we support- at the cost of Kshs 1000 per tree (to pay for cost of tree its care and watering etc ).
We are organising charters that will cost about 200$ return, DIRECTLY TO AIRLINE for 12 pax, leaving Wilson at 8 am to be sharp there at 9 sharp, since lots to fit in the day.
Otherwise people can bring their tents the day before and will need to be totally independent ‘food-wise’.
they can stay at Thompson Fall lodge, only one hour away the night before.
A late lunch will be offered to invited guests up at Centre of Origins at Makena’ Hills after the event.
Pl reply yo Laban, copied to me
tel: 0721 999 417
1st February 2011
Doctors like angels, drought, and bread for all!
The drought is now back, and hunger bites:the boundary line between the conservancy and the neighbouring farms is more and more dramatic, and brown ploughed fields wait for rain.
As farmers burn their grasses in the incessant high evening winds of January, the danger of bush fires multiplies;we again lost several hundred acres in Laikipia Nature Conservancy and our ancient, immortal D6 caterpillar is busy cutting fire breaks along the boundaries.
Turaco birds come to the water bowl on my office window.
Children are now emaciated, and more and more numerous they come to our regular week end feedings (now OVER TO YEARS since we started this!see archive pic of first feeding) which we have been able to continue thanks to your generosity, and uji, milk, maize, all sorts of donations in kind.
First feeding, and food distribution 17th January 2009
… and so back came Ann with a plane-full of BREAD, Uji, clothes, and there was enough for all…
…in Africa, angels come from the sky… and dreams sometimes come true…back in 2006, when I was completing a Maternity Clinic for our neighbours – destiny and the common bond of great loss brought Dr. Bill Chester into our life, transformed the clinic periodically into a health centre, and changed the life of hundreds of people.
Volunteer Doctors with The Paul Chester Children Hope Foundation flew in with all sorts of equipment, we set up temporary field stations and hundreds walked for miles to be helped.
So with great joy last week I welcomed them back here once again…several hundreds were attended to in five stations, other landings…other take off… hope restored, and positive outcome…and the unmeasurable reward of altruism…
from the bottom of my heart on behalf of the voiceless, THANK YOU!!!
Kuki, Sveva and the team,
in Laikipia Nature Conservancy,
on 26th January 2011
30th January 2011
THE POKOT BOYS GO TO THE MARA… and Cheptosai reappears
Hallo my Friends:
A happy new year!
The year began with an amazing opportunity for the Pokot Youth Peace Team, invited to perform-for a fee!- at Maasai Mara, for the birthday of a lady on safari with our good friends Charlie and Mouse- who had spotted the boys at the Laikipia Highlands games-.
Arriving at night after over TWELVE hours on the road, it was a great adventure and educational surprise for them to see how the Maasai coexist with the wildlife and their large cattle herds and to see their first wildebeest, and animals they never knew existed.
They are now registered as cultural group and perform regularly for our guests- see below- at National Days and for the community, making a decent living and delighted about it…images speak for themselves.
On January 7th, the day of Emanuele’s 45th birthday, Sveva and I- with a sense of accomplishment- buried my Mother’s ashes with Him, and as Albinoni’s Venetian music filled the afternoon, holding hands, and assisted by our faithful dogs, we toasted the life of wonderful lady.
At the last feeding Mama Cheptosai reappeared..very frail, very hungry, but alive, and delighted of her warm New Year blanket!
Lions are more and more visible and we hear them at night, thousands birds come to the birds bath and to share the dogs food, and although our dams are still full and attract the elephants, we brace ourselves for the coming drought which is beginning to bite…
With all love and wishes, and thank you for your support and friendship,
at Laikipia Nature Conservancy
14th January 2011
The three Animals photo in Ol ari Nyiro, courtesy of David Waters
7th January 2011
Christmas and Sweets, and Lions unperturbed
it is almost a deja vu, when we feed the children… the arrival at our gates, the running towards the laid tables, hand washing and food distribution. Lots of singing and dancing and mischief…week after week, month after month..now since the 17th of January 2009.. practically TWO YEARS-and over 45,000 estimated people fed!!!
And yet it is always different.
This time both at Ol Moran gate (9 Children BORN in our Clinic!) and at East Pokot gate-now DRY DRY DRY and wind- we introduced different foods, special Christmas treats and funny face -painting stickers. Again the old ladies danced and clever kids hid biscuits and sweets in their sweaters to bring them home for later…but sadly my old friend Cheptosai was not there like always at East Pokot Gate, to get her special gift of sugar, rice and cooking fat, and her Christmas blanket…today I learnt she is fading fast..I have known her for over thirty five years…she looked already old then… and I pray that she will once again recover, with her herbs, find new strenght and mischief.
I had to rush off in the middle of the last feeding when shots were heard, and an elephant feared killed…but the intruders apparently tried unsuccesfully to shoot a buffalo, for the traditional Sapana Ceremony of rituals of passage.
Lots of wildlife and thousands birds around, and lions spotted regularly by every visitors we have had…as you shall see in next update in a few days timeabout the Pokot Boys adventure…
With love, thank you and blessings from a very Hot Kenya,
Kuki, Sveva and the team
in Laikipia Nature Conservancy
on 30th December 2010
the old ladies danced…and these two clever children have saved their sweets for later – small treasures..!!
an happy old Cheptosai one year ago!
….while the young boy lions and the wise old owl watch unperturbed
(Wildlife Photos taken in Ol ari Nyiro, courtesy of David Waters.)