Kenya update: anti-poaching gains and a shocking dispute

From ANIMAL PEOPLE, January/February 2001:

NAIROBI, Kenya–ANIMAL PEOPLE in January/February 2000 reported from Kenya about snare removal sweeps by Youth For Conservation in the Kenyan National Parks, anti-poaching projects funded by the British charity Care For The Wild, and the elephant-and-rhino orphanage at Nairobi National Park run by Daphne Sheldrick of the David Sheldrick Wildlife Trust. All three are again in the news.

Youth For Conservation may be driving bushmeat poachers out of the parks, as a recent three-week sweep of the Mara Triangle found just 27 snares, far fewer than previous sweeps. YFC has removed 2,354 snares altogether, founder/director Josphat Ngonyo told ANIMAL PEOPLE.

The sweeps will continue, as bushmeat snaring is on the rise elsewhere in Africa, and it may be only the frequent presence of YFC volunteers along National Park perimeters that is suppressing it in Kenya.

Ngonyo, who started YFC as a Sheldrick Trust staffer, now works fulltime for YFC. The International Fund for Animal Welfare underwrote the YFC budget for 2000, but YFC now must become self-sustaining.

While YFC fights meat poaching, done mostly by Kenyans, Care For The Wild has long helped the Kenya Wildlife Service to fight ivory and rhino horn poachers, who are often associated with Somali private militias.

“Care For The Wild has built a new headquarters for KWS at Ithumba in the north of Tsavo East National Park,” CFW operations director Chris Jordan told ANIMAL PEOPLE. “Ithumba is only 250 miles from the Somali border, and the poachers had a free hand during the recent rains and flooding. We built housing for 30 rangers, an armory, a radio room with photovoltaic cells for power, a workshop for vehicle maintenance, and an aircraft hanger. The project is the
largest that we have ever attempted. We built it in just five months, with no outside help.”

Daphne Sheldrick, widow of Tsavo National Park founding warden David Sheldrick, and herself founder of the David Sheldrick Wildlife Trust, meanwhile clashed with longtime supporter William Jordan, DVM, over her occasional use of electric prods to discipline young elephants. Raising orphaned elephants and returning them to the wild for more than 40 years, as the first person to do so successfully, Sheldrick currently has 18 in her care.

Jordan, founder of Care For The Wild, and father of Chris Jordan, has helped Sheldrick with fundraising since the beginnings of both the Sheldrick Trust and CFW. But Jordan is also a director of the Captive Animals Preservation Society, which won a European Union ban on the use of electric prods in zoos, and recently exposed electroshocking at the Blackpool Zoo in England by guest elephant handler Scott Riddle, of Riddle’s Elephant and Wildlife Sanctuary in Greenbriar, Arkansas.

Sheldrick in a letter to CAPS described using mild electric shocks to condition baby elephants who “tend to knock people down.” She believes the training reduces the risk that the elephants will be shot for menacing humans after release. Sheldrick said she did not shock angry elephants, which she said would be “a recipe for disaster.” William Jordan remained adamant in opposition to any use of electroshock. Sheldrick Trust spokesperson Diane Westwood said she would urge Sheldrick to stop using it.

Youth For Conservation may be reached c/o P.O. Box 27689, Nairobi, Kenya; phone 254-733-617286 or 254-2-606478; fax 254-2-606479; e-mail <y4c@alphanet.co.ke>.

Care For The Wild operates from 1 Ashfolds, Horsham Rd., Rusper, West Sussex, RH12 4QX, United Kingdom; telephone 44-1293-871-596; 44-1293-871-022.

The David Sheldrick Wildlife Trust may be contacted c/o P.O. Box 15555, Nairobi, Kenya; telephone 254-2-891996; fax
254-2-890053.

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