By Catherine Warui
A 617-km walk from Nairobi to Marsabit to raise public awareness about wildlife conservation was flagged off at the weekend.
The colourful launch at the main entrance of the Nairobi National Museum in Nairobi, saw brisk trade in T-shirts - each retailing for 1,000 shillings - emblazoned with the words, “Ivory belongs to the Elephants.”
This marked anti-poaching activist Jim Nyamu’s 13th walk with other notable ‘Elephant walks’ including a 560-mile trek from Boston to Washington D.C., in late 2013, as well as his more than 3,000 km walk across East Africa in 2016.
KWS was represented by KWS acting Director General Julius Kimani, Conservation Education Assistant Director Mary Kirabui, as well as Nairobi National Park Senior Warden Nelly Palmeris.
The Irish Ambassador to Kenya – the first in 26 years - Dr. Vincent O’Neill, also graced the event. Other partners represented included NEMA, WCK, EAWS, KFS, Elephant Neighbours Centre, Team Environment Kenya, NMK, Tour Operators, AAR and the County Government of Marsabit.
The focus of this phase of ‘Ivory belongs to Elephants walk,’ is Ahmed, a tusker who was indigenous to Marsabit National Reserve before his death from old age in 1974, aged 55 years. Ahmed gained pre-eminence for his humongous tusks, which led to his being placed under 24-hour surveillance by presidential decree in 1970, to shield him from poachers. Ahmed was the only elephant to be declared a living monument. His tusks weighed in at a massive 10.582 stones each. Today, remains of Ahmed of Marsabit can be viewed at a mounted exhibit at the National Museum in Nairobi.
Mr. Kimani, on a light touch, recalled how initially, he regarded Mr. Nyamu’s endeavours as a pipe dream, but later grasped the significance of the campaign, prompting the involvement of KWS staffs as active participants in subsequent walks. He assured the conservation fraternity that KWS rangers would walk hand-in-hand with the procession as the campaign traversed through all conservation areas.
Mr. Nyamu in turn, fondly recalled his first ever walk, which was subsequently flagged off by a police officer. The hashtag for his campaign is #SaveMarsabitJumbos. He regretted that there remain fewer than 70 jumbos in Marsabit. The walk would by extension, illuminate Marsabit County as a potential jewel in the crown of Kenya’s tourist destinations, due to recent leaps in the County’s infrastructural maturity. Mr Naymu lamented the dwindling numbers of magnificent tuskers like Ahmed, and his successor Mohammed. The near-extinction of these gentle giants has been engendered by vicious poachers and shrinking habitats due to human encroachment.
“The walk is bigger than I am,” Nyamu noted, as he asked the youth to do their part in conserving their habitat for future generations. He explained that during this particular walk, he would also engage with the communities along his route who co-exist with the wildlife, with the intention of bringing them on board the conservation train.
A schoolboy, Solomon Ting’a, of Oloiyan Primary School, gave an air of hilarity to the event when he narrated how, as ‘King of United States of the bright continent of Africa,’ he would appoint various African heads of state to conservation dockets. For his presentation, the boy was gifted a DVD documentary by Mr. Nyamu.
Mr. Nyamu’s next walk is slated for July 2017, in Kampala. The Irish Ambassador read a traditional gaelic blessing to the elephant activist before he flagged off the walk.