On October 4th, 2014 thousands of citizens around the globe marched for elephants and rhinos. People from all walks of life came together with one voice and one message – #NotOnOurWatch! Powerful, moving images of humans walking for elephants and rhinos erupted from places like Eumundi, Iringa, Botogota-Rugando and many more cities – some widely known, others relatively unknown, some large, others small but each just as vibrant and important as the other.
Here, in Kenya, people marched in Nairobi, Diani and the Maasai Mara – we joined the global voices asking for ivory carving factories in china to be shut down, for poachers to be jailed without bail and much, much more. Memorandum of Demands had already been sent out to the so-called “Gang of 19” detailing specific actions that these governments should take to end the poaching crisis and the illegal trafficking of wildlife parts.
Whether these demands will be acted upon, whether thousands of citizens marching across the globe will push these governments to act remains to be seen. But what I can say is this – having marched in Nairobi – I felt a “one-ness” with the people that I marched alongside. I felt that we are not alone in this “fight for our heritage” and that all of us ordinary citizens in Kenya did care – we did feel that our voices deserved to be heard. What touched me the most was the reaction of Mzee Mwasi (Chairman of Njavungo Council of Elders) from Taita-Taveta – after the march he was literally buzzing with excitement and energy to go back and continue to make a difference in his community. Even if the march in Nairobi did just that, reinvigorate all of us to continue our fight for our heritage, then it’s good enough for me.
Yes, there are those of us who probably feel that the money could have been better spent elsewhere. On the ground, in the field. And perhaps we are right – but as I said above, the expression on Mzee Mwasi’s face and his renewed determination to save wildlife in his county, were enough to satisfy me.
Most important of all, though, is for us to remember – that the march in and of itself is NOT the cause. It is a way for us to voice our thoughts, to apply pressure on governments to act, to show solidarity at the global citizenry level. And it certainly is not the end…. Let us take this momentum that has gathered and follow through on specific actions in each of our cities, homes and villages. There are many things that we can all continue to do – every day things. We can utilize our brain and our brawn, our knowledge and our enthusiasm – to make a difference.
Here are some ideas:
- Understand the poaching crisis and spread awareness amongst your friends, colleagues and family.
- Do not purchase any wildlife products (ivory, rhino horn etc), whether it is purportedly from legal sources or not.
- Do not purchase charcoal unless from known and sustainable sources.
- Petition governments to crackdown on the kingpins involved in trafficking and poaching and to clean up known trafficking ports.
- Provide information on wildlife crimes and known wildlife criminals in your area.
- Re-engage with your cultural roots and age-old conservation practices so we can find a fusion which involves all citizens in the management of our wildlife.
- Support grassroots organizations such as Elephant Aware – Maasai Mara, Local Ocean Trust, Osotua Wildlife Foundation, Amara Conservation, Tsavo Pride, KUAPO, March for Elephants – San Francisco, Global March for Elephants, Action for Elephants – UK.
- Do not drive off-road in protected areas. Do not hassle or crowd wildlife on a game drive.
- Do not litter – especially in protected areas.
- Do not go on elephant back safaris. The painful training that an elephant is subjected to is beyond belief and something that scars these gentle creatures for life.
- Do not go to a circus where animals are used.
- Petition countries that allow “sport hunting” of elephants (or any animal) to stop this cruel practice. Lobby your own government to ban “trophy” imports into your country.
- Lobby your government to ban ALL sales of ivory and support actions to shut down ivory carving factories in China
- Advocate for the burning of all ivory and rhino horn stockpiles and public assessment of stockpiles prior to destruction
Every one of us can do something – let’s do what we can! It doesn’t end here….watch this space for actions and be prepared to get involved.