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Friday, November 11, 2011

My Tomorrow, Today.

My deepest desire is freedom. My earnest wish is peace.
In my few years of fighting, we will win, i know this.
There are days I wish to run and live free.
Live joyfully among the beasts and the trees.

Alas my heart cannot know peace. I was built, for bigger things.
When the rivers run free, and the wilderness is safe
I will create within it, my own little nest
I shall not steal, I shall not burn
This will be my right, this I will earn.

No matter how many tears I shed,
I will weep no more, indeed, I too, have bled.
Pray for me, brother, my fight is yours
for the children of tomorrow, this is our war.

Until we are safe, and our souls truly free
I continue to dream of my little nest under a tree.
The city lights are too bright, it's sounds frighten me
This is a new Africa, the belly of greed

By day they smile, by night the steal,
all of Africa's treasures, all our future meals.
Those we hoped would bring salvation,
are bit by demons, they are our damnation

While others fall, and fail in patience,
I countinue to fight, this is my nation.
One day this will all be over, one day I will see the end
I hope that I won't be too old, remember my desire, friend?

Show me flowers, sow me seeds,
Take me home, to the birds and beasts,
I have done my duty, now I rest
My home in the wilderness, my final years are the best

What fires I have seen,
What a life, what a test.
How happy I must be, under the acacia tree,
In my little nest.

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

...Of White Blood.

It is the night of the 18th of July, 2011. 0400hrs, and I have been tossing and turning all night. It is only hours away, and I will be there in person. The Ivory Burn.
When I was a little girl, I watched it on the television, and read about it for many years in many books and prints. It moved me. It moulded me. Tonight, it frightens me.
I didn’t know back then, that I would live to witness another event of this nature. I didn’t know back then, that I would see the face of its reason. So here I am, wondering what the coming hours will bring. More than anything else, I fear how I will feel.
Not too many months ago, I had the honour of assisting Danny Woodley’s team in Tsavo West with some rhino tracking and a census as a volunteer. I learnt a lot from that trip, and saw a lot too. After our day of tracking, I requested to see some of the confiscated trophies from the store. Three rangers unlocked the huge padlock and walked into a very dark room. My heart did not know what to expect. Minutes later, two of the rangers walked out carrying one of the biggest tusks I ever saw. They lay it on the ground and went back inside. Suddenly, I connected.
It felt as though I was in some sort of trance, I could hear nothing of what was going on around me, and all I saw were the tusks being carried out, one by one, different sizes, different elephants. I became them. These were not ivory to me, these were brothers, sisters, mothers, babies… These were white blood.
A few displays later, the rangers had to stop. I never cried so hard in my life. I was on my knees, weakened by the pain in my heart. I could hear them. I could hear the guns, I could hear the poachers hacking away the faces of my friends. The children crying, the mothers, dying. I could see them.
I walked up to one of the displays, shaking. I reached out my hand, and felt the cool, smooth ivory under my fingers. A lost soul, and my broken heart. I was inconsolable. I am still inconsolable, and tomorrow, I will face it again. The sight I fear more than that of a poacher, or a lion in the bush. Tomorrow I will see Ivory. I don’t know how I will feel, will I be stronger this time? Or will I break down and see the horrors of bloodshed once again? I do not know. But I do know this, tomorrow, the Ivory I see will be in flames. Flames as red as the blood that was shed, flames as hot as the hellish wrath that shall be hurled upon the poachers and hunters who dare end the life of such a gentle soul. Tomorrow, the few pieces of Ivory I see, will give me a hope for the justice of the rest.
Justice for the fallen majesties of my great African nation, justice for the people who are enslaved by corruption, and justice, …for Sixty.
God knows I will fight with all I can, all I have, to see the end of this era. I will not stop until wildlife knows peace and tranquility. I cannot stop.
Tomorrow, Ivory burns.
Tomorrow, I will weep… :’(

Monday, June 13, 2011

Meeting with Dr. Richard Leakey

Wilbur Smith’s "Elephant Song". I remember the first time I read that book, about 5 years ago. His words cut through my heart like a heated knife through butter. I could imagine it so vividly, I may as well have been there and borne witness to the massacre of the gentle giants we all know as the elephant.
I never could finish that book; it was too painful for my heart to bear. Elephants have always had a special place in my heart, as do all wildlife. Something purely magical about each one that I cannot really explain. Having grown up in the eighties, one couldn’t help but be drawn to the politics and controversy surrounding these majestic ‘beasts’ of the African wilderness. I grew up in that time. Hunts were the norm a few years prior, and then, the big one. The ivory ban. Kenya was put on the world map in a gust of flames and a cloud of smoke thick as the canopy of our once great forests.
How I remember that day. I was glued to that television like my life was on the line. I watched as this gigantic heap of elephant tusks, was set ablaze. I was only seven at the time, and aside from the burning pyre of ivory, I remember one man. A man whom I watched on that same television countless times as the years passed, changing the face of Kenya’s political scene.
Dr. Richard Leakey.
The name in itself rings of such commitment, such dedication to a nation I myself have now become in awe of. Little did I know then, that I would soon become just as engrossed with Africa as the man I watched on that television screen, maybe even a little bit more...
As I grew older, thus began my love affair with Kenya’s wildlife. I was always warned of my tempestuous ways with animals, but I knew in my heart, that I finally, and completely, belong.
Wildlife brings to me a peace no man ever could, a contentment in my heart that I can only describe as the feeling of the top of an acacia on the African savannah, when the sun sets upon it, embracing it with its warm, orange rays. How I love my land, no words could ever do justice in explaining.
I began to do volunteer work with wildlife, beginning with captive wildlife and then on to foot patrols, which I continue to do until today. Somewhere along the way, I met a wise friend, and acquired a read by the hand of Dr. Leakey, “Wildlife Wars”. A few chapters in, and suddenly I was seven years old again. My heart began beating differently, and my life was going to change, again.
Every time I turned a page, I said to myself, “I must meet this man”. And every time I closed the book, I said, “I’m going to save the world”. To any ordinary, modern man, those would seem such foolish words, but only I know of their worth. I looked everywhere for Dr.Leakey, I knew he had set up and then consequently left, a wildlife blog called wildlife direct. I also knew, he was involved still in archaeology up in Turkana, and also heard from a few conservationists I had met along the way, of his recent visits to Nairobi. How I longed for a chance to meet with him.
It has been almost two years since that time, and yesterday, Friday the 10th of June, 2011; I met with the man himself. Dr. Richard Leakey.
After all this time, I finally met the man I promised myself I would meet. At first, there was a great feeling of achievement before I realised, that I really had no planned “meeting agenda”. I didn’t care. All I was thinking of was... nothing!
I walked into his office, and there he sat, iconic as ever, behind a wooden desk, with a little laptop and his mobile phone. I shook his hand and was overwhelmed. I couldn’t believe it, after all these years...
His mobile phone rang and I turned to look by the window, and noticed his coat hanger. I smiled to myself as I realised I had seen that green checked jacket in so many photographs in so many places. Then I turned to him, and began to tell him my story, and what my plans were for wildlife.
He listened intently, and then leaned back and said, “That’s quite a story!”. I nodded, and he then began to tell me about how wildlife still has hope in Kenya. How we need to have dreams and believe in them, and how we need to fix big things instead of little ones, because if ever it was needed, it is needed now.
We did not meet for long, but his words will stay with me for a very long time. I know what he said to me, and he told me that I have his support in my plans. For the moment, that is all I need...
All I can add, is that I sure hope I will have many more meetings with Dr. Leakey. He is truly a legend in wildlife conservation, and truly a hero for me.
I am humbled by this man, and I hope that he will be my mentor, as I take my first steps into a world I know little of, but a world that I know, will change things.

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

What’s that “60” on your profile picture mean?

I can’t tell you how many people have asked me that question...
Everytime i hear it, i shed a silent tear...
“60”... just a number, yet for me, a symbol of strength, courage, failure, perseverance, suffering, love, magnificence, torture, and so much more...
I remember waking up in the morning, excited to be packing my supplies for rukinga, where I volunteer for wildlife works regularly on their anti-poaching patrols and desnaring activites.
I got my menu sorted, checked my sunblock and toothbrush (the things I ALWAYS seem to leave behind! ), and started loading everything in the car. Throught the entire busride, I couldn’t stop thinking of what I would encounter this time, every time is different, some days are quiet, some days, are unbelievably eventful... I slept the rest of the way.
I arrived in rukinga later that night, and was greeted by one of the staff, I couldn’t sleep without getting an update first; I had been told about the rise in poaching in that area, especially elephant poaching, and Taita was one of the regions badly affected.
A few minutes into a talk about recoveries, arrests and poachers, I was told about an elephant in Taita... I remember those exact words as if I heard them just this morning, “The rangers found this one elephant with sixty bullets in her chest. She must have charged at them in defense.”... :’(
I had heard enough, I went to my sleeping quarter, and I was so deeply hurt, I couldn’t stop crying, so I borrowed my little brother’s mobile, and got onto facebook, writing to Jude Price and Kerstin Bucher:
February 25 at 10:57pm
hi kerstin and jude.. My heart is heavy as i write to you tonight :'( it is past midnight and i am unable to sleep. I am using my brothers phone, its his first time out here and i brought another volunteer friend of mine so my original field posting was changed for security reasons. I am crying as i write so forgive me if i'm unclear, i need to let this out and you both were the only i would like to talk to. I arrived earlier today and as alwys caught up with the team. The poachers who set their dens in the caves in my last album were caught. But, now there are others who have taken down over 30 eles in the last month. The team say, they found one ele with 60 bullets in her chest :,( she must have tried to charge them in defence :( my heart is weak tonight :( please kerstin, jude, pray for the eles in taita area :,( poachers are gunning into whole herds :( its worse than i thought :( i must quit my job soon :,( i will share more details when i'm back. I leave for another area at first light and will have no network. :( thank you both for your strength for elephants.. in hope and tears ...

I remember the ache in my heart while i wrote... there are no words that can describe it...
All I know, is that I cannot stop thinking of her, I see her in my dreams, I see her roaming the vast land with her herd, and then, I see her fall...
I hear the shots every night, as though I were there; and then, I see her fall...
I see the red soil form dust clouds under her feet as she charges to defend her own life, her family...
I hear those shots... and then, I see her fall...
In one final cloud of red dust... she is gone.
Who will remember her? Who will tell her story?
She never had a collar, she never had a name, she’s “just another elephant”...
But to me, she is “60”...

Friday, April 8, 2011

Someone asked me, "do you still cry at the atrocious things you see or over time become hardened to it?" ...

This was my reply to Lisa Tieni:

i'm not sure my words will be helpful, but i will write from the heart, as i always do...
do i still cry?...
everyday... without fail... i have seen things that would crumble a man in a second, i have smelt the death of wildlife, i have touched it, i have heard its sound, the sound of working maggots inside the body of a poached, faceless elephant...
there is no getting over it...
i have held dying animals, and i remember them all the time, i remember the tears they shed on my clothes, i remember the pain in their cries, in their eyes...
there is no getting over it...
i remember my ol'boy... George. my lion spirit, and best friend, i remember the day he was taken from me, they din't even call me, i didn't know... i never got to say goodbye... i was his only friend, his only company all those years in his rusty cage... i never got to tell him, it would all be ok, and he would be in a better place...
i never got to hold my ol'boy and wipe his tears, ease his fear...
when i got there, i was told, it took several shots to put him down, and they took him out "in pieces"...
there is no getting over it...
but, i live in his spirit every day.
i live in their memory everyday...
i live in a hope for their kind and their families, everyday...
i live in tears, but also in strength, from the love they gave me in their short time in my life.
and this, is enough for me.
i don't care about other people, yesterday, i was walking through town, crying inconsolably in cafe's with my friends, i dint care what everyone thought...
"60", deserves to be grieved for. she deserves to be remembered, and to be loved enough, that she is worth some tears...
so yes, i cry. but i NEVER lose focus of what i must do. i NEVER forget them, and i NEVER lose hope.
perhaps you will find my 2-day rule helpful.
when i feel REALLY sad, i give myself 2days. 2 days to cry it out, scream, whatever i need to "detox"...
then, i come back to the cause i have dedicated my life to, a cause i cannot walk out on, a cause i fight for until my final day, a cause i must win. and i'm stronger...
you feel hurt, because you CARE. and that raises you above other people higher than you know. never step down, you're closer to heaven than you think ;)
and heaven, is where they are... those we have loved, and lost...
God knows, i can't wait to see george again!... :')