What a whirlwind the last ten days have been!
On 20th January I flew with my colleagues from Born Free to Africa (with two lions, Maggie and Sonja in the hold below) on the inaugural flight of Kenya Airways new Dreamliner service from London to Nairobi! Incredibly exciting. Although I disembarked in Nairobi with Dr Liz Greengrass, Born Free’s Programmes Manager Field Conservation, the lions continued to South Africa and are now safely at Shamwari.
Liz and I spent a couple of days in Nairobi which were packed with meetings involving our friends at the Kenya Wildlife Service (KWS) and others before Liz headed to Amboseli with Manoa David, Born Free Kenya’s Programmes Officer to look at our Lion-Proof Boma building programme while I flew north with Tim Oloo, our Country Manager, to Meru to review the deployment of support and equipment donated to the KWS at the end of 2015 and plan for the year ahead with Victor Mutumah, Born Free Kenya’s Programmes Officer. It was a great pleasure to meet to KWS Assistant Director Simon Gitau, Deputy Senior Warden Arop Sang, and KWS Senior Scientist, Geoffrey Budnotic
Meru is full of conservation challenges and opportunities – the protection of rhino, the repopulation of Grevy’s zebra and, of course, the conservation of lions through our Lion Rover project, supported by Land Rover. That is why we are putting a full-time Born Free team into Meru to work both with the KWS and with the local communities in support of conflict resolution, anti-poaching and wildlife protection.
Two days on the ground seemed hardly enough time but we were soon heading back to Nairobi where I met up with my old friend, Jake Grieves-Cook who operates a number of small environmentally sensitive camps, including the only one in Nairobi National Park (www.porini.com).
On Monday night, Liz and I boarded the Kenya Airways Dreamliner once more and headed back to the UK.
Tuesday evening found me attending a wonderful social event in London hosted by Nicky Summer who has the extraordinary knack of bringing a wide variety of interesting people together to share ideas and find common cause. From surgeons and interior designers to super-yacht brokers, the heady mix of talent in the private dining room at Mortons was intoxicating (I felt slightly overwhelmed) but it did not prevent me from catching Wednesday’s 05.45 Eurostar to Paris the following morning to attend a presentation by the French government on their national ivory action plan, attended by the Environment Minister, Ségolène Royal. It was so encouraging to hear the French taking resolute measures to stifle the demand for ivory. Henceforth, it is illegal to export any raw or cut ivory from France and the Minister also announced a funding pool to assist support elephant protection and conservation around the world.
Attending the same meeting were my good friends, Christophe and Capucine from the Brigitte Bardot Foundation with whom I then held a series of meetings (together with their colleague Oumy) about the work of the Species Survival Network (www.ssn.org) and the upcoming CITES CoP (www.cites.org) to be held in South Africa in late 2016.
Barely had we finished our coffee then I was on a train to Brussels where, on Thursday, together with Daniel Turner, Programmes Manager, Captive Wild Animals/Policy and Mark Jones, Programmes Manager Wildlife Policy from Born Free, I attended a series of meetings with leading members of the European Parliament looking at how the EU can better focus its efforts on tackling the illegal wildlife trade and the criminal syndicates that exploit it. I must say it was refreshing to be with a number of MEPs for whom this is such an important issue and who sincerely want to make a difference.
The train back to London should have been restful but there were articles to do and I made a start on them at least …
So, for now, the whirlwind is over but then there is next week…