Q&A: Walking for Elephants: One Man’s Journey Across Kenya

Photograph courtesy of Elephant Neighbors Center.

By Maraya Cornell

On March 14, Jim Justus Nyamu, a 39-year-old Kenyan conservationist and elephant research scientist, completed a 283-mile-walk (455 km) from Emali to Voi in Kenya. Nyamu passed through the Amboseli and Tsavo ecosystems, both critical refuges for Kenya’s elephant populations. By walking for elephants as part of his Ivory Belongs to Elephants campaign, Nyamu hopes to raise awareness and better involve rural Kenyan communities in wildlife conservation.

Many of the community members Nyamu spoke with had questions and concerns about Kenya’s new Wildlife Conservation and Management Act, in place since January 2014. The act stiffens penalties related to wildlife crime, but it also gives communities more authority to manage natural resources locally. It specifies compensation to individuals and families for wildlife-related death, as well as injury and damage to property.

Since 2013, Nyamu has walked nearly 2,500 miles (4,000 km) in Kenya and 560 miles in the U.S. as part of the campaign. Nyamu is the founder and executive director of the Nairobi-based Elephant Neighbors Center.

Nyamu spoke via Skype after his recent walk.

Last month, you finished a 455-kilometer (283-mile) walk in Kenya, the latest in your Ivory Belongs to Elephants campaign. What was this campaign about?

The Ivory Belongs to Elephants walk is a grassroots education campaign geared to engage the local communities who live with the wildlife outside protected areas on how best they can manage and benefit from the wildlife. The other thing is to raise awareness and educate the communities about the new Wildlife Conservation Management Act.

What was a typical day like?

Our day would start from five in the morning. We would do the breakfast, we would knock down the camp, do the packing. I would visit the first school as early as 6:30 or 7 in the morning, and then we’d begin marching. I would walk with —> Read More