children from the Ol Girgiri school Laikipia, northern Kenya conservation club, viewing hippo and elephant, at The Mpala Research Centre, Northern Kenya - photograph by David Chancellor @chancellordavid
The Mpala Research Centre, Northern Kenya hosts children from Twelve schools in Laikipia County who participate in the Northern Kenya Conservation Clubs. The Conservation Clubs aim to connect children to their environment teaching them to understand the relationships between wildlife, their landscape, and their lives. All the children live in pastoral communities with a long tradition of using the environment to sustain themselves and their herds. However, increasing numbers of people and livestock have put pressure on the environment and wildlife. The lessons and projects carried out in the clubs provide students with knowledge about the world around them and the effects of their behaviour on the habitats on which they depend. Mpala is strongly committed to using research to benefit the surrounding communities, the nation of Kenya, and global conservation efforts as a whole. Mpala hosts multiple educational outreach programs in order to tackle issues of human-wildlife conflict and thus ensure that both conservation and human-livelihood goals are met. Furthermore, Kenya actively supports the involvement of Kenyan nationals in this process, and Kenyan scientists are a vital part of the research conducted at Mpala.
If wildlife is to survive at all, it’s vital that we allow those who live alongside the wildlife that we prize so dearly, to both share in it’s incredible beauty, and any income and benefits generated from it.
Villagers in Zimbabwe approach an elephant shot and killed by an unnamed American hunter-photograph by David Chancellor @chancellordavid for @natgeo
In just under 1 hour 42 minutes the entire village reduced the elephant to bones. The meat derived from the hunt, a vital form of protein to these remote villagers, was shared with the surrounding villages. They are participants in CAMPFIRE, a program of long standing in which rural groups sell access to their wildlife in return for some of the profit. Once a model of its kind, CAMPFIRE now gets mixed reviews: Too often the money earmarked for communities doesn’t reach them or get spent on local improvements.
The earliest evidence of an elephant having been killed by human hands dates back to a blue-mud swamp in Siberia nearly 14,000 years ago. The spine of a woolly mammoth found at the confluence of the Ob and Irtysh Rivers seems to have been penetrated by a man-made weapon that left flake traces of stone inside one of the vertebrae. The tusks, we might imagine, weren’t displayed in a trophy room back at the hunter’s cave. But hunting is more than a quid pro quo for sustenance. At some moment in our dawning consciousness, hunting became equated with status, virility, and power. Assyrian carvings from 650 B.C. depict lions being released from cages for slaughter by a chariot-riding king. The Maasai have long killed lions as a rite of passage.
I lost someone today. I think we all lost a someone today actually. I met Clint last year whilst working on a story in Utah on mountain lion. He sadly passed away today. He made the world a better place. Those who knew him well, those who spent most time with him in the mountains where he was so at home will miss him more, I'm certain of that, as will the predators he dedicated his life to. Clint, I hope you too can be wrapped in your favourite jacket and buried in the mountains exactly as you honoured the lives of all the dogs who rode with you. Too soon sir. Way too soon. Thank you for the rides out - -In the quiet of the morning when the sky is clear and white
and dawn's soft hush has slipped across the solitude of night,
When the last pale star has fallen and the East’s a rosy glow, streaked with lavenders and orchids with a touch of indigo.
When the colors all are blending, there is no defining each,
And the sun peeps up appearing
Like some plump and pinkish peach,
There is nothing quite so moving, quite so silent, quite so strange as the Lord's most recent wonder— birth of morning on the range.
I can't quite seem to fathom— I can't help wondering why—
I was placed amongst such beauty, all this solitude and sky.
Now, I see you ride before me, as my feet trod earthly sod,
I watch you vanish in the sunrise. Go with God!