I'm Edward Ndiritu, the Head of Anti-Poaching at the Lewa Wildlife Conservancy (www.lewa.org) in Kenya. Today is #WorldRangerDay, and I decided to do this AMA to share my experience as an Anti-Poaching ranger for close to 2 decades. In 2015, I became the first winner of the Tusk Wildlife Ranger Award. It was an honour not just for me, but for my team because we work very hard. In the past six years, we have not lost any of our rhinos to poaching. We've also never had an elephant killed on our Conservancy. it's certainly not easy, but we are hopeful, passionate and optimist. Please feel free to AMA, though, as you can imagine, there are some questions I might not be able to answer due to the sensitive nature of my job. Looking forward to connecting with you all!

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Comments: 58 • Responses: 21  • Date: 

PaulClifford10 karma

Thank you for doing what you do; it's noble work. You're the last line of defense - how can the world do more to remove the incentive for poachers to kill these animals in the first place?

lewawildlife12 karma

Thanks for this great question. I would approach this from various perspectives. Firstly, the demand for wildlife trophies needs to end. The consumers of rhino horn, ivory, lion claws, etc. need to be aware of the impact that participating in the trade is having, and their governments need to take the right action to properly ban the use of these products, especially rhino horn and ivory. Secondly, we need collaborative and strict law enforcement across the countries to prevent these illegal wildlife trophies from being transported across regions.

Education and empowerment of communities is also crucial. Communities, especially here at Lewa, are the first line of defense against poaching gangs. Poaching has now become a sophisticated business led by syndicates also involved in drug and human trafficking, as well as terrorism. Communities ensure that these criminals don't thrive in their midst, and therefore, support our work in protecting wildlife.

For people who don't live in wildlife areas, I would recommend supporting conservation organizations doing good work, and also visiting them if possible. I would also recommend signing petitions to encourage your governments to support conservation work across the globe.

PaulClifford3 karma

That's a comprehensive answer and I hope we can get there. I will check out your links to see how I can help. Thank you again and be safe and well!

lewawildlife6 karma

Asante sana (thank you very much!) for your kind thoughts!

shay45786 karma

Do you think elephants have a chance of recovery?

lewawildlife12 karma

Yes, there's hope! We've seen poaching dramatically reduced in Kenya in recent years. In fact, from the last aerial census of Kenya's elephants, there was a 12% elephant population increase over the last five years in the region where Lewa is located, as well as in Kenya overall. However, there are still challenges due to human-wildlife conflict and competition for natural resources.

mwalengwa5 karma

Hi. What is the most difficult day-to-day aspect in conservation?

lewawildlife9 karma

Ensuring that our rangers continue to be well motivated, maintaining good will with local communities, patrolling a vast area and remaining one step ahead of poachers are the most difficult daily aspects of my job.

cottonmouth1115 karma

Maybe this is a stupid question, but why do people poach? Is it for meat, or tusk, or something else? Is it out of necessity, or to make money? I guess my question is, what is the typical poacher profile and motivation. Also, thank you for doing this job :)

lewawildlife8 karma

A great question, and not stupid at all! In the past, poachers were local, poor people, desperate to make some quick money. But this has changed. Poaching as an illegal trade has now been taken over by international criminal syndicates who are well organised, and are also involved in other criminal activities such as drug and human trafficking.

These criminals poach rhinos for rhino horn, and elephants for their tusks. There is also a bush meat trade. It's astonishing the amount of money consumers in China, Vietnam and other parts of Asia are willing to pay for wildlife trophies. So a poacher today will be a criminal, who is a part of a syndicate, which is well-connected and has resources. He is then connected to a middleman, who is also well-connected with people outside the country, who then organise the transportation of the trophies across ports.

cottonmouth1112 karma

Thank you. So it's not local poor hungry people, it's international organized crime. That makes it even more sad and horrible :(

lewawildlife6 karma

Indeed, but we must never give up nor despair.

EcoExpeditions4 karma

How does your team interact with Kenyan law enforcement outside of the confines of the Conservancy?

lewawildlife5 karma

We work very well with the Kenyan law enforcement because ultimately, we have the same goal: to conserve and protect. My team all have the National Police Reservist status, which is provided by the government. We work very closely with them in wildlife protection, especially the Kenya Wildlife Service, which is the government agency mandated to oversee wildlife affairs across Kenya.

yaboihenry56784 karma

What is your favourite animal?

lewawildlife9 karma

The black rhino! I find them fascinating. They have evolved for millions of years. They're strong and fast. They're made to survive perfectly in this world as it is - an adult rhino has no other predator apart from humans.

knbknb3 karma

Is drought a big problem for wildlife in Kenya?

lewawildlife7 karma

Drought is a problem, but human-wildlife conflict is the bigger problem. This is because in the past, during moments of drought, wildlife would move to areas that had the resources they would need. But with the increase in human settlement and activity, and a reduction in their habitat, wildlife does not have access to landscapes and resources as it did before. This has meant that wildlife no longer has access to traditional migration routes and areas that would act as refuge during drought. But we are working, as conservationists across Kenya, to promote human-wildlife coexistence.

EcoExpeditions3 karma

Happy World Ranger Day. Thank you for all of your hard work and dedication. What resources do you need, that you do not have access to, to better control poaching?

lewawildlife7 karma

Good question - thank you! Our biggest need is to ensure secure long-term funding to cover daily operations, such as fuel, rangers' salaries, equipment and health insurance. This makes it easier for our team to focus on gathering intelligence, working with local communities and using new technologies to stop poachers.

chumchilla3 karma

Do you try to befriend the animals or do you leave them be?

lewawildlife11 karma

No, they are wild animals and their best chance for survival is to remain as wild as possible.

BoredomPurge3 karma

In your opinion, what have been some of the most effective education tools and practices in educating the public at local and global levels?

lewawildlife5 karma

Locally, the most effective tools we've used are our development programs. At Lewa, we run large community development and education programs. We invest over $2M every year in improving the lives of our neighboring communities. We build schools, health centers, provide women with loans to start businesses, set up water projects to ensure thousands have access to clean water, provide children with scholarships, and also provide security when possible in the neighboring areas. This, to us, has been the best way to demonstrate the value of conservation at a local level.

Globally, we have opened up Lewa as a learning center for like-minded conservation organizations. We have hosted people from all over the world, from South Africa to the U.S., to share knowledge and expertise.

Social media and traditional media has also been great. We've established great partnerships with fantastic storytellers, photographers and filmmakers, who make sure that our messages reach thousands across the world. Check out our Instagram here - https://www.instagram.com/lewa_wildlife/

Prof_Cecily3 karma

Thank you for taking the time to answer our questions.

Once poaching becomes a part of organised crime, what is the most effective way to combat it?

lewawildlife5 karma

By ensuring that local people are on your side, by lobbying to ensure that governments put strict law enforcement measures, and by being extra vigilant to always be one step ahead.

DankkaM2 karma

What are your opinions on 'legal poaching' where officials take bribes and grant permits? And how could this be prevented?

lewawildlife3 karma

Hunting, or 'legal poaching' in Kenya was outlawed in 1977, so we don't have to deal with this problem, thankfully!

asadwit2 karma

Thanks for the AMA, and for what you do! With the nature and scope of your work, I dunno if you have time to keep up with international news - but it was announced on Monday that India has recorded its highest ever rise in tiger population - 33% in 4 years, and numbers are up from 1,411 in 2006, 1,706 in 2010, and 2,226 in 2014, to 2,967 in 2018.

What advice would you give people doing similar work in India, and is there anything from their experiences which could benefit your cause?

lewawildlife3 karma

We saw the amazing news! It gives great hope for endangered species across Asia and Africa! These successes are vital in reminding us that we can reverse the decline of species.

Obviously, the conservation context in India is different, but we face similar challenges. Poaching, diminishing space for wildlife and human-wildlife conflict are found in both India and Kenya. I'm sure there is much we can learn from each other - I admire how India has put in place nation-wide conservation initiatives that are championed by the government. It's similar here in Kenya where we are beginning to approach the conservation of endangered species from a national perspective, rather than sanctuary by sanctuary. But India I think started that a while back, and the success is evident.

brownaubie2 karma

Which extinct animal (through poaching or not), do you wish you were there to protect? And why?

lewawildlife11 karma

Dinosaurs! Especially the triceratops, though it most likely wouldn't need my help.

amarubud2 karma

How to you hydrate in remote areas? Tap water or bottle? And which do you prefer?

lewawildlife5 karma

We don't ever use single use plastic bottles. We carry camel packs filled with tap water. On Lewa, we fill our packs with water straight from the tap since it is a conservation area. However, we do use water filters when necessary.

everyothernametaken12 karma

Is it true much of the money for conservation comes from the money hunters pay to hunt certain animals?

lewawildlife8 karma

I'm from Kenya, and hunting here was outlawed in 1977. I therefore have no way of qualifying or quantifying this. Different African countries have different wildlife management practices - some practice hunting, others don't. Many Kenyans believe that allowing sport hunting would be a double standard of sorts, and also, culturally, sport hunting isn't something that we practice.

everyothernametaken12 karma

How do you guys get funding then?

lewawildlife7 karma

We get our funding from tourism, we currently run 5 lodges. Guests pay to stay there, and we earn conservation fees from that. The majority of our funding comes from donors - people from around the world who believe in what we do and invest in our work.

AjahnMara1 karma

"Those animals don't belong to anyone, they're not property. Poachers have just as much rights as to them as you have." How would you feel if laws would reflect that particular philosophy?

lewawildlife7 karma

That would be very flawed thinking. I think that poaching in essence isn't about who wildlife belong to - poaching is largely about criminal syndicates benefitting off of the ignorance of others, and its impact has negative consequences on society.

We protect wildlife not because they are ours, but because it is our birthright as Africans to have wildlife on our land. We also protect for future generations.

ThatDroppedFast3-11 karma

Ever eat rhino before?

lewawildlife4 karma

Not sure whether that was meant to be a joke, but the answer is, absolutely not. I protect rhino.