Why you should avoid popular ‘nyam chom’ places in the city at all cost

KWS Jan. 18th 2010.KWS security officers in liaison with the Kenya Police today January 18, 2010 impounded at least 400kg of suspected game meat on its way to the famous Burma meat market, Eastland’s, Nairobi.” This is the upteenth time that we are getting reports of large amount of bushmeat destined for Burma market impounded by KWS and the Police. Other popular meat-eating places like City market and Kenyatta market are also outlets for this illegal meat.  Flash back;

The Associated Press, July 9, 2007: KWS investigators have found that this trade has been going on for the past two months and the target markets are popular meat-eating places like Kenyatta Market and City Market. The game meat dealers sell their meat, passing it off as beef, at a low price of 65 Kenya shillings (US$1) per kg at these markets, said Paul Udoto, Kenya Wildlife Service communications manager.

The Kenya Wildlife Service officials are “concerned that this illegal trade is not only wiping out priceless wildlife but also posing great health risks to people. The uninspected meat has a very high risk of transmitting diseases like anthrax and Rift Valley Fever to people,” Udoto said.”

Capitals News, 3rd February2009: A Nairobi businesswoman at a popular meat eating Market downtown Nairobi was arrested with 74 kg of bush meat morning of Saturday.

Kenya Wildlife Service investigators seized the suspect who had hidden the bush meat under a butchery counter and was mixing it with inspected meat on display to sell to unsuspecting buyers.

The EastAfrica, 8th May, 2009: Just a few weeks ago, we intercepted a matatu with the aid of the police after a tip-off at 4am at Mlolongo. We retrieved a sack of bushmeat on the floor of the matatu. It had 256 kilos of wildebeest and zebra meat. But the offenders were released after a weekend in the cell. The judge set them free citing that they were first offenders!” The police know what’s going on but when the offenders are let off so lightly, it seems futile to bring offenders to the book

The list goes on……..


This is why you should avoid eating ‘nyama Choma’ or buying raw meat disguised as beef in these Nairobi markets

First, it is important to note that all meat from wild animals (not farmed) is illegal in Kenya. Bushmeat is therefore sold illegally disguised as beef. Butchers prefer this illegal meat because they buy it cheaply from the traders who ferry it to Nairobi from conservation areas nearby. This meat is not inspected for zoonotic diseases and poses a serious health risk to anyone coming in contact with the meat.

It is now clear that unsuspecting Kenya who patronize these popular ‘nyama choma’ joints are exposing themselves to great health risk. Those buying raw meat from their local butcheries are not safe either. Unscrupulous butchers looking for quick money buy bushmeat cheaply and sell it raw to their unsuspecting customers.

To avoid the danger of catching ebola, anthrax, monkey pox, anthrax, Rift Valley fever, marburg fever etc, avoid buying ready-made meat, minced meat and any suspicious looking pieces hidden under the counter or any reddish (blood) pieces particularly those that are boneless. Insist on getting all your meat from those parts hanging prominently on the display. This is because it would be very difficult to kill and transport a whole carcass clean without leaving blemishes on the meat. After all, game meat is clearly different from livestock meat and no one need to be an expert to tell. Just  avoid that suspiciously looking lean dark red meat! This will keep you safe from many zoonotic diseases, some of which we don’t know anything about, while at the same time discouraging the thriving illegal trade in bushmeat, which is threatening to decimate our world famous wildlife heritage.

Iregi Mwenja is an alumnus of USFWS MENTOR Fellowship on Bushmeat in eastern Africa currently implementing bushmeat solutions project in Kenya

Experts: Bushmeat a Major Issue in Eastern Africa

 BEAN Press Release: Experts Agree Bushmeat a Major Issue in Eastern Africa

On 7th & 8th December 2009, 34 experts representing 22 different conservation organizations, development organizations and government agencies from Kenya, Tanzania, Southern Sudan, and Uganda assembled in Kampala, Uganda to discuss bushmeat (the illegal and unsustainable hunting of wildlife for meat and income). The participants shared information on challenges, ongoing solutions and future needs to address the bushmeat problem in Eastern Africa.

Despite the best efforts of governments, NGOs, the private sector and local communities to address threats to wildlife and their habitats, these threats continue and in some cases increase. These experts agreed that bushmeat is one of the leading threats to wildlife and livelihoods and must be addressed using every means possible.

Click the link below to read the press release;


Life back in the Tsavo

I was pleasantly surprised when I came across a coalition of five cheetahs 2 km from the Kilaguni lodge airstrip in Tsavo West National Park. I have driven through this park over a dozen times in the last 4 years and the only cat I have ever saw was a leopard in Ngulia. But the group of cheetahs below (possibly a family) below was announcing loud and clear that Life is back in the Tsavo after the devastating drought that killed many animals particularly grazers like hippos and buffaloes. Like you may have seen in my earlier posts, even elephants died too.

When paying for my entry at the Mtito gate, I got curious when I saw an announcement by KWS informing visitors about the stench from the decomposing carcasses in the park. I understand Mzima spring was the worst affected. Though I didn’t get enough time to go there, I am sure it is time KWS removed that announcement as thing has since changed since the rains (El nino) started about 6 weeks ago……… if the photos below are anything to go by.

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Five cheetahs crossing the road majestically oblivious of excitment they had caused.

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24 giraffes, a dozen zebras and a troop of baboons all within a 200m X 200m space!!

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Two zebras grazing 200m away from the cheetahs

Iregi Mwenja

Wildlife Biologist

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Has Tanzania Broken Ranks With EAC Over Elephant Ivory Trade?

Written by Rhishja Larson

Published on November 3rd, 2009

Tanzania is reportedly preparing to ask CITES to lift the trade ban on elephant ivory, much to the dismay of its EAC neighbors, conservationists, and members of the tourism industry.

In a move that would surely undermine East African conservation efforts, Tanzania has taken up the position that a sanctioned sale of elephant ivory would provide much-needed financial support to the country’s anti-poaching measures.

This comes as a shock to the East African Community (EAC), considering that last year’s sanctioning of a one-off ivory auction is to blame for igniting a scourge of rampant elephant killings throughout Africa – particularly Kenya.

According to Tanzania’s The Citizen, both Tanzania and Zambia have prepared to appeal for the lift of the ivory trade ban at the March 2010 Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES) meeting in Quatar. Read More

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Education outreach in schools in Tsavo

On Thursday, I spent the better part of my afternoon with over a hundred students from the Bishop Njenga Secondary School in Challa Division outside Tsavo West National Park. I was there to raise awareness on the illegal Bushmeat trade.

On awareness rising, I showed a short film called ‘Mizoga’ – which directly translates to “carcasses”- that was written and Directed by the Born Free Foundation and presented T-shirts carrying Bushmeat messages to students and teachers.

The students, who expected to see the usual wildlife films from the Mara or Serengeti, were pleasantly surprised to see a film produced in Swahili and enacted in one of the villages around the Tsavo ecosystem. The educative film which sends the message through entertainment shows a village grappling with the effects of the illegal bushmeat trade through the thrills, drama and tragedy that surrounds this illegal activity. The photos of the attentive students below tell it all…

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Iregi Mwenja is a leading bushmeat expert in East Africa spearheading various conservation initiatives in Kenya.


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CAMPFIRE a success?

In Kenya do we have a policy on CBNRM? Why do find it difficult to devolve natural resources management yet the goverment doesn’t have the capacity to manage it sustainably and equitably share the benefits with communities living with this resources (wildlife)? I find the CAMPFIRE example a good one to learn from. Read the article below and share your thoughts.

Community based natural resource management in Zimbabwe: the experience of CAMPFIRE

Russell Taylor


Communal Areas Management Programme for Indigenous Resources (CAMPFIRE) is a long-term programmatic approach to rural development that uses wildlife and other natural resources as a mechanism for promoting devolved rural institutions and improved governance and livelihoods.

The cornerstone of CAMPFIRE is the right to manage, use, dispose of, and benefit from these resources. Between 1989 and 2006, CAMPFIRE income, mostly from high valued safari hunting, totalled nearly USD$ 30 million, of which 52% was allocated to sub-district wards and villages for community projects and household benefits. Whilst a number of assumptions underlying the success of CAMPFIRE as an innovative model for CBNRM have yet to be met, CAMPFIRE confirms the concept that devolving responsibility and accountability for natural resource management can be highly effective for the collective and participatory management of such resources.

Elephant numbers in CAMPFIRE areas have increased and buffalo numbers are either stable or decreased slightly during the life of the programme. However, offtake quotas for these two species have increased with a concomitant decline in trophy quality. Although the amount of wildlife habitat diminished after 1980, following the commencement of CAMPFIRE the rate of habitat loss slowed down and in some specific instances was even reversed. More recently there has been increased pressure on habitats and other natural resources as a consequence of deteriorating socio-economic conditions in the country. Where devolution has been successful, promising results have been achieved and the recent acceptance and implementation of direct payments to communities is probably the most significant development since 2000.

That this has happened can be attributed to CAMPFIRE enabling communities to maximize their roles within the existing set of rules, and by so doing, allowing these rules to be challenged. Donor (73%) and government (27%) investments into the programme amounted to $35 million during the period 1989 to 2003. Since 2003 however, donor funding has been reduced to <$600,000 over the past 5 years.

Read the full article

A new twist to elephant poaching in Kenya

It is emerging that the effects of the drought on the country’s elephant population goes beyond familiar causes of mortality – death from starvation or killing arising from human wildlife conflict. The recent rise in poaching incidents in the country has been linked to the rising demand for ivory which is attributed to the influx of Chinese nationals working in Kenya.

Information coming in from the field particularly here in Tsavo blames the rise of poaching on the prolonged drought and brings in a new twist to this worrying trend -a new category of poachers and new drivers. The photos below of elephant carcasses were taken at Ziwani area, outside Tsavo West National Park where most of the Park elephants migrated to during the drought in search of food and water. I am informed that Masai herdsmen who lost most of their livestock during this spell (thereby losing their sole means of livelihood) are the new category of ‘unwilling’ poachers.

The herdsmen, faced with starvation and extreme poverty cannot resist the extra shilling that they are being enticed with by Chinese nationals working in a nearby construction project. It is evident from the crime scene and the carcass that these elephants were killed using spears in a struggle that must have required several men to execute. These are not the ivory poachers we have known for decades who mostly use automatic weapons to kill elephants and have no time for concealing the carcass with twigs as shown above. As Dr Richard Leakey puts it “..People are increasingly becoming desperate and are therefore getting more involved in poaching to put food on the table. The current drought in Kenya has made the situation even worse”


A dead cow near L Jipe where human elephant conflict intensified during the drought due to conflict over water and foarge

Though we have blamed drought for death of elephants, pastoralist who lost their livelihood from this drought are definitely a new threat that we will need to address seriously if they are to resist the extra shilling from the Chinese. It is the pastoralists who live in the rangelands with most of Kenya’s elephant population outside parks and they could pose a big threat to elephants. Since they are far away from the eyes of KWS Rangers, they are able to kill elephants and conceal the crime. That is why most of these cases go unreported yet we recover ivory on transit heading for export market almost every month. It imperative that the pastoralist be assisted to start new sustainable sources of livelihoods to dissuade them from falling prey to the Chinese workers who are spread across the country in remote areas where they are undertaking construction projects for the government.

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Tsavo, the last drought victim

Remember this?

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The image above (elephant calf dying from starvation) could be the last for this drought as the much awaited rains started a few days ago in some parts of Tsavo. Yesterday, as I drove through Tsavo West National Park on Voi-Taveta Rd, I counted dozens on zebras, impalas, gazelle, buffaloes (I thought all had died in the drought from the number of I carcasses that I counted the last few months) and a family of elephants with five calves! While we lost millions of livestock, wildlife have proved be resilient enough to survive in our troubled rangelands. Why should we invest heavily on livestock only to lose them all during drought, which is becoming a permanent phenomenon in the semi-arid areas these days? A good reason why we need to rethink about wildlife husbandry so that Kenyans can get direct economic benefits from raising and/or protecting wildlife.

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Iregi Mwenja

Qoute: “I’d rather die from eating genetically modified……”

I received this comment on a blog post I published regarding the rapid growth of the human population and the dire effects this could have on the planets resource particularly on protected areas which may give way to agriculture to feed the growing population. The comment raises the controversial issue of GMOs. Would you rather die from eating genetically modified foods than die from starvation? Is starvation a technological problem not a population one? Read the comment below and let me know your answer to my question.

Iregi Mwenja

Wildlife Biologist

The dire predictions assume one thing – that technology and/or agricultural efficiency remain about the same as they are now.

Does anyone need reminding about the poor agricultural prospects of southern California and Israel, if it weren’t for technology? Yet both have become breadbaskets for their areas, if not other areas as well.

In fact, improved efficiency and productivity in agriculture are responsible for a large amount of the increased agricultural output over the last several decades. I don’t know exactly how much, but it’s got to be at least 50%.

As I read in a newspaper recently, one man said (paraphrasing): “I’d rather die from eating genetically modified foods than die from starvation.”

Starvation is primarily a technological problem, not a populational one.

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‘Good news’ El nino in Tsavo

Finally, the long awaited rains are here! No one seems to care whether it is El nino or normal rains. But if my experience today is anything to go by, we will soon forget the ravages of drought and start wishing away the rains!!

I left Nairobi as usual for my monthly fieldwork in Taveta. As I approached Manyani, I noticed that the clouds were gathering, a sign that it would rain. This was confirmed a few kilometers ahead where I encountered a heavy downpour. Finally, the rains had arrived!! It was a great feeling watching the clouds, the drizzles and seeing the dry earth soak up the rainwater as if to quench its thirst after the prolonged drought. As I drove further along I realized that the downpour was getting heavier and what seemed normal rains soon began to change into what the Meteorological department predicted to be the long awaited El Nino rains.

It got worse as I approached Voi where small streams of raging flood water had formed along Mombasa road and at one point the road was completely flooded causing a heavy traffic snarl-up at the Mombasa road Voi railway crossing. Here, we thought that we may spend the night on the road as traffic come to a complete standstill for about an hour. Luckily, my 4X4 vehicle managed to meander through the two feet of flood water crossing the road and we safely arrived in Voi albeit late. At the Voi junction some shops were submerged in 1 foot of muddy water as you can see in the photos below. Finally, the long awaited El nino had announced to coming in a very big way here in Tsavo. The hippos of Tsavo River can now swim again!

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Driving towards Voi at Kibwezi where the first sign of rains started showing

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Signs of the rain coming in past Manyani

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Flooding caused by the heavy downpour at Mbololo

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The traffic jam at the Voi Mombasa Junction at the railway crossing

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Building under water in Voi

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Livestock caught unaware by the raging water

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