Environmental Hero: Chris Leadismo

Image credit: Courtesy of Jane Wynyard, Save The Elephants

Environmental Hero: Chris Leadismo

Elephants are an iconic sight on the African savannah, yet, they are at risk due to human conflict and poaching. Head of wildlife security with Save the Elephants (STE), Chris Leadismo and his team help protect this critical species in northern Kenya.

Image credit: Courtesy of Naiya Raja

Saving the Elephants

STE is a research and conservation organization conducting pioneering research into the behavior and ecology of elephants. Its mission is to provide critical data on the future of wild elephants and propose solutions for an amicable relationship between this magnificent, intelligent species and humans.

As innovators, STE deploys satellite tracking collars on elephants and, with its partners, currently follows 400 wild elephants across Africa. These collars transmit the elephants' locations via an app so STE can map their habits in real-time, analyze their movements, and gather intimate knowledge about their population.

Image credit: Courtesy of Jane Wynyard, Save The Elephants

The poaching problem

Leadismo, a local Samburu, has worked with STE for 14 years and witnessed the brutal killing of elephants in northern Kenya during the height of the poaching epidemic in 2009. In 2012, the elephant poaching crisis was at an all-time high, prompting the government to help recruit more rangers when the area was akin to a war zone, making it easier for poachers to sneak in.

These poachers worked in armed gangs and were dangerous to both the rangers and elephants alike. Leadismo often spent months away from his family to conduct missions even when his life was at stake.

Thanks to conservation efforts, improved law enforcement, and harsher penalties for wildlife crime, poaching has been reduced in Kenya. Instead, elephants now face a new threat – human-wildlife conflict.

Healing relationships with humans

Africa’s savannahs have lost a quarter of their elephants in the last decade. According to the International Union for Conservation, there are between 420,000 to 650,000 African elephants alive today.

As part of his work, Leadismo gathers vital information from elephant crime scenes and trains others to do similar work.  When he is not on a mission looking for poachers, Leadismo works with local communities to bring peace to volatile conditions in the north.

The Samburu are a Nilotic people from north-central Kenya, semi-nomadic pastoralists who mainly herd cattle and goats. For generations, the Samburu have respected the elephants that live beside them. Their traditional beliefs include elephants as part of their clan. As for Leadismo, this is not only a job or his livelihood. He has devoted his life to saving elephants.

Creating worldwide change

In 2017, Leadismo delivered a powerful speech to a Hong Kong legislative panel representing STE and African rangers. The next year, Hong Kong followed China’s lead by declaring its intention to ban its domestic ivory trade.

Willing to risk his life for elephants because of his love and compassion for animals, Leadismo always puts his heart into his work. He believes that when you follow your passion and put your willingness toward what you are meant to do, you will do it successfully.

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