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Elephant man taking jumbo walk to London

Jim Justus Nyamu, will be taking his trek to UK in December. He seeks to raise awareness on the need to protect world’s largest land animal

When visiting a new country, it is anyone’s expectation to enjoy, learn and probably memorise as many sights as they can in the limited amount of time. But trekking 190 kilometres might be taking that to extremes.

Jim Justus Nyamu intends to do just that in December when he walks from London to Bristol for 10 days, crossing over 10 towns in the process. If successful, he will become the first person to achieve the feat in the United Kingdom.

But he is not just walking for adventure, he aims at raising awareness on the value of elephants, how to mitigate human-elephant conflict and to raise awareness on poaching. He is well qualified, boasting over 10,500 kilometres since he started walking for elephants four years ago. Six months ago, he trekked into the record books by completing 617km in 32 days from Nairobi to Marsabit.

In his London walk, Nyamu, 42, will make stops at various towns and village centres where he will meet a number of conservation networks and address people on the importance of wildlife conservation and the environment.

He will also raise awareness on the plight of African elephants and hope the United Kingdom stops the illegal domestic ivory market and join other nations to support the African Elephants Action Plan. The highlight, he hopes, will come at the end of his arduous slog, on December 12, the day Kenya celebrates Jamhuri Day.

Accompanied by Bristol city Lord Mayors, Nyamu will raise the Kenya National Flag at Council House City Hall. The peak of this walk will be on Sunday, December 17 when Nyamu will speak at the prestigious MTM Awards at the Bristol Marriott Hotel, where he is expected to receive an award.

“The African elephant population continues to decrease at an alarming rate due to poaching for their ivory and habitat loss due to unprotected key areas for wildlife, and lack of buffer zones.

The elephant’s migratory routes have also been completely blocked and this has heightened human-elephant conflict, leaving communities with negative attitudes towards elephants and the need to promote their conservation,” says Nyamu.

It is for this reason that Nyamu has embarked on this selfless mission. He is attempting to woo communities, wildlife organisations, governments and tourism organisations to work together and save elephants.

“During my walks, the terrains have been unforgiving and conditions unpredictable, making it a tough challenge, but I’m determined to see it through,” he says. But what inspired these walks? Nyamu says his passion for wildlife began when he was a little boy.

“I grew up in the slopes of the Aberdare Range, towards the northern parts of Murang’a, and, for all of my childhood and formative years, lived in close proximity to the spectacular Aberdare National Park. We had gotten accustomed to hyenas howling from the forest and gunshots renting the air in what we later came to learn were as a result of human-wildlife conflict,” he reminisces.

He was also inspired by an uncle, who worked with the Kenya Wildlife Service who would bring him wildlife magazines to keep him busy. Little did he know that the content would kick-start his career.

As a result, Nyamu developed an appreciation for wildlife at an early age and when he joined Ichichi Secondary School in 1993, he founded the school’s wildlife club. Every January through his high school years, he led his schoolmates in climbing 10km to the peak of Aberdare Range to experience and learn about wildlife.

Neighbouring schools started catching up through Nyamu’s influence and they would join in the hikes. His passion with wildlife caught the eye of a Canadian organisation that used to run ecology programmes led by the Kenya Wildlife Service.

He was selected among other students across the country to represent the country in Canada for an exchange programme, but he could not travel because of logistic issues as well as resistance by his parents who then, could not grasp the purpose of his trip.

But his passion did not die, he would accompany the Canadians to various parts of the country and when he completed Form Four in 1996, he got a scholarship to study at Mweka College of African Wildlife Management in Tanzania, a leading institution in professional and technical training and tourism management.

On returning to Kenya, Nyamu came full-circle, he became an elephant enthusiast and has over time gained enormous knowledge on the African elephant species after being an Elephant Research Scientist with African Conservation Centre.

He founded Elephant Neighbours Centre, a local NGO that focuses on enhancing the capacity of communities living with wildlife to promote inter-linkages between species and their habitats.

It is through the centre that he launched the campaign dubbed “Ivory Belongs to Elephants Walk.” “I started this initiative in 2013 after realising how ignorant Kenyans were about the dwindling numbers of elephants.

I had the information that grassroots communities need to be able to participate in conservation,” he says. His first walk was from Mombasa to Nairobi where he covered 500km in 14 days.

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