Monthly Archives: December 2014

Wildlife Works Gives Paul Makau Mwanzia a Chance to Do What He Loves Most

Paul Makau Mwanzia, a father of two, has been mechanic at the Wildlife Works Kasigau Corridor REDD+ Project garage for over three years now. Together with his colleagues, he works to ensure that the company vehicles are in top-notch condition at all times. Lucky for Paul that repairing broken vehicles is his favorite thing to do because our vehicles get quite a beating in the rough Kenyan bush terrain.

Paul Makau Mwanzia at Wildlife Works' autoshop

Paul Makau Mwanzia at Wildlife Works’ Auto shop

We caught up with him at the garage to learn what he loves most about his job, what challenges him and what makes him smile. We also talked to him about his work and life before he joined the Wildlife Works ranks.

Paul was born in Kibwezi, Makueni County in 1973. He attended primary school at a local school in his village. Upon completing primary school education, it is the dream of every pupil to go to a good secondary school. Common in his rural community, Paul’s dream to pursue secondary education was derailed by financial constraints. Unlike many of his peers, he resolved to work hard and ensure that illegal gangs or idling was not part of his life. He believes that life is a jungle and everyone has to fight for their future.

Paul Makau Mwanzia and his Wildlife Works' Auto shop team

Paul Makau Mwanzia and his Wildlife Works’ Auto shop team

On weekdays, he worked at a nearby maize farm and on weekends, he traveled 6 miles each way to contract at a auto shop. Paul used his wages to pay his school fees at Kibwezi Polytechnic where he studied mechanics. He remembers how hard it was to juggle his education and busy work schedule. After graduating from the polytechnic, Paul worked for various mid-level businesses as a mechanic. He eventually opened his own shop, where Wildlife Works brought many cars for repair before asking Paul to join our own auto shop team.

Paul loves his work because of the quiet and encouraging environment. His favorite aspect of the job is the independence he has to perform his duties through self-management and without authoritative supervision. Paul also enjoys working and living with people from different walks of life through interaction with his co-workers.

Since starting at Wildlife Works, Paul has been able to take good care of his parents back in Kibwezi and most importantly, his wife and children. He has also recently completed studying Auto and Power Electronic at the Voi Technical Training Institute.

Paul Makau Mwanzia loves his job.

Paul Makau Mwanzia truly loves his job.

Apart from the great opportunity that Wildlife Works has given him, Paul is also appreciative of the REDD+ Project that has been able to transform the face of Kasigau. “If we all played our roles at protecting the environment, the world would be a much happier place for everyone,” Paul believes.

We are grateful to have Paul as part of the Wildlife Works team!

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About Wildlife Works Carbon:

Wildlife Works is the world’s leading REDD+ (Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Degradation), project development and management company with an effective approach to applying innovative market based solutions to the conservation of biodiversity. REDD+ was originated by the United Nations (UN) to help stop the destruction of the world’s forests.

Over a 15 year history Wildlife Works established a successful model that uses the emerging marketplace for REDD+ Carbon Offsets to protect threatened forests, wildlife, and communities.

The company helps local landowners in the developing world monetize their forest and biodiversity assets whether they are governments, communities, ownership groups, or private individuals.

Nora Matunda Shares Her Tough Journey to Success

Nora Matunda, a mother of four, has been a seamstress at the Wildlife Works Kasigau Corridor REDD+ Project Eco Factory for over 13 years.

‘’I am passionate and motivated by my work because of the quality products we produce as a team. Our work empowers the community with job opportunity, growth, development and wealth creation for our families,” she says.

Nora has been with Wildlife Works since 2011

Nora has been with Wildlife Works since 2011

Nora grew up in Maungu, a town adjacent to Wildlife Works sanctuary. ‘’15 years ago, Maungu was a very small village with very few people who depended on mostly charcoal burning and bush meat to live, ’’ she recalls.

Growing up in poverty-stricken Maungu provided very little opportunity for young Nora to finish school. Her parents could not afford to send her to high school so Nora looked for ways to make some money and keep busy as she waited for her parents to find funds for her studies.

“I thought about burning charcoal but with the little knowledge I had about the consequences of destroying the environment, I didn’t want to involve myself in this illegal business,” she explained. She decided to work on their farm planting and taking care of the small livestock they had.

Three years later, Nora had something to smile about. Her parents earned a small amount of money from selling some livestock. It was enough to send her to Voi Youth Polytechnic, where she choose to study tailoring and dressmaking.

After almost two years of skills training, she came back to Maungu and got a job at a small tailoring shop. As Maungu village began to expand into a small town, she took an entrepreneurial risk and opened her own tailoring business. At first, she would go door-to-door taking orders. When word got out of her quality, customers started flocking to her shop and piling on the orders!

In 2002, a greater opportunity arose when Wildlife Works opened their eco factory. Nora’s experience made her the perfect hire as one of the first few pioneers to help launch the Wildlife Works’ eco factory. She has since been promoted to supervisor and helps to train new seamstresses.

Nora picks her daughter up from Wildlife Works preschool

Nora picks her daughter up from Wildlife Works preschool

Nora was excited for this job opportunity to acquire more skills for career development and felt lucky to benefit from Wildlife Works’ childcare support. “I feel so happy and motivated to work close to my child who attends the free preschool provided by Wildlife Works, funded by the protection of our forests,” she says. Her third child graduated this year from our preschool program.

“I can now meet the needs of my family better than I could being self-employed,” she says. The best advice she would like to give to someone embarking on her career path is to be hardworking, determined and to remember that devotion is the key pillar to success.

The next skill Nora would like to acquire is pattern making and design. Nora is inspired to become an effective designer and to be recognized by all. We are proud to have Nora on our team and look forward to supporting her career as we grow.

Nora and her daughter.

Nora and her daughter

A Letter from Founder & President Mike Korchinsky on Our No-Gun Policy

We’d like to extend a huge thank you to our supporters and the viewers of ‘Ivory Wars’ for their outpouring of support and encouragement following the initial airings of the series set at our Kasigau Corridor REDD+ Project in Kenya. Elephant poaching remains a serious issue, and we’re glad this opportunity has allowed us to more broadly bring to light its devastating affects.

The Wildlife Works rangers

The Wildlife Works rangers

Since the initial airing, we’ve received some questions about the no-gun policy for our rangers. In an effort to ensure transparency and clear communication about our diligent efforts to keep our rangers safe, we’d like to share some detail about this policy, which has developed as a carefully thought out rationale over 18 years in the field. We consider this to be the best way to be effective at protecting the wildlife in the sanctuary while keeping our rangers and the local community safe.

Our Partnership with Kenya Wildlife Service

The ‘Ivory Wars’ series underplayed the fact that Wildlife Works rangers work side by side with Kenya Wildlife Service (KWS) rangers who are armed, trained in combat, and who are permanently stationed on our sanctuary. Whenever there is an armed poaching incident, our rangers are trained to avoid any confrontation until they have KWS armed support, and even then they are not supposed to be in harms way if shots are fired.

Over the course of 18 years, we have had one incident – described in the show – where our rangers were fired upon. In that incident, our rangers were assisting armed KWS rangers in tracking poachers when the poachers set an ambush. As KWS has a shoot to kill policy, the poachers opened fire out of fear for their own lives and sadly this interaction resulted in the fatality of our ranger, Abdi, and the injury of Ijema.

This incident was very early on in the recent escalation of elephant poaching to armed conflict, and as described in the show, it really shocked us. Prior to that incident and for nearly 15 years, poachers were very rare, came from in and around the local community, and typically set snares or used poison arrows. These poachers never threatened our rangers, even when being arrested.

Protecting the Elephant Habitat

Our primary role at Wildlife Works is to work with the community to protect the habitat for the elephants to pass through in their migrations. There are over 12,000 elephants in our ecosystem in Kenya that roam freely without being confined by fences. This huge setting that these elephants call home makes it impossible to know when and where poachers will strike without informants. There are many other anti-poaching units in other sanctuaries or national parks and in some rangers are armed. Even then, gun battles with poachers are very rare because the areas are vast, the location of an attack completely unpredictable and by the time armed rangers respond, poachers are typically long gone.

Rangers across Kenya – armed or not – are all losing elephants at an alarming rate. We believe we fare as well as any, even with larger elephant populations, because we have such a strong relationship with the local communities who inform us of the comings and goings of possible poachers so we can confront them before they recover their stashed weapons, or alert KWS if they are known to be armed.

Addressing the Growing Demand for Ivory

At the current price of ivory, there is a near unlimited supply of young Somalis willing to come to Kenya to risk their own lives and to take the lives of others to make a fast buck. Killing one or two poachers acts as little deterrent; it simply buys a little time before the next team arrives from Somalia, this time bent on revenge as well as ivory.

This is the real story of ‘Ivory Wars’ – that demand in China supported all the way up to the President himself is causing the death of countless young Africans on both sides of the issue, in addition to the tens of thousands of elephants. We believe that without tackling the demand side, this is an un-winnable war.

The main purpose of the ‘Ivory Wars’ show was to elevate awareness, to build a new generation of indignation about the plight of elephants, and to put overwhelming social and political pressure on the ivory markets to crack down. In the meantime, we choose to keep our rangers as safe as possible by:

  1. making our Rukinga Sanctuary the last place poachers think they can get away with poaching because we have the best intel based on the work we do with local communities, so they don’t come in the first place, and
  2. keeping our rangers out of the firing line if and when they do come.

That was always the mission of the Navy Seals: to help us deploy technologies that could further deter poachers and to train our rangers to avoid any more fatal contacts. The producers of the show introduced the drama of the gun vs. no-gun conflict to make the show more interesting to a US audience, though the Kenyan Government was never going to allow the Seals to bring firearms into the country. In doing so, they had to make our own rangers and our management appear incapable to exaggerate the importance of the role of the Seals. While everyone needs help in this ivory war, Wildlife Works is far from incapable, and as the Seals themselves discovered during the month they were there, we and our rangers are in fact very good at what we do.

Once again, thank you to our supporters and viewers for your passion to protect this magnificent species.

Mike Korchinsky
President and Founder of Wildlife Works

WHAT IS WILDLIFE WORKS?

Protecting + Forests + Wildlife + Community since 1997.

Wildlife Works is the world's leading REDD+ (Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Degradation), project development and management company with an effective approach to applying innovative market based solutions to the conservation of biodiversity. REDD+ was originated by the United Nations (UN) to help stop the destruction of the world's forests.