Sarara massacre November 1993:
Our organization (KWS) had acquired it's first GPS gadgets, and all Company Commanders were sent to Manyani Field Training School to learn how to use them. We were there for one full week and at the end of the course each one of us was given one of the gadgets to take home for practice. We left the school in high spirits thinking that the implement would help us end poaching ASAP . I took a bus to Nairobi and went to one of our preferred joints in Ongata Rongai in the Kajiado District for the night, but I had to called our operation room (OCH) to let them know my location in case of emergency. At some minutes to 1500hrs, a vehicle was sent from the HQ to pick me up and I was directed to report to the staff officer operation ( SOOOPS) for briefing , and he informed me that there were reports from Samburu that elephants might have been poached in the Sarara area near Wamba town in Samburu west.
I did not go to Manyani training school with my official transport , so i used public transport to Meru town and I reached there late and went straight to bed in one of the local hotels. The Opps room had earlier contacted the warden Meru station to book me a room , and he was also instructed to provide a vehicle to pick and drop me at Lewa Downs conservancy where one of our patrol planes was to pick me early the next morning. The service was very efficient , and everything went as planned and by fast light we were airborne towards the Mathews ranges where we had more than 3000 Elephants roaming freely among the community and they were always in threat of being poached by armed poachers from Isiolo and Marsabit who would then transport the tusks through Moyale into Ethiopia .
In those early years, the local population was not involved in the actual killing of elephants , but they would innocently give out information on elephant and rhino movements to armed Somali poachers. Two Somali families in Baragoi were suspected poachers and we visited them once, and I believe that they took us seriously but another family in Wamba was also suspected , but again they were small timers and they required little persuasion , and fear did the rest.
Sarara, is the current Namunyak conservancy , and it occupies all that prime game country from Lerata to Ndonyio Wasin, which is on the boarder of Marsabit and Samburu districts. It has fairly good rainfall , plenty of rugged hills which include Ndikiro eelkimaniki, lejas, kumomoyog, soito naarok to mention just a few . This is the elephant country, and you could find hundreds of them moving together in great noisy herds, grazing and flattening every bush on their path. There were hundreds of mud pools in the open bush land and water was in every lugga. Yes , this was haven for the mighty kings, but we also knew that the hills could hide too many secrets, and of interest was a Somali family that had just settled in Sere olipi center thus our antennas were always aimed at them. They were a real threat, and we knew it , but they were Kenyans and had a right to live anywhere.
The out post in Kitich camp which was on top of the Mathews had reported having received information from the locals that gun shoots were heard in Sarara , and had requested that a patrol plane be sent there to verify the info, but the Meru plane was in Wilson for a hundred hour check and would not be available for the next two days , so Meru park management adviced the officer in Kitich to send in home guards to see what might have been killed , and it was this team who saw and reported that six elephants have been killed in the area and a patrol section from the Samburu Complex was sent in through Sabashi hill to verify the information and this is the team we found close to the carcasses when we flew in . We spoke to them via the aircraft radio on the direct channels for they were on VHF, thus transmission was limited due to surrounding hills. It was the first time for me to see so many elephants killed in one place, and it was really a very sorry state.
We discovered two more carcasses eight miles away and that is when I knew that there must be more so i called Meru park on the radio and instructed them to send in another section and that my official transport was to pick me up in Wamba that same day because that was were we had an airstrip. I could not miss in on this one.
The pilot dropped me in Wamba air strip and proceeded to Kina for refueling and i latter met the second team at Ndikiro eelkimaniki pass where we followed the only road in to the killing fields. The road was build by the kenya army while escorting the herds that belonged to the then army commander; Major General Lengess and it was named after him. We drove to a dam between the hills and camped there for the night due to heavy rain and the night was very cold yet we could not light a fire to make tea for fear of being seen. The place became flooded and we feared that we could be swept by the water flowing down towards us from the hills on three fronts. The rains must have stopped in the wee hours of the morning, and we could not sleep but cradled in our seats in the land cruisers. We knew we could not make tea in the morning, so we sent two teams of three rangers each to climb the hills, first to try and make contact with the other team, and also to scout the area. They Failed to make contact with the team, but we met the locals and they gave us crucial information concerning the poachers.
We were led to another carcass by the locals, and they told us that there were four armed men of Somali origin and that only one of them spoke Kiswahili and the rest of the poachers were reported to be always quite and avoided contact with the local people. We finally met the other section latter that evening and we made camp at the start of the Suyan lugga where we compared notes and came to conclusion that the killing of all the carcasses we saw were three days old and were executed by marks men, for they all had head wounds and they only killed big mature elephants .
We tuned our Racal HF radio and sent our situation reports to the operations room in Langata, and retired for our first sleep in two days. I was lucky to escape with my life the next morning when we walked in to a herd of about twenty elephants in the early hours.
They must have stopped for a rest and were asleep when we walked right through their midst in the dark without noticing, and they were only trying to run away from us. We were four and we were lucky , there was a small hill to our right, and we scrambled up the hill in company of some young elephant bulls who might have wondered why we were running alongside them but they all stopped running as from a signal, stared at us and run back down the hill to probably tell their kin how stupid and scared the human beings were. My team was lucky, but another team was forced into a galley by three menacing bulls who actually chased them and they could see their trunks hanging in the trench trying to reach them but lucky for them, the trenches were very deep. One of the rangers had a thorn go straight in to his knee and we had to evacuate him to Wamba for treatment.
We discovered three more carcasses in two different places to bring the total to eleven dead elephants, and we followed foot prints of a lone person to Wamba town were he must have gone to call up transport and we latter established from the local morrans that they had seen the Swahili speaking poacher use that trail to Wamba.
- We established that the poachers took the tusks and vacated the area on the day the first patrol team reached the six carcasses.
- That the vehicle had dropped the poachers near the Sabashi hill , then went to Wamba to wait.
- We also learned that due to the high number of elephants in the area, the poachers were selective and only targeted the big tusks.
- We knew that they had a contact in Wamba, and we broke that connection latter.
- The tusks went through Marsabit and the guys paid their way through two road blocks.
- We managed to get the names of two of the gang members and both were later neutralized in the Nkuronit area while on a mission to poach the only remaining rhino at Kenno area then.
It is important to mention that there are now two local community conservancies in this area and they have greatly helped in conserving wildlife . These are Namunyak and the Kalama conservancies.
Dr Richard Leakey was not amused and he made us promise that we would not loose that number of elephants again, and that we should silence a gang soon and offer him their heads for Christmas.
This particular promise was honored on the 23.December.1993 when we eliminated the Isiolo - Marsabit high way gang at the rock the locals call Naipaipai.
George Osuri was the platoon commander in charge of Meru , Michael Lenaimado was in Kitich and Dr. Francis Lesilau was in charge of the Isiolo/ Samburu complex.