In Kenya, a tragedy is unfolding that is both sad and frightening as charcoal burners destroy forests to make charcoal for barbecue cookouts around the world.
It is hard to believe, but the glowing coals that fuel barbecues have TERRIBLE IMPLICATIONS for ANIMALS.
Kenya’s forests provide food and habitats for countless animals, and they are being destroyed at a dizzying rate. Forests once covered 30% of Kenya – the figure is now just 8.3% and dropping fast.
Illegal charcoal burning destroyed a forest.
In protected areas reserved for animals, farmers illegally chop down forest trees and burn them for charcoal, leaving behind a destroyed habitat, resulting in hunger and death for all kinds of animals from small antelopes to elephants.
The scale of the problem is immense! But there is a plan underway to begin to address it – called OPERATION SEEDBALLS.
Your support today will truly make a difference – and SAVE LIVES!
Throughout Kenya, the landscape looks as if it is being ravaged by a dreadful disease that is leaving millions of black patches in the wilderness. The patches are the result of charcoal burning, burnt-out areas, smoking, active burns and smoldering burns stacked with packaged charcoal ready for transportation. This process is wildly illegal, but there is so much burning that rangers can’t control it, plus charcoal burners are so aggressive that rangers put their lives on the line when they try to arrest them.
The effect on elephants is particularly disturbing because once the forests have gone, and their food with it, the elephants go closer to human settlements, eat their crops and sometimes injure people in their hunt for food. Then the villagers kill them and steal their tusks to sell on the illegal ivory market.
Teddy Kinyanjui, Marc Goss of the MARA Elephant Project, and ASI’s David Barritt preparing to seed a new forest.
The charcoal burning business is huge and difficult to control, and animal lovers must fight it as hard as we can. Teddy Kinyanjui from Nairobi’s Tamfeeds has a solution…
So much charcoal has been burned in Kenya that huge piles of charcoal dust have built up, creating yet another toxic threat. Teddy’s company takes that dust and, using a special process that makes the dust a sticky ball, wraps tree seeds in it, making seedballs. The seed is the nucleus, and the dust forms a protective coating around it that prevents birds and animals from eating it. When it rains, the dust dissolves, freeing the seed and, hopefully, a tree grows.
Teddy teamed up with Marc Goss, who runs the Mara Elephant Project in Kenya, an organization which protects elephants and helps preserve their habitat, and together they are starting to recreate forests in OPERATION SEEDBALLS.
The forests Operation Seedballs hopes to recreate will support a variety of wildlife.
Marc takes a helicopter to deforested areas in protected zones, flies low over the ground and drops thousands of seedballs from the air, mimicking the way trees naturally spread in Kenya when seeds are dropped by birds or animal droppings. Millions have been sown across Kenya in the last few years – it’s cheap, and it works. You can see new trees springing up where seeds have been sown.
Because charcoal burners keep destroying trees even in protected areas, to be really effective, policing must be increased and many more seedballs must be distributed.
We promised to ask our supporters to help – $50 (£44) buys 10,000 seedballs – if even 1% of the seeds grow, that’s 100 new trees!
Marc took our team by helicopter to see the scale of the problem and sow some seedballs. Within the first few minutes of the flight, we lost count of how many rectangular charcoal-burning areas there are, dotted all over the protected Mount Sizwa area not far from Nairobi. Everywhere you looked, there were hundreds upon hundreds of burned areas where forests once stood. And this dreadful picture is repeated all over Kenya.
Operation Seedball uses the charcoal dust left behind by illegal charcoal burning to create a protective layer around a seed nucleus. These seedballs are then distributed by helicopter to deforested areas.
Marc landed the helicopter in a place where all that was left of a forest were tree stumps, while in the near distance, smoke poured into the sky as charcoal burners worked their way through the next patch of trees.
When we took off and followed the smoke, we saw a herd of confused elephants right next to several charcoal burns. The elephants were seeing their food disappear before their eyes, and there was nothing they could do about it.
There are so many threats to animals… but what we saw that day frightened us.
This vast, protected area is home to animals great and small and it was being destroyed in front of us. Concern turned to horror when Marc showed us pictures of an elephant who had been speared and killed when, seeking food, it got too close to humans – horrible pictures of a beautiful and noble creature lying dead with gaping wounds where his tusks once were. One fewer elephant in a world where every elephant counts in the fight against extinction – their numbers are plummeting. An estimated 55 elephants are killed every single day, 365 days of the year.
This poor elephant was speared by villagers because charcoal burning destroyed its natural habitat and drove it towards human habitation.
Seedballs work. New trees will grow and provide new homes and food for threatened and endangered animals. Please help us seed a better future for animals by making a generous donation right now. We must stop poaching and charcoal burning, which is going to take time. Reseeding forest areas is something we can do today!