Preaching the Elephant Conservation Gospel

Jim Justus Nyamu is a man on a mission. His message: Ivory Belongs to Elephants.  And he’s taking that message to the world – on a 14,000 kilometre walk!

On 14 July, 2018 he began his walk from Nairobi in Kenya. He arrived in Victoria Falls at the end of his walk through Zambia on 11 September. He’s had meetings with different stakeholders, from conservationists to anti-poaching organisations, government and local authority representatives to local villages. He’s spoken at schools and villages. He’s received massive support from the travel and tourism industry as well as from local people he’s met along the way.

Walking through Lupane
Walking through Lupane

Jim’s objective is to raise awareness of the value of elephants to local communities, Africa and the world. He discusses different ways to mitigate human-elephant conflict and raise awareness of poaching. In 1900 an estimated 12 million elephants roamed Africa. Today less than 400,000 remain, with 100 killed every day for their ivory, meat and body parts.

As we post this blog Jim is on his way to Harare where he will spend a few days before returning to Bulawayo and continuing his walk to Plumtree, crossing into Botswana and heading for South Africa, where his walk will end in Johannesburg.

I’m sure this is question you’re regularly asked: Why did you decide to undertake this adventure?

I saw an opportunity to bring together local communities, stakeholders, wildlife agencies and governments to talk about elephants.  Many organisations don't create awareness but instead they focus on research.  I used to do elephant research, collating elephants and doing DNA analysis. Most governments work from top to bottom. I am creating awareness to communities as they identify with the “bottom to top” approach in wildlife conservation.

Jim speaking to pupils at Bulawayo’s Petra School
Jim speaking to pupils at Bulawayo’s Petra School

We know elephants are special! Please tell us what elephants mean to you.
Elephants are so special! Their behaviour is so similar to that of human beings. They mourn their dead and celebrate when one give birth.  In most African communities elephants were and are indicators of seasons, i.e. when elephants are seen moving from one area to another this action may indicate the beginning of the dry season. Elephants are important for conservation. They defecate 17 times per day and because sixty percent of their dung is undigested this means the seeds they pass are actually trees being planted.

Elephants never forget and have excellent memories. They live in two distinct social groups - male and female - and we have seen “babysitters” watching over the little ones – just like human beings.

How many people are in your team?

I am with a team of seven. One lady walks with me. The other members are two drivers/mechanics/technicians, a personal assistant, a communications person and another member responsible for our logistics.

Walking from Vic Falls
Walking from Victoria Falls
Walking from Victoria Falls

How have you found travelling across borders?

Our borders are safe and easy to cross as long as you have all the required customs documents. It’s very easy and customs officers have been so friendly.

What have been the highlights of your adventure so far?

It's been quite interesting! I have interacted with several different cultures and communities react to my message differently.  I am so excited to be here in Zimbabwe, where I have received a lot of support and encouragement.  I love the unity and the tourism network - it's amazing.  Nevertheless most communities are not sensitized on wildlife conservation, sadly.

How have people you have met on your walk reacted when you tell them why you are doing this?

There’s been a mixture of reactions when I tell them that we need to save elephants.  Most people are amazed and sympathetic to me when they hear my story and why I am walking for elephants: “Why walk for these dangerous animals?”  

Some communities feel like governments don't care about the elephants and the loss they inflict to people. Yet, they are ready to live with them as long as the elephants don't destroy their crops and properties.  Some communities in Kenya were angry with me and almost chased me away when I told them that we need elephants:” How can you tell me to conserve elephants when they have killed our relatives?” That was a comment from one community member.

Jim Justus Nyamu
Jim Justus Nyamu


Please follow Jim’s amazing journey here:

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Twitter - @nyamuJim





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