As the dust ruffled through the air and swirled around the rusty old tyres, the car engine slowly stopped. I looked far into the distance, beyond the golden blades of the savannah, hoping to find one of the “big five” animals: the African elephant, black rhinoceros, Cape buffalo, African lions and African leopards. All across the savannah, there were bushes and trees. And then there suddenly emerged eight large black rhinos. It was almost seven years ago when I last saw a crash of rhinos grazing and minding their own business.
Over the past few years, the rhino population has considerably decreased in Kenya. Today, there are only 540 of them and the number is rapidly falling due to poaching for the rhino horn.
As I distinctly remember, when I was 11 years old, in Grade VI, my school had shown a brutal video of how rhinos and elephants were poached. Minutes after the video, I was speechless and I slowly felt water streaming down my eyes. I was shocked by the selfishness and cruelty of people. I could not bear the idea of baby elephants and rhinos being brutally killed. I wanted to make a change, big or small. I decided that I could use my art as a tool to advocate for the safety and conservation of these animals. The following summer, I drew a rhino portrait in charcoal and printed the sketch to make greeting cards. I had a bake sale at school to which I also took the cards. Within a few minutes of the sale, all the cards were gone! I ended up raising enough money to buy two pairs of binoculars and donated them to the rangers of FoNNaP (Friends of The Nairobi National Park).
I am currently a member of the organisation and get frequent updates about the national park and the endangered species living there.
In Grade VIII, our class was given a self-learning study project. I decided to base my project on saving the elephants of Kenya.
In this project, I had to research and learn about the various kinds of elephants and major organisations that help to combat elephant poaching in Kenya. During this process, I also attended a debate on “Should Kenya burn or sell the ivory?” This debate changed my perspective on how precious ivory was as a commodity in Kenya.
So again, I decided that I wanted my art to speak for me.
I drew a baby and mother elephant and made printed copies to sell as greeting cards to show my love towards these endangered animals. Along with the cards, I also made handcrafted elephant shaped frames and painted each one in vibrant colours.
All the frames and cards were sold around my school, to neighbours, family and friends. And after the long process of putting this project together, I managed to raise about $400 (approximately Rs 26,000).
I donated the money to the David Sheldrick Wildlife Trust, a non-profit based in Kenya, which is also an orphanage where baby elephants (and a few other animals) are protected and taken care of. I had the opportunity to meet Daphne Sheldrick, the founder, and her daughter. We chatted about the danger elephants were in and the reducing elephant population in Kenya. During my time there, I adopted a baby elephant named Siriomon from the orphanage. He is currently living independently in the vast landscapes of the National Park.
After the conclusion of my project, I was selected to give a talk in my school to share my experiences and encourage my classmates. I was happy because I wanted my art to speak for me and it did.