7 wild facts about Kenya's 'Elephant man' Jim Justus Nyamu
He came into the limelight through his walks aimed at raising awareness about elephant’s conservation under the Ivory Belongs to Elephants campaign.
Elephants’ Neighbors Center is a Non-Governmental Organisation registered in Kenya that seeks to raise awareness about conservation especially to communities adjacent to national parks through two pillars; conservation and research and community-based conservation programme.
He is a trained research scientist with a specialty in Elephants’ and has worked previously for Kenya Wildlife Services (KWS) and Africa conservation center.
I recently sat down with the happily married father of two to discuss conservation.
#1. He has walked from Nairobi to Morocco
Jim says he choose his mode of campaigning because he wanted to connect with the local person on the ground who wouldn’t feel unhindered by fuel guzzlers and therefore accept him and his message.
“People don’t access you when you are in a vehicle and I have seen this practically I could be walking and someone would tell me Jim could you please come over and see where elephants were in my compound last night there is also the humility aspect of it” he said.
“Since I started this campaign four years ago I have now walked a total distance of 10,457km that is roughly from here to Rabat in Morocco.”
#2. Most dramatic incident which happened in the wild was with human beings
Jim remembers an incident which happed during his first walk at Manyani (Kenyan coast) which taught him never to pick just anyone to accompany him for walks.
“During my first walk, I had people who had never camped before and when night came we decided to call it a day and set up our tent, little did we know we had camped near a water point. We had passed by a group of Hyenas while we were walking and these same hyenas had followed a troop of breading elephants, hoping for a kill."
"So from around midnight all the animals came to drink water and there was a lot of noise too, the hyenas wanted to eat the baby elephants and I had three girls and two men with me all of whom had never camped before , they started screaming in the tents saying they were finished, I had to wake up take the land rover that was there go and fetch more firewood to ensure the fire we had set up didn’t go off, I was their only source of hope and I kept assuring them that it was okay after all I was outside alone while they were inside the tents” Jim chuckles as he remembers the incident which taught him to pick experienced campers.
#3. Favorite Kenyan meal is Githeri
Jim’s favorite meal is a mixture of maize and beans cooked together and served while hot.
“I say this with a lot of pride because when I was doing my research that is the food I used to eat because it could stay in the stomach for hours (laughs), so I love githeri , I love boiled maize and I love yams.”
#4.Favorite music and destination
Jim says that unwinding is one of the most difficult things he has to do since after walking several kilometers a day his body is always so tired that he can’t sleep.
So he tries instead to do little movements here and there like visiting friends to stretch his tired muscles and talking about something else from elephants.
“I like to listen to country music a lot, I love county music because it helps me relax after long walks but sometimes it is very difficult because i am so tired, so mostly I spend my free time visiting friends and traveling down to Mombasa once in a while to relax a bit”
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#5. When in the wild anything and everything is food
When in the wild you have no choice but to do with what is available after all it is not like you can order a pizza and chips from McDonald's.
“I remember once when we were walking in Tanzania, we ate some plant that we don’t normally eat here in Kenya, from where I sit with my science knowledge I know is a poisonous plant, however Tanzanians were busy eating it, so we went to the market to buy it and all the way I kept saying no you can’t eat this to no avail”
“we had one tour guider from Kibos who was our driver and he told me, Jim don’t worry I would cook this thing for you and nothing will happen to you, so we ate it and that is when I realized it was palatable, of course I cannot dare try it here at home, it was an eye opener though that everything God created is indeed eatable”
#6. After I die I want to come back as an Elephant
Jim does not believe in reincarnation per say because he is a true believer in the word of God and believes that resurrection would happen one day, that however does not stop him from entertaining the thought of reincarnation.
“ if there would be reincarnation and somebody wrote about this the other day, of course, I would love to came back here as an elephant, I also wish I would have the knowledge of running away from people who are bad and would wish to harm me”
#7. Kenya’s most beautiful park but also highly under-appreciated is just stone's throw away from you
Having walked the breath and width of Kenya and also worked with KWS, Jim has seen some of the most beautiful sights Kenya has on offer and he knows without a doubt which one is close to his heart.
“It is Meru National Park, that place is beautiful, but sadly it has not been visited well, I think may be for a couple of reasons like being remote, however it is a very beautiful place because you can also see all the big five compared to all other parks in Kenya, it is only in Tsavo and Meru national park that you can see all the big five” he finalised.
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