Mr. Ali Hassan is from the Malakote community (non-Somali), restricted to the banks of Tana river in eastern Kenya. Unlike the Pastoral Somalis, the Malakote are hunters-gatherers group and more recently practice subsistence farming. Mr. Ali is a retired teacher and prior to joining our project, he worked as volunteer conservationist and as an informant with the Kenya wildlife service (KWS). His story is unusual not because he is the only non-Somali member of our field team but hails from a bushmeat dependent clan. Surprisingly and without the mentorship of any individual, Ali innately became a passionate conservationist fighting many battles with poachers some of which are near death experiences across the hirola’s geographic range.
While his achievements are numerous, we will highlight a few outstanding cases. Ali reports that while he was young he never really saw any problem with wildlife poaching because to him, it was through poaching that his dad was able to take care of his large family. Surprisingly and with his own will, he decided to take a different course with his family. Consequently, he had to flee home and his community area to join and work with Somalis on the eastern banks of the Tana river. Apart from his dad, his brothers too were also known to be problematic wildlife poachers. Ali was really disturbed by this behavior, not to mention that it was being conducted by his brothers and people he knew. Motivated by his passion for conservation, he started convincing his brothers to shun the trade and involve themselves in rather legitimate actions.
More recently and while on training with our rangers, Ali confiscated lesser kudu and giraffe meat sold in the food kiosks in Bura town. In August 2016, he arrested his elder brother with bushmeat (lesser Kudu). Before handing over his own brother to the police, Ali in collaboration with other scouts publicly displayed him in Bura town. Following the arrest, Ali requested permission from HCP to attended court proceedings of his brother while testifying against him. Beside this highlighted scenarios, Ali has on numerous occasions put his life on the line and declared war with poachers in this part of Kenya.
For example, at one point while pursuing poachers, he was badly wounded as poachers shot at him forcing him to be hospitalized due to the bullet wounds. Over the course of his conservation career, Ali has confiscated over 20 snares, 8 bows and arrows and apprehended four poachers, some of whom have been taken to court and prosecuted. Ali has also been involved in convincing former bushmeat hunters to take up alternative livelihoods. Despite going against the grain, Ali Hassan is highly respected by both communities for his compassionate conservation efforts. Currently, Ali is the lead scout in the newly established Bura East conservancy that is supported through the Rainforest Trust. In November 2016 and in recognition of his dedicated effort, Ali Hassan was named the winner of the Houston Zoo 2016 Wildlife Warrior Award.