Musa Mohammed Lyimo, a dark, stocky, energetic man who’d served as
Intrigued by an article I’d read on the incident, and knowing I’d be in East Africa for work (consulting for USAID), I’d tracked Lyimo down in Nairobi at the Lusaka Agreement Task Force, a regional organization to combat wildlife poaching in southern and east Africa, to learn more. Sitting in his spare government office, Lyimo told me how his subsequent investigation revealed the elephants had been killed by a lethal combination of readily available agricultural pesticides and herbicides that poachers had injected into pumpkins and scattered around the drinking places as bait. It was better than their previous method of dumping the poison into the watering holes, he told me with a gleam in his eye. That killed everything – including some poachers.
Lyimo handed me two heavy tusks. One had rough cuts, where it had been hacked out of an elephant’s skull, while the other was smooth and neat. Poison, the African explained, lets the ivory slip out easily a few days after the animal dies.
As we spoke, his phone rang and I listened to the one-sided conversation. When he hung up, he told me the call was a report of dead hippos, poisoned for their ivory teeth in a manner very similar to the elephants. I knew it was impossible to patrol such a remote and vast area, and that wildlife forensics could transcend time and space to link the poachers and ivory traffickers to their crime. Seeing this seemingly never-ending round of poaching for profit, I wanted to help break that cycle. I could do that by telling their stories. Animal Investigators is the result.