Leading investigator of ivory, rhino-horn trade killed in Kenya – World
Esmond Bradley Martin, an American conservationist whose dogged investigations of the elephant ivory and rhino horn trades over decades were seen as critical in efforts to protect the threatened species, was found stabbed to death in his Nairobi home, Kenyan authorities said Monday.
International conservationists were shaken by news of the violent death of Bradley Martin, a distinctive figure known for his shock of white hair and a handkerchief tucked into his jacket breast pocket. His offbeat appearance belied the passion and rigour that he channelled into his work in far-flung parts of the world.
He sometimes worked undercover, and at considerable personal risk, while still managing to extract valuable information from traders and dealers.
“He was an inspiration” and a pioneer of research on the illegal wildlife trade, said Julian Rademeyer, author of Killing for Profit, a book about rhino horn trafficking. “He was prepared to go to some of the most remote places on earth to dig up information.”
A family member found Bradley Martin’s body with a stab wound to the neck on a bed in his house on Sunday, said Nicholas Kamwende, head of criminal investigations in the capital, Nairobi.
The motive for the killing of Bradley Martin, who was in his mid 70s, was unclear. There was no immediate suggestion from authorities of a link to his work, which often delved into the illegal activities of traders and traffickers whose exploitation of African ivory and rhino horn for international buyers, many of them in Asia, has fuelled the mass slaughter of the species.
The area in Langata, the Nairobi suburb where Bradley Martin lived, has some security barriers and guards on main roads. However, some properties are large with big gardens that could be accessible to an intruder.
Working on Myanmar research
An Associated Press reporter who visited Bradley Martin at his home in 2015 noted that the conservationist didn’t appear to be slowing down despite his advancing years. Bradley Martin talked animatedly for about an hour, leafing through research papers and reeling off statistics about rhino poaching. He was both precise and excited, seemingly eager to make every minute of discussion count.
Bradley Martin, often working with co-investigator Lucy Vigne, conducted many surveys for the Save the Elephants conservation group that “shone a powerful spotlight on the wildlife markets around the world that are sucking ivory, rhino horn and countless other African species into their maw,” the group said. The work provided “a solid foundation for action to close them down,” it said.
The pair’s most recent report, published in 2017, concluded that Laos has the fastest growing ivory trade in the world. Bradley Martin was working on research on Myanmar when he was killed. The pair also reported on drops in the price of ivory in China, where the ivory trade was banned at the beginning of this year.
Before Vigne, he travelled the world, investigating with Dan Stiles who spoke to CBC’s As It Happens on Monday, remembering how objective Bradley Martin was in his work.
“He went out and gathered that data and said ‘Let other people set the policy. I’m just presenting the facts.’ And he was very serious about that,” Stiles said.
Though they went undercover, Stiles said dealers started recognizing Bradley Martin, though they still gave him information.
“Esmond never named names. You know, he never turned anyone in, let’s put it that way. He just presented the numbers without names attached. These people felt fairly confident that they weren’t going to be immediately arrested after giving him information.”
Stiles stayed close friends with him and even would house sit for him when he went away.
“It’s haunting me right now thinking about you know where it happened and his last moments. I absolutely dread thinking about it because he did not deserve that,” he said. “So whoever did this, they did it out of spite or they did it out of passion or they did it out of anger. I can’t imagine why why someone would do that to Esmond.”
‘He tried to unearth some of these difficult things’
Bradley Martin, whose books include Run Rhino Run, co-written with his wife Chryssee and published in 1982, carried out important research in Yemen in the 1970s that linked rhino poaching to the use of rhino horn in carved dagger handles.
Today, Vietnam and China have the main illegal markets for rhino horn, which is viewed by consumers as a treatment for cancer, hangovers and other ailments. It is made from the same substance as human fingernails.
Martin Mulama, a rhino expert with the WWF conservation group and former Kenyan government official who worked with Bradley Martin, said the American did the legwork to prove rumours about the illegal wildlife trade, thereby encouraging officials to take action.
“He tried to unearth some of these difficult things,” Mulama said. “He would actually come with evidence to show that this is actually happening.”
“A passionate and committed man who made a big difference to our planet. May he rest in peace,” British High Commissioner to Kenya Nic Hailey said in a Twitter post.
Shocked and very sad to hear of the death of Esmond Bradley Martin. A passionate and committed man who made a big difference to our planet. May he rest in peace.