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Warning - Elephant Researcher Highjacked

Old Dec 2nd, 2008, 06:54 AM
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Warning - Elephant Researcher Highjacked

For those of you who love elephants and Kenya and might know of the work Cynthia Moss and her group have done to protect the Amboseli elephants, a shocking highjacking event happened on Thanksgiving day to Soila Sayialel, the Amboseli research manager. To those who don't know her, Soila is a very strong woman physically and emotionally. Many KWS rangers have quaked in their boots while dealing with her. She is as brave and street wise while in Nairobi as she is facing a charging elephant. I will recount some of the information from Cynthia Moss' note in the hopes that many of you who appreciate the work that these ladies do will contribute and help Soila recoup her life savings.


Soila had been in Nairobi to have physiotherapy for back problems (the researchers' curse of years of driving Land Rovers in the bush). Last week on Thanksgiving Day she had driven to the Aga Khan Hospital, parked her car, and was heading to the physiotherapy section when she was stopped in the parking lot by a well-dressed woman. This woman started talking to her about an orphanage she was running and at the same time took hold of her hand. Another woman joined them and they both started talking to her about the woman's ability to see bad things. The other woman also touched her. She told Soila something would happen to her and that she saw seven graves, the first for Soila, the next for her mother and then her children and other family members. By now Soila was feeling strange. She followed them to their car and then the events become more complex and involved two more people, one of whom had a gun, and stops at supermarkets. Finally she ended up in the Kenya Commercial Bank where under their direction she withdrew her life savings, 1.1 millions shillings or about $16,000, and turned it over to them. They told her to tell anyone who asked that she had wanted to transfer money from that bank to another one and that when she came out of the bank she was hijacked at gun point. Shortly after they told her to go back into a shop and buy a mirror which she did. When she came out they were gone. She wandered around for quite some time and then returned to the bank where she eventually phoned Purity ATE's office manager, who immediately came and got her.

For the rest of the day Soila was not making sense and was very distraught. She told us she was transferring money but that seemed strange to all of us. Soila knows about bankers cheques and how to do a wire transfer. She also knows how dangerous it is to walk around Nairobi with any money. We simply couldn't believe she would do something like that. The next day she began to remember some of what happened and the following day she remembered much more. It became clear that she had been drugged by these people and in her drugged state she was made to believe that something terrible would happen to her and her family if she did not do what they told her. They were very clever though and made her feel that she wanted to do what they were instructing. Luckily she was compliant and they did not feel it necessary to kill her after getting the money. We are just all very thankful that she came out of it physically unscathed.

Soila has been to the police twice, and to the hospital and bank. She is also trying to reach a journalist with the local press to try to alert others of this gang's activities. Harvey has been in touch with UN Security, the security group for the hospital, and two private security companies. They will be posting alerts. Several people have written to Soila relating similar incidents. A search of the Internet reveals the use of one drug for this kind of robbery. One of the security companies knew of another drug.

In the meantime, Soila has still lost all the money she had been saving for over 20 years through no fault of her own. Katito and Norah have decided to hold a harambee in Amboseli early in the New Year to try to replace some of the money Soila has lost. I know many of you would like to contribute to this harambee. For those in Kenya with shillings bank accounts you can simply send a cheque made out to Soila Sayialel at the following address:

Soila Sayialel
Amboseli Trust for Elephants
P.O. Box 15135
Langata 00509
Nairobi, Kenya

For those of you living outside of Kenya with pounds or dollars accounts you can send cheques to me (I promise I'm not running a Nigerian scam) at:

Cynthia Moss
Amboseli Trust for Elephants
10 State Street
Newburyport, MA 01950

I can then put these cheques in my accounts and give shillings to Soila.

I know also that Soila would love to hear from any of you whether you can give a donation or not.

"There's always something new out of Africa."

All the best, Cynthia

**************************************
Cynthia Moss
Amboseli Trust for Elephants
P.O. Box 15135
Langata 00509
Nairobi, Kenya
Tel: +254 20 891191
Webstite: www.elephanttrust.org
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Old Dec 2nd, 2008, 10:38 AM
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Jan,
There's no mention of this on their website, that I noticed.
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Old Dec 2nd, 2008, 11:06 AM
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Sallysaab:

I realize it hasn't yet been posted. Soila's mother has not yet been told about the event and they don't want her to know about it until Soila can go home and tell her in person. My guess is that after she has been told, it will probably be posted.

I had emails from Soila and Harvey Croze yesterday and Cynthia Moss today.

If this can happen to Soila, who is very street smart, something similar can also happen to travelers. Thus it behooves us all not to speak to strangers on the street or let them touch us while doing so while we travel.

If anyone would like to donate to help Soila out they can contact Cynthia Moss' office here in the US in Newburyport,MA.
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Old Dec 2nd, 2008, 01:01 PM
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I don't doubt that this happened. I sponsor several children and an office worker, Benjamin, through Special Ministries in Nairobi. Benjamin was on a bus, headed into the countryside to see his mother last year. A man sitting next to him started chatting with him, then offered him some cookies. Benjamin was found next to the road, stripped naked and nearly beaten to death. He was in the hospital for quite a while and had amnesia for a few weeks, but eventually remembered what happened. He had just been paid and was taking his Mom some money. The cookies were drugged and his "friend" took him off the bus, beat him and stole the money. I've met Benjamin and he's no pushover, either. When you're drugged, though, you don't stand a chance.
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Old Dec 2nd, 2008, 02:46 PM
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Shaytay:

I was originally one of the doubters that things like this really happened. Knowing Africans can be very superstitious, I thought it was a figment of imagination in many instances.

However, knowing Soila personally, I now know that something similar to this drugging did indeed happen to her. She is such a "straight arrow" that she wouldn't do anything questionable.

Luckily in her case she was not physically injured or killed. Luckily too she has so many people world-wide who care about her and will help to protect her.
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Old Dec 2nd, 2008, 09:14 PM
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Thanks Jan, I wasnt doubting you.
It was a shocking thing to happen.
We'll try and send a little something to them.
I think as the worlds financial problems continue to spiral downwards, unfortunately more innocent people are going to be affected.
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Old Dec 3rd, 2008, 01:10 PM
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Sallysaab:

Sadly I think you are correct that we'll see an increase in this type of behavior.

However, I've always tried to play Devil's advocate when I've heard Africans say, "the reason people poach and participate in the bushmeat trade is due to poverty".

I always try pointing out to them millions of other poverty stricken people who wouldn't dream of carrying out this type of behavior and it tends to get them thinking that it is indeed greed and not just poverty that causes it.

I contacted The Nation yesterday asking them to get in touch with Soila or Cynthia Moss so they could print her story - hopefully preventing this from happening to others. If I see it in print I'll leave you a link.

Thanks to both you and Shaytay for your concern.
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Old Dec 3rd, 2008, 02:08 PM
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What a frightening encounter. Thanks for sharing this, which may serve as prevention.
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