As a poacher, he killed 50 elephants. Now he's a hero ranger

Fifty rangers from 17 countries across Africa were honoured with the African Ranger Award

10 August 2018 - 12:19 By tanya farber
A solitary bull elephant is seen at the Amboseli National Park in Kenya on June 22 2018.
A solitary bull elephant is seen at the Amboseli National Park in Kenya on June 22 2018.
Image: TONY KARUMBA / AFP

What does a wildlife poacher’s eureka moment look like?

In the case of Kapona Lapale, who had become one of northern Kenya’s most notorious criminals out in the wild, it was the moment when he killed two elephant calves.

They had refused to leave their mothers’ sides while Lapale, known in poaching circles as Nanyuki, was trying to kill the mothers for their tusks.

In that visceral moment, as he snuffed the life out of the two calves, it hit him: in a period of around five years, he had killed up to 50 elephants and several other large mammals like zebra and giraffe.

Something had to give.

As the guilt began to eat at him, he turned his life around with help from elders in the community and dedicated himself to conservation instead.

Nine years later, he walked up to the podium at a hotel in Cape Town this week to claim his African Ranger Award.

The event, at which 50 rangers from 17 countries across the continent were honoured, is set to be the first of 10 held every year.

Read the full story on Times Select.

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