Mourning the Death of Adan Dullo

Mourning the Death of Adan Dullo

FoA is saddened by the passing of our colleague, Adan Dullo. Adan died in a tragic road accident while returning from work in Kenya’s Isiolo region during the evening of 8th March. He was laid to rest in Kariakor Muslim Cemetery in Nairobi, on the afternoon of 9th March.

He was born in 1960 in the town of Kinna, just north of Kenya’s Meru National Park, a region where wildlife poaching has commonly been very intense. Adan always loved nature and wildlife, and chose it as his career when he was a youth. He received a degree in Wildlife Conservation & Management from Egerton College in Kenya and went to work as an Assistant Warden in the Wildlife Conservation and Management Department (forerunner of KWS) in 1985. His first posting was to Nakuru, where he created unconventional solutions to common problems. For examples, when leopards started preying on livestock, WCMD traditionally sent a warden out with a rifle and instructions to shoot the leopard (“problem animal control”). That could be done in a few hours. But when Adan received such assignments, it usually took him a few days. And nights. Because he never shot the leopards. He caught them. And then released them into Nakuru National Park. In 1985, there were no leopards in Nakuru N.P. Today, they are relatively common. Young Mr. Dullo’s first major contribution to wildlife protection.

Adan was promoted in 1990 and posted to Kisumu as a district warden responsible for Ndere Island, and nine months later, when KWS was created to replace WCMD, Adan was transferred to Nairobi to head the Investigation Section of KWS’s Security Department. In 1992, an Intelligence Unit was created in KWS and Adan was appointed as its head. He had a staff of approximately 100 officers working for him. Adan soon was sent to the U.K. to take an intelligence specialist’s course at RAF Wyton. He was again promoted upon return to Kenya, and again a year later, and then once again, attaining the rank of Assistant Director of KWS, which he held until his tragic and untimely death.

In 1995, Adan was assigned to be Kenyan representative to the Interpol Working Group on Wildlife Crime. In 2000, with the creation of the Lusaka Agreement Task Force, KWS seconded Adan to serve as director of LATF, a position he held as his death.

Through his career, Adan caught many criminals who were exploiting and abusing wildlife. He put ivory dealers in jail, along with elephant poachers, rhino horn pedlars, skin traffickers, reptile dealers, bird smugglers and various other scum. Adan broke up criminal syndicates, smuggling operations and other commercializations of contraband wildlife. He put his job and future on the line several times while pursuing very sensitive cases — such as an ivory trafficking operation that was being conducted by the diplomatic staff of an embassy located in Nairobi. Successful arrests and prosecutions usually come after a well planned and carefully conducted investigation—and often this means working quite closely to dangerous persons. Informers are usually persons who are involved in crime themselves.

After many long and hard years of taking serious risks, Adan recently confided to me that the most satisfying aspect of his career to date was that he had never—never—lost an officer on an operation. For more than a decade, Adan’s teams had penetrated criminal syndicates, sometimes conducting long-term undercover work among some of the most violent criminals in East Africa. Yet the operations were so well prepared and planned, and then executed with such professionalism, that there was never an incident during which either Adan’s or one of his officers’ lives were in danger.

Adan’s labors focused mostly at Kenyan wildlife, but—via Interpol and various bi-lateral agreements—he also was involved with efforts to stop wildlife crime in Europe, the Far East and Israel.

Adan Dullo was a fine professional, with absolute devotion to his work—and to the wild animals who were the principal beneficiaries of his work. Adan was competent and modest. He had enormous integrity and strength of character.

Adan Dullo was a Muslim, and followed many Muslim traditions, especially in his private life. Ornate passages from the Koran, referring to compassion and rectitude, decorate walls in the sitting room of his home—a small house owned by KWS and located on the forested edge of Nairobi National Park. Adan never drank alcohol. He once tried alcohol-free beer, but really didn’t like it, set it aside, and asked for mango juice.

He passed his working days protecting wild animals. And he passed his days off taking pleasure in simply watching wild animals and being in their presence. Sometimes, when we worked together, we would take a few hours off and say hello to the grevy zebras and reticulated giraffes up in Shaba, or elephants down in Amboseli. If there was opportunity, we’d pack up his family for a short visit out into nature. I can remember hiking to a mountain top in Tsavo West with Adan’s young children in tow, and gazing at the enchanting vistas from the top. I made a photograph at that time, and the photo is now on my wall, beside my desk.

Adan Dullo devoted his life to protecting wild animals, and he was instilling the same sensitivities in his children. He took them to wild habitats as often as he could, so they could be exposed to the joy and wholesomeness of nature.

Many parents make efforts to leave their children material possessions—real estate, investments and similar enrichments. Adan Dullo left his children a more habitable planet, and a sense of decency. He was also working on providing them a proper education before death intervened. Those who hold Adan’s memory dear might want to help accomplish that goal by contributing to the trust fund being created for the education of his children: Didi (a boy, born 8 June 1991), Khadija (a girl, born 8 January 1995) and Jamila (a girl, born 28 January 2001).

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