I got home on Monday night and my notifications on my phone exploded. Esmond Martin was dead. Murdered in his Nairobi home. For those of us who knew him, the shock spread through the conservation community.
I hadn’t known Esmond for long. We both worked on research into legal and illegal ivory markets, but he’d been doing it for decades longer. He was still doing it in his 70s. He had an energy that belied his age, and a prodigious memory. And a passion for conservation that was admired and respected by those who knew him.
He was also a friendly, nice guy. We had a break at a meeting. He joined me overlooking Ol Pejata reserve in Kenya. And we talked mostly about ivory, as well as other things. He was keen to learn more about the Chinese ivory markets, and I had my own data from there. My colleague and I had gone far deeper into parts of the chain then he ever had. I liked him.
I have no illusions about the danger of his work at times. Criminal activity isn’t easy to collect data on, and annoying criminal organisations is a tricky game to play if you want to survive.
I regret the manner of his death. Most of Monday night was spent awake in the dark, feeling sick, staring at the ceiling. And for those who knew him better and longer, it will be worse. It was a brutal and tragic end.
Kua hinga te Totara i te wao nui a Tane