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Name: POWYS, John Gilfrid Llewellyn

image of individualimage of individual

Nee: son of William Ernest Powys

Birth Date: 15 Jan 1938

Death Date: 27 Dec 2018 trampled to death by an elephant on his ranch at Laikipia

Profession: Farmer, conservationist

Area: 'Kisima' Timau, Nanyuki, 'Suyian ranch', west Laikipia

Married: 1963 Patricia Holyoak

Children: Anne; Marian

Book Reference: Hut

School: Kenton College

General Information:

Expert in Boran cattle
Founding chairman od Laikipia Wildlife Forum, conservationist, botanist, adventurer.
Daily Telegraph obituary 15 Jan 2018 As well as being an expert in Boran cattle, a popular Kenyan Zebu beef breed, Gilfrid [LEFT] was also a keen conservationist, serving as a founding chairman of the Laikipia Wildlife Forum, a conservation body founded in 1992 which grew rapidly under his inspired leadership and now includes 6,000 members. As head of his family's various enterprises - Kisima Farm at Timau, at Borana and Ngare Ndare (now mainly a tourist destination), and on his own ranch, he combined an astute business sense with altruism, working with local people whom he sought to enrich through the protection of wildlife and environmental sustainability initiatives, and providing schools, health clinics and skills training. A keen botanist, Gilfrid Powys would sometimes spend weeks searching for and discovering new plant species and recognised no borders to this quest. In 1984, he was arrested by the Ethiopian 10 Mengistu regime when he strayed over the border while collecting plants in northern Kenya. He was a lone white man with a camel, two locals, a rifle and a flower press and a bag of posho (maize meal). For several weeks he languished in jail in Addis Ababa. His release was secured after the Royal Botanic Gardens at Kew provided evidence that he collected and plants for them. Powys was in the forefront of efforts by Laikipia's 48 large ranches to re-establish a population of elephants in the region. The animals had disappeared completely from Laikipia in the 1920s, but careful husbandry lured them back; Laikipia now boasts Kenya's largest concentration of big mammals outside the Masai Mara national reserve. Powys often flew his own aeroplane and on one occasion, when asked by his mother to get some sausages on his way to Ngare Ndare, he forgot, so he landed his plane on the main street in Timau and went to the butcher. He had many close shaves, surviving at least one brush with death when he ended up on crutches in his 70s after smashing his hip diving out of the way of a charging buffalo. On another occasion he became involved in a lengthy gun battle involving a party of heavily armed shifta (bandits) on his farm. Luckily, he was entertaining the local police chief to lunch at the time. In recent years Powys had spoken out against local politicians who were inciting armed Samburu herders and their cattle to force their way onto white-owned ranches in Laikipia, damaging property and devastating pasture, killing elephant and buffalo and threatening the future of one of Africa's most important areas of wildlife conservation. In 2016, herdsmen began invading his Suyian ranch, and last year they attacked properties on the farm, burned down a tourist lodge run by his daughter, Anne and pillaged her house and her son's cottage. Farmers and local officials in Laikipia claimed that the attacks were politically motivated, driven by powerful, local political leaders stirring up their kinsmen in order to mount a land grab and drive out other tribes. "It is Pokot-Samburu expansionism," Powys told The Daily Telegraph. "It is political, 100 per cent political, no question." Although ranch owners had always given grazing rights to the herders, there are fears that the farm invasions are an ecological disaster in the making. Powys was killed near a dam which serves as a watering point for wild animals. According to local police, an elephant charged and trampled him to death. In 1963, he married Patricia Holyoak, who survives him with their two daughters.
Dennis Leete in Sitrep LII Gilfrid married Patricia Holyoak, sister of KR4230 Eric Holyoak MM (who was at POW with us), who bore two girls, Anne and Marian. Patricia became a recluse, though still lives on his ranch Suyian, where Gilfrid was killed on 27th December, trying to move a small herd of elephant away from a dam, on which there was to be a fishing competition shortly by his three grandchildren. A cow elephant with a calf, which was behind him unnoticed in the bush, gored him through the chest, killing him instantly. Anne married Ken Brown, but left him shortly after, though bore a son Ciaren now a philosophy graduate at Exeter. Marian married Ken Wreford Smith, son of John [KR3678], who was at Kitale School when I first arrived there in 1940, and also at POW with us. They have daughters studying veterinary medicine in USA. Ken is the grandson of the Eldoret Herbert Wreford-Smith who also came from the Eastern Cape, on the first Afrikaner trek in 1904. He first settled in Turbo, but later joined up with Denys Finch Hatton and for a while ran several trading stores in Trans Nzioa/Uasin Gishu. Later, he became a livestock officer in Karamoja during WWII, buying cattle from the Karamajong for the Uganda Meat Commission, which he supplemented by elephant hunting. He was once attacked by a Karamajong tribesman and badly speared over a cattle dispute at Kitedo, but survived and settled down in Kitale after WWII. Gilfrid did work for the Game Department for a short time after leaving school, but took up ranching, rather than farming, as he preferred the hot country of Rumuruti. At one stage in the early sixties he, together with Mike Prettejohn [KR3975] and an American, owned 1.5 million acres north of the Galana river, bordering Somali country, running 27,000 head of boran cattle, but that became a political hot potato, and it was purchased by the Moi Government, and given to a Somali general in the Kenya Army as a sop to Somali ambitions in the early 1980's. Gilfrid was a noted breeder of Boran cattle, and sold embyos for IVF implants which were exported to South Africa, Australia and Argentina. His love life was complex, as he attracted women like flies There were probably a dozen in his life, including Kuki Gallman, and Crystal, whom I met several times in the past three months; a charming, elegant Austrian/Argentinian, who wished he would retire with her in South America. But he remained loyal to Patricia, and always had lunch with her on a Sunday, whenever he was on the ranch.

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