Rancher and conservationist Gilfrid Powys killed by elephant on Suyian Ranch

Gilfrid Powys
Gilfrid Powys (right) and Giles Prettejohn. Photo: Chris Reed / Boran Cattle South Africa Facebook group

Gilfrid Powys, the Laikipia based conservationist and rancher, was killed yesterday on his Suyian Ranch by an elephant.

The news was reported on Twitter by WildlifeDirect CEO Dr Paula Kahumbu who ended her message with the poignant “2017 has taken some of Kenya’s best”.

A number of people replied to Paula’s Tweet, some with memories of Gilfrid.

David Percival recalled a time when, in pre-GPS days, Gilfrid lost his way and so landed his plane on a road to look at a sign to see where he was, while Bell Okello passed on his condolences and added that he remembered the deceased as a “staunch proponent of community conservation efforts, and pioneer founder of the Laikipia Wildlife Forum.”

On Facebook, Chris Reed described Gilfrid as “an amazing man with amazing stories.”

“The world has lost a legend and is a poorer place for it,” he added.

Along with Dian Fossey, Winston Churchill and Blythe Loutit, Elephant Watch Camp owner and television presenter Saba Douglas-Hamilton listed Gilfrid as one of her heroes in a Facebook question and answer session from 2002.

Gilfrid Powys
Gilfrid Powys with his 2016 champion bull. Photo: Facebook/BoranCattleBreedersSociety

As well as being an expert in Boran cattle, a popular Kenyan Zebu beef breed, Gilfrid also chaired the Kisima board for 47 years and was also head of the Kisima enterprise as well as being a keen botanist. On Facebook, Morné de la Rey recalled him spending weeks searching for and discovering new plant species.

Describing Gilfrid as a “pioneer and adventurer”, Morné said Gilfrid knew no boundaries and would walk for days and weeks with his camels in northern Kenya or south Sudan.

“You are in awe when he tells you stories of the old days, when he was a 12 year old boy, rifle in the hand, on horseback, riding to his farm to round the sheep and cattle or hunting lion or buffalo,” he added.

Gilfrid Powys
Gilfrid Powys with the Suyian FC team. Photo: Facebook/Laikipia and Beyond Community Cup

Gilfrid’s father was William Ernest Powys, the tenth of eleven children born to the Reverend Charles Francis Powys and his wife, Mary.

Unlike his author brothers; John Cowper Powys, Theodore Powys and Llewellyn Powys, Will did not take up writing and opted instead to begin farming in Somerset, England.

In 1914, Will’s adventurous spirit prompted him to move to Kenya where he was employed by Galbraith Cole as a farm manager on Kekopey Ranch, bordering Lake Elementaita in the rift valley, approximately 80 km southwest of Laikipia.

William Powys
William Powys

Suyian was leased by the Coles from the then Kenya colonial government to provide alternative grazing for their sheep which suffered terribly from tick borne diseases at Kekopey.

In 1920 Will herded Galbraith’s sheep from Kekopey to Suyian and remained there for five years.

Eventually Will was able to buy his own land on the northwest slopes of Mt. Kenya where he lived happily with his wife, Elizabeth and their three children; Charles, Rose and Gilfrid.

In 1963, Will purchased Suyian Ranch (then known as Il Pinguone).

Soon after, Gilfrid moved to the property to manage livestock.

Will lived until the ripe age of 90, farming, sketching and painting until his very last days. After he died in 1978, Will was buried in Nanyuki next to his beloved wife, Elizabeth, eldest son, Charles who was killed in a gun accident in 1964 and favourite dog, Joey.