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  OBITUARY  

September 12 - 18 , 2008

 

 Coastweek   Kenya


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DR ZAHOOR-UD-DEEN KASHMIRI

Ironically HE DIED AT THE FEET AND TRUNK OF AN ELEPHANT, As HE HAD SPENT A LOT OF HIS LIFE SAVING WILD ANIMALS THROUGHOUT EAST AFRICA

PART ONE OF A TWO PART TRIBUTE BY AKRAM SHEIKH

Coastweek - - Tuesday 2nd September 2008 will be a dark day in the history of Kenya and particularly Mombasa.

This was the day when the devastating news about the death of my friend, the friend of everyone who new him in Mombasa, in Kenya and the entire world and the wild animals in Kenya, Uganda and Tanzania started coming to us by way of telephone calls, text messages and e-mails.

Dr Zahoor-ud-deen Kashmiri met his death the previous Sunday evening in a remote part of Ethiopia 500 kilometers from Addis Ababa at a place called Hare.

This happened when an elephant he had injected with revival drug, after darting him earlier to put a collar on, got up within seconds and attacked him while he was attempting to film the revival.

Coastweek - -  Dr. Zahoor Kashmiri.

It is ironic that he died at the feet and trunk of an elephant, although he had spent a lot of his life saving elephants and other wild animals throughout East Africa.

His body was flown to Mombasa from Addis Ababa in Ethiopia a charter plane belonging to Aircraft Leasing of Nairobi.

There was some uncertainty about the time of the funeral as the arrival time of his remains in Mombasa could not be ascertained but once it was decided the news spread very quickly and although it took place late on Wednesday night, there was a large number of mourners at the family residence in Tudor and at the Sunni Cemetery.

I have never seen so many people of all castes, religion and ethnicity gathered to grieve a death.

The mosque for the Funeral Prayer was full to capacity and after the burial people stood around talking of this incredible man.

Zahoor or 'Zoro' as he was often called was a special breed of man.

He was always smiling his sense of humor was fantastic and his gravel voice and hoarse laugh added to the humor.

He was always offering his help to whoever needed it and never expected anything in return.

Nothing seemed to be impossible for him.

He always said "ho Jaye ga" in Punjabi meaning "it will be done" and he meant it.

He was such an easygoing person and made friends with who ever he met.

He needed any excuse to have a party and he welcomed anyone and everyone to his Thorn Tree Ranch in Kikambala.

Since 1997 he had been hosting a "Food Festival" every September at his ranch to raise funds for the Cerebral Palsy Foundation in Mombasa of which he was the Chairman.

This year the function is meant to take place in October due to the month of Ramadhan and we hope it does go on and becomes a day when we can all pay tribute to him.

He was also involved in the preparations of the Kenya Special Olympics Team and had accompanied the team in The Para Olympics in Korea in 1988 and the USA Olympics in 1994.

His passion for the wildlife conservation was unmatched.

He talked about it to everyone at every opportunity.

He was very concerned on the number of animals being injured by snares in the game reserves.

He was involved in numerous platforms on wild life.

Born in Kajiado in October 1950, Zahoor completed his high school in Mombasa and then joined the Veterinary School of Nairobi University from where he qualified as a Veterinary Doctor in 1975 and was posted in West Pokot where he spent three years working with the Pokots, Nandis and Maralal looking after their herds and the wild life in that area.

After Government Service he went into private practice in Mombasa and worked on all types of animals from a small domestic animal to a horse.

Among his wild life work was: the immobilization of the Sable Antelope in Shimba Hills, movement of crocodiles from Tana River to the Mamba Village in Mombasa, translocation of the Black Rhinos from Nairobi National Park to Tsavo, immobilization of Elephants in Marsabit and collaring of Elephants in Ethiopia - with his first visit there in February of 2007 and the second fatal one last month.

He was also involved in various rescue efforts of animals in the Game Parks and Sanctuaries and I would often meet him at the airport when he was on the way to one of his rescue missions.

Coastweek - - Mombasa veterinarian Dr. Zahoor Kashmiri safe guarding his three sleeping flight guests - lions Ira, Cleo and Boy - while assisting the African Safari Club to translocate them to their new home at Kimana Game Sanctuary. PHOTO - DIETMAR ROESSLER

At one of the meetings at the airport, I mentioned that I was on the way to Nairobi and was going to see the Chief Executive of the Serena Group Mahmud Janmohamed.

He said he was travelling to Nairobi the following day and if I could arrange that he met with Mahmud Janmohamed to explain to him the injuries being sustained by the wildlife in the Mara and how Serena could help.

He came to the meeting the next day with hundreds of photographs and very enthusiastically explained from the photographs how the animals were being trapped by poachers and how the local community in the Mara could help by reporting any injured animal to Kenya Wildlife Society or to himself.

Mahmud Janmohamed had this to say on hearing the news of his tragic death:

"Dr Kashmiri in my opinion, was a model Kenyan with a genuine love for animals and conservation, and dedicated his life towards the cause.

"The tragic end to his life is a great loss to Kenya."

Last year he chaired the Wild Life Disease Association Africa and Middle East Section in Kasese in Uganda where one of the issues discussed was the dwindling numbers of Lions in Uganda.

He was also involved in looking after "Owen" the young hippo who had drifted to the Indian Ocean in Malindi and then taken to Haller Park in Bamburi.

Last Ramadhan he asked me to come over to his Ranch, as he wanted me to help him catalogue the huge volume of photographs and video clips he had on his wildlife work.

He had just lost a lot of photographs on his laptop, which was stolen, from his car.

We spent three Saturdays identifying a few of the tons of photographs he had which could be used to catalogue his work especially with the elephants.

We did not continue with the work as we both were busy in our own way.

A few days before leaving for Ethiopia he came to see me and we agreed that this Ramadhan we will work on his photographs.

He informed me that he now had found many of the video tapes we could look at and had planned to record his experiences on to a voice recorder while in Ethiopia as he would have a lot of free time.

Sadly we cannot not know if he did manage to do any recording.

A few of his photographs helping elephants in Tsavo and Kimana are reproduced on this page.

While his family and friends will all be affected by the tragic death of Dr. Zahoor Kashmiri, the villagers around his Ranch will miss "Daktari" a lot as the villagers were his extended family and everyone benefited from his generosity.

During Ramadhan he would prepare food packages and have these delivered to all poor Muslims in the area and beyond.

The news of Zoro's tragic death was first posted on the Internet by his friend of many years Paula Kahumbu who now works as the Conservation Director for the Wild Life Direct Conservation in Nairobi and within minutes tributes to the man, loved by everyone started appearing on the website and by last week over a hundred tributes were posted by his many friends and relatives and by people who did not even know him.

Coastweek - - Dr. Zahoor Kashmiri treating a baby elephant.

I have taken the liberty to reproduce a few of them:

From Louise (California)

My deepest condolences to Zahoor Kashmiri's family and friends. I did not even know him, or know of him.

I went to this wild life direct website to find out more about the Army leaving the Congo, and this is where I first read about this man.

What a wonderful person he was; and how sad it is that the world had to loose him.

I am here in California, working an office job and can only dream of living the life he did.

What an honour to spend a lifetime working with animals - and not just any animals, but true wildlife.

Here in America, where so many people place their idols upon materialism and celebrity; it saddens me that the real hero’s (or idols) are not recognized.

I will share his story with my friends, and family so they will also know of Zahoor Kashmiri's life.

This is a person that should never be forgotten.

What a loss for not only his family, but for all the animals too.

A piece of me has changed today, after reading this and learning of his life.

I will remember his face, and his story for as long as I live.

From Zeeshan A, London

I am deeply saddened to hear of the untimely death of 'Zorro'.

I met him in 2005 when on holiday with family and friends. Unquestionably a great human being.

I was in awe of his humble character and profound love for the animals he cared for in addition to his great charitable endeavors.

The World, and Africa in particular is much poorer place without him.

My sincerest condolences to his family and many friends.

He was a larger than life type of person.

Rest In Peace dear 'Zorro'.

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Coastweek - - Mombasa veterinarian Dr. Zahoor
Kashmiri with a mother cheetah and her cub.

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PART TWO OF A TWO PART TRIBUTE BY AKRAM SHEIKH

Coastweek - - From Craig Hatkoff: I am so distraught over the untimely death of Dr. Kashmiri who I feel like I had come to know so well through our journey with Owen and Mzee.

Even though I only met him once in Mombasa he felt like a new old friend who will remain with me forever.

Please extend our condolences to everyone.

Sadly, Craig

From Wamon: I feel only part of the huge loss you are experiencing now. And its a very heavy feeling.

I can't imagine how you and all those who knew him better, must be feeling now, but I wish you all the strength to carry on.

Kashmiri had such a wonderful air about him.

He had the ability of creating an atmosphere of trust and safety where ever he was, and what ever the situation.

Coastweek - - Dr. Zahoor Kashmiri with a young giraffe in Tsavo Park.

It was not only in his gentle gruff voice, but also in his manner and deeds, his fairness and respect to everyone and everything, which made him such an extraordinary person.

Yes Kenya's people and wildlife have lost a most valuable person ... it's still very hard to believe.

But it comforts me to think that now he is together with those whom he tried to save, who passed away before him.

His spirit will live on...it will glow in the wildlife, parks, safaris and conservation forever ...thanks to him.

From Noreen (Niece in London): It is with an aching pain in my heart and tears in my eyes that I'm reading everyone's messages and kind thoughts.

You all knew Dr. Kashmiri as a dear friend and colleague - to me he was my dearest uncle.

We, his family, are in shock and disbelief at this wonderful man's untimely death.

We have been left devastated but we take little consolation in the fact he died doing what he loved and lived for.

Although this unique human being will be buried shortly, his spirit will forever wonder amongst the Kenyan wildlife and trees.

Mamu, I dont know if I told you often enough how much you meant to me and how much I loved you.

Miss you forever, Nonny.

From Will Travers - Born Free Foundation, London:

Dr. Kashmiri was a true friend to wild animals and a real gentleman.

Anyone who had the good fortune to know Kashmiri either professionally or personally cannot fail to have been touched by his compassion, his humanity and his humor.

His loss will be felt far and wide. Personally and on behalf of the Born Free Foundation I send my most sincere and heartfelt condolences to his family at this tragic time.

From Khurshid Qureshi: Zahoor was a truly remarkable man.

Every time I met him was like time spent with a brother.

His kind-heartedness and generosity touched us all.

Allah has taken away a much loved and admired man.

May he rest in Jannah. Ameen.

He has left a void in all our lives that we will not be able to fill, suffice that Allah gives his family and friends subur [patience] to overcome this loss.

Kenya has lost a truly great conservationist.

From Amanda: We only met Dr Kashmiri once, but will never forget him.

News of his tragic death is a huge shock. Our thoughts and prayers go out to his family and friends.

From Lakew Berhanu - Ethiopia: We all at the Ethiopian wildlife Conservation Authority [EWCA] were very shocked with the tragic death of Dr Zahoor Kashmiri, who is our great supporter of our conservation effort here in Ethiopia, particularly in Babille Elephant Sanctuary.

As EWCA, we have lost [similar to our brothers and sisters in Kenya did !] a great conservationist and supporter who is particularly specialized on elephants.

Coastweek - -Dr. Zahoor Kashmiri with a lion cub in after life-saving surgery.

The deep pain that is felt at the death of Dr Zahoor soul arises from the feeling that is inexpressible.

We all at EWCA embrace his pain and sorrow together with his beloved families and friends across the globe.

May god rest his soul in peace.

He will be remembered for ever for his good works here in Ethiopia.

From Suha, Shaheen and Bastian: 'Innalahi wa innalelahi rajihuun.'

We have no words to describe the loss of a true hero.

To a man who hurt no one, disappointed no one and always had time to listen and lend a helping hand to whoever came his way, human or animal.

He will always be remembered in our memories and kept close to our hearts.

May Allah grant him Jannah and rest his soul in peace. Ameen.

From Peter: To me ... to so many people who worked with him, knew him, and loved him, Kashmiri seemed bulletproof.

His barrel-chest, his dry-gravel voice and his walrus moustache commanded respect.

He always seemed in control, but never with aggression and always with humility.

He always seemed to know exactly what was going on and exactly what to do, whether it was handling an angry wounded buffalo, or tracking a giraffe with a spear in its backside.

So to lose Kashmiri like this seems unjust, unfair and cruel.

But the comments here show that his passion, his commitment to wildlife and his legacy will live on in the way he influenced everyone who knew him.

It is small consolation for those of us who'll miss him dearly, but through that alone, Kashmiri will get at least some of the immortality he deserves.

Rest in Peace, 'Zorro'.

On the website with so many tributes for 'Zoro', there are suggestions that a Trust be set-up in his name for Conservation work and I hope this does materialize.

There is already a pledge from one of his admirers which is copied below with others with such suggestions

From Jim from Mass, U.S.A.: I agree with several of the previous comments ... I think a veterinary scholarships should be set up in Dr. Kashmiri's name and offered to poor and under privileged students who have great passion for animals, but who might not otherwise be able to attend university ... May I also extend my condolences to his friends and family ... surely, he is measured by all the lives he has touched in such wonderful ways.

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Coastweek - - Mombasa veterinarian Dr. Zahoor
Kashmiri treating a wounded buffalo.

From Diana: What a great idea Jim from Mass USA.

I'll pledge to that and start the ball rolling with U.S. $ 500 a year for five years to help any such student in his name if someone is in a position to orchestrate such a scholarship.

I think he would have liked that.

The world is a poorer place without him and I can't think of a more fitting memorial to reflect all his good works.

May he be at peace now and God bless.

From Dr. Bilal Butt: I knew Zahoor in the Mara when we helped an injured Cheetah.

Within 12 hours of us discovering the injured Cheetah, he flew to the Mara from Mombasa and did all he could to save the cheetah.

His dedication was unmatched, his passion unbridled and most of all, he was an amazing human being dedicated to the conservation of Africa's animals.

Although we are still mourning his passing, may I suggest that a memorial fund be set up in his name to help finance other dedicated wildlife vets.

From Katherine Herzog: What a tremendous loss for the wildlife conservation community and an even greater loss to the animals.

I concur with Dr. Butt's suggestion above that a memorial fund should be set up to encourage and nurture future dedicated wildlife vets.

From Paula Kahumbu: I am at the airport in Mombasa going through the amazing comments you have all left here.

My eyes are filling up with tears again. His funeral was one of the most serene I've ever been to.

I thought I knew Kashmiri well, but I met so many people who were close to him, his social circles were vast, and unrelated, Rotarians, wildlife, tourism, cerebral palsy, his family, business, Muslim community, Indian community ... people had flown in from U.K., Nairobi and other places.

His presence could be felt though all of those who loved him as they gathered to pay their last respects.

I discovered how hard, no impossible, it is to console those closest to him.

Yes we will set up a memorial fund to keep his work and his spirit alive.

I will contact you all to let you know when this is up.

Thank you all, I feel like he is smiling down on us left behind, realizing just how much he touched and inspired all of us.

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Fond Memories Of The Late
Dr. Zahoor Kashmiri

He carried out the first rhino eye surgery in Kenya

Coastweek -- It has been three years since Dr. Zahoor Kashmiri was tragically taken away from us on September 1st 2008 .

He was a Mombasa based veterinarian and one of Kenya ’s unsung environmental heroes, born in Eastleigh , Nairobi in 1951.

He graduated from the University of Nairobi in Veterinary Medicine in 1975.

He seemed so inviolable being full of life either deeply asleep or highly awake, running around always busy.

Dr. Kashmiri gave up 20 years of private veterinary practice, during which his patients were almost exclusively domestic dogs and cats, to concentrate on treating wild animals with human-induced injuries and diseases.

Coastweek --Dr. Zahoor Kashmiri was both an active Rotarian and was the chairman of the Cerebral Palsy Foundation in Mombasa .

He was called many times to the bush, to remove a snare from a lioness, to rescue a giraffe from a trap, a hippo, the eye of a rhino, a baby zebra from an airstrip, to relieve a buffalo from his puss-filled leg, an elephant from a spear or to dart animals for GPS collar fittings and translocation.

He used to say “nothing beats the satisfaction of nurturing a sick animal to health”.

Zahoor had successfully treated more than 5,000 animals. He carried out the first rhino eye surgery in Kenya .

Because of his extensive service to the Kenyan wildlife he had been made an honorary warden with Kenya Wildlife Service.

He was routinely on assignments in National parks and game reserves.

An active Rotarian and was the chairman of the Cerebral Palsy Foundation in Mombasa where he spent a lot of time and energy raising funds for children affected by such debilitating disease by hosting International Food Festival.

The festival is still being hosted annually at his ranch and this year it is going to be held on 25th September.

He was affectionately called ‘Daktari’ by the children living along his ranch.

He was at a crossroad leaving airline and security business behind and fully dedicating his life to wildlife service.

He was about to write a book wanting to share the broad experience he gained over the years during his excursions in the bush.

“Elephants are strong, sensitive, intelligent beings with an amazing social order” is what he wrote before he left for Ethiopia .

“I want to show everyone the bush with my eyes and soul” he used to passionately say.

Blessed are those who risk their lives for a good cause. Zahoor Kashmiri risked everything for the care and safety of wild animals. The respect he carries follows him even after his death.

To me he was strong, sensitive, intelligent and compassionate, both as a brother and an individual; I could not describe him any better.

He is dearly missed by his family, relatives and friends and is still remembered by all those who came into contact with him.

To me he had a heart full of concern, intelligence of a genius, strength of a lion and looks of a hero.

All in all, he was a rare gem.

“Mopi” our hearts still cry with the pain of loosing you, through doing what you always enjoyed. The consolation is that you are in a better place In shaa Allah.

May Allah grant him Jannah. Ameen

Arfa Din, sister, Mombasa

 

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