Author Archives: Paula

Man Eating Lions

It has been over a month since I last posted – apologies for that – things have been very busy and after a difficult start to the year with all the politics and unrest in the country, it looks like life is gradually going back to some semblance of normality for most.

Since I last posted we have had a series of incidents in different conservancies – one being a man-eating lion in Melako Conservancy which attacked and killed one person and injured two others over a three week period in February.

This was the post I wrote about it a few weeks back – unfortunately I haven’t been able to load it due to the difficulties with the wildlife direct website

25th February

James a. – thanks so much for your donation last month!

Last week I was up in Melako Conservancy which is our northern-most conservancy situated in Marsabit district. The conservancy is owned by the Rendille community that inhabit this area, comprising Merille, Laisamis and Koya. It’s an arid landscape of thorny Acacia and Commiphora bushland interspersed with open grasslands and vast-wide luggas (dry river beds). A harsh and spectacular area where the communities live with their herds of cattle, goats and camels alongside wildlife. This area is important for endangered Grevy’s Zebra – we estimate about 150-200 Grevy’s in the area – and is renown for the enormous flocks of sandgrouse that come to water in their thousands every morning in the dry season.

sandgrouse-laisamis.jpg

melako-views-looking-towards-kotira-hill.jpg

Melako Views looking towards koitra-hill.

What is also becoming apparent, as we gather information from the community and through the daily wildlife monitoring being carried out by conservancy scouts, is that this area has a healthy population of cheetah and lion, as well as spotted hyena. Previously, almost nothing was known of the status and distribution of these large predators in this part of Kenya and gradually, through the work of the conservancy scouts, we are gathering data on distribution and relative abundance of these species. At the recent workshop to develop the conservation strategy for lion and spotted hyena held by KWS, we were able to contribute data and information for these species for a large part of northern Kenya where there is currently no research being done. So gradually, there is recognition for the work of these conservancies and the role they can play in providing data and information at a national level.

While I was in Melako, I followed up reports of lion conflict in the area. In the past month one person has been killed (and eaten!) and two people injured in the Merille area. The lions in this area have always been notorious, however, usually they only kill livestock. The community report that it is one particular lion that is causing the problems and that it has chunks of hair missing – either very old or possible sick with mange – and it has begun to stalk people during the day. Naturally they are very concerned and afraid but amazingly the community have not retaliated – yet. From the scouts data we know there are about four other lions living in this area and it is vital that something is done before the community take matters into their own hands and decide to kill all the lions in the area. Although KWS have tried on two occasions to track this lion they have been unsuccessful and it is still at large. Yesterday, NRT sent a vehicle to the area and together with Melako Conservancy scouts and KWS the plan is to track and shoot the man-eating lion. Of course it is vital that they shoot the right lion if they are to solve the problem, so Lewa Wildlife Conservancy have sent their lion research assistant and tracker to help in this operation. It’s strange to be involved in a ‘lion hunt’ but it is so important that the conservancy and KWS are seen to be doing something and hopefully to successfully eliminate this problem animal, in order to maintain community support for conservation. It’s naieve to expect communities to peacefully live alongside these animals when people are being killed and injured. Interestingly effective, targeted problem animal control was identified in the conservation strategy meeting as one of the ways of reducing human-lion conflict.

merille-lugga-area-of-most-of-the-lion-attacks.jpg

So…….I am sitting by the radio and phone hoping to hear some news from the scouts…as soon as I do I will put it on the post.

2nd March

The guys came back from their week looking for the lion, full of stories of tracking lions and following up on livestock kills by lions. They were unable to find the problem lion but from their information it appears that there are many more lion in the area than we thought previously. Some Melako scouts have been selected to spend two weeks learning about lion behaviour, ecology, tracking, ageing and sexing lions. They will then begin collecting more detailed information on lions in this area so that we can begin to understand the numbers of individuals and prides that are resident as well as how conflict with people occurs – whether lions break into bomas at night or kill livestock during the day. With this information we can hopefully look at effective ways of reducing lion conflict in this area.

13th March

Two More Hirola Poached

hirolajan08-4.jpg

This week a security team from the Lewa Wildlife Conservancy went to Ishaqbini Conservancy in the north-east of Kenya – to carry out anti-poaching training with the conservancy scouts. In the five days since they have been there they have found two more Hirola killed by poachers – one died from arrow wounds and the other was seriously injured with it’s stomach exposed from a wound and is most probably dead. This brings to four the number of Hirola that have been found poached in this area since the start of this year – which in an estimated population of less than 100 is an alarmingly high proportion. They also found a buffalo caught in a snare, still alive, and set an ambush at the site in the hope of catching the poachers when they returned for the meat. They succeeded in apprehending one poacher, the others managed to escape, however when word got out that the poacher had been arrested the community descended on mass armed with bows and arrows, spears and machetes. Faced with an angry mob of over one hundred armed people, the scouts were forced to release the poacher. Yesterday the security teams again intercepted two poachers who this time were arrested and will appear in court tomorrow.

The level of poaching in this area is alarming – Hirola number less than 400 in the world and at the moment we know we are loosing this animal at a rate of almost two a month to poachers. It doesn’t take much to do the maths and work out that at this rate the species is likely to become extinct in just a few years, unless the poaching is brought under control. The Ishaqbini scouts do not have the experience, training or firearms needed to address such a high poaching threat and we desperately need a KWS anti-poaching presence in the area to bring it under control.

The difficulty facing this conservancy is that the poachers are from a different community and tribe than those who own the conservancy. The potential for this situation to create tension between these two neighbouring communities is a real concern and something that we must help address soon. The situation could undermine the future of the conservancy and create conflict between two communities who have been living peacefully as neighbours. The next few days and weeks are critical – both to bring the current poaching threat under control and develop dialogue with the community where the poaching originates.

hirolaostrich.jpg

Please excuse the very long post – lots to tell and too little time!
Juliet

Poaching threatens endangered Hirola

I have just got back from a visit to Ishaqbini Community Wildlife Conservancy in north-eastern Kenya. I mentioned this conservancy in my last blog a few weeks ago – a last stronghold for Kenya’s most endanagered antelope, the Hirola. The conservancy is still in it’s infancy and community scouts have only been operating for 6 months, although the community, KWS and other researchers have been supporting Hirola conservation in this area for many years. It is only now, however, since the scouts have been regularly patrolling the area that the threat of game-meat poaching to Hirola and other species in the area is becoming clear. Two hirola were found poached at the beginning of January and since then scouts have intercepted game-meat poachers inside the conservancy as well as confiscated spears and machetes.

HirolaJan08 4.jpg

Group of Hirola in the Ishaqbini conservancy

While we were there we came across a group of Hirola that suddenly started running towards our vehicle, apparently being chased by something. We got out of the vehicle and moved to the area where the Hirola had come from; we found fresh footprints of two people. Unfortunately darkness was falling and armed only with a camera, binoculars and one unarmed scout we didn’t feel we could continue to follow-up the tracks. However next morning we went back to the site and followed the tracks back to a place where the poachers had crossed the mighty Tana River. We also found tracks of people who appeared to be dragging a carcass, the tail and hind legs making distinct tracks in the sand which appeared to be about 2 days old. While we didn’t actually see or apprehend any poachers, there were plenty of signs to suggest that game-meat poaching is a real threat to this species and other wildlife in the area.

Jiljil area.jpg

NRT & Ishaqbini scouts recce area to the east of the conservancy

Ishaqbini scouts are currently not armed and have no field equipment to enable them to effectively carry out mobile patrols – however we were able to leave them with some of our tents and will be buying equipment to enable them to have permanent patrol presence inside the conservancy and along the Tana river. Lewa Wildlife Conservancy will also be sending skilled anti-poaching personnel and a vehicle to assist in creating a strong presence in this area which we hope to be a deterrent to poachers. However, the scouts effectiveness is hampered by the fact that they are unarmed. The conservancy have decided to employ local Kenya Police Reservists to accompany the scouts on patrols over the next 6 months, while we await the outcome of an application for firearms for the conservancy scouts.

scout training.jpg

Training scouts on wildlife monitoring

On this last trip we were also able to install a base-radio and mast for the conservancy – they now have a range of about 40km which is fantastic, scouts are now able to communicate to each other while on patrol. We also carried out some basic GPS training and lef the scouts with 2 GPSs – the scouts are now monitoring wildlife in a systematic way, all of which will help to monitor the impact of conservation activities in the long-term.

radio mast.jpgradio room.jpg

Installing the radio-mast and new radio-room at the conservancy office

While Ishaqbini and this part of north-eastern Kenya is currently safe from the insecurity that is ravaging much of our country, the plight of the Hirola remains an urgent one – through supporting the Ishaqbini community wildlife conservancy we hope we can at least secure a future for this and other wildlife in this area.

Hirola&Ostrich.jpg

Conserving Kenya’s most endangered antelope – the Hirola

I want to introduce you to one of the newest conservancies under the umbrella of the Northern Rangelands Trust. It is called Ishaqbini Community Conservancy and is in Ijara District of North-eastern Kenya (south-east of the Giraffe Sanctuary at Garissa which is featured as another Wildlifedirect blog). The conservancy is owned by the local Somali community and was established primarily to conserve the Hirola antelope (Beatragus hunteri) Kenya’s most endangered antelope with an estimated 400 – 600 individuals remaining in the wild. The area covered by Ishaqbini is an important area for this species with an estimated population of about 100 Hirola. Ishaqbini is also an important area for African Wild Dog and has resident populations of reticulated giraffe, lesser kudu, gerenuk, lion, leopard and desert warthog (a species about which very little is known) amongst others.

Hirola2.jpg

Hirola antelope and photo of Hirola that was killed by a leopard – August 2007

Hirola email.JPG

Since NRT became involved the conservancy has employed 14 community scouts who are carrying out patrolling and wildlife monitoring in the conservancy, they underwent a three-week training course conducted by Lewa Wildlife Conservancy in August last year and their pass-out parade was well attended by district officials and Kenya Wildlife Service. The conservancy also has a manager and accountant who oversee the day to day activities and liaise closely with KWS, the county council and the Board of Trustees – members who have been elected by their community.

scout inspection.jpg

Inspection of Ishaqbini Scouts by the District Commissioner and KWS Warden during their pass-out parade

Ishaqbini is a beautiful area located on the Eastern banks of the Tana River opposite the Tana River Primate Reserve – the remoteness of the region and the tolerance of local people towards wildlife is evident in the fact that it is common to see Giraffe, Zebra and Warthog roaming around between the Somali homesteads. The Lesser Kudu we came across were possibly the ‘tamest’ I have ever seen and merely ambled across the road and stared at us when our vehicle approached. Other unique species found here are the Tana River Mangabey and Tana River Red Colobus which inhabit the riverine forest. It is very exciting for us to be working in this area with these communities, to see if the NRT model for community conservation will work in a completely different setting.
Ishaqbini 020.jpg

Lesser Kudu – Ishaqbini

Ishaqbini 021.jpg

Desert Warthog – Ishaqbini

Last week we got a report from the Manager that 2 Hirola had been poached inside the Conservancy. The head and hooves were all that remained of the carcass as well as carefully positioned branches upon which the meat was laid as it was cut off the carcass. This was devastating news for the scouts who are so dedicated and proud of the work they are doing. They suspect the poachers came into the conservancy in the late evening to poach, once they knew the scouts had all returned home. This incident highlights the need to establish a headquarters and permanent patrol presence inside the conservancy, however, currently we do not have the funds to do this. In the interim we are trying to raise money for tents and sleeping bags which would enable the scouts to carry out mobile patrols inside the conservancy. Any support you can give us towards purchasing this equipment would be much appreciated.

We are heading back to Ishaqbini at the end of this month to continue with wildlife monitoring training with the scouts and review patrolling and security activities. We are working closely with KWS and we see Ishaqbini as a model for community involvement in the conservation of Kenya’s rarest antelope.

scout training2.jpg

Ishaqbini scouts during the wildlife monitoring training

20 community scouts complete their training

Firstly, appologies for the lack of blogs over the last few weeks – the turmoil in Kenya has been at the forefront of all our minds and it has been difficult to think of much else! Let’s hope things are heading back on track and life can get back to relative normality soon……

I wanted to share some photos of the community scouts who completed their 3-week training course at the Lewa Wildlife Conservancy just before Christmas. These were 12 scouts from Lekurruki conservancy in Laikipia District and 8 from NRT’s newest conservancy – Biliqo-Bulesa in Isiolo District which is owned by the Boran community. The training carried out by Lewa is an introduction to wildlife and security patrolling and provides scouts with a basis for starting their work in the conservancies. Scouts take a great deal of pride in their ‘pass-out parade’ which is usually held before dignitaries.

Scouts Pass-out Parade 4.JPG

Scouts Pass-out Parade.JPG

Congratulations to all the scouts who completed this training.

Happy Christmas – election day in Kenya!

A little late I know – but Happy Christmas to you all!

DSC_0051_2.jpg

This blog has been going just over a month – not long – but already it is quite addictive and I am always thinking of what would be exciting enought to include as the next blog entry………..none of the NRT staff are in the field at the moment as today is election day!

Campaigning has been energetic in the north and not too much violence reported – let’s hope it stays this way over the next few days and the people and politicians accept the outcome of the elections. Several of our Board members are MPs who are fighting to retain their seats this election, competition is stiff in most constituencies. We have even had some ex Conservancy Managers running in these elections so awareness of politics and interest in the outcome of these elections is high in all the conservancies – and among Kenyans in general.

An interesting article came out in the New York Times Magazine last weekend about the mix of politics and religion in northern Kenya and specifically Laisamis constituency where one of our conservancies – Melako – is situated. Will be interesting to see the outcome of the elections in this area. Politics is intertwined in the work that NRT and the conservancies are doing – local and regional political support are necessary particularly in the early stages of conservancy development.

This is an intro to the article I was refering to – sorry I don’t know how to create a link I hope you can work out how to get to read the full article!

MAGAZINE | December 23, 2007
The African Front
By JOSHUA HAMMER

Kenya ‘s remote north has become a battleground for rising Islamism and its pro-American opponents. Have aggressive post-9/11 policies fomented the very sectarianism they were meant to fight?

Peace and security emerging out of conservation

I thought this short article would be of interest as it highlights how much the conservancies in northern Kenya are doing not only for wildlife but also for the people who inhabit this region and share their land with the wildlife.

The Sera region of north-eastern Samburu District is an area with a history of insecurity and ethnic conflict. In this arid landscape, pastoralist tribes have traditionally fought for access to meager resources for their livestock – water and grass are the lifeblood for the Samburu, Rendille and Boran people who inhabit the area and are solely dependent on livestock for all their livelihood needs. The area is scattered with abandoned settlements like Koya, Kom and Kauro; fierce battles and constant raiding by neighboring tribes, as recently as 2005, caused their inhabitants to retreat to safe areas closer to towns. Until recently, heavily armed herdsmen and warriors were the only people who dared venture into these areas accompanying their livestock during the dry season.

Sera View.JPG

Views of Sera

Since 2004, with USAID support, the Northern Rangelands Trust has been working in this region to establish the Sera Wildlife Conservancy, a community conservation initiative owned by Samburu people. Early on it was understood that the success of Sera would be dependent on good relations with the neighboring Rendille and Boran communities. In 2006, NRT facilitated the formation of a joint grazing committee including elders from all three tribes elected by their respective communities. This committee has become a vehicle for peace and security, particularly between the Rendille and Boran. The committee has managed to bring together warriors from the three communities to discuss peace initiatives in the Sera region; this is the first time such a meeting has taken place. This year there have been four unprecedented cases where stolen or lost livestock have been returned peacefully as a result of dialogue and intervention by the grazing committee elders. Elders are working together to create a system to compensate for livestock not recovered and avoid retaliation by their respective communities. There is evident joint grazing by these communities who use the same watering points with little or no friction. Genuine cooperation is emerging from the work of the Sera Wildlife Conservancy, the Rendille-owned Melako Conservancy and newly formed Biliqo-Bulesa Conservancy owned by the Boran. Plans are afoot to create joint security patrols between all three communities based from Kom and the Melako Conservancy Headquarters will be built at Koya. The committee is reaching as far north as the Korr and Kargi Rendille communities with the aim of also developing a way of peacefully resolving disputes between these once warring tribes.

Boran elder addressing meeting.JPG

Boran elder addressing a security meeting

Through collaboration and a genuine desire for peace and stability, economic development of the region will become possible. The development of tourism in this region, which is the major income earner in most conservancies, is dependent on security returning which has now been achieved in Sera through the work of the conservancy.

Donations… and conservancies address insecurity in the north

I am reposting this as I have just figured out how to make the photos larger!

Thanks so much for our first donations from Kathleen l, Nicole K and Mary H – it is very much appreciated, thank you all.

Been an interesting few weeks in NRT as usual – mainly revolving around security issues in the north. With the lack of government capacity to deal with insecurity thoughout most of the areas we are working in, it is left to the conservancy security scouts to follow up on incidents of road bandity and livestock theft – let alone any poaching that may occur. Over the last two weeks, conservancy scouts from Namunyak, Sera, Kalama and West Gate conservancies were involved in following up several trucks that were held up on the main ‘highway’ between Kenya and Ethiopia. This meant days out in the bush tracking the bandits with no shelter and food supplies running low. A teenage boy who was returning home from school aboard one of these trucks disappeared into the bush when the bandits attacked – disorientated and no doubt very scared he walked further and further away from the road into the wilderness. The scouts and community members who joined in the search finally found him after 6 days – it had been difficult to track him because of all the rain in the area, but thankfully the rain meant there was also plenty of water around for him to drink and he was found near a water hole (with elephants all around!). The dedication of these conservancy scouts continues to amaze me, if it weren’t for them, this boy would certainly have died.

Feb07 008.jpgUSAID cert presentation7.JPG

Trucks transporting livestock and other goods are the only means of public transport in the north – passengers ride on top of truck; Sera Wildlife Conservancy scouts

In another incident last week Kalama scouts successfully returned over 50 cattle that had been stolen – although it involved a shoot out with the bandits, luckily no one was killed or injured.

Following the recent spate of security incidents, the Samburu and Rendille communities living in this area held several meetings over the last few days together with the conservancies NRT, Lewa and government officials. As part of the way to address the insecurity the communities have come up with a home-grown solution … elders are undertaking a ‘road-cursing ceremony’ over the next few days. I will bring you more on this once I have details……..

Namunyak Nov06 007.jpgIMG_0545.jpg

Armed conservancy scout & dommunity members at a security meeting earlier this year

Poisoning of lions and mass die-off of raptors

A couple of months ago Ian Craig, our Executive Director, witnessed the devastating effects of insecticide posioning of lions just to the north of the Lewa Wildlife Conservancy. A camel that had been killed by lions was subsequently poisoned with Furadan (a lethal pesticide) by local communities with the aim of killing predators that came to feast on the carcass. The result of the poisoning was the death of two lions as well as fifteen vultures collected in the immediate vicinity of the carcass. This kind of mass die-off of raptors as a result of poisoning has been witnessed in several parts of Kenya before, and conservationsits are concerned that this is having devastating effects on raptor populations, as well as carnivores, throughout the country. Dead Vultures LMD.JPG

The use of poisons is becoming more widespread in pastoralist areas as a means of dealing with wildlife conflict – targeting carnivores – as these agro-chemicals become more widely available. In response to this incident NRT contacted the Peregrine Foundation and Kenya Wildlife Service. A student will begin his project to gather more information on the impact of poisons, such as Furadan, on carnivore and raptor populations in the Samburu/laikipia ecosystem. With this information we hope NRT and other conservation organisations can effectively lobby government to regulate the distribution and use of hazardous chemicals. On NRT’s part we will be looking at ways to reduce predator conflict and improve awareness about predators amongst the communities we work with.
Poisoned lions 025.jpg

If anyone has any information on similar use of poisons targeting carnivores and their effects on raptors we would really like to hear from you.

Please excuse the formatting of this first posting – hope to get the hang of this programme soon!

Juliet

5000 km2 of Conservancies.

Welcome to the first blog of the Northern Rangelands Trust (NRT). This first posting will give a brief insight into the work of NRT and the community conservancies we represent; over time we will introduce you to each of these conservancies through updates and regular news from the field.

100_0440.JPG

NRT is an umbrella organisation for community conservation in northern Kenya, which began operating in 2004 with a membership of 9 community conservancies. Today there are 15 member conservancies that collectively cover an area of over 5,000 km2 and represent an estimated 60,000 people.

Community conservation in Kenya is gaining momentum as communities realize the benefits that conservation can bring through improved security, natural resource management and opportunities for economic development.

img_4731.JPG

The communities we work with are predominantly nomadic or semi-nomadic pastoralists who depend on their livestock for all their livelihood needs. However, gradually the conservancies are providing employment, meaningful revenue and enterprise opportunities to these people.

Pastoralism provides an opportunity for wildlife conservation which is all but lost in the rest of the country; creating space for wildlife at a landscape level without the confinement of fences or agriculture.

The region NRT works in is historically insecure; ethnic conflict over meager resources is common-place, illegal firearms are widespread and the area has been largely neglected by economic development that has been felt elsewhere in the country. Insecurity in itself is a deterrent to economic development; one of the major roles of these conservancies is to improve security thereby creating an enabling environment for development including tourism.

NRT’s role is to develop the capacity and self-sufficiency of these community conservancies to ensure their success and continuity in the long-term.

NRT provides technical support in ecological monitoring, enterprise development, livestock marketing, rangeland management, security, project management and governance, community mobilization and infrastructure development.

A crucial role of NRT is to link the conservancies to donors to ensure financial stability in the medium to long-term until the conservancies are able to become financially sustainable or self-supporting. This is a goal of all conservancies, however, in our experience it takes at least 10 years before conservancies can generate meaningful revenue through tourism and the donor community will always play a crucial role in supporting these conservancies.

The community conservancies we are involved in include:
Þ Il Ngwesi Group Ranch
Þ Namunyak Wildlife Conservation Trust
Þ Naibunga Conservancy
Þ Lekurruki Group Ranch
Þ Ngare Ndare Forest Trust
Þ Kalama Community Wildlife Conservancy
Þ West Gate Community Conservancy
Þ Sera Wildlife Conservancy
Þ Melako Conservancy
Þ Ltungai Community Conservancy
Þ Ruko Community Conservancy
Þ Meibae Conservancy
Þ Ishaqbini Community Wildlife Conservancy
Þ Biliqo-Bulesa Conservancy
Þ Kipsing Community Conservancy

nrt-conservancies-2007.jpg

In our future blogs we will introduce you to each of these conservancies and provide regular updates of news and activities. Blogs will be written by Conservancy and NRT staff and researchers and we hope will give you a fresh, exciting look into the future of conservation in northern Kenya!

Juliet King – NRT Research & Monitoring Coordinator