Author Archives: northernrangelands

Namunyak Conservancy rescue baby elephant

Thought you would like this series of photos which show Namunyak conservancy scouts and community members rescuing a baby elephant that was trapped in a shallow well; they managed to successfully return it to its waiting mother (despite being charged by her!)…..good news in a period when we have experienced many elephant deaths including young elephants falling into wells in a desperate attempt to get to water. The drought is biting hard and elephants are among the victims we are seeing….

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New Mpus Kutuk Conservancy scures wildlife corridor

Patrick Siparo, one of NRT’s Regional Coordinators, provides an introduction to Mpus Kutuk Conservancy – one of the newest community conservancies falling under the umbrella of NRT………… Elephants migrate widely to fulfill their ecological requirements. Often ranging (200 Km sq – 600 Km sq). That’s a big space but not so big when one considers Bull elephants consume three hundred kilograms of vegetation a day. Kenya has made great effort to conserve and is well known for its National parks and reserves, yet it has only three protected areas Samburu, Buffalo springs and Shaba reserves in the vast Samburu / Laikipia landscape, accounting for only 455Km sq or 1.5% of the Ewaso water shed. This region with an area 30,000 Km sq has an estimated 7,500 elephants considered to be one of the fastest growing elephant populations in Kenya. If we were to rely purely on the network of National Parks and Reserves, the land reserved for elephants and other wildlife is only the 455 Km sq, too small an area to maintain the natural process that elephants and other animals require if they were confined to these government protected areas. Fortunately, the elephants and other wildlife are not limited to the government reserves; like other parts of Kenya 70% of the wildlife are in community areas. Truth is, left unplanned it’s more like a 70% problem for the communities and the wildlife. People kill wildlife & wildlife kills people, they compete over water, space, pasture. Most farmers regard wildlife as pests. Those that love wildlife must think of ways to make the relationship harmonious by coming up with solutions that make wildlife valuable to have around. The conservationists must teach the communities & involve them in building that crucial relationship. elephant highway sml.jpg ‘elephant highway’ that runs through Mpus Kutuk linking the wildlife areas of Laikipia and Samburu – elephants travel along this route every night…

The Northern Rangelands Trust (NRT) with 15 community conservancies which fall under it’s umbrella is one such organization; NRT has member conservancies spread out strategically along critical pathways for the wildlife. By involving the communities, talking, sharing experiences and lobbying, there is a growing momentum for a conservation-driven future for northern Kenya that is already reaping abundant results for this much-forgotten northern part of the country. The NRT alone covers almost one million hectares of community areas. Providing a forum for exchanging ideas, experiences, acting as a technical advisor and implementing organization for the members.

Human wildlife conflict occurs when elephants are squeezed into a corner, into small patches of land which cannot meet their food requirements and from which they cannot escape, in situations like this conflict intensifies. In 2007 in Laikipia alone 5 people were killed either by being trampled or when defending their crops, the result is some people resorted to shooting or poisoning elephants.

Mpus Kutuk Community Wildlife Conservancy was initiated in 2007 following a request from the Kipsing community to help establish a community based conservation organisation. The area which covers Kipsing Location, an area of over 52,500 ha is a crucial migratory corridor for wildlife moving between Samburu and Laikipia districts. This same area of land was singled out by a meeting of conservation organizations in 2006 as the most critical area requiring conservation intervention to secure corridors and range for wildlife and reduce the threats they were facing in this area.

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Mpus Kutuk Scouts, Manager and Chairman

In February 2008 six scouts and one radio operator were recruited and trained by NRT at Lewa Wildlife Conservancy, in basic scout skills and wildlife surveillance and monitoring. The manager was also recruited in April 2008 and spent time in the more established conservancies of West Gate and Kalama and later with NRT familiarizing with conservancy management and structures.

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NRT’s Research Coordinator Juliet King, together with Mpus Kutuk Manager Patrick Lenawasae, raining scouts on wildlife monitoring

One immediate challenge for Mpus Kutuk was to arrest the increase in game -meat poaching and create a wildlife friendly atmosphere amongst the local communit, left unchecked the poaching would lead to local extinction of some wildlife species. Already Mpus Kutuk conservancy is realizing a gradual return of some wildlife species that now regard the areas safe to inhabit such as giraffes which hadn’t been seen in the area for many years. The conservancy is managed by a board of trustees, who are elected from twelve community areas, each represented by one board member. The manger is supplied with a motorbike to monitor the areas. The community, in a unique gesture, built an office through raising their own funds as a show of their interest and committment to conservation. They have formed grazing committees and have forged a close working relationship with the local leaders. The grazing committee and the Board of trustee were trained on their roles by NRT last year.

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Conservancy office under construction

The initial funds for their first year of operation was contributed by San Diego Zoo and the BBC wildlife fund. The BBC have committed additional funds this year, to continue the support the conservancy and secure this vital corridor, but the conservancy needs all the friends it can get, especially as the 6 scouts and 1 radio operator are not adequate to cover the 52,500 hectares. Mpus Kutuk needs another 6 scouts to patrol the area adequately; they require a series of community meetings, security staff houses and host of other supplies to keep the momentum going. At the moment, Mpus Kutuk, like other parts of northern Kenya is experiencing an increase in elephant poaching which the conservancy together with NRT are trying to address.

The future benefits to conservation of having this area under integrated wildlife and livestock management by the local community is immense. As land available for wildlife is diminishing globally because of growth in population, the community can hope to invest long-term, by saving their wildlife which the world will value in years to come. The Kipsing community has realised this vision and has taken the first steps to create an area where wildlife, people and livestock flourish together.

A note from Juliet –

The past month in Kipsing has been desperate as a cholera outbreak claimed the lives of 12 people, mainly children. NRT was working with the Ol Malo Trust and Ministry of Health to try to contain the outbreak. Conditions were dire, with hundreds of people being treated in the open, under trees – no facilities to quarantine the sick or contain the highly infectious waste. Luckily OMT were able to gather together medical supplies, beds and a hospital tent and bring in additional doctors. The cholera outbreak is under control for the time being and NRT’s vehicle was able to take medicine to remote communities and bring in the sick for treatment. With the rains looking like they have failed, the water situation remains desperate for these communities – we need to look at cheap, simple and effective ways for h
ouseholds to have access to clean water in future to reduce the potential of another outbreak like this. Anyone who has experience or knowledge of cheap and effective water filtration devices – I would really like to hear from you – thanks.

Planned grazing to reduce conflict

Within NRT – we have a livestock programme that focuses on improving market access for cattle from communities engaged in conservation (i.e. the community conservancies), as well as assisting conservancies to implement and manage planned grazing in their areas. For pastoralists – livestock are and will continue to be the most important livelihood option and therefore as conservationists we feel it is vital to address both livestock and wildlife needs if conservation is to succeed in this landscape…..

Caroline Karwitha is our Livestock Programme Officer and she describes the planned grazing that the community are carrying out in Il Ngwesi………..

The pastoralist community is an area that has been ravaged by constant conflict over many years. Despite the conflict being cultural, most of the time it occurs over competition for pastures and water for livestock. The big challenge in the pastoralist areas of Northern Kenya has been posed by the old theory “tragedy of commons” where most community members are not able to come together and make decisions to help them move forward. Many of the traditional systems which governed communal grazing have been eroded by ‘modernisation’.


Il Ngwesi group ranch based in Laikipia District and bordering Lewa Wildlife Conservancy is a community that has broken the many odds and come up with a system to manage the range. This has helped them establish a grass bank; a huge rescue plan for grazing during the dry periods. When other communities are moving further in search of pasture, the situation is much better for the Il Ngwesi community, which is able to support a reasonable number of cattle within their conservation area.

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Il Ngwesi is one of the 15 conservancies under the Northern Rangelands Trust. Il Ngwesi group ranch which is 8,675 ha has been divided into a settlement area and a conservation area. This was done through the help of the elders who are the key decision makers. The conservation area is further divided into a core area and a buffer area. The core area is a complete livestock exclusion zone set aside for the eco-lodge and tourism. It only has a radius of 5 km2, a small area in comparison to the whole conservation area. The buffer area is 6,000 ha and this is the area that serves as a grass bank. Livestock grazing is not allowed for the better part of the year following the rains, when grass is available elsewhere, which allows for good growth of grass in the buffer zone.

If the dry season exceeds its expected time, the elders give consent to allow grazing in the buffer zone and this is conducted in an organized manner, block by block until it is all utilized. The block grazing helps efficient utilization of the grasses in contrast to scattering small herds in the whole conservation area without a plan. This way livestock are able to graze for longer in the conservation area. When rains commence, livestock is immediately withdrawn from the conservation area and the cycle continues.

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Planning grazing has also been the backbone of the eco tourism venture. Abundant pastures are not only needed by community livestock but also the wildlife that is daily increasing in number. The eco tourism creates more employment opportunities for the youth (morans) who most of the time play a role in cattle raids, the main cause of conflict.

We’re back

We’re back on line after a very long time without posting blogs – sorry for that everyone! NRT has faced many challenges and successes over the past 6 months since our last posting and we hope over the next few weeks to update you on some of these…

As many of you may be aware there has been a government security operation ongoing in Samburu district, this has been a difficult time for NRT and the conservancies but things are calming down and conservancies operations are gradually getting back to normal. This is important as over the past 6 months there has been an increased poaching threat to elephants in northern Kenya much of which is being picked up by the conservancy scouts in remote areas of the Mathew’s ranges, to the east of Sera and Melako conservancies and in areas neighbouring Il Ngwesi and Lekurruki conservancies. The network of conservancy scouts is crucial for monitoring elephant mortality in this region and their ability to effectively patrol throughout their conservancies is vital for elephant security. An example was a group of 6 elephants poached to the east of Melako conservancy in November last year whose carcasses were found by conservancy scouts – this has led to a series of anti-poaching operations conducted by KWS in this area since these were found.

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A few weeks ago Melako scouts, together with KWS and Lewa security personnel managed to recover 43kg of ivory and arrested 3 people involved. NRT and the conservancies are continuing to monitor elephant mortality and ivory movements in the area……..will keep you all posted of any new developments.

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Naibunga Conservancy being rejuvenated

Patrick Siparo is one of NRT’s Regional Coordinators who provides on-ground support to a cluster of conservancies in what we call the Ngare Ndare Region. These include Il Ngwesi, Lekurruki, Ngare Ndare, Naibunga and the newest NRT Conservancy Mpus Kutuk (or Kipsing). His role is to provide support to the conservancies in management, community liaison, conflict resolution on a regular basis – consistent engagement with communities and the conservancies is key to sustaining support for conservation. Below is an update from him on Naibunga conservancy which is located in Laikipia District; NRT is working with a number of different organisations in Naibunga including Laikipia Wildlife Forum and African Wildlife Foundation……..

Naibunga is a Maasai word that means , togetherness, coined to refer to the nine group ranches that have come together to conserve the wildlife in Naibunga Conservancy Trust land, totaling above two hundred thousand acres. Naibunga has elephants sometimes seen in hundreds , common Zebra , gravy zebra , Thompson’s & Grants gazelles , Lesser and greater Kudus, Impalas, Gerenuk, cheetahs ,lions wild dogs just to mention a few. Naibungas dream is to fully protect their wildlife from poaching, protect their livestock from cattle rustling and hope that in the process the community can earn tourism income.

Naibunga is founder member of the Northern Rangelands Trust (NRT) being one of the fifteen conservancies that formed the service providing & facilitating trust created to uplift livelihoods through wildlife conservation in northern


. In November 07 the trustees and some community members went on a peer exchange visit to conservancies under NRT, they were pleasantly surprised, their findings ignited renewed energy and new knowledge on how to move faster towards driving Naibunga towards its conservation goals


Naibunga scouts with snares recovered in the field

At a brainstorming meeting after the tour it was not surprising when the nine group ranches gave as their first priority, security. The trusties through the meeting requested NRT to fundraise for scout operating expenses, rations uniforms and training. By April 08 the NRT had secured 30,379$. In the same month eighteen scouts, three radio operators and a security coordinator were recruited by the community, then trained at Lewa on basic game scout security operation and monitoring. The team is now in the field and are doing what they were trained to do, conducting patrols and retrieving snares. The scouts are walking on average thirty Kilometers per day to ensure their boot prints are seen in every corner of the conservancies. Their presence has immensely boosted wildlife, livestock and people security. Giraffes that were rarely seen, now frequent the group ranch areas, an encouraging sign to the community that their decision to place security as first priority is bearing fruit. This however is only the first step the security component must be accompanied by building the capacity of the board members, recruiting a manager and having an effective radio network, purchasing a vehicle for security. The board’s single minded resolve that their community is best served through conservation has gained momentum and the future for wildlife conservation in the nine group ranches of Naibunga is definitely brighter.

Patrick Siparo – NRT Regional Coordinator, Ngare Ndare

Poachers arrested after killing Hirola

Yet again time has flown by and I haven’t done a blog post for well over two months – now Zoundry is back I hope to keep you all updated more often.

In my last blog I mentioned that 2 Hirola were found poached in Ishaqbini Conservancy, along with a buffalo. Following this the Ishaqbini Scouts together with Lewa Wildlife Conservancy security personnel were able to arrest 2 poachers who have been detained and will appear in court later this month. The level of poaching in the area was alarming, every day the scouts patrol they find evidence of snares and poachers prints – however since the intensive anti-poaching operation begun they have already seen a decline, and the arrest of 2 poachers has sent a clear message to their neighbouring community that they mean business. KWS are now working closely with the scouts and the intensified presence of security personnel and patrols in the area is working as a deterrent to poachers – lets hope it continues.


Poachers arrested with Hirola and buffalo skulls

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Lesser Kudu poached